Queen Hatshepsut's Royal Barge


Silver Medal and Maze Challenge Cup winner, Model Engineer Exhibition 2011.

From Model Boats magazine, April 2012:

Raymond Hunt's interpretation of the ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut's Royal Barge was almost jewel-like... a real photogenic eye-catcher. Queen Hatshepsut was one the few female rulers of Egypt and is believed to have reigned for the period 1479 to 1458 BC, during which she greatly extended Egyptian trading relations with neighbouring countries, notably to the land of Punt (Nubia).

Modelling a ship of this period is to some extent conjectural, relying on sources such as temple carvings and tomb paintings, but this is no reason not to attempt the project and Mr Hunt's model was both very well constructed and attractively finished, as well as being beautifully displayed. It was awarded a Silver Medal plus the Maze Challenge Cup for being the best model of a pre-1820 or oriental sailing ship, a requirement it amply met on both counts!

One point was of particular interest and that was the arrangement for mounting the two steering oars at the stern. Mr Hunt's research rejected the idea of the oars passing through a block at deck level shown in a book on building Egyptian model boats, as this would have prevented the oar from pivoting up when required in shallow water. The lashing system he adopted as an alternative on the model appeared to be more logical, but in practice and from my own sailing experience, we felt it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to function as shown due to the oar then binding on the ropes.

The lashing system used on the full size replica Minoan ship of the same period which featured in Model Boats last year shows a much looser system of mounting the oar. This provided more flexibility, but demanded considerable physical strength on the part of the helmsman and ancient records do seem to indicate that helming these vessels was very hard work.

Both Dave and I really liked this model with its colourful decoration and carving and took photos of it from every angle.

Raymond's own account of building the Royal Barge:

My wife and I have been to Egypt several times. On our last visit to Luxor, I bought a book from Aboudi's on Ancient Egyptian model ships. From this I chose to build the Royal Ceremonial Barge of Queen Hatshepsut, who reigned over Egypt as a King between 1479 and 1458 BC.

Having been a modelmaker for over 60 years, I could see many mistakes in the plans, but I still wanted to build this ship, so I asked my wife for help. She has lectured on Egyptology for many years and has a large library of books on Ancient Egypt.

During my many visits, I have learnt much about the ships and boats built and used for over 3000 years in Ancient Egypt. My first impression of the book I bought proved to be right. The spoon-shaped hull and the timbers used were correct, but the rigging and rudders and how they operated were totally wrong

Most members of the different royal dynasties, as well as the nobles, had their ships decorated, including the hull. The plans also showed a carved lotus flower on the stern, which looked nothing like a real one, nor any other plant I could trace in my research.

At Deir el-Bahri, Queen Hatshepsut's incredibly beautiful funerary temple on the West Bank of the Nile at Luxor, there are carvings and paintings showing ships being used for religious purposes, as well as for pleasure, trading and war, all of which I studied as carefully as I could.

I have, however, used a bit of artistic licence here and there, especially in the decoration of the Royal Barge.