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Ancient Egyptian trade consisted of the gradual creation of land and sea trade routes connecting the Ancient Egyptian civilization with Syria, Western Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and India.


Epipaleolithic Natufians carried parthenocarpic figs from Africa to the southwestern corner of the Fertile Crescent, c. 10,000 BCE.[1] Later migrations out of the Fertile Crescent would carry early agricultural practices to neighboring regions—westward to Europe and Libya, northward to Asia Minor, and eastward to Mongolia.[2]

The ancient peoples of the Sahara imported domesticated animals from Asia between 6000 and 4000 BCE. In Nabta Playa by the end of the 7th millennium BCE, prehistoric Egyptians had imported goats and sheep from Southwest Asia.[3]

Foreign artifacts dating to the 5th millennium BCE in the Badarian culture in Egypt indicate contact with distant Syria. In predynastic Egypt, by the beginning of the 4th millennium BCE, ancient Egyptians in Maadi were importing pottery as well as construction ideas from Canaan.[4]

By the 4th millennium BCE shipping was well established, and the donkey and possibly the dromedary had been domesticated. Domestication of the Bactrian camel and use of the horse for transport then followed. Charcoal samples found in the tombs of Nekhen, which were dated to the Naqada I and II periods, have been identified as cedar from Lebanon.[5] Predynastic Egyptians of the Naqada I period also imported obsidian from Ethiopia, used to shape blades and other objects from flakes. The Naqadans traded with Nubia to the south, the oases of the western desert to the west, and the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean to the east.[6]

Pottery and other artifacts from the Levant that date to the Naqadan era have been found in ancient Egypt. Egyptian artifacts dating to this era have been found in Syria and other regions of the Near East,[7] including Tell Brak and Uruk and Susa in Mesopotamia.[8]

By the second half of the 4th millennium BCE, the gemstone lapis lazuli was being traded from its only known source in the ancient world—Badakhshan, in what is now northeastern Afghanistan—as far as Mesopotamia and Egypt. By the 3rd millennium BCE, the lapis lazuli trade was extended to Harappa, Lothal and Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley Civilization (Ancient India) of modern-day Pakistan, eastern Afghanistan, and northwestern India. The Indus Valley was also known as Meluhha, the earliest maritime trading partner of the Sumerians and Akkadians in Mesopotamia. The ancient harbor constructed in Lothal, India, around 2400 BCE is the oldest seafaring harbour known.[9]


  1. Kislev, ME; Hartmann, A; Bar-Yosef, O (2006). "Early domesticated fig in the Jordan Valley".Nature 312: 1372–1374.
  2. Chicki, L; Nichols, RA; Barbujani, G; Beaumont, MA (2002). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 99 (17): 11008–11013
  3. Fred Wendorf and Romuald Schild, 2000. Late Neolithic megalithic structures at Nabta Playa (Sahara), southwestern Egypt.
  4. "Maadi Culture". Archivedfrom the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved2011-07-13
  5. Parsons, Marie. "Egypt: Hierakonpolis, A Feature Tour Egypt Story". from the original on 29 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
  6. Shaw, Ian (2002). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 61.
  7. Branislav Andelkovic, 1995. The Relations between Early Bronze Age I Canaanites and Upper Egyptians, Belgrade, p. 58, map 2. Branislav Andelkovic, 2002. Southern Canaan as an Egyptian Protodynastic Colony. Cahiers Caribéens d`Egyptologie 3-4: 75-92.
  8. Dominique Collon, 1987. First Impressions, Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East, London, pp. 13–14.
  9. S. R. Rao (1985). Lothal. Archaeological Survey of India. pp. 27–29.