SHIPS AND HORSE-RIDING
6,000 to 5,000 years ago
|The Khufu Ship is a full-sized vessel that was built around 2500 BC, or about 4,500 years ago. It was sealed into a pit in the Giza pyramid complex at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza. It is now housed at the Khufu Boat Museum in Giza, Egypt.
Credit: Photo is courtesy of Wikipedia.
As more complex societies developed more complex trade networks, new ways of getting around became more crucial. Large-scale ships are seen in the Predynastic Egypt around 5,000 BC. The development of large ships powered by manned oars and sails became a common feature of many developing societies and made long-distance travel over the seas possible and much easier and safer than by small boats or canoes. In warfare, ships could develop into early navies which were often critical in decisive battles as well as transporting troops to a destination.
The earliest known horse-riding (equestrian riding) comes from the steppes of central Asia during the Bronze Age and dates to about 6000 years ago. Horse-riding was a fast and efficient way for people to get around, and they could also go “off-road”: in effect, horses were the first all-terrain vehicles. Horse-riding subsequently spread throughout much of the Old World, not only becoming an important aspect of individual transportation but a key element in warfare: charging, mounted cavalry warriors were an incredibly deadly and intimidating force to deal with. A line of 2,000 pound horses barreling down on you at 40 miles per hour with an enemy swordsman, spear-bearer, or archer on top of each must have been a horrific sight.
HOW DO WE KNOW?
We find evidence for ships in the form of depictions in artwork on such artifacts as pottery and sculpture. There are some famous Bronze Age shipwrecks known from the Mediterranean that show their basic structure and the cargo they were carrying. One such famous example is the Kas shipwreck off the coast of Turkey. The written record (historical accounts, myths and legends) can also give important information on ships and maritime life as well.
We find evidence of horse riding in the form of artwork depicting humans mounted on horses as well as artifacts such as bridles, bits, and saddle parts that indicate equestrian travel. (Stirrups, surprisingly, were a much later invention of the Byzantine empire in the First Millennium AD.)
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
The recent history of the human species shows ever-improving modes of transportation. The development of sophisticated ships and mounted horse transport at approximately the same time revolutionized transportation, trade, and warfare.
This is a good history of ritual boats and early ships.
This webpage discusses the evolution of boats and ships.
This is a history of horse riding, particularly around the Iron Age.
This is an About.com website about horse history and the domestication of the horse.
This is a short article about the earliest domesticated horse.
This is a Wikipedia webpage about the domestication of the horse.