Ancient Mediterranean

Digital Project

Merchant ship

Cat. No.



Cypro-Archaic (?)


Amathus, Site E, tomb 83


L: 31 cm; H (max. amidships): 7 cm; H (stern above gunwale): 3.5 cm; beam ( max. amidships): 9 cm


terracotta boat model in bichrome ware, red-brown clay with painted decoration in black and yellow, much faded since its excavation

Accession Number

British Museum 1894,1101.182


Barnett 1958: 227, pl. XXIV; Basch 1987: 254, 258-59, no. 559; Bonino 1965: 301-310; Casson 1971: 65-66, 69, figs. 86-87; Göttlicher 1977: 35, no. 153, pl. 10; Murray et al 1900: 112, 119, fig. 164,12; Walters 1903: 35, A 202; Westerberg 1983: 28-31, no. 32, fig. 32

Heavy crescentic hull with a rounded bottom and a pronounced tumble-home (beam wider at water-line than at gunwale level). The stems curve rather steeply, with the stern rising 3.5 cm above gunwale while the stempost is damaged. Running along the length of the hull at the level of the lower part of the steering shaft are a series of pierced holes which may have served as either scuppers or oar-holes. In favour of the scuppers interpretation is the fact the middle hole where the largest amount of water would be drained is bigger than the rest. This is consistent on either side of the hull, with the middle hole being about twice as large. The holes are furthermore placed slightly above the level of the interior cross-beams, potentially indicating the presence of a lower inner deck. The model has a highly detailed, elevated poop-deck protected by a latticed bulwark on the external sides of the ship. It is supported by two short pillars from a lower deck which can be reached via a rectangular hole. Attached to the poop-deck on the outside of the hull on either side are two large vertical, partially open shafts. On each side of the poop-deck there is a downward circular hole connected with these vertical shafts. Consequently, these are confidently identified as holders for the steering oars, with one oar made of iron reported in the original excavation but now lost. The poop-deck occupies roughly a quarter of the ship's length, with the lower deck likely serving as living quarters. The raised mast-socket amidships is framed by a cross beam arrangement. There are additional cross-beams fore and aft, as well as a smaller cross-beam at the bow which is connected to two curs on either side of the gunwale. These probably served to faster the anchor line.

The ship's painted details are now highly faded, in contrast to the original excavator's report which describes the model as brilliantly painted in yellow and black against the red colour of the clay. On the outside, there is a black line c. 1.5 cm wide running from the stern shaft to bow. On the inside, the keel line is painted in black, while the cross-beams have black dots which were probably meant to represent fastening points for stays and sheet-lines. According to the excavation report, the iron steering paddle was found attached to one of the shafts, on the port side. It is also suggested that some object, perhaps human figure, is missing from second thwart.

Tomb 83 is described as a small cave (6ft 6 from back to front, 8ft 6 wide shaft, 12 ft deep) with a doorway of three stones which was closed with a large slab. A total of six bodies are reported, four lying on the left and two on the right. This tomb was found intact, with some of the objects heaped up in the corners by later internments. The terracottas were found lying in a mass on the middle of the right side, close to the wall. Reported findings include glass, alabaster, precious metal jewellery, pottery and numerous terracotta figurines.

Barnett, R. D. 1958. “Early Shipping in the Near East,” Antiquity 32: 220-230.

Basch, L. 1987. Le musée imaginaire de la marine antique. Athens: Institut Hellénique pour la preservation de la tradition nautique.

Bonino, M. 1965. “Un modello di nave cipriota del sec. VI – V a. C.,” Rivista di Studi Liguri 31: 301-310.

Casson, L. 1971. Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Göttlicher, A. 1977. Materialien für ein Korpus der Schiffsmodelle im Altertum. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern.

Murray, A. S., Smith, A. H. and Walters, H. B. 1900. Excavations in Cyprus: (bequest of Miss E. T. Turner to the British Museum). London: Trustees of the British Museum.

Walters, H.B. 1903. Catalogue of the Terracottas in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum. London: Order of the Trustees.

Westerberg, K. 1983. Cypriote Ships from the Bronze Age to c. 500 B.C. (SIMA, Pocket-books, 22). Göteborg: P. Åströms förlag.

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