By Lillian Ray Martin
The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Vol.31:2 (2002)
Abstract: The history of ships and boats is ﬁlled out through three forms of evidence: archaeological discoveries, textual sources, and a corpus of artistic images. Art from Venice and Ravenna in north-east Italy and the Topkapı Museum in Instanbul, Turkey, offers keys to understanding several questions of Medieval ship-loading practices in the Mediterranean, including cargo loading, and where the war-horse entered his Crusader’s ship.
Introduction: Archaeological discoveries, textual sources, and a corpus of artistic images offer evidence for the history of ships and boats. Iconographic material clariﬁes certain issues and instigates further questions. It is an invaluable source, particularly for the Medieval Period, for which so few ships and boats have as yet been excavated and recorded adequately, and for the details not available in other sources. For example, rigging and sails are features generally not well preserved in the archaeological record but are detailed in maritime art. Although they have their limitations, artistic portrayals of ships and boats are, in fact, the nearest we have to photographs of ancient watercraft. Mosaic and manuscript images from Venice and Ravenna in north-east Italy and the Topkapı Museum in Instanbul illustrate and illuminate several aspects of Medieval ship-loading practices in the Mediterranean, including how mounted knights disembarked from their horse transports.