Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant
Nautical Archaeology
8.5 x 11, 448 pp.
170 b&w photos., 509 line art.
Pub Date: 12/17/2008
Ed Rachal Foundation Nautical Archaeology Series
Price:        $50.00 s


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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1999 Levi-Sala Book Prize, presented by the Irene Levi-Sala Archeological Fund

Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant

By Shelley Wachsmann

During the Bronze Age, the ancient societies that ringed the Mediterranean, once mostly separate and isolate, began to reach across the great expanse of sea to conduct trade, marking an age of immense cultural growth and technological development. These intersocietal lines of communication and paths for commerce relied on rigorous open-water travel. And, as a potential superhighway, the Mediterranean demanded much in the way of seafaring knowledge and innovative ship design if it were to be successfully navigated.

In Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant Shelley Wachsmann presents a one-of-a-kind comprehensive examination of how the early eastern Mediterranean cultures took to the sea--and how they evolved as a result. The author surveys the blue-water ships of the Egyptians, Syro-Canaanites, Cypriots, Early Bronze Age Aegeans, Minoans, Mycenaeans, and Sea Peoples, and discusses known Bronze Age shipwrecks. Relying on archaeological, ethnological, iconographic, and textual evidence, Wachsmann delivers a fascinating and intricate rendering of virtually every aspect of early sea travel--from ship construction and propulsion to war on the open water, piracy, and laws pertaining to conduct at sea.

This broad study is further enhanced by contributions from other renowned scholars. J. Hoftijzer and W. H. van Soldt offer new and illuminating translations of Ugaritic and Akkadian documents that refer to seafaring. J. R. Lenz delves into the Homeric Greek lexicon to search out possible references to the birdlike shapes that adorned early ships' stem and stern. F. Hocker provides a useful appendix and glossary of nautical terms, and George F. Bass's foreword frames the study's scholarly significance and discusses its place in the nautical archaeological canon.

This book brings together for the first time the entire corpus of evidence pertaining to Bronze Age seafaring and will be of special value to archaeologists, maritime historians, philologists, and Bronze Age textual scholars. Offering an abundance of line drawings and photographs and written in a style that makes the material easily accessible to the layperson, Wachsmann's study is certain to become a standard reference for anyone interested in the dawn of sea travel.

Shelley Wachsmann is Meadows Assistant Professor of Biblical Archaeology at the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, Texas A&M University. He has published numerous articles in archaeological journals and is the author of three previous books on ancient seafaring and trade.

What Readers Are Saying:

“An exhaustive review of the evidence, textual and iconographic. . . put forth with full documentation and with a wealth of illustrations consisting of line drawings and photographs of excellent quality. . . . While many of the matters he treats are beset by debate and controversy, Wachsmann makes his way through these shoals with sound judgement, prudently leaving open those questions he deems unanswerable on our present knowledge. . . . an exemplary study of a hitherto little known period of maritime history.” --International Journal of Maritime History

“We owe Shelley Wachsmann a sincere word of gratitude for gathering so much useful information of Bronze Age seafaring, for analyzing that information so fairly, and for posing important questions that should keep us investigating for many years to come.” --Technology and Culture

“Wachsmann’s contribution is an excellent compilation and analysis of the direct evidence, concentration on the textual, iconographic, and archaeological data...the volume is well edited, the data lavishly illustrated, and the ideas cogently presented. Wachsmann is to be congratulated for this seminal contribution to ancient seafaring and Bronze Age archaeology and history of the Levant.” --Thomas F. Strasser

“This pioneering study covers in masterful fashion all phases, from boatbuilding to the course of the seagoing trade routes. It provides an exhaustive treatment of the evidence, in particular the archaeological evidence, which is fully illustrated, precisely described, and scrupulously documented.” --Lionel Casson, professor of classics, New York University

“Shelley Wachsmann offers a bold and original look at the complexities and problems surrounding ships and seafaring in the Bronze Age Levant. He sails a new course through a vast and disparate body of scholarship to provide fresh and often provocative syntheses and analyses of a most challenging and complicated field of study. A book of this comprehensive scope . . . immediately becomes the obvious starting point for all who wish to know the ancient mariners of the eastern Mediterranean in the Bronze Age.” --Robert L. Hohlfelder, professor of history and marine archaeologist, Universi

“This lucidly written and lavishly illustrated book will undoubtedly become the standard reference work on the subject for years to come, since it provides a clear understanding of the ships, maritime trade and interconnections which were crucial to the evolution of the eastern Mediterranean cultures. I strongly recommend this fascinating book . . . ” --Trude Dothan, author of The Philistines and Their Material Culture and

“This superlative survey of seafaring by one of the world’s leading underwater archaeologists and nautical historians, Dr. Shelley Wachsmann, . . . not only introduces us to ships, their construction, and technology but also to the ancient sailors—Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and many more. This very readable account of Bronze Age ships and seafaring should be on the shelf of every serious student of Mediterranean history.” --Lawrence E. Stager, Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel, Harvard Uni

“Now that the study of interconnections in the ancient Mediterranean dominates archaeological and historical research, this book by Shelley Wachsmann, Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant, provides an indispensable tool for students of cultures of the Old World during the Bronze Age. The subject of seafaring and seamanship has hitherto been considered as too technical. Wachsmann has written a book that makes easy reading and provides a mine of information . . . ” --Vassos Karageorghis, former director of antiquities, Cyprus

“Wachsman has prepared a compelling, comprehensive analysis of the major evidence concerning the Bronze Age seafarig . . . This impressive compendium is recommended to scholars of Mediterranean prehistosry and economics, and is also valuable to social scientists theoreticians from many dsiciplines.” --Choice

“This is an outstanding book, in both its contents and presentation. The text is clear and elegant, and is a pleasure to read. . . . The book should be in the personal library of anyone with a scholarly interest in ancient shipping and seafaring in the Mediterranean...” --The Northern Mariner, Vol. VIII, no. 4


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