The "Abora" project in the East Med.
LARNACA, Cyprus -- A German-led team is attempting to prove that prehistoric mariners sailed the high seas, linking ancient civilizations.
Inspired by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, that sailed from South America to Polynesia on the Kon-Tiki balsa raft in 1947, first proved that prehistoric man sailed the Pacific and Atlantic oceans on board flimsy craft.
In 1970 he Hayerdahl crossed the Atlantic from Morocco to the West Indies on the reed boat Ra 2 to show that ancient Egyptians might have got to America long before the Vikings and Columbus.
The Abora project is using a Bolivian-made reed boat to sail more than 450 nautical miles between Egypt, Lebanon and Cyprus.
German biologist Dominique Goerlitz and his team are attempting to prove that there were no boundaries to the travels of ancient seafarers, in contrast to conventional theories of limited navigational capabilities.
Historians have long puzzled over whether the Mediterranean peoples ventured beyond the Straits of Gibraltar to the New World thousands of years ago, and back.
A belief that prehistoric man could have travelled only in the direction of the currents defies the realities of the Mediterranean, which has continuously changing winds,
Goerlitz said: "They wouldn't have been able to sail just with the currents and this is what we are investigating. Unlike other seas, it is impossible to drift on the currents in the Mediterranean because of the continuously changing winds. The Abora 2 has shown that reed boats can travel across the breeze at angles of up to 85 degrees.
This is very important in the Mediterranean because it is not possible to get from one point to the other simply by drifting, the wind currents are very strong and change all the time,"
Built by the Aymara Indians of Bolivia, the Abora 2 is basically a raft of reed rods 11.8 metres long, 3.5 metres wide and 1.5 metres high. It is held together by rope.
With a completely flat deck made with small planks of wood, two sleeping cabins and an open air compact kitchen, it has no railings. Two large wooden oars, or "swords" on either side of the stern are used to navigate. It is a replica of boats depicted in prehistoric rock paintings found in Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Canary Islands, and similar to those still used by the Aymara Indians on Bolivia's Lake Titicaca.
Back | To the Sailing News Items