Egypt is often presented in isolation, as a stable and almost stagnant cultural and geographic region. This study day considers Egypt in its wider context, as an interrelated and integral part of the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean world. Through investigating Egypt’s economy, foreign relations, and trade, our four experts will present Egypt in a different light and show that things are far more interesting when you consider the bigger picture.

Images, left to right: Detail of a cuneiform Amarna letter from Abi-milku of Tyre to the king of Egypt ca. 1353–1336 BC (24.2.12, MMA); Detail of a glazed steatite scarab amulet ca. 1550–1295 BC (05.3.397, MMA); Detail of a Mycenaean stirrup jar found in Egypt (M13669, courtesy of National Museums Liverpool: World Museum); Detail of the wooden Gurob ship-cart model (UC16044, courtesy of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, image courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum).

Schedule*

09:30 Doors open for registration

10:00-10:30 Scarab and Seal Amulets – Stephanie Boonstra, EES

10:30-11:30 The Amarna Letters: Gifts or Economic Exchange? – Prof Mahmoud Ezzamel, Cardiff University

11:30-13:00 Lunch (please make your own arrangements)

13:00-14:00 Goods from the Wine-Dark Sea – Dr Valentina Gasperini, British Museum

14:00-15:00 Egypt’s long-distance trade relationships in context at the end of the New Kingdom – Dr Carol Bell, British School at Athens and UCL

15:00-16:00 Refreshments

16:00-17:30 AGM

17:30-19:00 Reception

*Subject to adjustments

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Abstracts

Scarab and Seal Amulets: How one of the smallest artefacts highlights trade, exchange, and more in the second millennium BCE
Stephanie Boonstra, the Egypt Exploration Society

Scarabs and seal amulets were the most popular amulets in ancient Egypt for much of the pharaonic period. Due to their highly portable nature, they were widely distributed. This trade led to another form of exchange – cultural imitation between Egypt and the Levant. Using some known and newly discovered seal amulet workshops from the Late Bronze Age, this complex relationship between regions that were often at odds will be illustrated.

The Amarna Letters: Gifts or Economic Exchange?
Prof Mahmoud Ezzamel, Cardiff University

The exchanges documented in the Amarna Letters between the Egyptian Pharaohs and the Kings of Babylonia, Mittani, Hatti, and later Assyria (what scholars call the first international society) during the Bronze Age are described as gifts. I analyse these exchanges and comment on whether they are gifts or economic exchange. These exchanges created credits and debits between the Pharaohs and Great Kings, and were underpinned by quantification and valuation in the absence of market. This first international society was a stage where Pharaohs and Kings were performers of an institutionalised drama; a drama that allowed for heterogeneity of their perceptions and interests to exist, and where the vocabulary of the ‘gift’ was a symbolism that masked their calculative mentality.

Goods from the Wine-Dark Sea: Eastern Mediterranean ceramic imports in Egypt during the Late Bronze Age
Dr Valentina Gasperini, British Museum

One of the most fascinating aspects of Late Bronze Age economy is represented by interregional exchanges and trades connecting the whole Eastern Mediterranean. The anti-clockwise maritime trade routes involved all the major regional super powers and allowed deep economic and cultural connections between ancient civilisations. Egypt played a key role in this complex system and was an integral part of these trade movements, which are mainly testified, in terms of archaeological records, by imported ceramics. This paper will explore the main types of Eastern Mediterranean ceramic imports traded in Egypt during the New Kingdom, with a specific focus on Aegean and Levantine transport wares and, when possible, their contents. Special attention will be also given to the main New Kingdom Egyptian commercial hubs which yielded significant amounts of imported pottery in order to shed light on the trade dynamics internal to the Nile Valley.

Egypt’s long-distance trade relationships in context at the end of the New Kingdom: Reflections on the world of the Gurob ship-cart model in light of recent Eastern Mediterranean multidisciplinary scholarship.
Dr Carol Bell, British School at Athens and UCL

Using multidisciplinary methods, combining material culture with scientific and textual studies, considerable strides have been made in the past 10 years in understanding the nature of long distance trade between the kingdoms and great powers around the Eastern Mediterranean at the close of the Late Bronze Age and in the Early Iron Age (broadly speaking the Ramesside Period in the New Kingdom of Egypt). Nevertheless, far from being central to such regional syntheses, Egypt is often considered in isolation. It was part of intricate long distance maritime and land-based trade networks that delivered strategic commodities, such as copper and tin, as well as luxury raw materials and manufactured items. This paper will seek to place Egypt in broader context at this time of crisis, continuity and change by bringing the world of the Gurob Ship-Cart Model into focus against the wider back-drop of Egypt’s empire in the Levant and its Eastern Mediterranean neighbours.

Members of the Egypt Exploration Society and British School at Athens can book discounted tickets below. 

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