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by Archaeology Newsroom

Homeric and Mycenaean Ships

Although in the Homeric Epic there are many references to ships, the question is whether they describe the Mycenaean or simply the Geometric sea-going vessels. The aim of this article is to present the evidence, the methodology and the results of an interdisciplinary research project on the form and the shipbuilding tools, materials and techniques of Mycenaean ships. Unfortunately, no Mycenaean shipwreck has been excavated so far. In consequence, in order to draw safer conclusions, we had to undertake a comparative study of the written sources on nautical technology from the Linear B tablets, the Homeric epic and the later literary evidence as well as the available LHIIIC archaeological data. The study also took in account evidence on ships and shipbuilding techniques from earlier and contemporary Bronze Age civilizations in Northeastern Mediterranean. Finally, in order the above mentioned issues to be examined in the historical context of the LHIIIC period, the research had to deepen in various fields of Mycenaean civilization, such as technology (woodworking, metallurgy), economy, and even natural environment. Some of the results as well as the questions that remained unanswered after the completion of the archaeological study on the form of the Mycenaean oared vessels were approached through Experimental Archaeology. The analysis of the design and structure of an eikosoros (20- oared sailing vessels) was the subject of a complete technical study and of experiments using not only models – in a 1:10 scale-, but also full-scale sailing and steering samples.