Sunday 15 May 2016

Conquering Sea and Desert

During the 2nd millennium BC, a variety of people in desert and coastal areas fringing more populated regions established vital trading networks that linked a cross section of cultures. By around 3000 BC trading centers were developing in Eastern Mediterranean, the Arab peninsula, and Nubia.

Tyre, Byblos, and Sidon formed the core of a great maritime trading network. These city states on the east Mediterranean coast, a region known as Canaan and as Phoenicia to the Greeks, prospered between 1200 - 600 BC. Phoenicians prowess made them the control center for routes crossing the Mediterranean.    

In 3rd millennium BC, Nubia(modern Sudan) was forging links with Egypt by trading goods, providing a corridor to Africa through which Egypt obtained ebony, ivory, incense, and exotic animals.

Ivory comb, Egypt's Old kingdom

In Arab world,by the 9th century BC there were major centers in southern Arabia(modern Yemen), including the Minaean and Sabaean kingdoms and in the north. The life of semi-nomadic Arabs were transformed by the domestication of the camel, around 12th century BC.

Camel trails marked out routes that became part of "Incense Road" carrying incense and spices. Only the Arabs knew the secrets of traversing their dangerous desert routes. This knowledge made them powerful and wealthy, and they did their best to shroud their trails and sources in fabulous myth.

Stone Slab,Nubia

This stone slab(stela) from the Amun temple at Kawa shows a Nubian king called Ary,who may be 8th century BC founder of the "kingdom of Kush"(In Egypt and Sudan), worshipping the gods Amun, Mut and Khonsu.

Another trade route was located around the kingdom of kush ,in southern Nubia, bringing precious metals such as ivory and gold to the ancient world. By 8th century BC, Kush, and its capital Napata, was enjoying a glorious period as a major trade center freed from Egyptian domination. The two cultures had lasting effects on each other.

Gold Band

This beautiful gold band was found at Enkomi on Cyprus, ancient Alashiya, and once decorated a luxurious garment. It dates to 13th century BC when Enkomi was a major port on world's trade routes - clear from the band's mix of Middle Eastern and Mycenaean Greek motifs.

The earliest archaeological evidence for the Phoenician colony at Carthage dates to the second half of the 8th century BC. Traditionally, the date of this trading post is given as 814 BC.

Remains of Phoenician colony 

Warships were powered by a combination of sails and rowers and by the 600s BC, when the Phoenicians supplied vessels to the Persians for their battles with the Greeks. 

The Phoenicians first introduced this distinctive "Black-on-Red" pottery to Cyprus. This flask dates from c.700 BC, by which time the Cypriots had evolved their own version of their style.

"Black-on-Red" pottery

Skilled seafarers and navigators, the Phoenicians built sophisticated multi oar galleys (as on these coins from Sidon) designed to speed over vast distances, and made great contributions to the ship building technology. They probably developed a bireme with two banks of oars, the main warship of 700s BC.

Coins from Sidon

This relief from the palace of the Assyrian king Sargon II(721-704 BC) in Khorsabad(North Iraq) shows a wood shipment being unloaded. Assyria imported top quality cedar for its palace building from Lebanon.

Relief depicting Wood transportation 

In the southwest of Arabian peninsula, the kingdom of Himyarites eclipsed that of the Sabaeans by 3rd century CE and remained to dominant Arabian state until the 500s. Its trading ships plied regular routes along the East African coast, creating strong links between Mediterranean and Africa. It exported African Ivory to the roman empire and maintained a brisk trade in precious resins.

Himyarite Relief

From the 1st millennium BC onwards, the Arab's spice and incense routes started bypassing the desert in favor of travel by sea.



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