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Egyptian/Phoenician Circumnavigation of Africa
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Jason Patterson
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2005 6:32 pm    Post subject: Egyptian/Phoenician Circumnavigation of Africa Reply with quote

Libya is washed on all sides by the sea except where it joins Asia, as was first demonstrated, so far as our knowledge goes, by the Egyptian king Necho, who, after calling off the construction of the canal between the Nile and the Arabian gulf, sent out a fleet manned by a Phoenician crew with orders to sail west about and return to Egypt and the Mediterranean by way of the Straits of Gibraltar. The Phoenicians sailed from the Arabian gulf into the southern ocean, and every autumn put in at some convenient spot on the Libyan coast, sowed a patch of ground, and waited for next year's harvest. Then, having got in their grain, they put to sea again, and after two full years rounded the Pillars of Heracles in the course of the third, and returned to Egypt. These men made a statement which I do not myself believe, though others may, to the effect that as they sailed on a westerly course round the southern end of Libya, they had the sun on their right - to northward of them. This is how Libya was first discovered by sea.

Herodotus, The Histories 4.42

I was reading around some ancient Egyptian websites, and came upon this a few times in the past but have discredited it for a long time. That was until I started to research in Phoenician and Carthaginian trade and sailing, now it seems more that possible that they did circumnavigate Africa, and possibly reached America, but thats for another time Smile .

I was wondering what your thoughts are on this, I found some sites about this, and a few maps too. While it is hard to prove or find evidence, if proven true we may have to re-think history a little.

Necho Expedition:


Other Phoenician Expeditions In and Around Africa:
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anneke
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2005 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had not heard of this before, but it sounds intriguing.

On wikipedia it says:
Quote:
About this same time historians date the expedition reported by Herodotus (4.42), where Nekau sent out an expedition of Phoenicians, who in three years sailed from the Red Sea around Africa back to the mouth of the Nile. (Note however that though the original documents state "Red Sea," many ancient manuscripts reference the "Mediterranean Sea" as the "Red Sea." See History of Suez Canal.) Many current historians tend to believe Herodotus' account, primarily because he stated with disbelief that the Phoenicians had the sun on their right hand all the time -- in Herodotus' time it was not known that Africa extended south past the equator.


The Phoenicians would have been capable of such a feat it seems (wether they did it or not). Their trade routes are known to have spanned a large area. There's even some mention of Phoenician wares found in Brazil?

I do find the location of Punt on you first map a bit peculiar. I always thought this land was located in the area now known as Ethiopia.

The Egyptians were known to take ships down the east coast of Africa and trade with Punt and even Yemen. And this predates the Phoenicians. So I think the circumnavigation of Africa belongs in the realm of possibilities Smile
I would be a bit happier if they found Phoenician or Egyptian artifact along the route, but that may be too much to hope for.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2005 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
There's even some mention of Phoenician wares found in Brazil?


I'll get a little off topic for this one, since it is some what relative...

Quote:
The Syracusan (Greek 100 BC) historian Diodorus said the Carthaginians had a "large island" which was located "far out in the Atlantic ocean" - on which there were "many mountains" and "large navigable rivers". The land was rich in gold, gems, spices, etc. He stated that the Phoenicians had found it "by accident" while founding colonies on the west coast of Africa when some ships got lost.


The Atlantic currents do in fact run straight at South America from that region so it would be possible for a lost ship to travel there, and the return voyage would be made easier by following the oceanic currents north then back east across the ocean. In fact this has happened in recent years, a small African fishing boat got lost in a storm and ended up on the coast of Brazil! In 1488 a certain Jean Cousin of Dieppe France, while sailing down the west coast of Africa was caught in a storm and blown across to Brazil. (This is four years prior to Columbus's more famous voyage.) The actual meteorological conditions do support this as probable. Diodorus said they (the Carthaginians) were "keeping it secret".

Other historians (Herodotus and Polybius) have hinted at its (possibly America) existence, and further explained some of the other colonies. The coast south of Lixus was described as "teeming" with Punic trading colonies. One of the colonies founded by Hanno (500 BC) which has not been located correctly was Cerne, (pronounced Ker-neh) it is my opinion this is today the Canary islands. When first discovered by the Portuguese, they found light skinned people, who had "writings" they themselves could not read and asked their Portuguese visitors if they could. They did not know what had become of their "motherland" - and this is taken by some authors to be proof of Mickey Mouse influence, but I believe they were survivors of Cerne. The Portuguese were unimpressed with the people or their ruins and writings, and killed them - they also burnt the writings as possible heresy. Figures, doesn't it?

The true history of the Phoenician peoples and in particular the remarkable Carthaginians has never been told, virtually all we know of them is what was written by their enemies who were trying to paint them in the worst possible tones. Some of the worst of their practices such as human sacrifice were really nothing unusual for many cultures of their time. Even the supposedly civilized Romans buried alive two Gauls in an attempt to fulfill a prophecy which claimed that some part of Rome must be home to Gauls - not to mention the slaughter of countless thousands for entertainment. The Carthaginians/Phoenicians may well have been the most accomplished explorers in history.

Oh and also there is some evidence on Carthaginian coins about their "discovery of America". A research by the name of Mark McMenamin found a map on one:





This detail of a gold coin shows what McMenamin believes is a map of the Mediterranean area, surrounded by Europe, Britain, Africa, and the Americas. The image appears on coins minted in Carthage between 350 and 320 BC. The enhanced and colorized version is based on the illustrations courtesy of Mark McMenamin.
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isisinacrisis
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2005 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally, I think the idea that the Egyptians discovered America is too 'fringey' for me. Not as pyramidiotic as Disney Land, but certainly fringey. No offence. I really don't think the Egyptians taught the peoples of Central America how to build pyramids and teach the Incas how to mummify their dead. I also don't believe the Aztecs and Incas and other American ancient civilisations were the descendents of the ancient Egyptians (or vice versa) like some people claim...ugh, my head is full of half baked, regurgitated wacky ideas I saw on some websites in the past...

However, the Vikings did discover Canada...

I'm still unsure as to whether the Egyptians/Phoenicians really did circumnavigate Africa. But I don't think Punt is in Kenya/Tanzania as it appears on the map. Somalia/Ethiopia seems more probable. I don't think the Egyptians were very much into sea travel though. Maybe to the horn of Africa, but not further.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2005 1:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

isisinacrisis wrote:
Personally, I think the idea that the Egyptians discovered America is too 'fringey' for me.

I think it's entirely possible that the Phoenicians "blew off course" as Jason mentioned. There is the supposed find of some artifact in Brazil. I don't know much about that though. These days that could just as easily be a hoax.

I think the Phoenicians definitely had the ships to do it with. The question is if they ever went that far and even if they did, who knows if it was ever more than a couple of sporadic visits



isisinacrisis wrote:
I really don't think the Egyptians taught the peoples of Central America how to build pyramids and teach the Incas how to mummify their dead.

The pyramids are built in a rather different form so I agree with you on that.
The peruvian mummies I have heard about were mummified because they were left in the frozen areas of the mountains. Would not expect the desert dwelling Egyptians to be teaching them that Laughing
Some of those mummies are also clearly sacrifices to thier gods (they were drugged and killed). This is not something they could have learned from the Egyptians because they were not practicing anything like this in the time period involved.


Like Jasson said though the Phoenicians are rather interesting and there is an overlap with the Egyptian culture.

I didn't realize until recently that the Egyptians used ships much more extensively than I had thought.
Ahmose Son of Ebana was really a fleet Admiral in the army of Ahmose and the other kings of the early 18th dyansty.
Tuthmosis III talks about travelling back to egypt after a campaign in the middle east via ship. And of course the discovery of the harbor and the cave containing some stela on the coast of the Red Sea last winter shows a rather extensive trading network, much of it navigated via ship apparently.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2005 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do find the location of Punt on you first map a bit peculiar. I always thought this land was located in the area now known as Ethiopia.

Me, too, anneke. In fact, the people of Pund shown in the reliefs of Hapshepsut's temple look decidedly Somalian, which is extremely close to Ethopia.
For all their adventursome spirit, we must remember that basically, the Egyptians were a Nile Valley-loving people, It was considered to be terrible to die and be buried in a land different than Egypt!
It's impossible, at this time, to say exactly where the Land of Punt could be found. But traditional thinking puts it closer to Egypt.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2005 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Personally, I think the idea that the Egyptians discovered America is too 'fringey' for me. Not as pyramidiotic as Disney Land, but certainly fringey. No offence. I really don't think the Egyptians taught the peoples of Central America how to build pyramids and teach the Incas how to mummify their dead. I also don't believe the Aztecs and Incas and other American ancient civilisations were the descendents of the ancient Egyptians (or vice versa) like some people claim...ugh, my head is full of half baked, regurgitated wacky ideas I saw on some websites in the past...


I agree with you. The Egyptians, as Thor Hyedall (Not very good with foreign names) proved that it was possible to reach America in a reed boat, it is unlikely. Most of the trade was brought to Egypt and little done by sailing to distant lands to acquire it. The Phoenicians, on the other hand were active in the Atlantic, going to England and Thule (Northern Europe) as well as Western Africa, so it is possible that a Sahara storm blew a ship off course into the gulf stream that took them to the other side of the pond.

Quote:
But I don't think Punt is in Kenya/Tanzania as it appears on the map. Somalia/Ethiopia seems more probable. I don't think the Egyptians were very much into sea travel though. Maybe to the horn of Africa, but not further.


Yeah, the map was the best one I could find that reflects the journey of the Phoenicians.

Quote:
I think it's entirely possible that the Phoenicians "blew off course" as Jason mentioned. There is the supposed find of some artifact in Brazil. I don't know much about that though. These days that could just as easily be a hoax.


Well some fishermen did drag up some amphora from a shipwreck off the coast of Rio in the 1970s I think. A dive crew found the remains of a Roman ships from the first century under a 17th century galley. I think it was probably blown off course.

Quote:
The question is if they ever went that far and even if they did, who knows if it was ever more than a couple of sporadic visits.


I found this is a book that I am currently reading, Barry Cunliffe's The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek:

"There were occasional attempts to push the frontiers of exploration further south beyond the coastal Sahara. Some time, probably towards the end of the fifth century, a Carthaginian entrepreneur named Hanno seems to have made major advances into the unknown though, as is so often the case, our source of information is far from satisfactory. It appears that after his safe return Hanno set up an inscription in the temple of Baal at Carthage giving a detailed account of his travels. The inscription, which no longer survives, was copied by a Greek and after much recopying, with all the opportunity of introducing error that that entails, eventually comes down to us as a manuscript written in the tenth century AD. How much derives from the original inscription, how much is added from other stories and how much is fabrication we shall never know, but there is a certain consistency about the account and most scholars are prepared to accept it as a tolerably accurate transcription of the inscription recording an actual voyage.

"The essentials of the story are easily told. The travellers set up trading bases, they were driven off by savages clad in skins, saw rivers teeming with crocodiles and hippopotamuses, watched lava from a great volcano stream into the sea and hunted creatures ‘with *** bodies, which our interpreters called Gorillas’. Having caught and skinned three they decided it was time to return home. How far down the African coast they had penetrated it is difficult to be sure. On a conservative estimate they must have reached Sierra Leone but it is quite conceivable that they may have got as far as Cameroon.

"Another Carthaginian who, at about the same time, ventured into the Atlantic was Himilco. Pliny the Elder simply tells us that he was sent to explore ‘the parts beyond Europe’ but a little more information is to be found embedded in a late Roman poem called Ora Maritima, written at the end of the fourth century by a North African official, Rufus Festus Avienus.

"Before we consider what Avienus tells us of Himilco’s travels it is necessary to look at the poem itself in more detail. Ora Maritima is a ponderous and sometimes repetitive account of the sea coast, starting at some point on the Atlantic seaboard and ending at Massalia. It is generally believed to have been based on an ancient ‘periplus’ – that is, an account used by sailors as a guide to coastal landmarks. If so, the document was probably written by a Massaliot mariner since it ends at his home port, which he accurately describes. But to create his over-plush fabric Avienus patched on to this basic framework other scraps of information which took his fancy, snipped out of a variety of archaic sources. To impress the reader with his erudition and deep knowledge of the obscure classics the poet lists, in a rambling prologue, the eleven ancient writers whose work he claims to have used. The result is a jumbled scissors-and-paste compilation obscure in its geography and very mediocre in its poetry. The inelegance of the work should not, however, detract from its fascination: it is a unique collection of ancient sea lore.

"There is much amusement to be hard in trying to pull the text apart into its constituent elements, so as to reconstruct the separate pieces of original source material that Avienus used. Given that he seems to have been quite careless and to have imposed his own overblown style on the composition in an attempt to give it some cohesion, the task is difficult and is made the more so by the fact that his original manuscript was no doubt copied many times, introducing untold errors, before the final version, in 714 lines, was published in Venice in 1488.

"One source that can fairly simply be separated out is a text of unknown authorship which describes the journey of Himilco into the Atlantic. It occurs in three separate places, lines 117-29, 380-89 and 406-15. The sample will give some flavour of the whole:

Himilco of Carthage reported that he had investigated the matter [the nature of the Atlantic] on a voyage, and he asserts that it can scarcely be crossed in four months. No breezes propel a craft, the sluggish liquid of the lazy sea is so at a standstill. He also adds this: a lot of seaweed floats in the water and often after the manner of a thicket holds the prow back. He says that here nonetheless the depth of the water does not extend much and the bottom is barely covered over with a little water. They always meet here and there monsters of the deep, and beasts swim amid the slow and sluggishly crawling ships. (lines 117-29)

To the west of these Pillars, Himilco reports that the swell is boundless, the sea extends widely, the salt water stretches forth. No one has approached these waters, no one has brought his keel into the sea because there are no propelling breezes at sea and no breath of heaven’s air aids the ship. Hence because a mist cloaks the air with a kind of garment, a cloud always holds the swell and persists throughout a rather humid air. (lines 380-89)

But often the salt water extends so shallowly that it scarcely covers the underlying sands. Thick seaweed often tops the sea and the tide is hindered by marshy wrack. Many a beast swims through all the sea and great fear of monsters stalks the deep. Himilco the Carthaginian reported that he had once seen and tested these things on the Ocean. These things [were] published long ago in the secret annals of the Carthaginians. (lines 406-15)

"I have quoted the texts in full to give some idea of the way that Avienus uses his sources, yet below all the verbosity it is possible to sense the substance of Himilco’s report – a four-month journey, shoals, monsters, mists, floating masses of seaweed and long days without a breath of wind. Taken at its face value it sounds as though Himilco sailed far westwards. This would make sense of Pliny’s phrase ‘to explore the parts beyond Europe’. All he found was an empty ocean bereft of anything but danger. Did he really spend four months trying to cross the Atlantic? Is he describing the Sargasso Sea with its tangle of weed and the Doldrums beyond the trade winds where a ship can become becalmed for weeks? It is certainly tempting to believe so – then what an astonishing adventure. Was it an attempt, perhaps, to discover the mythical Hesperides – the ‘islands of the blest by deep eddying Ocean’ – about which Hesiod wrote? We shall never know but our tantalizingly inadequate texts encourage the speculation [...]" (pp. 39-44).
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quite frankly, i'm pretty sure that the Egyptians with the Phoenicians did actually circumnavigate Africa. That is because I have heard this piece of history so many times before, I actually took it in History class in Egypt. That Nekau made ships to explore and circumnavigate Africa with the help of the Phoenician sailors as Phoenicians were known as the best naval navigators at the time.

The idea that the Egyptians and/or the Phoenicians discovered Americas is highly likely, i think. Its not strange that an ancient ship could go way off course, i mean with the winds, and the ships didn't have as much as navigational technology as we do now or in modern ages, and the ships we much smaller to resist winds or whatever may meet them. But they weren't small or weak enough to not be able to take the journey. It was actually proved that an Ancient Egyptian vessel could sail to the Americas safely, although i can't remember the scientist that made it, but i remember the journeys were called Ra 1 and Ra 2.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I quite agree that the Egyptians/Phoenicians could have ACCIDENTALLY discovered America. It would be more than possible for a ship lost in, say a storm, to drift and be carried by the currents to North America. But I am also quite sure that such a ship and its crew would not set out on a voyage of discovery across an ocean. Basically, the Egyptian sailor was a timid soul. He wanted to be constantly in at least visual sight of land! The idea of sailing across a boundless ocean for months would horrify him!
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thing is, doesn't the Gulf Stream travel away from America than towards it???

I think more evidence is needed. If there are Egyptian artifacts found in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, or the US, and they are proven not to be hoaxes, then, maybe. I haven't heard any textual evidence of Egyptians going to America either. (Unless of course, the Egyptians never made it back to Egypt at all...)
But then again, i'm reminded of the cocaine mummy rumour. Now I'm still unsure of this.

And I don't believe that Punt is in Canada (like one person claimed) or South America, even though South America was rich in gold, exotic plants and animals, the pictorial evidence points to Africa-the people look African, the flora and fauna are all African. Which part of Africa? Probably Somalia, but we may never know...I've even heard that Punt was a catch-all term to describe many parts of Africa where the Egyptians travelled.

If I seem uber-sceptical about this subject, it's because I've been exposed to some really silly theories relating to this subject. The ideas and questions given here aren't pyramidiotic, not like some things I've heard...
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2005 1:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
doesn't the Gulf Stream travel away from America than towards it?


It goes in a circle, how do you think Columbus got to America?


I think more evidence is needed. If there are Egyptian artifacts found in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, or the US, and they are proven not to be hoaxes, then, maybe. I haven't heard any textual evidence of Egyptians going to America either.

Again, Egyptians wouldn't have a need or the means to go to America or into the Atlantic for that matter, the Phoenicians and Carthaginians are the most likely candidates for circumnavigation of Africa and/or possible travel to the Americas deliberate or accidential, not the Egyptians.

Quote:
But I am also quite sure that such a ship and its crew would not set out on a voyage of discovery across an ocean. Basically, the Egyptian sailor was a timid soul. He wanted to be constantly in at least visual sight of land! The idea of sailing across a boundless ocean for months would horrify him!


Well Thor Heyerdahl, that is his name Dampwater, made the trip from an ancient Phoenician port in Morroco and sailed on a reed boat like that the ancient Egyptians used and sailed across the Atlantic to Barbados, the first design was washed under when it accidently had a hole in it, and began to take on water only a few miles off the coast of Barbados, and Ra II made it all the way to the island. I agree that the Egyptians were timid, that is probably why Necho II hired the Phoenicians to sail for him instead of Egyptians themselves.


Quote:
The ideas and questions given here aren't pyramidiotic, not like some things I've heard...


I agree, more evidence is needed, and if trade did happen between the Punic cultures and the local island cultures, it would have been on very limited bases. Merchants in Gades or Lixius would have to pay a fortune for the ships, crew, and supplies for a four or more month journey to the other side of the Atlantic, and I believe very few would do so. The Carthaginian senate was the one that sponsored the travels of Hanno and his brother Hamilico so you can see how that is a way for their travels.

When it comes to evidence such as recorded history, I very much doubt that we will ever find records of their travels around Africa, besides the Greek account, or/if their travels to America. They were very very protective of their trade routes when the Greeks and and other sea-based cultures started trading and enfringing on their trade monopoly. There are tales of Phoencians driving their ships aground along Spain and France when they discovered Greek and Roman ships tailing them when they went to Britain for tin. They left very little records of their voyages besides the cargo manifest and that usually was turned over to the benefactor of the voyage. The city-state left little records of state sponsored travels, and usually hid or destroyed them if their city was threatened, like from the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Persians.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2005 2:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was doing a little research on this topic because it triggered a little niggling recall at the back of my mind. I found many places that said that the amphorae and all were hoaxes or couldn't be viewed to authenticate. I did find this particular item which was interesting.

http://home.mindspring.com/~blkgrnt/footlights/foot55.html

Mind you, I find this suspicious without pictures of the items mentioned, but I found the quotes from other sources interesting.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2005 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I was doing a little research on this topic because it triggered a little niggling recall at the back of my mind. I found many places that said that the amphorae and all were hoaxes or couldn't be viewed to authenticate. I did find this particular item which was interesting.


Well most finds in America is usually claimed as hoaxes, which is always a possibilty, and more of the time it is, which in this case it could be.

I have had time to read that article that you posted, but will sometime today. As to them couldn't be viewed to authenticate that has to do with politics.

"At the time the amphorae were confirmed to be "Roman", the large Italian faction in Brazil were extremely excited about this news. The Italian ambassador to Brazil notified the Brazilian government that, since the Romans were the first to "discover" Brazil, then all Italian immigrants should be granted immediate citizenship. There are a large number of Italian immigrants in Brazil and the government has created a tedious and costly citizenship application procedure for Italians that does not apply to Portuguese immigrants. The Brazilian government would not give in and the Italians in Brazil staged demonstrations. In response, the Brazilian government ordered all civilians off the recovery project and censored further news about the wreck hoping to diffuse the civil unrest."- Free Republic

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1038045/posts

This is one of the original reports about the finding, not exactly National Geographic, but it was an original report from 1983:
http://www.science-frontiers.com/sf028/sf028p01.htm
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2005 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Whilst i admit that James's ideas seem very plausible, here's an example of a theory on Egyptians 'travelling the world' that I find dodgy.

I was in Brighton, going through the shops and in a second hand bookshop (i think) and I saw a book, and it was called something along the lines of 'Indo-Egyptian Conquest of the Pacific'. Yup, that's right. Remember the post about Egyptians having boomerangs? Well, this book claims that the Pacific people also have a sun god called Ra. (Is this true?) Why? Because the Egyptians conquered the Pacific islands. They teamed up with the Indians, and both civilisations circum navigated the globe and colonised the islands, and built the Easter Island statues...groan. Now that's the kind of thing I find far fetched. It also reminds me of another book that says the British are descended from the ancient Egyptians, and that one of Akhenaten's daughters travelled to Scotland. (Hmm. British descended from Egyptians? I'm half British myself-so maybe I have some Egyptian blood?? Cool! Surprised )

Did the Egyptians ever trade with, or ever visit, India? I've heard some people who claim they traded directly with the Indians and even influenced some parts of the Hindu religion...I'm uncertain about that part, but I do know the Egyptians did have access to some items from India, like silk and even sugar (which was reserved for very rich people as it was so rare) but I'm not sure if this was direct trade with India, or indirect, ie Indian exports arriving to Egypt via other Middle Eastern peoples.

Have any of you heard of the cocaine mummy? What do you think of it-do you think it could be credible, or a hoax, or a misinterpretation?
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2005 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, i think they might have traded with the indians, i suppose. But it is highly unlikely that they both "teamed up" and travelled the world.

My idea is, although it might seem silly, that myabe not all Egyptian sailors were timid. I think we all made a huge generalization that ALL Egyptian sailors were timid and afraid to go out. I mean, i bet back in AE times it was a society and a community just like all of, so although most of Egyptians believed in the myths and the story of Sinuhe and probably hated to go out to sea, there had to have been at least one or two individuals that were adventurous and wanting to discover. We are talking about a huge population, so there has to be at least one individual that is like that. All it takes is one, and a few people with him. It seems that everybody looked at the mechanical point of view of the argument which was Although Egyptians had the ships to go through the voyage, but egyptian sailors were timid and normally didn't like to travel. Well, we only have this much of information regarding this, after all, we never lived at that time, and out of the millions of people, there had to be at least thousands of radicals who thought otherwise. My point being, is not to always generalize and make assumptions on these generalizations.

I hope i explained my point well, so u guys would get what i actually mean of this.
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