After the economic collapse at the end of the New Kingdom period, trade with Punt disappeared, and Punt became an unreal and fabulous land of myths and legends. In earlier times, much like the lost Sumerian trading partners of Dilmun, Magan, and Meluhha, Punt does appear to have been a real place. The question of where this place was, has been an ongoing mystery for a century. The noted Assyriologist Samuel Noah Kramer proposed in The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character that Dilmun was the Indus civilization, and that Meluhha was the land the Egyptians called Punt, in the region of Northeast Africa,(1)Samuel Noah Kramer (1963) The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character, Pages 276-285 placing it in modern Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia. Most Egyptologists today seem content with this general area being Punt, although some have suggested Yemen, or further south along the East African coast. Around 3,000 years ago the region around modern northern Eritrea was known as D’mt, although a Semitic civilization is known to have been there since at least 4,000 years ago.(2)Nadia Durrani (2005) “The Tihamah Coastal Plain of South-West Arabia in its Regional context c. 6000 BC – AD 600” Society for Arabian Studies Monographs No. 4, Page 121 It does seem likely that the New Kingdom was trading with a civilization in the region of the land later known as D’mt, however, there is no evidence for a mother-civilization being in the region around 5,100 years ago, meaning that the Old Kingdom, must have been trading with some other civilization, and was possibly a colony of that civilization.
The Egyptian pronunciation of Punt is believed to have been Pwenet, or Pwene,(3)Ian Shaw & Paul Nicholson (1995) The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, Page 231 although they also referred to Punt as Ta-Netjer, meaning the “Land of the god.”(4)John Henry Breasted (1906–1907) Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest, collected, edited, and translated, with Commentary, Volume 1, Page 433 In this case the god was specific: Ra. The god Ra, sometimes translated as Re, was worshiped in Egypt from at least the Second Dynasty, around 4,900 years ago. Inscriptions dating back to the Forth Dynasty circa 4,600 years ago identify the Kings of Egypt as the “Sons of Ra.” By the era of King Sahure of the Fifth Dynasty, the first we have a record of actually sending a trading mission to Punt, Ra was a state deity and kings had specially aligned pyramids, obelisks, and solar temples built in his honor. The rulers of the fifth dynasty told their followers that they were sons of Ra himself.(5)George Hart (1986) A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, Pages 179–182 The oldest known Pyramid Texts also date to this period, giving Ra significance in the journey of the king through the Underworld.
Ra was believed to travel on two solar barges called the Mandjet, which means the Boat of Millions of Years. These boats took him on his journey through the sky and the Duat. When Ra traveled in his solar barges he was accompanied by various other deities including Set, who defended Ra from Apep, later called Apophis by the Greeks. These solar barges are generally interpreted as the Sun moving across the sky throughout the day by Egyptologists. This interpretation seems somewhat confused, as these solar barges carried Ra to Duat, a place in the sky near Sirius.(6)J. B. Holberg (2007) Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky The geography of Duat was described as similar to the world the Egyptians knew. There are realistic features like rivers, islands, fields, lakes, mounds and caverns, along with fantastic lakes of fire, walls of iron and trees of turquoise. In the Book of Two Ways from around 3,500 years ago, there is even a map-like image of the Duat. According to Carleton S. Coon, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania:
The Duat was a place of judgment in the Egyptian cosmology, often erroneously referred to as an afterlife, or heaven, however this was not the case.(8)John Taylor, editor (2010) Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, Page 134 The place where the Egyptians believed they would be reborn was Aaru. Aaru was usually placed in the far eastern part of the world, where the Sun rises, and was described as a series of islands, covered in fields of rushes. It was believed to be an ideal hunting and fishing ground, and therefore those judged worthy after dying, were allowed to return to life there, and were often called the eternally living.(9)Ernest Alfred Wallis Budge (1906) The Egyptian Heaven and Hell, Page 37 Aaru therefore seems like a description of the Malaya Archipelago, or Papua and Melanesia to the east of the Malaya Archipelago. This could place it in the same location as the Rāmāyaṇa’s World of the Manes (Ancestors), where Prince Rama forbade his scouts from going during the search for Sita.
References [ + ]
|1.||⇑||Samuel Noah Kramer (1963) The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character, Pages 276-285|
|2.||⇑||Nadia Durrani (2005) “The Tihamah Coastal Plain of South-West Arabia in its Regional context c. 6000 BC – AD 600” Society for Arabian Studies Monographs No. 4, Page 121|
|3.||⇑||Ian Shaw & Paul Nicholson (1995) The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, Page 231|
|4.||⇑||John Henry Breasted (1906–1907) Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest, collected, edited, and translated, with Commentary, Volume 1, Page 433|
|5.||⇑||George Hart (1986) A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, Pages 179–182|
|6.||⇑||J. B. Holberg (2007) Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky|
|7.||⇑||Carleton S. Coon (1954) The Story of Man|
|8.||⇑||John Taylor, editor (2010) Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, Page 134|
|9.||⇑||Ernest Alfred Wallis Budge (1906) The Egyptian Heaven and Hell, Page 37|