Nesrin. A. El-Galy - 2017 - Oxford University D.Phil Scholar

From the moment I joined the Archaeology Department at Alexandria University, my interest in Archaeology began to blossom. The interest continued through my postgraduate studies at the Alexandria Center for Maritime Archaeology and Underwater Cultural Heritage. I participated in excavations, underwater surveys, and conferences, and in August 2016, I received my Master’s degree in “Characteristics of Ancient Egyptian Ship and Boat Models” from the University of Alexandria.  During my Master’s studies, I also gained knowledge and experience in instructional design, which subsequently complimented my academic studies. It has fueled ideas that I plan to implement using a range of technologies (3D – virtual reality – augmented reality) in order to develop a new system that supports reconstructing boats and ships, not only to preserve their cultural heritage, but also to create open access to the data.

In 2017 I was awarded the opportunity to be an Honor Frost Scholar to pursue my D.Phil. which is a great honor for me. I believe that I will be able to contribute and make a difference. Additionally, it will allow me to meet new people and interact with various cultures and backgrounds, as well as demonstrate my leadership, management and team building skills. Pursuing my D.Phil. will enable me to deepen my expertise in this field and to contribute new research and findings to the field of Maritime Archaeology, making me the first female in Egypt to specialize in naval architecture and marine engineering research.

My D.Phil. builds on the knowledge that I developed for my Master’s degree that combined personal observation and recording of ancient Egyptian boat models to reveal the characteristics of their hulls focusing on archaeological data for hull design, structure and stability.  My research aims are:

  • Were boat models miniature representations of reality? i.e. were they accurate representations of the different types of ships and boats that were sailing on the Nile during the period they were created.
  • Alternatively, were models abstract representations chosen to represent themes for the rituals associated with burial and as such were decorative and consequently did not need to be entirely accurate in their construction?

My early work on the models has suggested that their hulls are hydrodynamically efficient and that they could have effectively functioned in the fluvial landscape of the Nile. This suggests that ship and boat models can be used to augment the sparse nautical archaeological evidence from Egypt which, for the periods under consideration in this thesis, has a limited number of vessels and vessel timbers. Here the range of different types of vessels modelled by ancient Egyptian craftspeople adds to the corpus of information on the different types of vessels that were in use on the Nile. This is because the nautical evidence is overwhelmingly biased towards vessels from ritual contexts – overwhelmingly boat burials from tomb contexts – whereas the models encompass personal vessels, hunting, cargo, and travelling boats, as well ritual vessels.

The first year of the research was dedicated to developing a methodology for the capture and creation of 3D models of the boat models and for their analysis in specialist nautical architecture software. This has been completed, a workflow for data creation created, and an initial model analyzed to provide a proof of concept test for the methodology.

The second year of the research was revolving around getting introduced to the naval architecture engineering and how to create a bridge between modern naval architecture standards and discovered archaeological materials. A list of tasks has now been set for analyzing the nautical capabilities of the selected models in the research.

The second year of research entailed becoming familiar with naval architectural software and its forms of analysis and the application of this to archaeological material in general and boat models specifically. This has boon completed and a list of tasks created for analyzing the nautical capabilities of the models that form the corpus of my research. By the end of 2020, I intend to have analysed all of the models. Following on from this phase, it will be possible to draw outlines of methodological and archaeological themes. For example, the issue of scale and the process of miniaturization will be investigated. Were all of the models, perhaps at the level of particular tomb groups, constructed to a single scale? This issue is obviously of great importance when scaling up the models for analysis in the nautical architectural software. An archaeological theme concerns the length of time that ships and boats can operate on the Nile. Due to the rise and fall of the river with the flood, only vessels with the shallowest draft can navigate throughout the year. By the end of the current academic year it is my intention to have identified major themes in the analysis of Egyptian boat models to move their discussion forwards beyond their traditional cataloguing and categorization to a more fundamental understanding of Egyptian fluvial lifeways.

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