What makes model ships so fascinating?
To answer this question, we would like to take you on a brief journey through
the history of model ship construction...
No record exists of when the very first model ship was built. The oldest
surviving examples of model ships originate from between 5000 and 4000
B.C. and come from Egypt. In those days, a completely realistic rendering
of the original ship was not considered so important. Model ships were
only rarely made of wood. It was more common to find models made of clay
or even precious metals such as gold or silver. Thus we can conclude that
the models had a ritualistic and mythological significance. In the tomb
of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, for example, some 15 model ships were found among
the burial objects.
The first model ships in today's sense were built around 2000 B.C..
The models served a purely decorative purpose or were collectors' items
and these models were much more finely crafted and realistic than had
previously been the case.
Model ship construction became particularly important during the 16th
century. This was when it became the established mode of practice to first
build a model of the proposed ship in ship building tenders. Suddenly
it became important to create an as accurate and to scale rendering as
However the ritualistic elements of seafaring were not lost over the
centuries. One reason for this was certainly the fact that seafaring has
always acted as proof to man of his own powerlessness when confronted
with the forces of nature. The manifold symbols and decorative elements
and, of course, ship figureheads (the patron saint of the ship's crew)
are proof of this, as is the ancient ritual of baptizing a ship before
her maiden voyage.
Today, historical ship models make it possible for us to sense that ships
were once much more than a simple means of transport. Ships were used
to travel the oceans and discover new lands, carry goods to the other
end of the world or to turn the sea into a theatre of war. Model ships
tell the story of dashing adventurers, who dared to venture beyond accepted
limits and to fly in the face of danger. Model ships embody the allure
of seafaring and at the same time are an expression of outstanding artisan
skills and artistic ability.