You can tell a lot about a place based on the boats and ships that sail to and from it. How large are they? How narrow? What do they carry? What are they doing? From where are they coming, and where are they going next?
From the mega oil tankers and container ships to the smaller cargo ships to the roll-on/roll-off ferries to the merchant ships carrying grain, cattle, or crops, there is no doubt that watery transport still makes the world go round.
While cargo flights have added another option, sea freight still accounts for the vast majority of world trade. More than 90% of goods are transported by ships.
For millennia, the relationship between man and sea was only a working one. Today, man often sets sail for leisure, seeking speed or serenity, vistas and sunsets. Yet the open ocean still frequently provides the best route.
It has been so for hundreds of years. Our ancestors would have used maritime transport to bypass surface obstacles, such as hostile tribes. Sailing is often easier, too — surface transport is much more labour-intensive, for instance.
THE MARITIME TRADE OF ANCIENT ODISHA inspired artists to depict boats in sculptures and paintings.
Earliest representation of ships in Odisha is noticed in a sculptured frieze collected from vicinity of Brahmeswar temple, Bhubaneswar. The panel may be dated to 9th Century CE. pic.twitter.com/vy2BY3q01a— Vikrant (@Lost_History1) January 8, 2020
First fishing forays
No one knows where or when the first boats were used, nor their purpose. We can guess it may have been food-related – sea fishing, perhaps, or searching for food in the lands on the horizon.
Some think maritime transport began in Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq) for reasons of passenger transport and that it grew out of river transport at the mouths of the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates.
Others point to self-sufficient ancient civilisations elsewhere, including Ancient Egypt and those along the Indus River in South Asia or the Yangtze River in China. Boats likely played a vital role in the commerce between these civilisations.