Kings' Horses that Sailed the Nile

Hatshepsut's Ship Transported a Horse on the Red Sea and up the Nile

A Punt bound ship propelled by sails and rowerers.

"First Ship of Outgoing Squadron Bound for Punt" 1 [View larger image.]

A fragmentary temple wall painting at Deir El Bahari tells of a horse imported into Egypt from Punt aboard a ship of Hatshepsut's famous expedition. At Hatshepsut's mortuary temple no horses grace the decks of ships on the painted wall carvings, but one must have paraded with other exotic animals like the elephant, giraff and apes toward the boats being loaded with trade goods from Punt. Amelia Edwards tells us that the upper register of the Punt expedition tableaux,

"In one place where there is a great gap in the wall, the remains of the inscription show that an elephant and a horse were among the animals embarked from Punt for the gratification of *Hatasu." (*Hatshepsut) 1 2
Men carry trade goods up plank ramps onto two ships at port in Punt.

"Ships of the Egyptian Squadron Being Laden with the Products of Punt." 3 [View larger image.]

Hatshepsut built and sent out five boats to Punt (Somali), presumably accessed via a canal from the Nile into the Red Sea. Where the horse was tucked on which ship is left to our imagination. Two ships at port in the drawing to the right sit with sails down while men carry jars up planks onto the ships across the zigzag-lined water. Potted trees, jars, and apes already fill the decks.

"The loading of the ships very heavily with marvels of the country of Punt; all goodly fragrant woods of God's-Land, heaps of myrrh-resin, with fresh myrrh trees, with ebony and pure ivory, with green gold of Emu, with cinnamon wood, khesyt wood, with ihmut-incense, sonter-incense, eye-cosmetic, with apes, monkeys, dogs, and with skins of the southern panther, with natives and their children. Never was brought the like of this for any king who has been since the beginning." 4

Men carrying saplings of the 'ana-sycamore' in baskets, from the shore to the ships (Edwards quote) 1 Gifts presented to the royal envoy by the prince of Punt (Edwards quote) 1

Drawings of two sections of the Punt expedition showing the carrying of trees and leading a baboon on the left, and the queen and prince presenting gifts to the royal envoy on the right.

The ships brought their precious trade cargo to Thebes. Whether the Queen/King Hatshepsut intended to ride or drive the horse we may never know. Horsemanship ran in her family — her half brother Thutmose III became a legendary conquerer, achieving his victories undoubtedly from a horse drawn war chariot.

Amenhotep III's Horses that Sailed the Nile »

v.1-10] Sailing Horses [1 | 2 | Continued » ]


  1. Amelia B. Edwards, Pharaohs Fellahs and Explorers, Harper & Brothers, NY, 1891 — Mariette's Punt drawings from Deir-el-Bahari
  2. Breasted's interpretation on that inscription differs markedly: "The imposing Temple of Hatshepsut, now standing gaunt and unfinished, abandoned by the workmen, was used by Thutmose II on his return from the north for recording a memorial of his Asian campaign. On one of the vacant walls he depicted his reception of tribute from the vanquished, the words "horses" and "elephants" being still legible in the accompanying inscription."
    James Henry Breasted, Ph.D. A History of Egypt From the Earliest Time to the Persian Conquest, Bantam Book, 1964 Copyright 1905 Charles Scribner's Sons p. 225
  3. Mariette's Punt drawings from Deir-el-Bahari — published in: Pharaohs Fellahs and Explorers, Amelia B. Edwards, Harper & Brothers, NY, 1891
  4. James Henry Breasted, Ph.D. Ancient Records of Egypt, Volume II, § 265, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1906

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