Treading Outside of Egypt: the Two Lands and Foreign Relations

Traditionally, Egypt has often been regarded as a culture in isolation. The river Nile as it flows from South to North and its flood plains, on either side endless miles of desert apparently kept out any foreign visitors. Not so. From its earliest days, Egypt was in contact already not just with peoples to the south, the Nubians, but also with more far reaching contacts, the Levant. This workshop will reconsider this notion of ‘isolation’ and highlight three important aspects of foreign contacts from the Predynastic through to the New Kingdom. It will take place on Thursday, 29 November 2012 from 6 to 8 pm at our main venue at Alliance for Arts and Culture (Info).

Thutmose III smiting some foreigners
Thutmose III smiting some foreigners


6 to 6.30 pm – Thomas H. Greiner, “Lapis Lazuli and Long Distance Trade in the late Predynastic

6.40 to 7.10 pm – Dr. Thomas Schneider, “Foreign Relations in the Old Kingdom

7.20 to 7.50 pm – Dr. Ernest Bumann, “The 400 Year Stela, or the ‘Interpretatio Aegyptiaca of the Canaanite God Ba’al’

About the Speakers

Thomas H. Greiner

Thomas H. Greiner has recently completed his M.A. in Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, where he focused on lapis lazuli and obsidian and systems of exchange between Egypt and the Levant in the Predynastic Period. He currently teaches for both UBC and SFU Continuing Studies. He is active as President of the Vancouver SSEA.

Dr. Thomas Schneider (University of British-Columbia)

Thomas Schneider (PhD Basel) is Professor of Egyptology and Near Eastern Studies at the University of British Columbia. Prior to coming to UBC, he was Holder of the Chair in Egyptology at the University of Wales, Swansea (2005-2007) and Research Professor of the Swiss National Science Foundation in Egyptology at the University of Basel, Switzerland (2001–5). He was a visiting professor in Egyptology at the universities of Vienna and Heidelberg. He is Editor of Near Eastern Archaeology and the Journal of Egyptian History.

Dr. Ernest Bumann (University of British-Columbia)

Ernest immigrated to Canada one year ago with his family (wife Rosanna and four children 13/14/16/19) from England. He is a Swiss citizen and has studied Theology and History of the Ancient Near East in Switzerland, Germany, and Israel. Ernest has received his Ph.D. in Egyptology from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and his dissertation, “The Hyksos and Acculturation”, focusses on processes of acculturation of the Asiatic population at Tell el-Dabʽa/Avaris (Eastern Nile Delta) during the Late Middle Kingdom and the Second Intermediate Period.


“Lapis Lazuli and Long Distance Trade in the Late Predynastic”

Regarded often as a celestial stone, Lapis Lazuli is frequently equated with the color of the night sky. Sailors in ancient times made use of the night sky to find their way. It is a testament to the skill and effort required to find one’s way over great distances. Similarly, lapis lazuli must have endured a cumbersome journey on its way to Egypt, for tradition has sought to identify the Badakhshan mines in northeastern Afghanistan as its main source. Yet, more possible sources certainly existed, so why is this mine considered the main? In examining the current state of literature, one quickly gains a glimpse of the scant evidence available, which is so often used in this kind of study. For instance, we know that these mines are indeed one of the greater sources of lapis since ancient times and we do know that it did indeed arrive in Egypt. Yet, to examine the journey of this stone to Egypt, an accurate and proper starting point will first have to be established. This paper will carefully look at the evidence as it was used in literature and, in turn, address the need for further research into this topic, highlighting the latest petrographic analyses recently undertaken.

“Foreign Relations in the Old Kingdom”

Recently, Karin Sowada has presented a new archaeological assessment of Egypt’s relations with the Levant in the Old Kingdom, portraying it as an “active participant in the geo-political and economic affairs of the whole region”. The very fragmentary textual and pictorial evidence from the Old Kingdom has traditionally favored the view of rather limited foreign interest and interaction. The lecture will challenge this impaired view by reflecting on the limitations of the evidence and the probability of more wide-ranging diplomatic, political and economical relations in the pyramid age. It will discuss new evidence ­– from the Abu Ballas trail to the recently published biographical inscription of Iny and textual evidence from Ebla – in support of this view and address the challenges historical phonology presents in correctly identifying personal and place names in new historical sources.

“The 400 Year Stela, or the ‘Interpretatio Aegyptiaca of the Canaanite God Ba’al'”

The Egyptian god Seth was one of the most important gods in the Egyptian pantheon. He was the god of the storm and the desert and therefore bore some negative connotations right from the beginning. During the time of the Hyksos, the god Seth became a threat to Egyptian interests, particularly to Egypt’s religious system. The Hyksos king Apophis had introduced a monotheistic religion in the land of Egypt, which predates the Amarnaic monotheism of the god Aten. During the New Kingdom, Seth was identified with several foreign gods such as the Canaanite Ba‘al (particularly since the NK), the Hurrite Teshup (Seth of Hatti), and the Phoenician Reshef. Ramesses II erected the so-called Four Hundred Year Stela (Stadelmann 1985, 1039-1043) and addressed his main god with “Hail to thee, o Seth, Son of Nut, the Great of Strength in the Barque of Millions …, great of battle cry…!” The stela is not dated to the reign of king Ramesses II, but to “Year 400, 4th month of the third season, day 4, of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Seth-the-Great-of-Strength; the Son of Re, his beloved: The Ombite, beloved of Re-Hor-akhti.” The depiction, however, does not show the Egyptian god Seth, the Ombite, but the Interpretatio Aegyptiaca of the Canaanite/Syrian weather god Ba‛al.

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