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Science
UNEARTHING MYSTERIES
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Locating the Land of Punt
Tuesday 7 December 2004 11.00-11.30am 

Professor Aubrey Manning returns with a new series of Unearthing Mysteries. The first in the series sees him travel again to Egypt - a land with many archaeological mysteries. One of his quests this year is to locate the Land of Punt - a land that the Ancient Egyptians traded with over many centuries.

Land of Punt Map

There are depictions of voyages to the Land of Punt and the most famous is on the mortuary temple of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut in the 18th Dynasty (around 1479 - 1458 BC). This relief shows mountains of incense, animals, boats and the people of Punt and Ancient Egypt. However, from the details of this and other references, it is unclear as to where this mysterious land of plenty was. Some believe it is in Africa, some believe it could be in the Arabian Peninsula, and others say it could be both sides of the Red Sea.

The clues that point to one side or the other are difficult to decipher. In Hatshepsut's temple, there is a beautiful drawing of a giraffe - clearly an African animal. But also on the relief is a rhinoceros - with only one horn, making it pretty surely an Asian animal. The animals could have been brought to the trading point in order to move on to Egypt but which is the native animal?

The resin used for incense could also provide a clue - and Egyptologists say that this resin either came from the Boswellia or Commiphora tree. The answer would come if you could determine which resin it was they used - that is proving tricky.

Maybe there's a clue in how they travelled to Punt. The pictures show boats that have been lashed together with ropes to make them seaworthy. These boats have been used on the Red Sea for over 3000 years. Yet did the Ancient Egyptians actually cross the sea or did they hug the coast, protecting themselves from the fierce conditions notorious on this sea?

Join Aubrey and the Ancient Egyptians to see where their goods came from and how they traded with the outside world in Unearthing Mysteries on Tuesday 7 December at 11am.

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