New Evidence for the Steering System of the Egyptian Baris (Herodotus 2.96)



A sentence of the well-known and widely debated fragment 2.96 of Herodotus' History (c.450 BC) is devoted to the steering system of a baris, a type of Nile cargo boat. According to Herodotus, the rudder passed through the keel of the boat. The axial rudder was known in Egypt from the 6th Dynasty (c.2323–2150 BC) and can be traced through representations and models till the end of the Pharaonic period and beyond; however, no archaeological evidence for this type of rudder had ever been found. The recent excavation of Ship 17 of Thonis-Heracleion, dated to the Late Period (664–332 BC), reveal numerous parallels between the construction of this boat and Herodotus' description and cast light on the steering system of the baris.