496. Papyrus Boats

Isaiah 18:2  •  1 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The papyrus was used on the Nile for making boats. Sometimes bundles of the plant were rudely bound together in the form of a raft or boat; at other times the leaves were plaited, basket-fashion, and coated with bitumen and tar. See note on Exodus 2:33And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink. (Exodus 2:3) (#103). Similar boats are used on the Euphrates and Tigris. They are circular in shape, and are sometimes covered with leather instead of bitumen.
Another style of vessel is also used on the Nile. The leaves of the papyrus or the palm are placed as a floor upon rafts made of earthen jars which are tied together by the handles. These jars are made in Upper Egypt, and are thus floated down stream by the potters, who sell their ware and walk back to their homes.
On the Euphrates and Tigris the floats are made of inflated skins covered with a flooring of leaves and branches made into wicker work, and having a raised bulwark of the same. These singular vessels are called kelleks, and are of various sizes, from the little family boat resting on three or four skins, to the great raft, forty feet or more in length, and of proportionate width. The latter sort float on several hundred skins, and bear an assorted cargo of merchandise besides passengers. When the cargo has reached its destination the woodwork is sold for fuel, and the skins are taken back by land to be reformed into another vessel. Boats of this description have been used from early historic times, and are referred to by Herodotus and other ancient authors.