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overland travel, consisted of a boat with its mast unstepped and stowed away, while that for 'travelling south' (upstream) shows a boat with billowing sails. Similarly, a kneeling man holding a bow followed by a boat sign illustrates the Egyptian term for 'expedition'. With the Nile running through the country and beyond, transportation of large bodies of men and their equipment was both fast and effective. The journey, for instance, from Memphis in the north, to Thebes (today's Cairo to Luxor) took around 13 days to complete, assuming all the travelling was done during the hours of daylight and the wind was sufficient to fill the sails of the boats for the journey. Travelling northwards from Thebes to Memphis relied mainly on the speed of flow of the river and this could vary dramatically at different times of the year, but various accounts, both ancient and modern, indicate a journey length of around 20 days. Travelling at night would have shortened these journey times, but some parts of the river have hazards such as sand and mud banks. During the daytime lookouts were always posted in the bows of the ships to look out for these river obstacles as well as for the herds of hippopotami, once in abundance, which could be a serious danger to shipping. Soldiers were not only transported on water but fought water-borne operations as well. In his Autobiography, written on the walls of his funerary chapel at Abydos, Weni, the governor of Upper Egypt under Pepi I describes how he employed boats to land his military contingents: When it was said that the back-turners [effeminates] because of something were among these foreigners in Antelope-Nose, I crossed over in transports [nmiw, 'travelling-boats'] with these troops. I made a landing at the rear of the heights of the mountain range on the north of the land of the bedouin [herywsh, 'sand-dwellers']. While a full half of his army was (still) on the road, I arrived, I caught them all, and every back-turner among them was slain. (Pritchard 1969: 228)

Painted linen shroud (Turin, Museo Egizio) from an early Dynasty XI tomb at Gebelein. This fragment of the shroud bears a depiction of a Nile boat under oar. The mast has obviously been stowed for rowing downstream, while the boat's deckhouse, positioned amidships, probably displayed large cowhide shields. (AKG-images)


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