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Ancient Egypt's Economic Growth
Ancient Egypt became renowned as a major export / import region and a major center of trade. Hatshepsut's expedition to Punt as well as Thutmose III's trades for loot in Southwest Asia and the Mediterranean Region caused Egypt to become a highly attractive country amongst its neighbors for much of the Ancient period.
Ancient Egypt had its up and downs with trading during its successive string of Dynasties. Apparently, when the country was most secured under a strong and stable dominion of its own pharaohs, the country showed prosperity and was able to cement friendly dealings with its neighbors and exploit its own wealth for its country's prosperity. Ancient Egypt's decline over and again occurred due to internal, rather than external pressures, where clergy and noblemen became too powerful and caused the royal family to splinter and move in two directions.
History showed that whenever the country was reunited, it prospered. When however the country was split between Upper and Lower Egypt, trading suffered and the country declined. Example of this pattern were the Early Dynastic period, the Third and Fourth Dynasties, and the period of the New Kingdom that flourished; they were held together by strong, cohesive ruler ship. The country however declined under the Old Kingdom, the Seventh and Eight dynasties, the Third Intermediate period, and the Late Kingdom that were marked by disaffection and strife and where foreigners almost always splintered Egypt and colonized it.
Ancient Egypt's economic condicons suffered occasunally from external conditons such as famine and drought, particularly since much of their trade originated from the Nile and centered around agriculture. Nontheless, as history shows, it was primarily internal conditons that caused either trading prosperity or the reverse.
Part II: Ancient Egypt's economic status throughout the years
Trading was mostly done by wholesale merchants who acted for the crown or for the temples. Exports included stone and pottery vases, linen, papyrus, gold vessels, ox hides, ropes, lentils, and dried fish as well as cedar wood from Lebanon; ebony and ivory from Africa; incense, myrrh and oils from Punt; lapis lazuli from Afghanistan; gold from Nubia, and precious metals such as copper and iron. Other exports included horses, cattle, small livestock, cedar wood, silver, copper, and valuable minerals from Syria and Palestine whilst they received copper and ivory from Cyprus and luxury products, such as Minoan and Mycenaean oil containers, from the Aegean. Mud pottery was also sometimes acquired -- as well as wives ?.
Imported goods mostly included raw materials and luxury products for the temples and upper society as well as gold, papyrus, linen, and grain. Another much sought after product constituted decorative artifacts frequently stolen form the tombs of the Pharaohs.
Trade was an important factor to Ancient Egypt. Not only did they gain products that their own country lacked but it was an important means of producing peace and friendly relations with pertinent countries. Most of Egypt's wealth and what they traded with other countries came from their agriculture. Grain, vegetables, fruit, cattle, goats, pigs and fowl were grown, and fish from the Nile were caught. Implements, however, remained primitive throughout and it was only during the Later Age that greater strides were made?.
Linen and weaving was another major import and this obtained its stage of perfection during the New Kingdom when small factories appeared, often financed by rich noblemen and most often operated by males. Upright looms were introduced during this era.
Precious metals started to be exported during the late period and even then exportation was minimal. Iron came into existence in the late period. Egypt was slow in however exporting its tools since the metals used for the tools were expensive and, even then, only possessed by a few.
As regards general international commerce and banking, most of this was done, at least until the Late Period, by agents of the crown or of the Temples. Grain served as a kind of currency even after coins were introduced (in the latter half of the first millennium BCE) and were stored in granary banks for security. In the reign of the Ptolemy's, a central bank in Alexandria recorded all activities of the various granary banks interspersed throughout the country. Whilst granary was used as currency within Egypt even into the late period, gold, silver, and copper was exclusively used in transaction with foreigners in the second half of the first millennium BCE. During this first millennium BCE, however, high interest rates did not encourage commerce with foreigners and competition was high with foreigners often preferring exports form other countries. During the Saite Period, for instance, monthly interest rates could reach 10%.
Part III. Chronology and details of Ancient Egypt's trading with other countries o A. Early Dynastic Period (c. 3050-2686 BC)
Few written records or artifacts are found about this period so little is known in general, and even less is known about Egypt's trading relations with other countries.
The Egyptians had recently emerged from their Stone Age to exchange hunting for agriculture and agriculture -- helped by the Nile - had become a huge occupation. Around 3400 B.C., two separate kingdoms were established: the Red Land to the north, based in the Nile River Delta and extending along the Nile perhaps to Atfih; and the White Land in the south, stretching from Atfih to Gebel es-Silsila. King Menes would later defeat the north and unify the country, becoming the first king of the first dynasty.
In this period, extending from the Predynastic Period to the Archaic (Early Dynastic) Period (c. 3100-2686 B.C.) of King Menes' reign, we know that ancient Egypt traded with Nubia for gold, luxury goods, and incense. Egypt, in return, mainly exported grain, gold, linen, and papyrus, as well as other finished goods that included glass and stone objects.
During this period, as in all others, the land received much of its domestic wealth from agriculture from farmers who independently farmed in small villagers and were taxed by officials with the money going to the Crown and the Temples. The country's economic wealth came largely from the agricultural products of barley and wheat.
This period received renown for its tremendous wealth. In about 3150 BC, the early Dynastic Pharaohs established the capital at Memphis from which they could control all internal and external trade dealings as well as the significant trade routes to the Levant. The pharaohs, and to a screened down result, Egypt became increasingly powerful and wealthy during this period?.
B. Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BC)
Drought and internal conflict eroded the economic powers of the pharaohs and Egypt experienced economic decline and famine during these years.
It was during these years too that the ancient Egyptians first started trading with Palestine, as demonstrated by Palestinian-style oil jugs that have been found in the tombs of the First Dynasty pharaohs (although some authors put this to later). An Egyptian colony stationed in southern Canaan also dates to slightly before the First Dynasty, whilst Narmer had Egyptian pottery produced in Canaan and exported back to Egypt.
During the Third and Fourth Dynasties, Egypt demonstrated peace an prosperity. Their country traded peace with neighbors, the pharaohs held absolute power and stabilized the country, and successful military campaigns with countries like Nubiya and Libya contributed to Egypt's wealth and gave them even more products to export.
The pharaoh's power and wealth incrementally decreased during the fifth and sixth dynasties partially due to the enormous expense invested in pyramid building and to the growing power of the clergy and nobility.
The Old Kingdom period regressed in chaos after the death of he sixth dynasty's King Pepy II, who ruled for approximately 94 years.
C. First Intermediate (2181-1991 BC)
The Seventh and Eight dynasties were marked by a series of Memphis-based rulers who dominated Ancient Egypt until about 2160 B.C. From then on, central authority dissolved and civil war broke out leaving the country in ruins. Bedouin invasion and famine and disease aggravated the situation. On the whole, economic conditions were severe.
Severe droughts between 2200 and 2150 BC caused the 140-year period of famine and strife of this era. Despite larger national problems, however, the provinces took control of their own fortunes and some them actually thrived. Conducting lucrative trade with other countries, notably Palestine. Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt became divided among two rival clans, (A line of 17 rulers (dynasties nine and 10) based in Heracleopolis ruled Middle Egypt between Memphis and Thebes, while another family of rulers ruled form Thebes), but around 2055 BC the northern Theban forces under Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II defeated the rules of both upper and lower kingdoms and reunited Egypt beginning the 11th Dynasty.
D. Middle Kingdom / Second Kingdom (2134-1690 BC)
The last ruler of the 11th dynasty, Mentuhotep IV, was assassinated, and the throne passed to his vizier, King Amenemhet I, founder of dynasty 12. The Middle Kingdom signaled an economic renaissance. They transferred their capital to Itjtawy, south of Memphis, and concentrated on…[continue]
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