Rise to Glory: Trading Empires
INDIAN OCEAN AND RED SEA
Africa has not been isolated from the rest of the world
as many books would have us believe. Cowrie shells from the Indian
Ocean dating back to about 5000 BC have been found in neolithic
tombs in Egypt as has obsidian. The Red Sea, and Gulf of Aden coast
was one of the earliest sea trade routes.
To the Egyptians this land was know as the “Land of
Punt (Incense)”, and was important for the goods that it
brought to Egypt and much of the ancient Mediterranean world. Most
of these exports came from the interior of present day Ethiopia,
and the coastal areas of Somalia. Much of the trade occurred along
the Red Sea Coast, and the Gulf of Aden.
The people of Punt exchanged myrrh, gold, ivory, ostrich
feathers, and animal hides in return for hatchets, daggers,
necklaces, and other goods that were in great demand. At first
these goods were taken to Egypt by overland routes, but these were
enduring journeys and traders faced costly taxes. By 2500 BC a new
sea trade sprang up after the invention of a newer much more
efficient ship. The Egyptians began arriving to the Puntite coast
with their 60 oar ships and were now more capable in their
Arab traders have sailed the African coast since the 7th
century AD, exchanging glass, spices, weapons and tools from China
and India for gold, ivory, rinoceros horn, slaves and animal hides.
Wherever a civilisation has sprung up, the small sailing ships have
soon found out and have been willing to act as go-betweens.