Ancient Egypt - The Land of Punt

By Professor Emeritus John Baines, University of Oxford

Land of Myths and Legends

In this podcast Professor Emeritus John Baines, University of Oxford, provides an introduction to the Land of Punt.

The Land of Punt was an ancient region known from Ancient Egyptian records. It exported gold, aromatic resins, blackwood, ebony, ivory and wild animals, some of them perhaps traded from elsewhere. Recent evidence locates it beside the Red Sea and to the north of the horn of Africa.

The earliest recorded ancient Egyptian expedition to Punt was organized by Pharaoh Sahure of the Fifth Dynasty (25th century BC). However, gold from Punt may have been in Egypt as early as the Fourth Dynasty.

Subsequently, there was trade with Punt, as well as more expeditions to Punt, in the Sixth, Eleventh, Twelfth and Eighteenth dynasties of Egypt. In the Twelfth Dynasty, trade with Punt was celebrated in the literary Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor.

In the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt, Hatshepsut built a Red Sea fleet to facilitate trade between the Red Sea coast and points south as far as Punt to bring mortuary goods to Karnak in exchange for gold. An inscription and a pictorial record of that five-ship voyage survive on reliefs in Hatshepsut's mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri, on the West Bank of the Nile opposite Luxor. Punt is absent from Egyptian records from after about 1100 BC.

1. What sources do we have about the Land of Punt? What area did it cover?
2. How do you reach Punt?
3. What do we know about ancient Punt’s politics, economy and culture?
4. What do we know about Punt’s relationship with the wider world and relations with Egypt?
5. Why was Hatshepsut’s expedition to Punt significant? What does the expedition tell us both about Egypt and its rulers during this period and also about Punt?

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