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Between Myth and Reality: Little Know Civilizations: The Land of Punt

source of the picture above

When we talk about ancient civilizations or cultures, most of us know about ancient Egypt, ancient Greece and Rome, Persia, Mesopotamia, the Incas (Peru), the Aztecs (Mexico), the Mayans (Mexico and Central America) and several more such as the Hittites, the Celts, the Franks etc. But some ancient civilizations are less known including the Land or the Kingdom of Punt ( « Pount » in French).

In fact, to this day, we still know very little of this fabulous land and we have to consult ancient Egyptian writings, hyeroglyphs and some bas-relief on certain egyptian sites. Since the XXVth century BC, there were commercial expeditions between Egypt and what they described as the « Land of Punt » or « Ta Nédjer » (meaning the land of God). Several localisations were given for this country by the Egyptians. One fact remains: it is riverside of the Red Sea or on the southern extremity of the Red Sea. The Egyptian flotillas that go to do commerce with Punt traveled the Red Sea to arrive at that specific destination. Contemporary archeologists state that the Punt territory is probably what is called today Somalia. A more broad geography places the land of Punt between the coast of the Sudan-Erithrea states and Somalia. But the real location is still being debated today and will probably remain debatable for years to come. But at least the Somalian coastline seems very appropriate because of the Deir el-Bahari bas-relief which contributes to its authentification. Below you can see part of the bas-relief related to the Voyage to Punt. Also in fact, in 1998, when the North-West territory of Somalia became independent from the Republic of Somalia, it took the name of Puntland, in reference to the Land of Punt of which they consider they are the descendant from.

There is also an interesting fact about the Land of Punt on top of not being sure of its location. This mysterious country of Punt appeared rather suddenly around 2500 BC and disappeared just as suddenly around 1000 BC. The most remote expedition towards Punt that we can trace was accomplished by the pharaoh Sahourê of the Vth dynasty around 2500 BC. This pharaoh is represented sitting before incense trees that were replanted in Egypt and also standing holding an adze (cutting tool somewhat like an axe) preparing himself to notch or to cut the bark of an incense tree in order to get its resin. At the end of the Ancient Egyptian Empire (V1th dynasty), some Egyptians diplomats mentionned Punt. As such Herkhouf reproduced at the entrance of his tomb the letter of the King Néferkarê which mentions a dwarf brought back from Punt to Egypt under the reign of Djedkarê Isési (Vth dynasty).

The presence and brilliance of Punt continued and even amplified during the Middle Egyptian empire. During the New Empire, the Land of Punt, still impossible to accurately localise, becomes the mythical source of all treasures, manufactured objects, unknown animals and plants with marvelous scents and healing powers such as incense that Africa had just discovered. And then we find Queen Hathsepsut.


From the Egyptian sources, the Land of Punt, an African country, was rich and opulent which impresses the Egyptians who visited it for commercial purposes. Several sources mention the Kingdom of Punt, but one of those sources goes above and beyond as the land of Punt is reflected on the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahari in western Thebes (on the north wall of the second terrace). Queen Hatshepsut, (the daughter of Amon) who always looked towards Africa, as much towards Punt for commerce and Nubia for its geopolitical position, was so proud of her commercial expedition towards the Land of Punt in the year V111/1X of her reign (XVth century BC) that she had that episode represented on two walls of her funerary temple.


On the stele above you can see (I hope) the two delegations, one Egyptian on the right and on the left the Puntite delegation meeting and conducting transactions between them.  This well known expedition, which happened in the 8th year of the reign of Queen Hathsepsut was conducted by Nehesy, a royal chancellor and representative of Queen Hathsepsut, who under the Queen’s orders around 1500 BC went to Punt to find myrrh, incense, gold, leopard’s skins, thrust weapons of war, cuttings of incense trees etc. These trees were again replanted along the alley of the funeral temple of the Queen, at Deir el-Bahari. Thanks to the Land of Punt, Queen Hatchepsut gained access to several types of ancient technologies. She owed them her foresight, her wisdom and her strength. In the Middle Orient, which is torn apart by wars, Punt is decidedly not a country like others. The Egyptian delegation consists of Nehesy followed by 8 soldiers with lances and hatchets. The Punt delegation consists probably of a local chief named Parehou or Parakhu, followed by his wife Ity or Aty, his son and two daughters.

The expedition had a total of five ships each measuring about 20 meters (66 feet) long with each one 30 rowers, 21 general working, 8 soldiers and an officer. Hundreds of Egyptian products are also on board to serve as exchange goods including a black granite statue of the god Amon along with Hatshepsut to be erected at the boarding of the ships on the Land of Punt. The fleet then goes up the Nile to Memphis where it goes into a river branch to join the Mediterranean Sea. It looks like the river Tumilat was used to get to the Red Sea. Then the journey was conducted mostly only by using the sails while going along the coastline. At the end of one month and a half, the expedition arrived to its destination.

The Egyptians are first amazed by the presence of Punt houses on stilts where they could only enter with ladders. The first picture of this article shows one of those houses on the left and in the middle along with their respective ladders.

In that same funerary temple, there is a bloc presenting a scene of ships bringing exotic animals along with members of the Land of Punt. The return voyage was much slower and also brought back the chief along with his wife and several live animals such as a giraffe and two cheetahs along with incense trees, myrrh etc. as evidenced on the same wall of the temple that is presented below.


With this, the Land of Punt represented a real Eldorado for Ancient Egypt for almost 2000 years. From all the Egyptian expeditions they brought back from the Land of Punt precious metals and jewels, intoxicating incense, tree cuttings and even whole trees, exotic animals etc.

What do you think?

14 points

Written by HistoryGal

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  1. Remembered that the Land of Punt was mentioned in the book “The Land of Foam” also known as “At the Edge of Oikoumene” of Soviet/Russian author + paleontologist Ivan Yefremov – the heroes tried to find this famous and fabled land. After reading it always wanted to know more about this land & you’ve given answers on my questions, thank you very much for that!!!

    • OMG again and again a very big thank you for your endorsement of my little post. I have never read the book you mentioned but I just might look it up as long as it is in English or French of course. Also I appreciate your up vote.

  2. Thanks to your fascinating article, I have heard for the first time about the mysterious ancient Land of Punt. It seems that they had reached a remarkable level of sophistication and there are certainly other secrets waiting to be discovered by this long gone, but not forgotten civilization!

  3. The imperialist and snotty ancient Egyptians were actually impressed by these people. Fascinating. I did not know anything about this. Wow. And wow. Thank you for informing me about this. To think I had no knowledge about this whatsoever. Thank you again. I will have to look this up a little more. Well, perhaps a lot more.

    • You brought up the same thought as Alex below. I never even thought of it like this but I agree now with you and Alex. Good luck on finding more than what I found, although my research was all done in French (I do not want to be accused of plagiarism, ha! ha!). Of course my research was just internet based and not on voluminous books. I am happy you found my little post interesting. Thank you for your reading, commenting and last but not least up voting. See you again soon.

  4. For the Egyptians to be impressed by another culture, the Punts must’ve really had something going on. I wouldn’t call the Egyptians xenophobes, but they were very haughty and conquered so many other cultures and had such great achievements, they tended to act pretty superior

    it is both surprising and refreshing to see them fawn over another society…

    • I am not sure about written records that have survived. I know that the following pharaoh Tothmes (if I remember well) had all her facial and profile displays removed from everywhere she was represented but some of them survived as evidenced by the pictures I have enclosed on my article. It seems you are an Egyptologist of sort. Glad and happy to know. Thank you for your information and questioning comment and your visit on my little presentation.

      • Actually I was just a curious “gossiper” who read the history (usually lives of the ancient kings and queens) like gossip magazines … lol

        Queen Hathsepsut happened to be one interesting character, being a queen then a king and then had her portraits destroyed … and there are quite some guesses as to why …

        I’m just gossipy about such stuffs … lol

    • I am very happy you found my post interesting and educational. I really enjoy old and gone cultures along with their history. As I have said at some point I was born in the wrong century and in the wrong hemisphere. Thank you again for reading, your beautiful comment and your up vote of my little presentation.

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