News & Opinion | March 25, 2019 5:00 am

Wreck Of Ship Once Described By Greek Chronicler Recovered From Nile Delta

Herodotus dedicated 23 lines of his "Histories" to the construction of a boat called a baris.

Herodotus (Getty Images)
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The ancient Greek writer Herodotus cannot always be trusted, though he is known as the “father of history.” However, the discovery of an ancient vessel that matches one he described in Histories adds legitimacy to a fragment of his account, writes Smithsonian Magazine. 

Archaeologists found the shipwreck, dubbed ship 17, while excavating the sunken Egyptian port city of Thonis-Heracleion. Since 2000, the site has yielded more than 70 vessels, dating back from the 8th to 2nd century.

In Histories, Herodotus dedicates 23 lines to the construction of a Nile cargo boat, called a baris. This section of his work was written around 450 B.C. and comes from the historian’s travels to Egypt. It supposedly tells the story of a “papyrus-sailed ship crafted in the style of brickwork with a rudder running through a hole in its keel,” according to Michelle Starr in Science Alert

“It wasn’t until we discovered this wreck that we realized Herodotus was right,” Damian Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, which published a recent monograph detailing the find, according to Smithsonian. “What Herodotus described was what we were looking at.”