“Egyptian Ship, circa 1480 BCE,” 1925-1950, by August F. Crabtree, The Mariners' Museum (1956.15.1).
The Egyptians built some of the very earliest boats ever recorded. Paintings of boats appear on ancient Egyptian vases and murals as early as 6000 B.C.E. Egyptian civilization developed along the Nile River; it follows that the Egyptians living along this important river would develop vessels with which to ply it. The early boats were constructed of papyrus reeds and propelled by rowing. At first they were simple rafts, made of the papyrus reeds bundled together. As these vessels evolved, they became very large ships designed for ocean crossing. Papyrus was not sturdy enough for all purposes, however, and wooden boats began to be built. The wooden boats were modeled after the papyrus boats: they had flat bottoms, no keels, and square sterns. The wooden planks were held together with rope, and the spaces between the planks were caulked with reeds. These were sailed in addition to being rowed. Ancient Egyptian sails were square.