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23 March 2008
Sailor to recreate Phoenicians' epic African voyage

On the ancient Syrian island of Arwad, which was settled by the Phoenicians in about 2000 BCE, men are hard at work hammering wooden pegs into the hull of a ship. But this vessel will not be taking fishermen on their daily trip up and down the coast. It is destined for a greater adventure one that could solve a mystery which has baffled archaeologists for centuries.
     The adventure begins not in Arwad but in Dorset, where an Englishman has taken it upon himself to try to prove that the Phoenicians circumnavigated Africa thousands of years before any Europeans did. Philip Beale has commissioned the building of a replica Phoenician ship that he plans to sail around the continent with a crew of 20. Their 10-month expedition sets off in August and will follow the route that seafaring Phoenician merchants are said to have taken more than 2,500 years ago. Apart from navigation and communications equipment, Mr Beale's crew will have none of the comforts of a 21st-century vessel. If they run into difficulty, they will have to rely on old-fashioned brawn and row. "There is a 30 per cent chance that we won't be able to complete it at all," Mr Beale admitted.
     In pre-Christian times the Phoenicians referred to in the Bible as 'rulers of the sea' were considered the only sailors capable of navigating their flimsy wooden vessels on such a treacherous voyage. Mr Beale had the idea for his unusual quest when he read the works of Herodotus, who wrote about the Phoenician voyage. According to the Greek historian, their journey began on the shores of the Red Sea, when the Egyptian King Necho asked a group of Phoenician seamen to attempt the first near-circumnavigation of the continent in 600 BCE. Mr Beale's crew will use the Suez Canal to reach the point of their predecessors' departure.

Source: The Independent (22 March 2008)

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