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Looking for the Land of Punt

The ancient Egyptians made a lot of references to a place called the Land of Punt, which was their source for a variety of exotic animals and other valuable goods. Now scientists are analyzing the hairs of baboon mummies in order to try and pinpoint the location of this lost land.

From there they brought back perfumes, panther skins, electrum, and, yes, live baboons to keep as pets. The voyages started as early as the Old Kingdom, ca. 4,500 years ago, and continued until just after the collapse of the New Kingdom 3,000 years ago.

Egyptologists have long argued about the location of Punt. The presence of perfumes suggests that it was located somewhere in Arabia, such as Yemen. However the depiction of a giraffe, at a temple built by Queen Hatshepsut, tells archaeologists that Punt is likely somewhere in Africa – perhaps around Ethiopia, Eritrea or Somalia.

There are even suggestions that it could be further south on the African coastline, perhaps as far as Mozambique.

The surviving Egyptian texts give only vague references to its location. An example below records a voyage sponsored by the Pharaoh Ramesses III. Author Pierre Grandet wrote:

I built great ships … which were equipped with countless crewmen. Laden with products beyond number from Egypt … (and then) sent to the great Sea of Muqed, they reached the mountains of Punt without any misfortune befalling them.

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