Trade in Ancient Egypt

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The Egyptians were masters of trade in the ancient world. Encouraged by Hatshepsut’s (1) expedition to Punt and Thutmose III’s (2) trades for rich loot in Southwest Asia and the Mediterranean Region, Egypt was a center of trade. Egyptians and their trading partners sailed along the Nile River to trade their goods, but sometimes also traveled to and from the Eastern or Western Deserts. Egyptians bartered with their precious resources, including gold, papyrus, linen, and grain. Sometimes, they even traded decorative artifacts (3), and some people stole them out of the Pharaohs’ tombs! For these goods, they received items not commonly found in Egypt in return. These included cedar wood from Lebanon; ebony and ivory from Africa; incense, myrrh and oils from Punt; lapis lazuli from Afghanistan; gold from Nubia, and even the important metals copper and iron from their best allies. Occasionally, they bought mud pottery or horses from other civilizations (4). They were only allowed to trade in marketplaces. Trade was also used in promoting friendship between civilizations. Gifts were given to show that one country wanted peace and/or alliance with another. Strangely (to us), princesses were commonly given from one country (or ruler) to another! This may explain why Ramses II has over 100 wives! Sometimes, Egypt determined how much of an item was being offered for trade by comparison to pieces of metal of known weight (using a balance or scale). In 400 B.C.E., gold, silver, and bronze coins became the currency of Egypt, but even then, bartering was still popular (5). Trade affects all of the social classes of Egypt because so many different kinds of resources were traded. For example, peasants needed cheap food to survive on, while Artisans used ebony, linen, iron, and copper for their crafts. Scribes traded for better food, such as meat, beer, and fish. They also used the leather traded from other places to be made into their carrying bags by artisans. Priests bought linen to have it made into the clothes. Government officials and the Pharaoh will use luxury resources such as copper or other metals, and incense. In summary, trade in ancient Egypt was important because it gave civilians the resources required to live and prosper (6).



Map of Ancient Egypt (right (7))

  • The Nile River is in bold

What They Traded

  • Gold
  • Papyrus
  • Linen
  • Grain
  • Artifacts (sometimes stolen from Pharaohs' tomb)
Gold (8) Papyrus (9) Linen (10) Grain (11) Artifacts (12)
Gold.jpg Papyrus.jpg Linenplant.jpg Grain.jpg Artifacts.jpg

Who They Traded With and What They Received

  • Lebanon - cedar wood
  • Africa - ebony and ivory
  • Afghanistan - lapis lazuli
  • Punt - incense, myrrh and oils
  • Nubia - gold
  • Best allies - copper and iron

Some Examples of Materials that Were Traded

Cedar Wood (13) Ebony (14) Ivory (15) Lapis Lazuli (16)
Ivory.JPG Lapis%20Lazuli.jpg
Incense (17) Myrrh (18) Copper (19) Iron (20)
Incense.jpg Myrrh.jpg Copper.jpg Iron.jpg
1. Weeks, Kent R. "Hatshepsut." World Book Student. World Book, 2011. October 15, 2011. 2. Wegner, Mary Ann Pouls. "Thutmose III." World Book Student. World Book, 2011. October 15, 2011. 3. 4. 5. 6. Bell, M. and Quie, S.; Ancient Egyptian Civilization (2010). The Rosen Publishing group, New York. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. /242/language/en 17. 18. 19. 20.
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