Life in Ancient Egypt

Natural World: Trade

The needs of ancient civilized societies like Egypt were not fully satisfied by their own resources, so trade routes were developed to reach distant countries. The ancient Egyptians most often visited the countries along the Mediterranean Sea and the Upper Nile River to the south because they were immediately adjacent to Egypt and contained materials that the Egyptians desired. At various times in their history, the ancient Egyptians set up trade routes to Cyprus, Crete, Greece, Syro-Palestine, Punt, and Nubia. Egyptian records as early as the Predynastic Period list some items that were brought into Egypt, including leopard skins, giraffe tails, monkeys, cattle, ivory, ostrich feathers and eggs, and gold. Punt (whose location is uncertain) was a major source for incense, while Syro-Palestine provided cedar, oils and unguents, and horses.

Land travel was time-consuming and dangerous because of possible attack by nomadic peoples. Donkeys were the only transport and pack animals used by the Egyptians until horses were brought to Egypt in Dynasty XVIII (ca. 1539-1295 B.C.). Horses were valuable and used only for riding or for pulling chariots. The domesticated camel was not introduced in Egypt until after 500 B.C.

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