Despite political changes at the end of the Old Kingdom, archaeological and textual evidence reveals that state-sponsored Levantine maritime expeditions continued into the long reign of Sixth Dynasty king Pepy II (ca. 2278–2184 B.C). The data show Egyptian engagement with multiple locations in the Levant involving transactional commodity procurement, diplomacy, and cultic activity. In particular, the central Levant continued its relationship with Egypt through the key port of Byblos, contact with a long history stretching back to the late fourth millennium B.C. With the decline of the urban complexes in the southern Levant, a more nuanced situation emerges with the advent of an extended EB IV/Intermediate Bronze Age ca. 2500 BC. Border management along north Sinai is evident in the titles of officials, and resurgent copper mining activity in the Wadi Feinan may be directed at Egypt. The Sixth Dynasty military activity of Weni (ca. 2300 B.C.) likewise requires reassessment.
With the political fragmentation of the First Intermediate Period, evidence for Levantine engagement sharply declines. This likely represents an actual cessation of royal expeditions but the quantity and quality of data is uneven, especially for the Hierakleopolitan kingdom of northern Egypt. The apparent withdrawal of the Egyptian state from Levantine exchange routes had the effect of decentralizing exchange mechanisms to more informal and highly localized direct or down-the-line networks. This may have fragmented the long-term dynamic of international trade despite the reemergence of expeditionary activity with the rise of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom ca. 2050 B.C.
23 Nov 2019
American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), United States