Nile Musings ~ Celebrating the Egyptian Arabian Horse ~ Volume 1 Number 9 September 2003

image of grey horsehead Nile Musings image of horsehead from Haremheb's tomb

1860s print of a Nile boat with sail unfurled and rowers 1

The connection between boats on the Nile and horses becomes apparent in light of the Nile's life force for ancient Egypt. The Nile river not only provided the life source of water for life and agriculture, it also served as the major highway for transporting everything. The ancient Egyptians relied on boats on the Nile for both sacred events and daily life.

Divine barks, symbolical boats for transporting the god's statue between temples or for the king's trip in the next life command one end of the boat spectrum. Some of those ceremonial boats were carried rather than floated on the Nile. Even more symbolically, one outside the Cairo Museum is carved out of stone. Model boats served similar purpose in tombs.

Most boats provided transportation up and down the Nile and beyond, covering the rest of the spectrum. From ceremonially transporting the body of the king during the funeral from the holy temple to his burial chamber to all the mundane tasks of shipment and transportation, boats were the workhorse of ancient Egypt.

Ships carried rock from southern quarries to the north. They moved naval troops and kings during war, sailed to foreign lands for trade, and conveyed royalty for hunting trips. Even horses rode on ships.

Napoleon expedition drawing of a ship with a dead enemy hung oveboard
Napoleonic expedition painting labeled 'El Kab' 2 [zoom in]

An early clue about Nile faring horses appears in a drawing made during the Napleonic expedition. In an illustration labeled 'El Kab,' the boat copied by one of the Frenchmen shows a ship under sail with oarsmen adding to the wind power.2 A body hangs overboard. The self-celebrated sailor, Ahmose, son of Ebana, tells in his tomb of the Nubian campaign he took part in under Thutmose I. The king killed the Nubian prince with the first throw of his lance and sailed to Karnak with the body displayed hanging on the ship. Ahmose tells us that Amenhotep II later carried on this tradition to make an example of Asian princes he slayed.3 Gruesome war trophy aside, this ship pictures an ancient counterpart to the modern horse trailer. [Zoom in.]

At the top of the ship's cabin sits a wheel. This is the wheel of a chariot typically stored here during conveyance. [Zoom into the picture for a closeup.] Other ship images from El Kab tomb walls clarify what this painting means to tell. »»—>

This month's article looks at horses that sailed the Nile.

The next article continues with Nile faring horses later in the New Kingdom.

What's new on the Nile Muse?
Horses that Sailed on the Nile
—First cloned horse born… to her twin. Link to the MSNBC article:

Your webscribe, Donna Hyora


  1. Nile river barge from a German publication in the 1860s. Author unknown.
  2. Monuments of Egypt: The Napoleonic Edition: The Complete Archaeological Plates from La Description de l'Égypte 1987 Edited By Charles Coulston Gillispie and Michael Dewachter. Princeton Architectural Press' reprint of Description de l'Égypte, ou, Recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Égypte pendant l'expédition de l'armée française, publié par les ordres de Sa Majesté l'empereur Napoléon le Grand (~1798)

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