The earliest surviving record in Egypt of international trade is detailed on the PalermoStone, which tells how Sneferu (the first pharaoh of Dynasty Four) imported
(via the Mediterranean):"Bringing forty ships filled (with) cedar logs. Shipbuilding (of) cedar wood,one
ship, 100 cubits (long) [= 45.73 m], and of
wood, two ships, 100 cubits (long). Making the doors of the royal palace (of)cedarwood." (Breasted
Ancient Records of Egypt
Part One § 146f)Smith (1998: 41) asserts that the ‘remarkably well preserved’ coniferous posts and cross-timbers discovered in the upper chamber of Sneferu’s Bent Pyramid at Dahshur, might be actualtimbers referred to in the Palermo Stone.While the actual word translated for
is cedar, “there is less than total agreement amongEgyptologists” that the word does indeed mean ‘cedar’ (Kuniholm, 1997: 347).
may meancypress or juniper, but again there is no way of really knowing. One theory proposes that theEgyptians did not make a distinction between cedar and juniper, and that “
refers to better-quality conifers and
refers to some kind of second-quality timber.”
Regardless, the mainwoods needed for boat-building are foreign (imported), and usually sold in long lengths, unlikethe locally available woods like acacia or sycamore (Appendix 1).
Despite the assumption that acacia may not have been utilized in boat building, Gale, etal. (2000: 335) feels that it was used perhaps for smaller parts in the boat-building process. Theygo on to mention several ancient and classical sources that imply acacia’s utility. For example,
The text does not specify a location, but archaeological consensus is that it is referring to Byblos.
Kuniholm, 1997: 348
Long distance trade in wood seems plausible even for the predynastic/early dynastic period. We know that Narmer(Dyn 0) was actively involved with Canaan, attested by his serekh in various sites (Arad, Tarkhan, Halif Terrace, EnBesor). D.A.I.K. findings on Cedar have been found in Abydos cemetery B (Iry Hor, Ka, Narmer) and U (NaqadaIIIa2, c.3250).