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Trade in Greco-Roman Egypt

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Trading Practices in Egypt

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Glossary

ebony

Hard black heartwood of certain tropical African trees.

incense

the smoke or odor produced by the burning of an aromatic substance

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Trade in Ancient Egypt
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From as early as the Predynastic period, lapis lazuli originating in Afghanistan was placed in Egyptian tombs and shards of Egyptian pottery have been found in the earliest layers of earth at Knossos in Crete.

It is certain that at least the peoples living in the Nile Delta had both peaceful and hostile relations with their Asian and African neighbors.

Ancient Egyptians imported and exported goods from several neighboring countries. They exported stone and pottery vases, linen, papyrus, gold vessels, ox hides, ropes, lentils, and dried fish.

Imported goods were mostly raw materials and products sought as luxury items in high society. Horses, cattle, small livestock, cedar wood, silver, copper, and valuable minerals were imported from Syria and Palestine. Cyprus delivered copper and ivory. Luxury items such as Minoan and Mycenaean oil containers came from the Aegean.

The south, especially Nubia, was rich in gold and mineral deposits, building stone, ebony, ivory, ostrich feathers and eggs, as well as livestock and cattle. From the land of Punt came myrrh and incense. Caravan trade routes were an important means of exchanging these goods. One route led to the north and another led to the south.

The northern route was divided into two branches. The first one went through Palestine, along the Mediterranean coast. The second northern branch ran through Megiddo and Hazor upstream along the Litani River and downstream along the Orontes River.

The southern route ran from Asiut by way of the oases of Kharga and Dungul to Tomas in Nubia. The Sinai was reached by a caravan route from Coptos across the Eastern Desert to a port near Wadi Gawasis. Boats and barges, however, were the best mean of transport in Ancient Egypt.

The sea route began on the Nile at the port of Memphis and led by way of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile to the large port centers in the eastern Mediterranean, where Egyptian trade could link up with overseas trade.

From the Orontes River, the Egyptian route crossed the frequently traveled east-west route, which led from Cyprus to the southern coast of Asia Minor, as well as to the Aegean.

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