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Chapter 4, Section 3

The Role of Trade in Egypt

Main Idea

Egypt traded goods with many lands to get useful resources and beautiful finished goods.

Trade brought Egypt and Nubia together. Egypt was rich in sunshine and soil, but it lacked forests, minerals, horses, and other useful resources found in Nubia and other places. People in ancient Egypt had to get these resources through commerce with the country’s neighbors. Commerce is the buying and selling of goods and services.

As their country grew in wealth, Egyptians were eager to buy luxury goods from other lands. Luxury goods were goods that they did not need, but that made life more enjoyable in some way. Such goods included animal skins, precious stones, and perfumes.

E-LA 6.1.4

Use Paragraph Clues

What words in a nearby sentence give you examples that help define the term luxury goods?

Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean

The pharaohs organized expeditions to open trade with other lands. An expedition is a journey or trip taken for a special purpose. All trade goods brought back to Egypt by these expeditions belonged to the pharaoh. Around 2500 b.c., a pharaoh named Snefru ordered expeditions to the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Egyptian Trade Routes


For: an interactive map of Egyptian Trade Routes
Web Code: mwd-2043


Map Master

The Egyptians traded with people in other countries for useful resources as well as for luxury goods.

  1. Interpret Maps

    With which cities did the Egyptians trade by water routes?

  2. Apply Information

    Why do you think the Egyptians traded with people in cities along the Nile River or on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea?

Trade in the Nile River Valley

Snefru also started trade between Egypt and its neighbor to the south. He sent a trading expedition up the Nile into Nubia, and it returned with 7,000 slaves and 200,000 head of cattle. Over time, trade up and down the Nile Valley increased.

Because of its location, Nubia controlled commerce between central Africa and Egypt. Nubian traders supplied Egypt with animal skins, ivory, ostrich feathers, and beautiful woods from the African interior. Nubia traded gold from its desert mines for Egyptian wheat.

Trade and Conquest

To protect this valuable trade, Egypt gradually conquered most of Nubia. Egyptians called this region Kush. The Nubians also had to pay tribute to the pharaoh. Tribute is a payment made by a conquered people to a stronger power. One year’s tribute payment to the pharaoh Thutmose III included hundreds of pounds of gold, cattle, slaves, ostrich feathers, and ivory from Nubia.

Over time, the Nubians adopted many aspects, or features, of Egyptian culture. They wore Egyptian clothes and worshiped Egyptian gods. They spoke the Egyptian language. Nubian soldiers, who were famous as archers, served in Egypt’s army. Some Nubians rose to become high government officials.


Why did Egypt want to control Nubia?

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