Forms of Transportation in Ancient Egypt

Egyptian methods of transportation were depicted often in ancient artwork.
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How did ancient Egyptians travel? Transportation in ancient Egypt adapted over thousands of years as the civilization developed more sophisticated technologies. Ancient Egyptians mastered diverse environments from the waters of the Nile River and Mediterranean Sea to the harsh climate of the Sahara. The ancient Egyptian vehicles used animals, wheeled chariots and ships for transporting their people, commodities and troops.

1 Ancient Egyptian Ships

Proximity to the Nile River ensured that ancient Egyptian civilization came to develop and heavily rely on many types of ancient Egyptian ships for commerce, ferrying, fishing and leisure. Conditions on the Nile River with its current flowing winds were ideal for these watercraft. Early rafts constructed of papyrus were commonly used due to the availability of the reed materials. Ships are depicted in Egyptian paintings dated to 4000 to 3100 B.C. The shift to sophisticated wooden boats took place around 4500 B.C. The oldest known examples of complex watercraft were recovered from a funerary monument at Abydos dated to the First Dynasty or around 3000 B.C. Ancient Egyptians also developed seafaring capabilities to pursue trade and military actions along the Mediterranean. This was facilitated through the import of cedar, a timber heavy enough for an ocean-faring Egyptian boat.

2 Riding Chariots in Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian vehicles included chariots. These vehicles were small, light and capable of reaching great speeds while still carrying standing people. The wheels and frame were designed in a way that chariots were able to transport troops or hunters across open desert or mountainous roads. The manufacture of chariots rose to prominence during the New Kingdom era. Chariots were also used for official processions, and frequently buried with ancient Egyptian rulers such as Tutankhamen, whose tomb included six chariots.

3 Beasts of Burden as Transportation

Beasts of burden were used for ancient Egypt transportation beginning in predynastic times. Donkeys and mules performed this work in addition to serving as plow animals or pulling carts. One-humped camels were not commonly used in predynastic Egypt. Camels of the two-humped variety were introduced more widely as desert transport animals by foreign invaders including Assyrians, Persians and Alexander the Great. Egyptians were introduced to horses around 1700 to 1550 B.C. but the animals were reserved for use by the military and ruling class.

4 Egyptian Litter and Sedan Chairs

The use of Egyptian litter and sedan chairs used for transportation is frequently attributed to the Old and Middle Kingdom. Both of these ancient transportation options centered around types of chairs where one Egyptian reclined and was carried by others. Litters could be either carried by porters or suspended between animals such as donkeys. Eqyptians of higher status and especially royalty were frequently transported in this way by their servants. In the history of ancient Egyptian, there are images of these litters and chairs. A wooden funerary miniature of two porters bearing an elite was found in the burial site of Sedment dating to around 2100 to 2000 B.C. As in many other ancient world cultures, this means of transportation was reserved to transport kings, nobles and statues of gods.

DaVaun Sanders' passion for writing hails back to the summer of 2002. He writes regularly for, is a New America Media Ethnic Elders Fellow and is currently editing his first novel. Sanders holds a bachelor's degree in architecture from Washington University.