“Oh mighty king … a great marvel occurred in your reign … The heavens rained on the mountain of Punt … in this month when rainfall occurred, when rain was unseasonable, even in the north land. Your mother, Neith of the temple of Sais came to you to bring you the Nile, giving life to your soldiers …” From a damaged stela found at Defenneh (ancient Daphnae) … of 26th Dynasty dated (664–525 B.C.)
A physical location for Punt continues to elude scholars. It is known to us through references in Egyptian textual and visual sources throughout dynastic Egypt. The first references to Punt are brief, detailing only the products brought from this region as tributes, however, due to the often propagandistic nature of Egyptian inscriptions and artworks these can also be considered to include imported commodities. The earliest of these references dates from the Fifth Dynasty (c. 2494-2345 BC). It is found on the Palermo stone which documents royal annals, forming an invaluable source of early Egyptian chronology and cultural history from the First through to the Fifth dynasties (Shaw 2000c:4-5). In year 13 of his reign, the pharaoh Sahure documents: The king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Sahure; he made it as his monument for:
… RE… of land in the North and South; Hathor of land in the North and South; … of land in the North and South;… … all things
There were brought from: The Malachite-country, … 6000. Punt, 80,000 measures of myrrh, 6000 … of electrum, 2,600 … staves … . Year after the seventh numbering. (Breasted 1962a:70)
Research indicated that from 4000-1000 BC there is a very great possibility that these people had regular contact with the Nile Valley and that they were in an ideal position to act as intermediaries between Egypt, the Eastern regions of the horn of Africa.
Four cultural phases have been identified according to the development of styles and decoration of pottery. For the purpose of this thesis it is only the third cultural phase, known as the Kassala phase (c. fourth – first millennium BC) that is of relevance (Fattovich 1991a:40). This phase consisted of a population that inhabited a region to the east of the Atbara River. At the beginning of this phase their lifestyle would have revolved around a subsistence hunter-gatherer economy, although it is possible that a small amount of cultivation was practiced. Pastoralism was introduced during the latter part of the fourth millennium by the Butana group, whose settlements ranged in size from 1 to 10 hectares. Although there is no direct evidence of contact with Egypt, the pottery from early sites of the Butana group resembles similar pottery to the Predynastic Badarian and Naqadian cultures (Fattovich 1991b:261). During the middle Kassala phase (c.3000-15000 BC) the descendants of the Butana group, the Gash group, came to inhabit most of the Gash delta (Fattovich 1991a:40). Their society was also agro-pastoral in nature but the discovery of administrative tools, for example stamp seals, clay sealings and tokens, indicate the development of a simple administrative system from c.2500 BC (Fattovich 1991a:45-46). The size of these settlements appears to have been determined according to a social hierarchy that characterises chiefdoms. The simple system that arose during c. 2500 BC became more complex towards the end of the third millennium BC.
By this time three different types of seals and tokens are evident and by the mid second millennium BC they had increased to five types of seals and three types of tokens. The variety in the types of these objects suggests that the centralised socio-political economy, that characterises most chiefdoms was evident on the Gash delta at this time (Fattovich 1991a:46). The ordered structure that resulted from such a system would have made it possible for commercial trade to be a reality and it is therefore during this period that contact to the north (Nubia and Egypt), east (southern Arabia) and south (Ethiopia and Somalia) would have occurred. During the late Kassala phase (c. 1500-500 BC) the cultural mixing of the Gash group with northern immigrants appears to have taken place, marked by the appearance of the Jebel Mokram Group (c. mid second-mid first millennium BC) (Fattovich 1991a:41). These immigrants have been connected to the Pan-grave culture of the Medjay, who settled in the Nile Valley at the end of the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055-1650 BC) and during the Second Intermediate Period (c.1650-1550 BC).
The lack of expeditions to Punt after Rameses III’s in the Twentieth Dynasty (c. 1186-1069 BC) corresponds with the decrease in evidence to suggest trade with Egypt. During the periods that followed the culture of the Gash delta was assimilated into the Ethiopian sphere of influence as semi-nomadic pastoralists, inhabiting small temporary encampments (Fattovich 1991a:41). One of the most important sites on the delta is Mahal Teglinos, close to Kassala. It consists of a large settlement of 11 hectares with more than one cemetery to its south. Excavations at this site have revealed five archaeological strata that correspond to the development of the Gash group (Fattovich 1991a:41, 45). Within these strata there is sufficient consistency of pottery types showing C-group and Kerma elements to conclude that contact between the Gash cultural groups and the Kerma Nubians was evident throughout the Gash group’s development. The majority of other items suggesting foreign contact occurred in the strata that corresponded with the late Gash group (c. 1700-1400 BC) (Fattovich 1991a:45). These include an Egyptian pot-sherd, dating from the New Kingdom (c. 1550-1069 BC) and pieces of obsidian of Ethiopian origin (c. 1700- 1500 BC) (Fattovich 1991a:45).
However, the earliest reference to Punt refers to the 5th Dynasty and comes from the Palermo Stone which lists some Puntite products imported during the reign of Sahure (2487–2475 BC). [Dates are as given in Shaw (2000) pp. 479-83]. New data on this expedition recently became available with the discovery in 2002 of an inscribed block from the causeway of Sahure’s pyramid at Abusir. Tarek el-Awady (2003) writes:
“The second and third registers of the block (season 2003) depict four cargo ships bringing goods from a foreign expedition. They are part of a scene depicting the arrival from the King’s expedition to Punt”.
Other references from the Old Kingdom 5th Dynasty include one relating to the reign of Djedkara (2414–2375 BC) which occurs in a letter from King Pepi II to his expedition leader, Harkhuf, in which he writes
Thou hast brought a dancing dwarf of the god from the land of spirits, like the dwarf which the treasurer of the god Burded (BJ-wr-dd) brought from Punt in the time of Isesi (Yssy [i.e. Djedkara]) — (Breasted 1906, vol. 1, p. 160, no. 351).
In the 6th Dynasty, king Pepi II (2278–2184 BC) is recorded as sending another of his expedition leaders, Pepinakht, to retrieve the body of a colleague, Anankhti, who had been killed by Asiatic nomads on the Red Sea coast of the Eastern Desert while assembling a ship intended for a trading expedition to Punt. This expedition clearly seems to have used the Red Sea route. Likewise in king Pepi II’s reign, in the tomb of Khui, a relief depicts an official named Khnemhotep, who says:
I went forth with my lord, the count and treasurer of the god, Thethi (Tiy) to Kush, and (my lord the count and treasurer of the god), Khuid (Hwy), to Punt, [ I I ]~times — (Breasted 1906, vol. 1, p. 164, no. 361).
During the Sixth Dynasty (c. 2345-2181 BC) the official Harkhuf provides a comprehensive account of four expeditions he undertook during his service to two of the Sixth Dynasty pharaohs – Merenre (c. 2287-2278 BC) and Pepi II (c. 2278-2184 BC). These are all to a region known as Iam or Yam1 . Although Punt is, again only mentioned briefly, the inscription does provide evidence that Egypt sought to establish trade routes to the southern interior of Africa to obtain luxury commodities and that these ‘routes’ had been in existence for sometime as there is mention of a previous expedition to Punt by ‘god’s seal-bearer Bawerded,’ who brought back a dancing pygmy from Punt during the reign of Izezi (Djedkare) (c. 2414-2375 BC) in the Fifth Dynasty:
The King’s own seal: Year 2, third month of the first season, day 15. The King’s decree to the Sole companion, Lector-priest, Chief of scouts, Harkhuf. Notice has been taken of this dispatch of ours which you made for the King at the Palace, to let one know that you have come down in safety from Yam with the army that was with you. You have said in this dispatch of yours that you have brought all kinds of great and beautiful gifts, which Hathor mistress of Imaau has given to the ka of King Neferkare, who lives forever. You have said in this dispatch of yours that you have brought a pygmy of the god’s dances from the land of the horizon-dwellers, like the pygmy whom the god’s seal-bearer Bawerded brought from Punt in the time of King Isesi. You have said to my majesty that his life has never been brought by anyone who did Yam previously. …
Come north to the residence at once! Hurry and bring with you this pygmy whom you brought from the land of the horizon-dwellers … When he goes down with you into the ship, get worthy men to be around him on deck, lest he fall into the water! When he lies down at night, get worthy men to lie around him in his tent. Inspect ten times at night! My majesty desires to see this pygmy more than the gifts of the mine-land and of Punt. (Lichtheim 1973:26-27)
The three expedition inscriptions relate the establishing and maintaining of a trade route to the south of Egypt with the primary aim of extracting luxury goods from the regions to the south (3.2). On the first expedition, Harkhuf accompanied his father, Iri, to establish a trade route between Egypt and Yam:
The majesty of Mernere, my lord, sent me together with my father, the sole companion and lector-priest, Iri, to Yam, to open the way to that country. I did this in seven month; I brought from it all kinds of beautiful and rare gifts, and was praised for it very greatly. (Lichtheim 1973:25)
The next two expeditions served to preserve the trade relations between the official, as an envoy from Egypt, and the ruler of Yam. They also provide a more comprehensive description of the trade route that was followed to and from Egypt:
His majesty sent me a second time alone. I went forth on the Elephantine road and returned via, Mekher, Terers and Irtjetj (which are in) Irtejet in the space of eight months. I came down bringing gifts from that country in great quantity, the likes of which had never before been brought back to this land… Then his majesty sent me a third time to Yam. I went up from the nome of This (Thinis) upon the Oasis road3 . I found the ruler of Yam had gone off to Tjemeh-land, to smite the Tjemeh to the western corner of heaven. I went up after him to Tjemeh-land and satisfied him, so that he praised all the gods for the sovereign…
Now when I had satisfied this ruler of Yam… [I came down through]… south of Irtjet and north of Setju… I came down with three hundred donkeys laden with incense, ebony, Hknw-oil, sAt, panther skins, elephant’s-tusks, throw sticks and all sorts of good products. (Lichtheim 1973:25-26)
The events of Harkhuf’s third expedition provide an indication that Egypt was very much concerned with maintaining peace in this region, so that it did not affect their trading network From Harkhuf’s inscription it is evident that the ruler of Yam was in conflict with the Tjemeh. Harkhuf, one can best assume in an act of diplomacy, searches for the ruler and aids him in suppressing the Tjemeh-Libyan forces, for which he is greatly rewarded. The regions of Irtjet and Setju that Harkhuf mentions on his return journey with the donkey caravan are believed to be part of a confederacy of states, that together with Yam, formed part of Upper Nubia. A fourth region, to the north, Wawat was, according to Harkhuf also part of this confederacy. However, it would appear that while these regions functioned as single entities they were still all subject to the might of their southern most state, Yam (Welsby 2001:258-259). This would explain why Harkhuf is able to journey back safely through all these regions, under the guard of the not only the Egyptian militia but also Yamite mercenaries. Harkhuf’s four expeditions provides tangible evidence that trade networks outside Egypt were being established or were already in existence by, at least, the Old Kingdom. If a beneficial relationship with the ruler of Yam and the rest of its confederacy were maintained there is no reason to disregard that idea that this state may have been acting as an intermediary in overland trade between Egypt and other African states that were located to its south.
A second reference to Punt has been found that also dates from the reign of Pepi II. Pepi-nakht, a nobleman from Elephantine, claimed the title of ‘Overseer of Foreigners’ (amongst others). (Kadish 2001:33) He was responsible for controlling and subduing the tribes in Nubia, fore mentioned by Harkhuf, and those on the Red Sea coast, both of which seem to have been affecting Egypt’s trade expeditions to the south and east. On one such occasion he mentions an expedition to the Red Sea coast to retrieve the body of a fellow official that had been murdered by nomadic desert dwellers of the region:
Now the majesty of my lord sent me to the country of the Asiatics to bring for him the sole companion, commander of sailors, the caravan-conductor, Enenkhet, who was building a ship there for Punt, when the Asiatics belonging to the Sand-dwellers5 slew him, together with a troop of the army which was with him. (Breasted 1962a:163)
Evidence from the 12th Dynasty points to at least three expeditions to Punt, all of which apparently used the Red Sea route. The first of these took place in the reign of Senusret I (1956–1911 BC). Based on a number of fragmentary inscriptions on stelae at the Red Sea port of Sa’waw (now Mersa Gawasis), it appears that the king commanded his vizier, Intefoqer, to build several ships at Koptos for transhipment through Wadi Hammamat to be re-assembled and launched at Sa’waw for the voyage to Punt. It seems to have been a major expedition with possibly as many as 10 ships ( Kitchen 1993, pp. 590-1). Then under Amenemhat II (1911–1877 BC), an expedition led by the king’s official, Khentykhetywer, took place in the 28th year of the king’s reign, as attested by a stela found in Wadi Gasus, near Mersa Gawasis:
Adoring the god … Khentykhetywer, when he had returned safely from Punt, his expedition with him, safe and sound, and his ships resting at Sa’waw — cited in Kitchen (1993), p. 591. Another stela from Wadi Gasus, dating from the reign of Senusret II (1877–1870 BC) recalls the sealbearer, Khnumhotep, “setting his monuments in God’s Land [i.e. Punt]”, which may indicate an expedition to Punt early in this king’s reign (Kitchen 1993, p. 591).
These two Old Kingdom sources reveal that there were two trade routes that connected Egypt with the countries to its south in existence during this period. The first, as mentioned by Harkhuf, concerns a route that was travelled partly through the western desert and partly along the Nile. Although this is never clearly stated it is safe to presume that on his return journey the official would have been forced to travel in close proximity to the Nile, because in addition to the laden donkey caravan there were cattle and goats that would have needed to be watered as well (Wicker 1998:155):
Now when the ruler of Irtjet, Setju and Wawat saw how strong and numerous the troop from Yam was which came down with me to the residence together with the army that had been sent with me, this ruler escorted me, gave me cattle and goats, and led me on the mountain paths of Irtjet – because of the excellence of the vigilance I had employed beyond that of any companion and chief of scouts who had been sent to Yam before. (Lichtheim 1973:26)
In spite of the fact that Harkhuf never actually travels to Punt, he does provide some important information about the region. It is not situated in the immediate vicinity of Egypt but somewhere far to the south. He brings back goods via donkey caravan from this and perhaps other foreign lands to the south and east6 of Egypt (Phillips 1997:426):
I came down with three hundred donkeys laden with incense, ebony, Hknw-oil, sAt, panther skins, elephant- tusks, throw sticks and all sorts of good products. (Lichtheim 1973:26)
Harkhuf’s inscription provides the first indication that Egyptians did not always travel to the land of Punt. It would be short sighted to assume that Egyptian trade with the rest of Africa was one sided, later in Egyptian history there are records of Punt envoys travelling to Egypt. There is even the further possibility that such an envoy served as an intermediary between Egypt and the rest of the African countries, south of its border. Pepi-nakht’s inscription exposes the possibility that trade extended far to the south, with boat materials transported from the Nile to the Red Sea coast in order to construct vessels for expeditions to regions such as Punt (Kitchen 1993:589).
The valley of Deir el-Bahri was known by the Egyptians as Djeseret or ‘Holy place.’ It was considered ‘the threshold between this life and the next’ and it was the sight for the worship of Hathor, as the patron goddess of western Thebes (Schulz & Sourouzian 2004:184). Hatshepsut chose to build her mortuary temple here, mirroring the first temple built in the valley, by the unifier of the Middle Kingdom, Mentuhotep II, yet on a much grander scale. It was called Djeser-djeseru, ‘the Holiest of Holies’ and has been dubbed by some in modern society as ‘the greatest monument to a women in human history’ (3.7) (Schulz & Sourouzian 2004:184). The limestone terraces and colonnades parallel the cliff face, on to which the temple backs and its walls are decorated with scenes depicting important events in the life of this pharaoh; her divine birth that legitimised her right to the throne, the transport and dedication of two obelisks at the temple of Amun at Karnak and her expedition to Punt (Watterson 1997:160-162).
The pharaoh made an official announcement of the success of the expedition in year nine of her reign:
Year 9, occurred the sitting in the audience-hall, the king’s appearance … in the midst of the splendours of his palace… Said my majesty : “I will cause you to know that which is commanded me, I have hearkened to my father that which he hath commanding me to establish for him a Punt in his house, to plant the trees of God’s-Land beside his temple, in his garden, according as he commanded. It was done in order to endow the offerings which I owed… I have made for him a Punt in his garden, just as he commanded me, for Thebes. (Breasted 1962b:120-122)
This dates the undertaking of the expedition within her eighth and ninth year of rule (Kitchen 1993:392). The scenes of the expedition to Punt occupy the southern wall of the middle colonnade on the middle terrace. The motivation for the expedition according to the reliefs is a request by the god Amun, but in reality divinely ordaining such an arduous journey was a clever propaganda ploy on behalf of this pharaoh.
It would appear that the expedition sought to eliminate intermediary trade. Amun, in addressing the pharaoh, implies that no Egyptian has actually set foot in the region of Punt:
“I have given to thee all Punt as far as the lands of the gods of God’s-Land… No one trod the Myrrh- terraces, which the people knew not; it was heard of from mouth to mouth by hearsay of the ancestors. The marvels brought thence under thy fathers, the Kings of Lower Egypt, were brought from one to another, and since the time of the ancestors of the Kings of Upper Egypt, who were of old, as a return for many payment; none reaching them except thy carriers.” (Breasted 1962b:117)
The scene depicting the arrival of the Egyptian envoy in Punt occupies a portion of the western wall and the entire southern wall (3.8). The western wall depicts Hatshepsut’s fleet of five ships. Naville (1898) and Breasted (1962b) seem to provide alternate meanings to this portion of the relief. Breasted refers to it as the departure of the fleet from Egyptian shores as the smaller craft moored to a tree bears the following text above it:
An offering for the life, prosperity, and health of her majesty, to Hathor, mistress of Punt that she may bring wind. (Breasted 1962b:104)
The navigation on the sea, the starting on the good journey to the Divine Land, the landing happily in the Land of Punt by the soldiers of the king, according to the prescription of the lord of gods, Amun, lord of the thrones of the two lands, in order to bring the precious products of the whole land because of his great love towards Hatshepsut, never did such a thing happen to the kings who were in this land eternally. (Naville 1898:14)
The accompanying scene on the south wall of Punt is divided into six registers and that are ‘read’ from bottom to top (3.9a&b). The first register depicts the arrival of the Egyptian envoy before the chief of Punt and the presentation of gifts and the commodities of trade:
The landing of the royal messenger in the Divine Land, with the soldiers who accompany him, in presence of the chiefs of Punt, to bring all good things from the sovereign (l.p.h.) to Hathor, the lady of Punt, in order that she may grant (l.p.h) to her majesty. (Naville 1898:14)
Naville (1898) suggests that because this first scene takes place above a small register of marine life, the Egyptian envoy could have been met on the shore of the Red Sea before journeying inland to the chief’s village. The Chief, Perehu, his wife, Eti and their sons and daughter are shown in a gesture of greeting. They enquire:
“You have arrived here in what way, to this land which the Egyptians did not know? Have you come through the ways of the sky, or have you travelled on water to the green land, the divine land to which Ra had transported you?” (Naville 1898:15)
Although the chief’s speech may purely have been an invention by a scribe it may imply that the Puntites had not seen an Egyptian expedition for a long time (Kitchen 1993:594).
The second register depicts the head official before his tent, receiving Perehu’s commodities for exchange. These include a large heap of myrrh, gold rings and ebony. The text within the official tent describes how an exchange could have taken place, it reads:
The preparing of the tent for the royal messenger and his soldiers, in the harbours of frankincense of Punt, on the shore of the sea, in order to receive the chiefs of this land, and to present them with bread, beer, wine, meat, fruits and all the good things of the land of Egypt, as has been ordered by the sovereign. (Naville 1898:15)
The next four registers, although badly damaged, depict the gathering of Puntite commodities; the felling of ebony trees, the collection of myrrh and the uprooting and transport of myrrh trees. (Kitchen 1993:594) These upper registers direct the eye to the adjoining west wall again, which depicts the loading and departure of the five Egyptian vessels (3.10). The vessels are loaded with great quantities of commodities:
… All the good woods of the divine land, heaps of gum of anti, and trees of green anti, with ebony, with pure ivory, with pure gold of the land of Amu, with cinnamon wood, khesit wood, with balsam, resin, antimony, with cynocephali, monkeys, greyhounds, with skins of panthers of the south, with inhabitants of the country and their children. (Naville 1898:15)
Above the vessel scenes is the reception of Puntite commodities by the pharaoh. The two registers of Egyptians and Puntites are further divided into four half registers, depicting various chieftains prostrating themselves before the cartouche of Hatshepsut (3.11). They are identified as the chiefs of Punt (bottom registers) and above them the chiefs of Irem and Nmy15. Behind the chieftains, Egyptians and Puntites alike parade the commodities from the expedition (Breasted 1962b:110 and Naville 1898:16). These are listed in great detail in Hatshepsut’s offering to Amun:
The King himself, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Hatshepsut; presentation of the marvels of Punt, the treasures of God’s Land, together with the gifts of the countries of the South, with the impost of the wretched Kush, the baskets of the Negro-land… Thirty-one fresh myrrh trees, brought as marvels of Punt for the majesty of this god, Amun, lord of Thebes… Electrum; eye-cosmetic; throw-sticks of the Puntites; ebony; ivory, shells… A southern panther alive, captured for her majesty in the countries… Electrum; many panther-skins; 3,300 small cattle. (Breasted 1962b:111-112)
Evidence for trade contacts during the 19th Dynasty is less abundant but is to be found from the reigns of Sety I (1294-1279 BC), Ramesses II (1427-1400 BC), and Ramesses III (1184-1153 BC). There is also a reference to Punt in an inscribed list of mining regions in Luxor Temple, when the ‘Mountain of Punt’ is made to say: “I have come, I have brought you gum(s)”. However the fullest and most important reference relates to an expedition mounted by king Ramesses III, which is contained in the papyrus known as the Great Papyrus Harris I. This account specifically describes transhipment from the Red Sea coast overland (i.e. via Wadi Hammamat) back to the Nile at Koptos as indicated in MK times and probably also in the 18th and 19th Dynasties:
I hewed great galleys with barges before them … They were sent forth into the great sea of the inverted water, they arrived at the countries of Punt … [They] were laden with the products of God’s Land … [and] arrived in safety at the highland of Coptos, they landed in safety, bearing the things which they brought. They were loaded, on the land-journey, upon asses and upon men; and loaded into I3 vessels upon the Nile, (at) the haven of Coptos — (Breasted (!906) vol. 4, p. 203, no. 407)
The location of the ‘Land of Punt’ is a question that has exercised the minds of Egyptologists from the very beginning and even today there is no universal agreement on where exactly it was to be found. Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea have all been suggested at one time or another. In his article (Kitchen, 1971) reviewing Rolf Herzog’s Punt (Glückstadt, 1968), the author, K. A. Kitchen, lists some of the principal authors who have addressed the problem since the early 19th century and notes the widely differing locations proposed by them for ancient Punt. Writing in the early years of the 19th century, Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson was one of the earliest writers to focus on Punt but his speculations were quickly overshadowed by Heinrich Karl Brugsch who came down firmly in favour of South Arabia as the favoured location. However after the discovery of the Deir el Bahri reliefs opinion swung in favour of an African location with Auguste Mariette proposing Somaliland, and this view was adopted by Gaston Maspero and Brugsch himself. Succeeding scholars also generally favoured an African location.
Inscriptions in temples and tombs during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties attesting to trading ventures between Egypt and Punt, abound. A few of these expeditions were conducted via the Red Sea. However, there is a surprising lack of inscriptions or graffiti to be found from the mines at Bir Umm Fawakhir along the old Middle Kingdom route to the Red Sea that date from these dynasties. Pictorial evidence in the tombs of Theban officials also record that Puntite envoys managed to reach Egypt.
The Puntite use of inflated skins, therefore have used them to create a buoyancy device for a raft. Such a raft could reportedly carry a considerable weight, a raft made of twenty-four skins would be able to carry approximately a ton of cargo and they were easy to steer (Bradbury 1996:44
Coming to the 20th century, Herzog (1968) made out a case for inland Sudan bordering on Ethiopia and the area drained by the rivers Atbara and the White and Blue Nile. Kitchen (1971), reviewing Herzog, follows him in his choice of location but would extend the borders of Punt eastwards to the Red Sea coast from approximately Port Sudan to northern Eritrea. Today this location is the one most generally (e.g. Kitchen (1971 and 1993), Phillips (1997), Fattovich, (1991) ), but by no means universally, accepted, since others have argued for Arabia (Meeks 2003), Somalia (Sayed, 1989), and even Uganda (Wicker 1998).
The Nile Route Some trading expeditions both by Egyptians and Puntites almost certainly used the Nile route as an alternative, as apparently did Harkhuf in the reign of king Pepi II (Breasted 1906, vol. 1, p. 160, no. 351) since he is recorded as acquiring a pygmy in Nubia. Such a land route to Punt via the Nile, leading south of the 5th and 6th cataracts perhaps to the area drained by the Blue and White Nile and the River Atbara would suggest an approximate location for the Land of Punt which is far removed from Somalia and Arabia but not so far from Eritrea and northern Ethiopia. Indeed the existence of a land route tends to rule out those countries and add weight to the claims of Eritrea to be at least included within Punt’s borders if not its core area as its coastal position might suggest.
The frankincense and myrrh trees which the Egyptians are shown as carrying aboard their ships as live specimens to transplant present some problems as to specific identification (Dixon 1969) and (Kitchen 1871, pp. 185-6) but may be assigned to the genera Boswellia and Commiphora. Such trees grow widely in both Arabia and Africa though they are more numerous in Africa and are to be found in the Sudan and in Eritrea and Ethiopia as well as Somalia.
The discovery of a recent (2003) biographical inscription in the tomb of a 17th Dynasty official named Sobeknakht at El-Kab. Its discovery was reported in an article (Alberge 2003) in the Times newspaper. The text of the inscription records a successful invasion of Egypt led by the Sudanese kingdom of Kush and her neighbours Wawat and Punt. It is in the form of an address to the living by Sobeknakht:
“Listen you, who are alive upon earth . . . Kush came . . . aroused along his length, he having stirred up the tribes of Wawat . . . the land of Punt and the Medjaw. . .”.
It is impossible to imagine that Kush could have persuaded a Punt as far away as present-day Somalia or on the opposite side of the Red Sea to join her in an invasion of Egypt!
The Defenneh Stela and the “Mountain of Punt” A further very strong argument for locating Punt, or at least some part of it, in the northern highlands of Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, is furnished by “a damaged stela found at Defenneh (ancient Daphnae) … of 26th Dynasty (664–525 B.C.) date” (Phillips 1997, p. 437). As cited by that same author, the stela read, in part
“Oh mighty king … a great marvel occurred in your reign … The heavens rained on the mountain of Punt … in this month when rainfall occurred, when rain was unseasonable, even in the north land. Your mother, Neith of the temple of Sais came to you to bring you the Nile, giving life to your soldiers …”
This shows an awareness of a clear connection between rain on “the mountain of Punt” and the subsequent (unseasonal) Nile flood. To drain into the Nile basin, the only possible mountainous area, south of Nubia, from which the rains could have drained was the highlands of northern Eritrea and Ethiopia. This is a very clear reference to an Ethiopian location for Punt.
Fattovich, who has written extensively on archaeology and ancient trade patterns in the eastern Sudan/Eritrea/Ethiopia region, is able to conclude that:
“if we overlap the archaeological evidence on some geographical parameters of Eastern Sudan and Northern Ethiopia [i.e. including northern Eritrea] (natural resources, traditional trade routes, main trends of seasonal movements), the general picture we obtain fits quite well to that of Punt in the Egyptian sources” (Fattovich 1990, p. 262). He goes on to remark (ibid) that: “spices, gold, ebony, and ivory were available … within the possible range of seasonal movements from the Gash to the Ethiopian highlands, Red Sea coast and Red Sea hills”.