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  • Minoan Miniature Frieze Admirals Flotilla Fresco Art Shipping Scene
    Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece

  • Minoan Miniature Frieze Admirals Flotilla Fresco Art
    in Three Panels
    Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece

  • Minoan Miniature Frieze Admirals Flotilla Fresco Art Thera Scene
    Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece

  • Minoan Women "Ladies in Blue" Fresco Art
    Knossos, Crete, Greece

  • Bull Leaping Fresco
    Knossos, Crete, Greece

  • Dolphins Fresco
    Knossos, Crete, Greece

  • Sea Daffodils 'Lilies' Fresco
    Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece

  • Boxing Boys Fresco
    Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece

  • Antelope Fresco
    Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece

  • Minoan Priest King
    Feathered Prince of Lilies
    Fresco Art
    Knossos, Crete, Greece

  • Minoan Octopus Fresco Art
    Knossos, Crete, Greece

  • Minoan Bull Leaping Toreador Fresco Art
    Knossos, Crete, Greece

  • Minoan Antelope Fresco Art
    Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece

  • Minoan Dolphins Fresco Art
    Knossos, Crete, Greece

  • Minoan Sea Daffodils Lilies Fresco Art
    Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece




The Primacy of
Human Powered Rowing in
Copper Age and Minoan Shipping

For some time now, every couple of years, a rowing race across the Atlantic Ocean is held after the end of the hurricane season from the Canary Islands to the West Indies. This year's race starts on December 14, 2015. The Atlantic Challenge website provides all the information anyone could need on the rules, rowers, and their boats along with the ability to track (24/7) their progress across the ocean. Additional video coverage of the 2013 race, including the full documentary, can be found below.


Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge Website




Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2015 - Promotional Video (2:16)

As a young teenager of about 14 I spent a summer on the Chesapeake Bay in the US as a "sea" scout. The boats we crewed were old salvaged ocean liner lifeboats that were about 10 meters in length with beam widths of a little over three meters that had been fitted with a single mast and rigged with a square sail. More importantly there were five rowing stations on each side of the boat. Basically they were much smaller versions of the Minoan long ships depicted in the Miniature Frieze from Akrotiri.


Minoan Ship with Rowers Only


Miniature Frieze "Flotilla" Fresco
Late Bronze Age (LBA), Late Minoan I Period
The West House, Room 5, South Wall
3.90 x 0.43 meters
Akrotiri, Santorini (Thera), Greece.


While there is one ship in the frieze that is powered by a single square rigged sail only, the six other large ships shown are powered by humans levering their oars in the water. In a precision restoration of a scene from the middle of the frieze I did a few years ago you can clearly count 21 oars on the side of the most "decorated" long ship giving it a total of 42 rowing stations. This must have been a very big ship indeed. Of the frieze's six large rowing vessels only two have a single mast but no sails are deployed. This is very strong evidence for the great importance of human powered rowing in Minoan shipping.


Minoan Miniature Frieze Admirals Flotilla Fresco Shipping Scene
Late Bronze Age (LBA), Neo-Palatial Period
Akrotiri, Santorini (Thera), Greece.


As a sea scout I quickly learned that the sail was wonderful if the wind was in our favor in taking us to an appointed destination and we would use it as much as we could. But if the wind was unfavorable we would simply take the sail down and row straight into the wind if necessary. Only the strongest winds could stop us from rowing directly into them. In time we became rowing machines that could literally work the oars all day long and well beyond without any problem at all.

Our human powered oars were always the primary and most reliable power for our boats just as they would have been for the Bronze Age Minoans and the many Mediterranean seafarers that came before them.

W. Sheppard Baird

May 30, 2013
Update: December 3, 2015





Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2013 - Promotional Video (1:20)




Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2013 - The Winner arrives! (3:03)




Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2013 - The Documentary (48:16)