The Gurob Ship-Cart Model and Its Mediterranean Context
Nautical Archaeology - Archaeology - Religion
8.5 x 11, 352 pp.
212 b&w photos. 65 Line drawings. 4 figs. 5 maps. 7 appendixes. Glossary. Bib. Index.
Pub Date: 12/17/2012
Ed Rachal Foundation Nautical Archaeology Series
Price:        $75.00 s

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Published by Texas A&M University Press

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2013 Keith Muckelroy Memorial Award, sponsored by the Nautical Archaeology Society

The Gurob Ship-Cart Model and Its Mediterranean Context

Shelley Wachsmann

When Shelley Wachsmann began his analysis of the small ship model excavated by assistants of famed Egyptologist W. M. F. Petrie in Gurob, Egypt, in 1920, he expected to produce a brief monograph that would shed light on the model and the ship type that it represented. Instead, Wachsmann discovered that the model held clues to the identities and cultures of the enigmatic Sea Peoples, to the religious practices of ancient Egypt and Greece, and to the oared ships used by the Bronze Age Mycenaean Greeks.

Although found in Egypt, the prototype of the Gurob model was clearly an Aegean-style galley of a type used by both the Mycenaeans and the Sea Peoples. The model is the most detailed representation presently known of this vessel type, which played a major role in changing the course of world history. Contemporaneous textual evidence for Sherden—one of the Sea Peoples—settled in the region suggests that the model may be patterned after a galley of that culture. Bearing a typical Helladic bird-head decoration topping the stempost, with holes along the sheer strakes confirming the use of stanchions, the model was found with four wheels and other evidence for a wagon-like support structure, connecting it with European cultic prototypes.

The online resources that accompany the book illustrate Wachsmann’s research and analysis. They include 3D interactive models that allow readers to examine the Gurob model on their computers as if held in the hand, both in its present state and in two hypothetical reconstructions. The online component also contains high-resolution color photos of the model, maps and satellite photos of the site, and other related materials. Offering a wide range of insights and evidence for linkages among ancient Mediterranean peoples and traditions, The Gurob Ship-Cart Model and Its Mediterranean Context presents an invaluable asset for anyone interested in the complexities of cultural change in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age.

The Gurob ship-cart model is/was part of an exhibition entitled Beyond the Nile: Egypt and the Classical World, at the J. Paul Getty Center (March 27-September 9, 2018). Read about it here:

Digital supplement to the book featuring 3D models:

The Meadows Professor of Biblical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, SHELLEY  WACHSMANN  is also the author of Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant (Texas A&M University Press, 1998), which received the Irene Levi-Sala Book Prize in the Archaeology of Israel, and The Sea of Galilee Boat: An Extraordinary 2000-Year-Old Discovery (Texas A&M University Press, 2009), which won the Biblical Archaeology Society’s Award for best popular book.

What Readers Are Saying:

" . . . a deep and rich study of ships from the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the first Iron Age, along with analysis of their ethnic and cultural context. . . richly illustrated with 200 illustrations in black-and-white and numerous appendices and annexes. A website . . . offers a virtual-reality model of the ship in all its detail as well as comparative material, and constitutes an original and valuable innovation. Easy to use, the website is a useful animated colour complement to the work. . . The conclusion that completes this long study is all the more important as Wachsmann has united in a synthetic way the pieces of the puzzle, in spite of their complexity. . . A glossary of nautical terms, numerous notes, a substantial bibliography and an index usefully complete the publication . . . the conclusion puts all the pieces in place and the reader on the right path . . . the identification of the Gurob ship model as a Helladic ship is quite convincing . . . Exceeding the limits of his subject, the author also offers us a broad vision of the complexity of the cultural exchanges of the Eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age. . . an attractive book that is stimulating for the spirit . . . . it should occupy a prominent place in any library of Mediterranean archaeology and specifically of nautical archaeology."--International Journal of Nautical Archaeology

“Professor Wachsmann has written a masterly account of an extraordinary archaeological find, the Gurob ship-cart model.  From his comprehensive knowledge of second millennium B.C. nautical technology, he has identified the prototype for the model as a Helladic galley of Mycenaean type.  This extraordinary insight has illuminated the Eastern Mediterranean world at a time of upheaval in which cultural cross-currents from Central Europe to Egypt provided a rich array of influences that lay behind the fashioning of this unique object.

Combining wide-ranging scholarship with deep knowledge of shipbuilding techniques, Professor Wachsmann has reconstructed the manufacture of the ship-cart model, and has created a remarkably complete virtual impression of its original form.  Then, from this single artifact, he has gone on to delineate a system of maritime contacts and exchanges that embraces movements of peoples, ideologies and religious practices across the Aegean, Asia Minor, the Levant, and North Africa.  It is a remarkable achievement. 

Professor Wachsmann has, through brilliant analysis based on a lifetime of scholarly endeavor, put together a book of astonishing insight and great import that has brought to life a lost world three thousand years old.”--Andrew M.T. Moore, First Vice President for the Archaeological Institute of America; Former Dean of Graduate Studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York

“Dr. Wachsmann has made some brilliant discoveries based on very careful research . . . a real tour de force.”—Peter Lacovara, senior curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University

“Shelley Wachsmann is one of the world’s leading experts in nautical archaeology. He effortlessly combines deep knowledge of the subject with a wonderful ability to explain this complex topic to both professionals and the general reader.”—Gil J. Stein, professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and director of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

This richly textured book about a remarkable find of a wooden ship model on wheels from Egypt becomes the starting point for a stunning work that delves into the decades of turmoil during the period of the Sea Peoples in the East Mediterranean. Wachsmann convincingly reconstructs the historical context of the Gurob model as belonging to the Sherden and Weshesh Sea-Peoples of Urnfield origin who settled in Egypt and quickly became assimilated.”—Kristian Kristiansen, professor of archaeology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden; coauthor, The Rise of Bronze Age Society

“Shelley Wachsmann is one of the leading world specialists in the field of Bronze and Early Iron Age ships and seafaring in the Mediterranean. In his new book he brings a detailed reconstruction of the Gurob ship model, a unique monument of its kind, closely related to ships of the Sea Peoples and to those of the Mycenaeans. Based on new evidence collected from many archaeological and written sources the author gives a thorough survey of the general historical situation in the east Mediterranean countries in late second millennium B.C. His book contributes essentially to our knowledge of the period of collapse of Bronze Age empires and of a new start of Greek, Phoenician, and Hebrew cultures. His sophisticated approach opens new horizons to historians, archaeologists, and philologists and should be widely read.”—Jan Bouzek, professor of Classical Archaeology, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, author of The Aegean, Anatolia and Europe: Cultural Interrelations in the Second Millennium B.C., and Greece, Anatolia, Europe: Cultural Interrelations during the Early Iron Age

“Shelley Wachsmann has carried out an exemplary and exhaustive study of a relatively forgotten wooden ship model that was found by Petrie in Gurob in 1920. . . . Through his meticulous analysis, turning over every stone on the way, Wachsmann has uncovered an important piece of evidence relevant for the study of early Mediterranean shipping and evidence of the origin of the ships of the Sea Peoples. Written in an engaging and convincing manner, using a wide and impressive range of evidence, this book is recommended for scholars of many fields—maritime archaeology, Egyptology, Aegean archaeology, Levantine and biblical archaeology, to name a few. Well done!”—Aren Maeir, professor of biblical archaeology, Bar Ilan University, Israel

“In his pioneering study of the Gurob boat model, Shelley Wachsmann has brought to light an extraordinary web of connections that links New Kingdom Egypt to Mycenaean Greece and establishes new links between the fields of ancient history, nautical technology, and religious ritual in widely separated parts of the Mediterranean. The boat model is a small artifact in itself, and easily overlooked, but Wachsmann’s research shows that it may have a cosmic significance for our understanding of the late Bronze Age world.”—John R. Hale, director of Liberal Studies, University of Louisville and author of Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democracy

“Those familiar with Wachsmann’s Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant know the author’s predilection for (and skill at) assembling extensive references of both period and ethnographic parallels. It is not different in the current volume. . . Great analysis can transcend its object. One need not have any interest at all in the ship-cart itself, or indeed in watercraft, to need The Gurob Ship-Cart Model and Its Mediterranean Context. An interest in virtually any aspect of the Late Bronze Age, Eastern Mediterranean or Egypt will do.”—JAEI Staff, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections

"This book... remains... the most authoritative work on Bronze Age seafaring. Gurob Ship-Cart is accompanied by an innovative, open source, and interactive digital supplement that highlights reconstructions of the object... [This book is] very readable... This volume... [offers] valuable insights on ship design and maritime-related ritual in ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean region more broady. The accompanying open source digital supplement is also a novel illustration tool that should be widely emulated in archaeological monographs." --Christoph Bachhuber

“A major contribution to the field, mainly because this is the first study in which the Gurob ship-card model is reconstructed and examined so thoroughly. I would recommend the reader to use the online supplement while reading the book. The combination of the book and the online material makes following the discussions both memorable and enjoyable. As in the case of the book, the online supplement should be greatly welcomed by both students and academics.”—Birmingham Egyptology Journal

“One of the foremost authorities on ships and seafaring in the Bronze Age Mediterranean. Very few archaeologists are as adept as Wachsmann at providing so overwhelming a volume of evidence relative to their argument. As comprehensive a study as one could imagine of a single artifact. Glossary of Nautical terms, Extensive endnotes, a comprehensive bibliography and a very helpful and accurate index. Gurob is a formidable work of scholarship.” — Rosetta


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