Ancient Egyptian Trade And Transport

Ancient Egyptian Trade And Transport

The peoples of Ancient Egypt left a lasting legacy unlike any other civilization in the history of the world. The treasure trove of found archaeological evidence indicates mastery of architecture and art, commerce and trade, irrigation and agriculture, medicine, and a religion deeply rooted in the belief of an afterlife. The Nile River provided a source of water which was used in many ways, including the development of ship building that would facilitate Ancient Egyptian trade with foreign lands. The geographic location of Ancient Egyptian kingdoms put them in an ideal spot for reaping the benefits of international trade that proved amazing even by today’s standards. The value of Ancient Egyptian trade and transport was so highly prized that pharaohs and other leaders were even fully equipped to embark on the ultimate journey of discovery – to the Afterlife – in style and abundance.

Ancient Egyptian Trade

Ancient Egyptian trade routes developed long before pharaohs and pyramids. Historians divide the timeline of Egyptian antiquity into twelve periods, each one developing new goods for trade as technology evolved.

Trade in Pre- and Early-Dynastic times involved copper, ceramics, and stone tools. Personal items such as beads, bracelets, and combs were important elements of trade.

The Early Dynastic Period (c. 3050-2686 BC) marked the development of agriculture and animal husbandry.

During the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BC), art and the centralized administration of agricultural products made it possible to increase trade in these commodities.

The First Intermediate Period (2181-1991 BC) is noted for a 140-year drought, which brought trade to a standstill.

The Middle Kingdom (2134-1690 BC) brought a return to prosperity, with Nubian gold and minerals mined throughout the region becoming valuable trade goods.

The Second Intermediate Period (1674-1549 BC) was a war-torn period of strife and invasion, which severely limited the benefits of international trade.

New Kingdom (1549-1069 BC) prosperity included the import of bronze and exotic woods and restoration of historical trade networks.

The Third Intermediate Period (1069-653 BC) represents another time of economic disarray, war, and foreign invasions for the Ancient Egyptian people.

Egypt rule during the Late Period (672-332 BC) fell to Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Macedonia, with each conquest bringing new trade opportunities but great oppression to the Egyptian population.

The Ptolemaic Dynasty (332-30 BC) saw the rise of Alexandria (named after Macedonian conquerer Alexander the Great) as a city of art, culture, and foreign power. Goods such as Chinese silks, Asian gems, hardwoods from Northern Europe, and spices from the Orient were traded abundantly.

The Roman Period began in 30 BC when Caesar Augustus defeated Cleopatra and Marc Antony. The center of power shifted from Alexandria to Rome, where wealthy Romans enjoyed the many exotic goods flowing from throughout the known world. Such goods traveled through Egypt and into Rome.

During a period of fierce battles from 639-646 AD, Alexandria fell to Arab invaders intent on spreading Islamic rule. The beginning of the current Arab Muslim Period marks the end of Ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egyptian Transport

Throughout its long and colorful history, Ancient Egypt enjoyed the benefits of international trade, which became more abundant, luxurious, and exotic as transportation technologies improved or were expanded.

Camels and caravanserais were instrumental in the earliest days of Ancient Egyptian transport by land. Ship building in rudimentary form, consisting mostly of wooden planks tied together, provided an invaluable way to transport goods up and down the Nile River and along the coastlines of the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

The Second Intermediate Period (1674-1549 BC) saw the introduction of the chariot, which was more a weapon of war upon introduction, but the technology of its wheel was embraced and developed further. It’s thought the wheel was instrumental in the building of pyramids, the Sphinx, and other massive Ancient Egyptian shrines.

During the Ptolemaic Dynasty (332-30 BC), the construction of the Lighthouse of Alexandria symbolized the extreme value of ship building and sea trade. Ancient Egyptians used the lighthouse to facilitate increased trade of goods transported to and from Southern and Western Africa, Europe, the Holy Land, and the Far East.

Perhaps no other journey was more important to Ancient Egyptians than the one into the Afterlife. Ancient Egyptian tomb finds include chariots, wagons and carts, and ships, all laden with treasures cherished by Ancient Egyptian nobility.

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