The Land of Punt, also called "Pwenet by the ancient Egyptians, at times synonymous with Ta netjer, the 'land of the god', was a fabled site in the Horn of Africa and "was the source of many exotic products, such as gold, aromatic resins, African blackwood, ebony, ivory, slaves and wild animals". Information about Punt has been found in ancient Egyptian records of trade missions to this region.
The earliest recorded Egyptian expedition to Punt was organized by Pharaoh Sahure
of the Fifth Dynasty
(25th century BC). Subsequently, in the reign of Mentuhotep III
(around 1950 BC), an officer named Hannu
organized one or more voyages to Punt, but it is uncertain whether he travelled on these expeditions.
The most famous ancient Egyptian expedition to Punt was conducted during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut in the 15th century BC to obtain myrrh. A report of that voyage survives on a relief in Hatshepsut's funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri. Nehsi, mentioned in the inscriptions, is thought by some to have been the leader of the expedition. According to the relief, Punt was ruled at that time by King Parahu and Queen Ati. Several of Hatshepsut's successors, including Thutmose III, also organized expeditions to Punt.
texts are consistent in connecting the location of Punt with the Red Sea
, but scholars have not agreed upon its precise location. Modern academic consensus places Punt in the area of Eritrea
and northern Ethiopia
, or the southeastern Beja
lands of Sudan
The most likely location of Punt, according to Kenneth Kitchen, is Eritrea, northern Ethiopia and east-north-east Sudan. The presence of teff in 4th dynasty pyramid bricks of the Dahshur Pyramid supports this theory, as teff only grows in the Eritrean Highlands and Ethiopian Highlands. Modern attempts to classify the flora and fauna from Punt also suggests that Punt may have been located in this region. Myrrh trees from Hatshepsut's trading expedition to Punt are shown being loaded onto Egyptian ships in the second terrace of her funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri. Evidence that these trees were "replanted in the temple of Deir El-Bahri" is suggested "from the surviving traces of tree-pits" found here.
Some argue that Punt was as far away as Puntland, a region of Somalia that adopted this name in the 20th century. Frankincense and myrrh, which were imported by the Egyptians from Punt, are still found in abundance in this region. In his translation of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, G.W.B. Huntingford claimed that the name Punt lay behind the name of Opone, a coastal marketplace in Somalia located south of Cape Guardafui, and identified both Punt and Opone with Hafun, a Somalian peninsula.
It was once thought that the frankincense and other goods the ancient Egyptians obtained in Punt suggested that it was located on the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, or even Bahrain or India. The presence of African animals in the Deir el-Bahri reliefs, as well as the presence of incense-producing trees in Africa, have discounted these theories.
The ancient Egyptians
also called Punt Ta netjer
, meaning "God's Land". This designation did not mean that Punt was considered a "Holy Land" by the Egyptians; rather, it was used to refer to regions of the Sun God
, i.e. regions located in the direction of the sunrise. These eastern regions were blessed with precious products, like incense, used in temples. The term was used not only in reference to Punt, located southeast of Egypt, but also in reference to regions of Asia
east and northeast of Egypt, such as Lebanon
, which was the source of wood for temples.
- Fattovich, Rodolfo. 1991. "The Problem of Punt in the Light of the Recent Field Work in the Eastern Sudan". In Akten des vierten internationalen Ägyptologen Kongresses, München 1985, edited by Sylvia Schoske. Vol. 4 of 4 vols. Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag. 257–272
- ———. 1993. "Punt: The Archaeological Perspective". In Sesto congresso internazionale de egittologia: Atti, edited by Gian Maria Zaccone, and Tomaso Ricardi di Netro. Vol. 2 of 2 vols. Torino: Italgas. 399–405
- Herzog, Rolf. 1968. Punt. Abhandlungen des Deutsches Archäologischen Instituts Kairo, Ägyptische Reihe 6. Glückstadt: Verlag J. J. Augustin
- Johannes Dumichen: Die Flotte einer ägyptischen Königin, Leipzig, 1868
- Wilhelm Max Müller: Asien und Europa nach altägyptischen Denkmälern, Leipzig, 1893
- Adolf Erman: Life in Ancient Egypt, London, 1894
- Édouard Naville: "Deir-el-Bahri" in Egypt Exploration Fund, Memoirs XII, XIII, XIV, and XIX, London, 1894 et seq
- James Henry Breasted: A History of the Ancient Egyptians, New York, 1908
News reports on Wadi Gawasis excavations
- Archaeologists discover ancient ships in Egypt (Boston University Bridge, 18 March 2005). Excavations at Wadi Gawasis, possibly the ancient Egyptian port Saaw.
- Remains of ancient Egyptian seafaring ships discovered (New Scientist, 23 March 2005).
- Egyptian sea vessel artifacts discovered at pharaonic port of Mersa Gawasis along Red Sea coast (EurekAlert, 21 April 2005).
- University professor finds ancient shipwreck (Boston University Daily Free Press, 27 April 2005).
- Ancient Mariners: Caves harbor view of early Egyptian sailors (Science News Online, 7 May 2005).
- Sailing to distant lands (Al Ahram, 2 June 2005).
- Ancient ship remains are unearthed (Deutsche Press Agentur, 26 January 2006).
- Archeologists find ancient ship remains (Associated Press, 27 January 2006).
- 4,000-year-old shipyard unearthed in Egypt (MSNBC, 6 March 2006)