Around 1477 BC, Queen Hatshepsut funded a mysterious overseas expedition to the Land of Punt, or “the Land of God.” For over a century, archaeologists have questioned the ability of Egypt to conduct such an oceanic voyage, with many believing that the Land of Punt was inland or even fictional. Now, new evidence indicates that the ancient Egyptians weren’t just masters of the land…they were masters of the seas as well.
The Mysterious Land of Punt?
The famous expedition is depicted in relief at Deir el-Bahri. It consisted of five ships. Each ship measured about seventy feet long and carried 210 men. After reaching Punt, the expedition returned with plants, animals, incense, ebony, and even people native to the Land of Punt.
Interestingly enough, this is not the first nor the last recorded visit to Punt. Pharaoh Sahure led a similar expedition almost one thousand years earlier. And after Hatshepsut’s expedition, trade flourished between Egypt and Punt for another four hundred years until Egypt’s New Kingdom came to an end. Then trade ceased and Punt became known as a mythical, lost land.
Where was the Land of Punt?
The exact location of the Land of Punt has baffled scholars for decades. Many researchers doubted the ability of ancient Egyptians to master the deep seas. They tended to think that stories of long voyages were false and that Punt was accessible by land or perhaps, a mythical place from the beginning. However, a recent article by Discovery Magazine indicates that the Egyptians “ mastered oceangoing technology and launched a series of ambitious expeditions to far-off lands.”
Since 2003, a team of archaeologists led by Kathryn Bard have been excavating the dried-up ancient Red Sea port of Mersa Gawasis. Their most recent discovery, an ancient sophisticated harbor, provides substantial proof that the Egyptians traveled far beyond the Nile. Over the years, the team has also located supporting evidence in a series of nearby, hand-hewn caves. These caves, which may have once served as ancient boat houses, were found to contain timbers, rigging, limestone anchors, steering oars, cedar planks, and reed mats, amongst other things. The evidence points to the existence of numerous Egyptian ships, powered by rowers and sails, and capable of surviving deepwater excursions.
“These new finds remove all doubt that you reach Punt by sea. The Egyptians must have had considerable seagoing experience.” ~ John Baines, Egyptologist
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
The ancient Egyptians were clearly incredible builders on land. And now, thanks to these new discoveries, it appears that their expertise extended to the sea as well. While the exact location of the Land of Punt remains a mystery, the evidence continues to mount that the Egyptians traveled throughout the Red Sea and perhaps into the Arabian Sea. Someday soon, we might even learn that ancient Egyptian vessels traveled far out into the Indian Ocean, voyaging to faraway points such as India…and perhaps, even beyond.