Digital Library

Ship Graffiti

Timmy Gambin


Iconography is a great tool when we are trying to reconstruct the ships and boats of the past. Few shipwrights or specialists, however, drew ships and boats in detail and we have to rely on a body of information produced by people that either knew about what they were trying to represent, but were not trained artists, or were good at drawing, but did not know much about ships and boats.

In a short but seminal paper (1990), Harry Tzalas described the representation of Kyrenia II painted on the church of the Holy Cross in Pedoula, Cyprus. The painter, a professional iconographer named Alkis Kepolas, who took numerous pictures of the ship while it was at Cyprus, during the 1986 experimental voyage of Kyrenia II, represented it with a number of technical mistakes.

A critical analysis of each image that survived is therefore required.  Graffiti are often drawn by people who know ships well, and they stand as a special source of information for the history of shipbuilding.

This page is intended as a portal for several projects about ship graffiti around the world.


Tzalas, Harry, 1990. “‘Kyrenia’ II in the fresco of Pedoula Church, Cyprus,” in Tropis II, Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium on Ship Construction in Antiquity. Delphi, 1987.