Boats and Transportation

The Nile River provided ancient Egyptians the best opportunities for traveling and transporting goods from town to town. Ancient Egyptian boats and transportation methods were improved over time to take advantage of the Nile River.

The Nile River was the center piece of survival for ancient Egyptian civilization. Without the yearly flooding of the river, ancient Egyptians could not produce food. The Nile River also made transporting goods easy for ancient Egyptians.

Early boats

Early ancient Egyptian boats were simple and made of papyrus plants. The ancient Egyptians weaved papyrus together to build small boats.

The early ancient Egyptian boats were primarily used for fishing and transporting small loads of goods for short distances. The boats were thin and long. Ancient Egyptians used poles and oars to steer as well as propel the boats.

Improved ancient Egyptian boats

As the need to transport large quantities of goods in ancient Egypt grew, so did the size of their boats. Ancient Egyptian boats that were used for large shipments of cargo were constructed of wood.

The wood used for these boats was cut from the sparse forests of Egypt and from Lebanon. Ancient Egyptians did not use nails when constructing their wooden boats. The wood planks were tied together with ropes.

Wooden ancient Egyptian boats were steered with a large rudder oar. Some of the ships were equipped with a large square sail to catch wind to make traveling upriver easy.

The ancient Egyptians constructed canals to help transport people and goods. The manmade canals were used to transport goods from the Nile River.

The Nile River enabled larger wooden ancient Egyptian boats to carry cargo of up to 500 tons per load. The larger wooden boats were used to transport large amounts of quarried rock to build temples, tombs and the homes of the pharaohs.

Smaller boats were used to transport goods from the larger wooden boats moored on the Nile River along the manmade canal ways.

Ceremonial boats

Ancient Egyptian boats also included a special kind of ship for ceremonies. The ceremonial boats would transport mummified bodies of important people to tombs along the Nile River.

The ancient Egyptian boat was instrumental in transporting large figures of gods from temple to temple as well. In addition, the ceremonial boats were included in many tombs. The ceremonial boats found in the tombs are of varied sizes from a miniature model to a full scale boat with elaborate wood carvings.

Other forms of transportation

The Nile River was the main option for travel in ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptians also constructed roads for travel and transporting goods. Many of these ancient Egyptian roads are along the manmade canal ways and the Nile River.

Ancient Egyptians were known to use donkeys with a litter attached to haul goods on the roads.

During 1600 B.C.E. the Hyksos introduced the chariot to ancient Egyptians. Chariots were primarily used for warfare or for transporting important people. Horses were expensive in ancient Egypt.

Only richer people had horses. Some ancient Egyptians used wagons with horses to transport goods along the roads but this was not common practice.

Sledges were also used in ancient Egypt to transport heavy cargo such as quarried statues of stone. The stone statues were placed on wooden sledges and dragged by hundreds or thousands of people.

Facts about ancient Egyptian boats and transportation

  • The Nile River was the main source or highway for travel in ancient Egypt.
  • The first ancient Egyptian boats were made from woven papyrus plants.
  • Larger wooden boats were made with wood from Lebanon and Egypt.
  • Wooden boats were constructed without nails.
  • Some larger ancient Egyptian boats had a square sail.
  • Manmade canals were constructed to transport goods inland from the Nile River.
  • Donkeys were widely used to transport people and goods on roads.
  • The chariot was introduced to ancient Egyptians by the Hyksos people during 1600 B.C.E.
  • Wooden sledges were used to carry large cargo such as stone statues and required hundreds or thousands of people to pull them.


  • What was the main source of travel in ancient Egypt?
    Nile River
  • What type of material was used to build early ancient Egyptian boats?
  • What people introduced the chariot to ancient Egyptians?
  • What animal was widely used for transporting goods in ancient Egypt?