Ancient Mediterranean

Digital Project

Syro-Canaanite ship

Cat. No.



14th- 13th centuries B.C.


Tell Abu Hawam, Hamilton's Stratum V



Outer surface of a bowl fragment

Accession Number


Hamilton 1935: 38, no. 233, pl. 23:C; Knapp 2019: 126; Mark 2017: 71-72, fig. 5; Wachsmann 1981: 214-15, fig. 29; 1998: 48-49, figs. 3.12, 3.13

Ship to the right with an angled hull exhibiting a strong sheer. The bow is missing. The ship is composed of four parallel horizontals which provide some interpretative difficulty. There is a mast amidships which begins from the uppermost horizontal (D) and a yard with down curving tips which is connected to the upper two horizontals (C and D). Two quarter rudders emerging on the left below lines A and B indicate the stern. The uppermost horizontal line does not continue forward of the mast, while the other three horizontals extend barely halfway the length of the yard. Together with the missing bow, this leaves the impression that the graffito was left unfinished. Wachsmann offers two alternative readings of the horizontals: an open bulwark, or, from bottom to top, the keel line (A), the sheer (B), the open bulwark (B-C), and the boom (D). He notes that the latter reading poses some difficulty in that the mast begins from the uppermost line (D). The reading of the stern poses some additional difficulties due to the presence of a large piece of grit in the sherd. This area was executed very lightly compared to the deep incisions that were used for the rest of the hull, mast and much of the yard. Despite being very schematic, the form of the vessel is consistent with depictions of ships of the Syro-Canaanite type. The morphology of the hull suggests that a br type vessel might be depicted.

Hamilton, R.W. 1935. “Excavations at Tell Abū Hawam,” QDAP 4: 1-69, pls. 1-39.

Knapp, A. B. 2018. Seafaring and Seafarers in the Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

Mark, S. 2017. “The Ship Depiction in the Tomb of Nebamun: The First Egyptian Seagoing Ship without a Hogging Truss,” JAEI 16: 68-86.

Wachsmann, S. 1981. “The Ships of the Sea People,” IJNA 10: 187-220.

―――. 1998. Seagoing Ships & Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.

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