The Art of Shipbuilding, 50,000 BC to 400 BCE

Like the sky and space behind it, the oceans of the world are vast and empty spaces that are either impossible to travel without specialised equipment, or extremely dangerous. Humans aren’t well adapted for swimming, and until the modern era, a person falling into water was usually a death sentence as they had no idea how to swim: a succession crisis in medieval England was caused by Henry 1’s only legitimate son dying in a shipwreck, for example.

Thankfully, humans are an intelligent bunch and we figured out how to build simple boats out of harvestable materials like wood. The first boats were likely used by the Australian Aborigines to travel from New Guinea to Australia around 50,000 years ago, which as uninhabited by humans at the time. The waters in this area are relatively calm and shallow, due to the area being a continental shelf. This made sailing to Australia possible in the boat technology of the time, which were usually small and carved out of tree trunks.

The boat was essential to trade and population exchange for most of human prehistory, with Madagascar being populated by Austronesian people first in 350BC, travelling across the Indian Ocean to reach it, with the Bantu peoples of southern and central Africa arriving later by travelling from Mozambique. The Austronesians reached this area with a new development in boat technology: Outrigged canoes, which were more stable during travel and were as fast as earlier boat designs. We still see the use of modern outrigged boats in professional sporting events and transportation, thousands of years after its invention.

Nevertheless, these boats were quite small and weren’t able to carry much cargo, and trading by sea was beginning to catch on with the first world powers, such as the Romans, Phoenicians and the various South Asian empires involved in the spice trade. For this, heavier ships with storage space were developed, such as the Dhows, Cogs, Galleys, Junks and so on. These ships allowed the ancient world to transport rare and valuable goods with each other.

It wasn’t just material goods like food and metal that were transported, however: new technology, philosophical concepts and religions were spread along any trade route, allowing for intercommunication between far-flung empires, which further boosted technological developments and the adoption of new religions: Buddhism, Christianity and Islam wouldn’t have made it very far outside their home region without trading with receptive people around the world, shaping it into what we know today.

There’s a boat waiting for anybody – those that just want to chill out far from the world, those looking for adventure and excitement, those that want to go swimming in the expanse of the world’s seas and oceans. You Charter Direct is a Yacht Charter based in the South of France, with access to the ports of Monaco, St Tropez and Cannes. Take a look at our selection of yachts, sailboats and superyachts and see what will be the perfect choice for you.