Egypt’s trade with Punt: New discoveries on the Red Sea Coast

Rodolfo Fattovich

In December 2001 the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’ (UNO), Naples, and the Italian Institute for Africa and the Orient (IsIAO), Rome (Italy), in collaboration with Boston University (BU), Boston (USA), started a joint archaeological project at the site of Mersa/Wadi Gawasis on the Red Sea coast under the direction of Rodolfo Fattovich (UNO/IsIAO) and Kathryn A. Bard (BU). In the mid-1970s, the site was identified by Abdel Monem Abdel Haleem Sayed, University of Alexandria (Egypt) as the pharaonic port of Saww for seafaring expeditions to Punt in Dynasty 12. The UNO/IsIAO and BU Project set out to confirm the use of the site as a harbour for seafaring expeditions to Punt in pharaonic times, to better understanding the organisation of these expeditions and to provide firmer archaeological evidence for the location of Punt. The excavations demonstrated that the site was associated with maritime activity during the whole of the Middle Kingdom. In particular, an abundance of evidence for Dynasty 12 seafaring expeditions was recorded: ship timber, anchors, ropes, cargo boxes, administrative devices, inscribed stelae, ostraca and papyri, ceramics, lithics, plant and animal remains. A large camp dating to late Dynasty 12/early Dynasty 13 and possibly a small shrine and slipways for the ships were also found. Exotic ceramics included fragments of vessels from the Yemeni Tihama and the region of Aden and possibly Eritrea, suggesting that in the early to mid-2nd millennium BC the Egyptians had maritime contacts with both Arabian and African regions of the southern Red Sea.

Egypt’s trade with Punt: New discoveries on the Red Sea Coast

To reference this article we suggest:

Fattovich, Rodolfo. 2012. Egypt’s trade with Punt: New discoveries on the Red Sea Coast. BMSAES 18: 1–59. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/publications/online_journals/bmsaes/issue_18/fattovich.aspx

Contact the author
rfattovich@libero.it