Adventurers will set sail in a boat made of reeds to discover whether the ancient Egyptians could sail as far as the Black Sea, as claimed in historical records.
A team of intrepid adventurers will embark on an 800 mile journey from the Black Sea to Crete in August aboard a vessel built from materials available at the time.
They hop that the voyage aboard the ‘Abora IV’ will prove that the ancient Egyptians could have made similar trips in reed boats thousands of years ago.
The 46 feet-long (14 metre) boat will be crewed by a team of two dozen researchers and volunteers, from eight different countries.
Setting out from the Bulgarian port of Varna, on the Black Sea, the voyagers will forge their way through the Bosphorus strait, across the Aegean Sea and on to Crete.
Historical sources, including the writings of Greek scholar Herodotus, claim that the African civilisation had mastered this feat of nautical navigation.
‘Egyptians sailed through the Black Sea to get materials that they could not have from the east Mediterranean,’ the historian wrote.
The team aiming to prove the possibility of the claim is being led by experimental archaeologist Dominique Görlitz, 53.
Dr Görlitz and his team drew inspiration for their design of the boat from ancient rock drawings found in upper Egypt and the Caucasus.
Construction of the vessel was carried out with the help of volunteers and two members of the Aymara indigenous community from Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca, Fermin Limachi and his son Yuri.
It is no accident that the Abora IV bears a striking resemblance to the famous Ra II reed boat that Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Atlantic on in 1970 — as that vessel was partly constructed by Limachi’s father.
To construct the main body of the vessel, the team lashed together bundles of totora reed, to which they added a wooden mast and two reed compartments for sleeping.
In total, 12 tonnes of reed and around a mile (two kilometres) of rope went into making the boat, which is also going to have two sails — measuring 670 and 430 square feet (62 and 40 square metres) respectively, Fermin Limachi said.
‘The main question of all is whether this boat… is able to cross the difficult island shelves of the Aegean Sea,’ Dr Görlitz said.
Reaching the Cyclades islands and then Crete will be crucial for proving the team’s hypothesis, Dr Görlitz added, as the Minoan civilisation which flourished there from 2,700 to 1,200 BC is known to have traded with Egypt.
The boat will be set into the water on Thursday, after which it will need two and a half weeks to soak, during which time it will take in between five and ten tonnes of water.
However, the boat cannot crack or sink thanks to the billions of air chambers inside its porous construction material, claims Dr Görlitz.
During his previous expedition in 2007, Dr Görlitz and the crew of the Abora III departed from New York and set sail for southern Spain in a bid to prove that Stone Age could make similar trans-Atlantic journeys.
Dr Görlitz’s team managed to said for 56 days before a storm ripped apart his boat 560 miles (900 kilometres) short of the Azores, the Portuguese archipelago located in the mid-Atlantic.
‘I am 100 per cent sure that this ship will never sink. And as long as the ship is floating we have a safety raft here,’ said volunteer Mark Pales, a 42-year-old electrician from the Netherlands.
Fellow volunteer Heike Vogel — a 35-year-old parcel company employee from Germany — said she was looking forward to her first time sailing, after helping on two previous expeditions without venturing on-board.
‘It will be a new situation for me,’ Ms Vogel said.
In order to communicate with large cargo vessels on their way — a major danger on the high seas today — Dr Görlitz’s crew will be taking modern satellite and radio communication equipment on board.
‘Of course, it would be totally arrogant and stupid [not to use modern equipment],’ said Dr Görlitz.
‘It is an experiment of science and not of risk.’