On Pharaoh Cheops burial barge are inscriptions about “Byblos Boats” transporting goods to Egypt. Egypt purchased ships made in Byblos with Cedar Wood. Reliefs in Memphis from the 5th Dynasty (2350 b.c) in Egypt show Phoenician Princess arriving on a Byblos Ship to marry the Pharaoh. Pepi II of Egypt in the 6th Dynasty was killed while building a Byblos Ship.
The Byblos Ships or Byblos Boats were suitable to navigate in the Nile. The Pharaoh Toutmosis on his campaign to conquer the Levant and Mesopotamia use to disassemble the cable tied Byblos Ships to transport them on the mainland and to reassemble them the navigate on rivers like the Tigres and the Euphrates. Records going back to the 3rd millenium b.c mention the usage of Byblos Ships at that time. There are stories in 600 b.c that the Byblos Ships ventured around Africa which were made credible by the fact that the Phoenician sailors saw the midday sun coming from the north.
The Byblos Ships use to travel in convoys of 40 to 70 ships engaging a long distance travel. In the 2nd millennium b.c Byblos Ships were large freighters reaching sometimes 100 feet in length and were capable of carrying a load of 450 tons of goods. These ships had square sails, high sides, decks and were deep bellied cargoes. They were study and stubby ships with heavy hulls rounded at both ends. The life span of these ships were 100 to 200 years before they were abandoned. They had a hogging truss or a cable from stem to stem and had many oars.
Egyptians built ships of imported wood, these were still built in the same shape as the papyrus boats. The oldest real ship that was found, is the Cheops boat built from Cedar wood of Byblos, buried in a pit in front of his pyramid, which dates to 2650 BCE. The planks of this boat were joined at the butts by means of a toggling technique of interlinking ends, somewhat like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle . Side by side, the planks were joined by tenons in mortises, which were held in place with a type of glue. On the inside of the ship the planks were lashed together with rope made of half of through beams, on the side of the ship, as well as the rope spine to prevent hogging. In he Uluburun Phoenician ship (1400 BCE) there is no trace of a rope spine or hogging-truss to hold the ship together (absence of rope spines on Phoenician ships) . Its method of construction using a keel-plank, to hold the ship together on the wave. The ship had attached a mast to this plank. The ship used sails with both a yard and a boom. The Phoenicians started using sails with loose brailings. and attached a number of ropes, called 'brails' to the foot of the sail.
The Byblos ships display straight stem and stern posts and a screen that runs the length of the ships at the sheer. They have two rudders with a short tiller, hung over the quarters and do not have hogging trusses.
The Phoenicians had different types of ships, merchant ships, warships or utility-vessels, the small, oar propelled ships, called hippoi. The merchant ships were the heavy, cumbersome, round-bellied ships that were used to transport goods.
Due to the enormous length of the trunks or Cedar wood, it is most likely that these were towed to Egypt by the Byblos ships . The Bible mentions logs being floated in the time of King Solomon.
Large Byblos ships had to be anchored at a safe distance from the beach and the cargo had to be brought out to them. So this was the task of the hippoi. So the transport of wood, both loaded on the hippoi, as well as towed behind them, was one of the major tasks for these vessels.
The likelihood is great that the hippoi type vessel was present with the larger merchant ships. The ship's boat was useful to go ashore when exploring an unknown shore, while the merchant ship remained in deeper water.
In1984, an ancient Phoenician shipwreck made mostly of Cedar Wood from Byblos was found at a depth of -44 m off the Turkish coast at Uluburun. The ship was dated at about 1300 BC. It is a 16 m long cargo ship. At the time of wreckage, the ship carried an interesting cargo giving evidence of a wide trading . There were 10 tons of copper from Cyprus, 1 ton of tin of uncertain origin, jewels from Egypt, 1 ton of terebinth resin for perfume in Phoenician jars, glass from Mycenae, ceramics from Cyprus, and large quantities of amber from the South Baltic coasts.
Famous ships made of Cedar wood from Byblos, the Uluburun, Sesotris barges, Cheops barge, Dashur, Gawasis, and the Kadirga, the Sultan’s galley were also built with Cedar of Lebanon.
They say the Byblos Phoenician alphabet is the first alphabet in history. The hieroglyphics pictograms and the Summerian cuneiform symbols syllabry were the only forms of writings before the alphabet. The phoenician alphabet was found engraved on the tomb of King Ahiram of Byblos around 1100 b.c. Though a more indigenous form of the Byblos syllabic script can be perhaps dated back to between 2000 and 1750 b.c. It was a mix of pictograms and symbols. During the New Kingdom in Egypt, Byblos scribes used a simplified hieroglyphic script for the correspondence with Egypt.
The Greeks took this alphabet and made the Greek alphabet they use today. Then the Romans took it after the Greeks and made the latin letters we use today.
The letters might be in appearance similar to the Mesopotamian cuneiform symbols. From pictographic to linear writing is only a matter of difference in writing techniques. The alphabet shows some affinity with the pictographic syllabry writing system used in Crete.
The phoenician merged the hieroglyphic pictogram system, the Mesopotamian cuneiform symbols syllabry (syllabographics), the cretian pictographic syllabry into a linear alphabet syllabic system of writing where each symbol or letter represented its own sound.
Discovered in Byblos the first a linear script called pseudo-hieroglyphic inscription due to the resemblance of its signs to Egyptian hieroglyphs. This resemblance was great when compared to Hieratic signs. About fifteen texts were found. These texts in syllabary form sum up to about one hundred different signs. These texts date to early second millennium BCE, placing them between 1900 and 1600 BCE while the basic forms of the Byblos script could have been established before the 12th Dynasty in Egypt. The language used in these Byblos texts is said to be Semitic. The pseudo-hieroglyphic script is highly significant for the history of ancient writing. It is different from the Egyptian hieroglyphic and Mesopotamian cuneiform systems and prior to or simultaneous with the first linear alphabet. This form of writing fostered the development of new systems. These texts, 15 of them were found, were carved on metal tablets, stone stelae and several bronze spatulas. The lines start quite well aligned, usually from the right and are horizontal and quite homogenous in the graphic view point and constitute a syllabic script. It is possible to identify clearly the same form of script in all the inscriptions forming a homogeneity in the corpus of the scripts. Everything seems to suggest that this script was regulated by well-defined rules and that its use was extensive at least in the circles at Byblos. The Ahiram inscription that is said to be the first alphabet sees resemblance with this early Byblos script. Others scripts around the mediterannean dating to that period show resemblance to the Byblos script and it is suggested that either their source is from Byblos or influenced by the Byblos Script.The Byblos script could have been the source of the Phoenician alphabetic signs.
As an example, one line syllabic inscription reads:
ha bu la ni ni ti ru hi ma tu su tu ni ba ti mi m
And its proposed interpretation:
Habula my daughter is the beloved of Shutun in integrity.
ha bu la; Habula, a name found in Old North Arabic inscriptions, hebel Abel in Genesis.
ni ni ti: my daughter; nin, offspring, son (Gen. 21:23). buniti (my daughter).
ru hi ma tu: beloved, ruhi (Arabic “soul”).
su tu ni: or Shutun Hebrew (Shet, Seth) of Gen. 4:25 or great lady (Arabic “sit” or lady).
ba-ti mi m: in integrity, meaning wholly and solely, or Arabic “beit” or house.
The writing of close syllables parallels the methods used in the syllabaries of the word-syllabic writings we use today. All syllabic writings systems used at that time around the world were either identical or very similar, namely the Cypriote syllabary, formally connected with the Cretan writing, Indic, Mesopotamian cuneiform, Aegean, and Egyptian, where only the last is identical with the Semitic writing in the way that it doesn’t specify the vowels. This device of syllabic writing system grew rapidly until it reached the apex of its development at the time of the New Kingdom in Egypt around the sixteenth to thirteenth centuries BCE. The system called the Egyptian “syllabic orthography” had its major role to influence the early systems of syllabic writing. The “syllabic orthography” with its plene writing represents a stage of writing in the process of developing from a syllabary toward an alphabet. The Egyptian origin of the Semitic writing was that the Semites named the signs obtained from the acrophonic principle where it derived the values of the signs from their names. Even in Old Phoenician the signs used in writing represent pictures and follow the acrophonic principle. The sign values originated by using the first part of a word expressed in the word sign and by casting off the rest, as for example, a picture of a house “house” starts with an h. The Egyptian plene or group writing made its appearance about 2000 BCE but It was proposed that this device was not suddenly invented but it was gradually inherited and transformed through time. From that period on the Egyptian plene writing proceeded on its downward course of corruption and transformation and adaptation to new conditions. The reason why the Semites chose the Egyptian system rather than cuneiform is due to the close cultural and commercial relations that existed between them. The forms in the Semitic signary as represented on Ahiram sarcophugus are clearly linear. This is a system of writing which is called 'alphabetic' but is really a syllabic system of writing. The most important feature of Semitic and Phoenician syllabic writing is that no vowel are used only consonants to form a syllabe.