To save this undefined to your undefined account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your undefined account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Shipbuilding and harbour engineering are two of the oldest branches of our profession as Civil Engineers. It is well established that before 3300 B.C. the Egyptians built sea-going ships and that they made voyages to far lands to procure iron, lead, silver and other materials; and it is recorded on the Palermo stone that about 3000 B.C. king Seneferu built sixty great ships to go to the Syrian coast to bring cedar-wood for his works. In the British Museum is a stone statue of Bedja, son of Ankhu, one of the great shipbuilders of his days. The terminus of these voyages was on the Canopic branch of the Nile, where was situated A-ur or the Great Door, which Mr P. E. Newberry calls ‘an ancient Alexandria of a period earlier than 3000 B.c.’ Little is known about this harbour, except that Narmer, one of the earliest kings of the First Dynasty, considered it of great importance and decided to conquer the petty kingdom of Harpoon, to which it belonged. It was an inland port and probably had the disadvantages of that type, especially as it lay on the banks of an arm of the delta. The actual site of the port is not known, but I refer to it because it is the earliest harbour of which I have found mention and because it marks the beginning of the harbour of Alexandria, which, I think, has the longest history of any harbour in the world. I propose to devote some of my article to a study of the great schemes adopted on the Alexandrian site over a period of nearly 5000 years (FIG. I). There have been four distinct harbour building periods—the harbour of A-ur, about 3000 B.c.; the great harbour of Pharos, soon after 2000 B.c.; the harbour of Alexander the Great, begun in 332 B.c.; and the modern harbour, which dates from A.D. 1870.
The few indications that have come down to us of ancient sea-traffic between the countries lying around the shores of the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean are so fragmentary and obscure that it is extremely difficult to reconstruct any definite picture of their character and extent. In spite of this handicap study of the meagre evidence available compels the belief that movement by sea, although of a fluctuating character and confined for the most part to coastwise voyaging, was far more active and advanced in parts of this area in very early times than is generally realized. Had it been otherwise how could we interpret the signs graven on the rocks of the ravines of the Egyptian desert, and the transport by sea of great blocks of stone to Sumer in the time of Gudea of Lagash?
The earliest evidence at present available comes from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, though it does not follow that either area is the cradle of sea-faring. It consists of :—
(A) innumerable prehistoric and predynastic petroglyphs of ships engraved upon the rocks of the eastern desert of Egypt, particularly those in the Wadi Hammamat region;
(B) the discovery on Sumerian sites of diorite statues, stated specifically to have been brought by sea from foreign lands early in the third millennium B.C.;
(c) the presence in the ruins of Ur, Kish, and Lagash of artifacts cut from the shell of the sacred Indian chank (Xancus pyrum);
(D) historical records of trading expeditions sent by sea from Egypt to Somaliland extending from the Vth to the XIIth Dynasties, and repeated in the XVIIIth Dynasty.
A Story from Corea called ‘The Magic Mirror’ tells us that a young peasant went from his village to the capital in order to sell his products and to buy some commodities. Passing a shop-window he was struck by having seen somebody in the window who could not have been anybody else but his twin-brother. He was amazed at this because his brother was living in another town. He stood still and gazed, and now he was sure that it was his twin-brother, because when he smiled at him he smiled back. ‘I must have this magic’, he thought. So he entered the shop and asked whether he could buy this strange thing in which was to be seen his counterpart. The shopkeeper wrapped it up and remarked laughingly: ‘Be careful not to crack it, so that your brother will not get lost’. The peasant took it home, but before he could unpack it to show his family he was called away on urgent business.
The study of Geoffrey's book and of the allied Welsh texts is a subject of such complexity, and has produced such a mass of technical literature, that the intrusion of a newcomer into these jealously guarded preserves of recondite scholarship is naturally liable to direct at once the cold stare of disapproval, or at best the wan smile of tolerance upon one so rash. I am not unmindful that in a previous world-conflict Sir (Emeritus Professor) Flinders Petrie put forward views on the Historia from an outsider's standpoint which were instantly demolished in a few quietly incisive notes by Professor R. W. Chambers. But, despite the vast tangle of adherent commentary which now envelops Geoffrey's book to an extent that all too often dwarfs the actual text, it seems likely that certain basic questions—is it a work of fiction or of fact, or if both, in what proportions—should be answerable to some extent by enquiring whether certain passages read convincingly as sheer invention, and if not, what prevented the author from making them so. I hope to show that one can trace in the Historia a use of certain documentary sources which to the best of my knowledge have not been recognized in full before. I venture therefore to put forward these tentative ideas in the hope that they may be followed up or refuted by those more qualified for the task than myself, examining the problem for the first time and from the outside, and in those enforced circumstances in which the only really accessible works of reference are the King's Regulations and the Manual of Military Law. As a contrast it is a pleasure to record my thanks to those who have aided me, notably Professor Ifor Williams, who has given me invaluable advice and helped to eradicate the more egregious errors from my argument.