A sailing ship is a sea-going vessel that uses sails mounted on masts to harness the power of wind and propel the vessel. There is a variety of sail plans that propel sailing ships, employing square-rigged or fore-and-aft sails. Some ships carry square sails on each mast—the brig and full-rigged ship, said to be ship-rigged when there are three or more masts. Others carry only fore-and-aft sails on each mast—schooners. Still others employ a combination of square and fore-and aft sails, including the barque, barquentine, and brigantine.
Early sailing ships were used for river and coastal waters in Ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean. Blue water sea-going sailing ships were first independently invented by the Austronesian peoples with the fore-and-aft crab-claw sail as well as the culturally unique catamaran and outrigger boat technologies. These enabled the rapid Austronesian expansion into the islands of the Indo-Pacific since 3000 BCE from an origin in Taiwan, as well as facilitated the first maritime trading network in the Indo-Pacific from at least 1500 BCE. Later developments in Asia produced the junk and dhow—vessels that incorporated innovations absent in European ships of the time.
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