Ancient Egypt enjoyed an abundance of natural resources and wealth but wasn’t able to achieve self-sufficiency so it relayed on trade which is considered to be one of the most vital aspects of any civilization whether it was on a local or international scale. The geographic strategic location of ancient Egypt kingdom opened the door for international trade which elevated the lives of everyone who take part in. for three millennia ancient Egypt traded countless goods with various kingdoms like Nubia, Kush, and Punt.
History of the Ancient Egyptian Trade
The history of the ancient Egyptian trade goes back to the time of the Early Dynastic period (3050-2686 BC) which marked the development of agriculture and animal husbandry then followed the Old kingdom (2686-2181 BC) were trade increased because of the elevation of art, architecture and the centralized administration of agriculture products. In the middle kingdom (2134-1690 BC) Nubian gold and minerals became valuable trade goods. During the new kingdom (1549-1069 BC) the import of bronze and exotic woods plus the restoration of historical trade routes and networks, towards the end of the new kingdom between 672 BC and 332 BC Egypt fell under the control and conquest of Assyria, Babylon, and Macedonia that brought new trade opportunities but was surrounded by great oppression of the Egyptian public.
During the Ptolemaic dynasty (332-30 BC) trade rose to a new level after the establishment of the city of Alexandria to be considered a second capital of the Hellenistic times, the city was a symbol of art, culture, a foreign power, and trade center of Chinese silk, Asian gems, hardwood from northern Europe and spices from the far orient. The trade of ancient Egypt had its ups and downs but it all came to an end after the death of Cleopatra in 30BC, and after the Egyptian trade was attracting traders from Phoenicia, Greece, Persia, and India then everything became the control of the Roman empire for many centuries to come.
The Types of Goods that Was Used For Trading
Ancient Egyptians had most of everything they need within their country’s bordures but their environmental condition prevents some goods to exist in a mass quality like wood which existed in inferior quality and was the main material used for the creation of ships, houses, and furniture, so in the old kingdom, Egypt established an economical relationship with the Byblos kingdom on the Lebanese coast which became one of its closest allies for two millennia.
The ancient Egyptians imported cedar wood which was used for the creation of naval ships defending the country against any foreign forces like the sea people. They also imported numerous variety hardwoods like ebony, fragrant wood from Africa.
Egypt didn’t enjoy a rich quality of metal; it had a small number of gold deposits with little silver, iron, copper, and lead which didn’t fully satisfy the country’s metallic needs. Egypt began the conquests of Nubia and the Sinia and exploits their gold and copper mines which had positive improvements and international consequences.
The ancient Egyptians shipped the copper from Cyprus and they used significant amounts of gold that were traded with Asiatic kings to gain their political support in favor of the Egyptian empire. Asiatic copper was a natural bronze alloy that was produced using tin.
● Jewelry & Precious Stones
The ancient Egyptians took a major interest in precious stones and luxury goods. The land of the punt was the main source of resins of myrrh, frankincense, and fragrant wood which was used as incense and the preparation of certain products. They imported lapis lazuli from the northern land of Kush in Bactria.
From eastern Iran and Afghanistan, vegetable oils, eye paints, and cosmetics were imported. During the Roman era, glass products were manufactured in Alexandria. Many materials like Turquoise, gold, agate, carnelian, and other precious gems were carried on the Oxus road from the Persian Gulf overland to Egypt or by ships around the Arabian Peninsula or the Canal of Nile-Red Sea.
● Cattle & Animals
Many animal products from the west and south Africa found its ways to Egypt like Ivory, ostrich feathers & eggs, leopard, and lion skins. Many cattle and animals were introduced to the ancient Egyptian kingdom like horses which appeared for the first time in the 13th dynasty which was highly famous in the time of the Hyksos, chickens were brought from India in the new kingdom, and camels became very common in Egypt during the Persian conquest. Also, a number of domestic animals were introduced to Egypt since prehistoric times such as donkeys, goats, sheep, dogs, and cats.
● Agriculture & Crops
Egypt was the leading producer of grains in the ancient world but they were not enough corn which was imported from the ancient kingdom of Lebanon. It also sold dates abroad all across the Roman empire. Egypt was the only producer of papyrus in the Mediterranean region, it produced some sort of paper and remained the main writing material in Europe until the end of the middle ages, and it was marketed in the form of long rolls.
Egypt also exported artifacts as in Byblos of Levant statues and sarcophagi have been found and amulets, scarabs, and rings were found in malta plus beads made from faience and torch holders. With the land of punt Egyptian weapons, jewelry, mirrors were exchanged with frankincense, exotic woods, and ivory.
Ancient Egypt was successful in controlling the flow of goods to all over the world from Africa to Europe and the near east, they transported their merchandise by ship as in the Ptolemaic dynasty the lighthouse of Alexandria was constructed to symbolize the extreme value and importance of shipbuilding and sea trade as the lighthouse was used to facilitate and increase the goods transported from all the corners of Africa, but the ancient Egyptians also resorted to other methods as the limitations of the ships rigging prevented them from sailing into the wind and the storms of the Mediterranean and the red sea & the cataracts of the Nile.
The alternative methods were the crossing of the eastern and western desert, camels and caravanserais were ideal and the usage of chariots which took full advantage of the wheel technology between 1674 BC and 1549 BC.
● System of Management
The concept of trade can be defined as an exchange of goods between merchants which was solely handled by scribes as representatives of mainly the kings or the priests. Trade was organized by a central authority and there was no trace of middlemen to profit from these exchanges. In short, there were no government-sponsored incentives for trade in ancient Egypt as the king owned all the land and the entire produce. The king was ordained by the gods and served as the mediator between the gods and the public; he, therefore, was recognized as the land’s legitimate steward.
But in reality, from the time of the Old Kingdom onward, the Cult of Amun owned large tracts of land that were tax-exempt. Since there was no law prohibiting priests from engaging in trade, and the entire profit going to the temple instead of the crown, it allowed the priests to live as extravagant as royalty. The traders in ancient races like the Asiatic merchants who traded Iranian goods of metal and precious stones into Egypt to protect the merchants and the trade, a police force, and armed guards protected the caravans from theft, the border crossing, collected tolls and kept a close eye on everyone who might cause them harm and damage.
Adventure Tours to Ancient Egypt
Egypt has always been the home of wealth, art, and beauty since the beginning of time and you have the chance to enjoy one of our Egypt private packages discover all the hidden secrets of this great nation in Cairo & Alexandria cities and explore the true meaning of true beauty by boarding a Nile river cruise to the majestic cities of Luxor, and Aswan and enjoy the enchanting beaches of Hurghada.