The Building of safe Trade Routes Now in the regions above the Elephantine there dwell Ethiopians at once succeeding, who also occupy half of the island, and Egyptians the other half. Herodotus Histories Part 2
ASWAN Historically, the Egyptians considered the first cataract to be the natural southern border of their country; but since earliest times they made incursions into Nubia, while the Nubians raided their northern neighbour. The Palermo Stone records the smiting the of the Troglodytes as the main occurrence during the reign of the fifth king of the first dynasty. Aswan's location is at the first Cataract of the Nile, which provided a natural boundary between Egypt and Nubians. In the Nile the island of Elephantine, which is the largest of the Aswan area islands, and is one of the most ancient sites in Egypt, with artifacts dating to predynastic periods.
The conquest of Nubia was not just a response to incursions by Nubians, but made economic sense by bringing the rich Nubian gold mines and the overland routes to Kush and Punt under Egyptian authority. The Sinai desert was important for its copper and gem stone mines, and its trade routes through Arabia to the Horn of Africa, and later to Persia and India.
While the rock used in the buildings was found nearby, the Eygptians mined copper in the Sinai Peninsula. The scale of copper mining in the Sinai reached a size that made it the first real industry of the ancient world. The Egyptians mined deposits of the green copper mineral malachite. Malachite, a copper carbonate, was prized because it was the easiest copper mineral to reduce to copper metal. The closely related blue copper carbonate mineral azurite also was discovered. Near these two copper ore minerals, the early prospectors often found another copper mineral, blue-green turquoise. Turquoise is still prized around the world as a gem stone. Ruins of the old mines, the miners' huts, and inscriptions to the Goddess Hathor, the Lady of the Turquoise, can be found to this day in the Sinai. Copper mining in the Sinai Peninsula continued until the reign of Ramses III, in 1150 B.C., over 2,000 years later. • With the help of copper implements, King Zoser, founder of the Third Dynasty of Egypt, built the first great pyramid, the Pyramid of Saqqara, about 2900 B.C. The Great Pyramid of Gizeh, built by King Khufu, followed 100 years later.
Egypt had only partial success in controlling the flow of goods from Africa to Europe and the Near East. The cheapest and fastest way of transporting merchandise was by ship, despite the cataracts of the Nile and the storms on the Mediterranean and Red Sea and the difficulty and expense of keeping the canal connecting the Nile and the Red Sea in good repair. Because of the limitations of the ships' rigging which prevented them from sailing into the wind, the prevailing winds dictated the seasons when departure and return journeys took place.
The alternatives were the routes crossing the Eastern and Western Desert. These caravan routes through the Negev and the Libyan Desert were impossible to interrupt and difficult to administer. Even during the times when Egypt was nominally in power in theses regions and sent officials there, their very distance from the central authority gave them an independence they often abused. • How lucrative this desert trade was can be concluded from the rich tombs recently uncovered at Dakhleh and Baharie. Impressive mastabas were built by Egyptian officials during the reign of Pepi II, when corruption was rife. During the Middle Kingdom, when the central power was weak, trade with Crete flourished. Wall paintings at Knossos and Phaistos depict African slaves, ostrich eggs and ivory. Ahmose reaffirmed Egyptian control over the desert regions, and during most of the New Kingdom the borders were patrolled by frontier police using dogs.
In the Late Period Kyrene was founded by Greeks who built a temple at the Siwa oasis and cooperated with the Libyan bedouins supplying the rapidly growing Greek diaspora with African luxuries. The huge profits the Egyptians made from their Africa trade, some speak of 300 percent and more, made this desert venture worthwhile again. • The water supply problem was solved in two ways. In the WadiHammamat connecting the Nile near Thebes to Qoseir on the Red Sea, wells were dug which were replenished by the rare rains falling in the mountains. Between the oases of Dakhleh and Kufra a depot of water filled amphoras was created. A similar solution enabled Cambyses to cross the Sinai Desert
During the Late Period much of Egyptian trade was in the hands of Phoenicians and Greeks, who had settled in the Delta. Naukratis on the western most arm of the Nile was for some time the only international port. • Now in old times Naucratis alone was an open trading-place, and no other place in Egypt: and if any one came to any other of the Nile mouths, he was compelled to swear that he came not thither of his own free will, and when he had thus sworn his innocence he had to sail with his ship to the Canobic mouth, or if it were not possible to sail by reason of contrary winds, then he had to carry his cargo round the head of the Delta in boats to Naucratis: thus highly was Naucratis privileged.
Goods traded to and from Egypt Metal, Slaves, Animals and animal products, Wood, Papyrus, Agricultural goods, Artifacts, Precious Stones and other Luxury goods.
Much of what the Egyptians needed they had in their own country. Grain was generally plentiful and in Roman times Egypt was an important wheat growing area for the city of Rome. Beer, a less potent brew than its modern counterpart, was the daily drink of the people. Wine on the other hand was imported for a long time until vineyards were planted in the Delta and some of the oases. Bricks for building houses and palaces were made from the Nile mud, rocks for tombs and temples were found close to the Nile. Natron for embalming and salt were mined locally; flax and hemp grown for making clothes and ropes. Oil for lighting was pressed from the kikki seeds and later from olives. Papyrus grew abundantly in the Delta and was made into a kind of paper. In order to pay the king of Byblos for timber Wen-amen's • ... envoy who had gone to Egypt returned to me (i.e. Wenamen) in Syria in the first month of the Winter season, Nesbanebded and Tentamun having sent gold, 4 jars; 1 kakmen-vessel; silver, 5 jars, coverlets of royal linen, 10 pieces; fine Upper Egyptian linen, 10 veils; plain mats, 500; ox-hides, 500; ropes, 500; lentils, 20 sacks; fish, 30 baskets. And she sent to me coverlets, fine Upper Egyptian linen, 5 pieces; fine Upper Egyptian linen, 5 veils; lentils, 1 sack, and fish, 5 baskets. Wenamen's journey
Metal:Now I have sent 500 (talents) of copper to you; I have sent it to you as a gift - for my brother. Do not let my brother be concerned that the amount of copper is too little, for in my land the hand of Nergal, my lord, has killed all the men of my land, and so there is not a (single) copper -worker. The king of Cyprus to the pharaoh, El Amarna letter 35 • Egypt was not exceedingly rich in metal, but it had quite a few gold deposits, only a little silver, iron, lead and some copper, not enough to satisfy the country's needs. • Tin for the production of bronze, Asiatic copper which was a natural bronze alloy, and, from the New Kingdom onwards, small amounts of iron were imported. This was also the time when copper began to be shipped from Cyprus to Egypt and the country experienced occasionally shortages of the material.
Slaves, Animals and animal products • Slaves were captured or bought from the Levant, from Nubia and further south. This trade in humans was apparently of insignificant proportions. • Ivory from elephants (the Egyptians had local ivory from hippopotami), ostrich feathers and eggs, leopard and lion skins came from the west and south. • A number of domesticated animals were indigenous to Egypt or had been living there since prehistoric times: donkeys, goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, dogs and cats. Horses appeared first during the 13th dynasty, but gained importance during the reign of the Hyksos, a horned breed of cattle was brought from the south, as were pet monkeys. A new variety of sheep was introduced during the Middle Kingdom, chickens from India were still a rarity during the New Kingdom. Camels were introduced in significant numbers into Egypt only from the Persian conquest onwards. The only domesticated animal traded in significant numbers was the horse. During the New Kingdom Egypt imported horses while in the Late Period horses were shipped to Assyria and other Asiatic countries.
Only, four mines of beautiful lapis lazuli have I sent to my brother as a gift, and also five teams of horses. From a letter by Burnaburiash to Amenhotep IV • In return the king of Babylon hoped to get much gold, that I need for my work. In another letter Burnaburiash, dissatisfied with the amount of gold received, writes As a gift, I send you three mines of beautiful lapis lazuli and five teams of horses for five wooden chariots. From a letter by Burnaburiash to Amenhotep IV • Officially cats were not to be sent abroad, but they spread over the whole region carried on ships for pest control and as pets and probably sold quite often
Wood • But Wood, a necessity for the building of houses, ships, furniture etc. was in short supply and of inferior quality. Already during the Old Kingdom Egypt began developing a special relationship with Byblos on the Lebanese coast, which became one of its closest allies for almost two millennia. The cedar wood imported was critical to the development of a navy capable of defending the country against the incursions of the Sea Peoples. Different varieties of hardwood, among them ebony, and fragrant wood were imported from Africa.
Precious stones and other luxury goods • Lapis lazuli, mined in Bactria, was imported since pre-historic times. An East Iranian lapis lazuli statue was found in Egypt and dated to around 3000 BCE, preceding the first dynasty. Tapur, called Tefrer by the Egyptians, a fortified town on a canal between the Euphrates and Tigris, was their main trading centre for this gem. Turquoise found in Khorasan, gold, agate, carnelian and other precious stones were also carried on the Oxus road from TepeYahya near the Persian Gulf overland to Retenu and Egypt or by ship around the Arabian peninsula to Qoseir or the Nile-Red Sea canal. Vegetable oils, eye paints and other cosmetics also had their origins in eastern Iran and Afghanistan. • Punt was the main source of myrrh, frankincense and fragrant woods. Attempts were made to produce incense locally by importing trees under Hatshepsut. • During excavations at Memphis and Amarnaamphorae were discovered and analysed. They originated from the northern Levant. Residue of pistacia species resin was found in vessels coming from central and northern Canaan, while the amphoras originating in Lebanon, coastal Syria and southern Turkey were used to transport oil. • Glass products manufactured in Alexandria were one of the major export items during the Roman era.
Agricultural produce • One of Egypt's main export products was grain, at first to the Lebanese coast, where often not enough corn could be grown locally, and later in large quantities to Rome, more than 100,000 metric tons per year under Augustus. Fruit, such as dates, were also sold abroad. At Camulodunum in Roman occupied Britain amphoras which had been filled with fruit of the doum palm were found, quite possibly of Egyptian origin.
Papyrus Egypt was the only Mediterranean country where papyrus grew and a sort of paper was produced from it. It was marketed in the form of long rolls between ten and forty centimetres wide. It superseded the clay tablets used in the Akkadian speaking region and remained the main writing material in Europe until the Middle Ages, when its availability decreased and locally made parchment began to be used.
Artefacts • In addition to agricultural produce and raw materials like gold and precious stones Egypt exported artefacts. At Byblos sarcophagi and statues have been found, at Malta amulets, rings, scarabs and beads made from faience, statues and torch holders. In Punt weapons, jewelry, mirrors and the like were exchanged for exotic woods, ivory and frankincense.