Merchants

Merchants

There are images in Old Kingdom tombs of people at markets, buying and selling. Commerce was carried on by barter: everything had to be traded for something of equal value. Weighing, measuring and counting were very important. Were there shopkeepers, people who make their living in trade? Or are these farmers' markets, where people sold only what they themselves had made? Did anyone make a living exclusively by taking the goods from one town to the next, or was this something that only landowners could do?

International trade flourished in the King's name. Sea-going vessels brought cedar, wine and oils from Lebanon. Ivory, gold, ostrich feathers and eggs, animal skins, rare minerals, beautiful stone and many other luxury goods came from the south, from the nations of Yam and Iryet in present-day Sudan. And from Punt, whose location is not yet known, came incense, myrrh, to sweeten the temples of the gods and the breath of men and women. Governors of Aswan, men like Heka-ib, put together enormous caravans with hundreds of donkeys to carry water and trade goods. Although this trade was carried on in the King's name, and with his support, the men who lead such expeditions became very rich.

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