The ancient Egyptians tended to consider both their immediate and more remote neighbours either as excellent sources of luxury trade items and slaves, at times of political power and strength, or as uncivilized forces threatening to destroy and overwhelm the Egyptian Nile Valley. This was true not only of cultures within Africa; those in the Aegean, the Levant, Cyprus and Mesopotamia also were viewed from one or the other perspective, occasionally both at the same time. All these, together with Nubia and Libya, have received much scholarly attention and, whilst we probably will never fully understand their ancient relationship to Egypt, we have a fairly good idea, ‘hearing’ the story from both sides when surviving evidence allows, what their attitudes towards each other were at various times in their history.
This article deals with what is surely the least investigated aspect of ancient Egyptian relations with its neighbours, simply because we know comparatively little about the two major successive cultures concerned – Punt and Aksum – in the ancient world.
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