A Harness for the Wind
from the book, "Petrified Lightning"

Petrified Lightning

A Harness for the Wind

About 10,000 years ago a group of Late Stone Age people established a campsite near the shore of a now—extinct lake in the vicinity of Yorkshire, England. That these early campers were hunters is indicated by numerous remains of game animals. Scientists believe that they also fished and even traveled on the lake. Excavation of this ancient site uncovered a wooden paddle, the oldest and most primitive implement of water navigation to have been discovered anywhere in the world. Perhaps a Paleolithic ancestor invented the paddle while he still navigated by straddling a log.

A more efficient means of water travel would require something that could provide more speed and control with less human labor—such as a sail. The Nile River extended the entire length of ancient Egypt. At the delta, the only place where the country widened, the Nile split into at least seven arms interconnected by numerous stream channels. People were drawn to this web of waterways at a very early date. Egyptians, not surprisingly, became key contributors to the history of water transportation. The earliest known record of a sail is a picture on an Egyptian pot dating from about 3200 b.c.—over 5,000 years ago.