Week 3 Post: Trade Networks

The unification of Lower and Upper Egypt was the result of many processes that worked together over several hundred years to bring forth one centralized state. One of the processes that aided in this fusion was the presence of a long distance trade network that was very well-established. This trade network allowed for the many governments throughout Egypt to trade various aspects of their cultures with one another including different styles of pottery. This shows archaeologists how ceramics that were made in Lower Egypt were found to be crafted in the Upper Egyptian style and this would not have been possible unless there was some sort of network between the two areas where ideas and customs could be introduced and shared (Watrall, Evidence for Unification lecture).

The Necropolis of Helwan is a good representation of the evidence archaeologists have found in support of this long distance trade network (Kohler, 41). The 10,000 tombs located at this site suggest that it was first a cemetery for the elite population and then started to be filled with individuals from the different social classes including several unnamed commoners (Kohler, 45). This may show us that there happened to be an increase in the population that occurred at that time which indicates why their bodies had to be buried there. What is interesting to me about this site though is that the presence of imported goods was usually a sign that the occupant of the tomb was a person of higher social status, but at Helwan even the tombs of the lower class individuals had imported goods inside them. How did these individuals get imported goods into their possession if they did not have the means to obtain them? Archaeologists to this day are not sure. However, we do know that this trade network did help in the development of their economic system that collected taxes and redistributed that money to state officials and the royal treasury (Kohler, 41). I don’t know much about economics so I was surprised to read that there is evidence to show that Egyptians had been able to create a tax system so long ago especially over an area so large.  Now we know that the creation of the trade network in Egypt gave rise to an increase in social stratification as well as how much it assisted in the creation of a unified state.


Kohler, E. Christiana (2010). Theories of State Formation. In Willeke Wendrich (Ed.), Egyptian Archaeology (pp. 36-54) Oxford: Blackwell Publishing

Watrall, Ethan. (2012). Evidence for Unification. Lecture.


1 thought on “Week 3 Post: Trade Networks

  1. I also find the change in mortuary practices to be an interesting indicator of social change and increasing complexity within a society. The existence of the Nile river was obviously a lifeline for trade, however, I often wonder how much of this history has been lost to it’s rising and falling shores. Although the elements of everyday life may have been destroyed in this natural process, luckily the existence of grave sites such as the Necropolis of Helwan somewhat negate this loss. The dissolving of typical grave good patterns is definitely a perplexing issue. Were common people buried there because they needed more room? Or were they somehow connected to the other people there? I also wonder what kind of skills made these people suddenly more affluent. Did some sort of invention make the acquisition of traded goods suddenly feasible for people without an actual significant increase in income or status? What status something you could earn regardless of the situation you were born into? All of these scenarios are possible and probably occurred simultaneously, many of which could be answered with further research, and many we may never know. Also knowing very little about economics, I was impressed with the formation of a tax system while still developing into a centralized state as well. I cannot imagine the amount of innovation and expertise required to execute such a system. To add a bit of levity, maybe if you had a natural gift for aiding the tax system, you earned your way into a nicer cemetery?

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