Ras Budran and the Old Kingdom trade in Red Sea shells and other exotica

Gregory Mumford

The late Old Kingdom fortified anchorage at Ras Budran not only facilitated Egyptian turquoise and copper mining in South Sinai, but also reveals a secondary interest in obtaining Red Sea shells and other marine products. Expeditions to South Sinai probably used a northern route between Memphis and Ayn Soukhna or Wadi al-Jarf, whilst southern routes between Koptos and the Red Sea often combined interests in obtaining Red Sea shells with quarrying, mining and sporadic maritime voyages to Punt. Red Sea exotica formed one of many desired Eastern Desert products and occur in various social settings in settlements, shrines and graves: they sometimes form a local dietary supplement (e.g., chitons); large bivalves may appear as mundane and cultic utensils (e.g., pigment holders, offering trays, incense burners); and many shell types serve as beads, pendants and amulets in decorative, amuletic and votive jewellery. In addition, they may also form part of Egyptian exports to the Levant.

Ras Budran and the Old Kingdom trade in Red Sea shells and other exotica

To reference this article we suggest:

Mumford, Gregory. 2012. Ras Budran and the Old Kingdom trade in Red Sea shells and other exotica. BMSAES 18: 107–45. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/publications/online_journals/bmsaes/issue_18/mumford.aspx

Contact the author
gmumford@uab.edu