The Phoenicians in East Africa

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From the Red to the Med
by Harry Bourne
© Copyright 2003

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All discussions purporting to pinpoint the cradle of any ancient people, will be seen to have prompted all sorts of conflicting theories. As will be seen from this  introductory section, it will be seen to apply equally when trying to locate the original homeland of the Phoenicians as any other people of antiquity.

One suggestion takes us to what in Academia is increasingly being called the Indian Ocean World (= IOW). It invokes an ancient language of the India to Europe or Indo/European (= I/E) family. This ancient Indian language is called Sanskrit and involves such words as Lohita Sagar, Asura, Chola, Pani, etc.

Lohita Sagar translates as Red Sea and so does the Greek term of the Erythraean Sea. Herodotus (5th.c. B. C. Greek) quotes a tradition Phoenicians originated on the “Red Sea”. Online at Seafaring in Ancient India site comparisons are made of Asura and Assyria, Chola and Chaldaea plus Pani and Phoenician. Each of the last names of these comparisons are Semitic and the Chaldaeans are better known as Babylonians. Pani resembles Poeni/Puni (= the Latin for the Phoen. colony at Carthage, hence such terms as Phoenico/Punic, Punic, etc.). Puni also meaning merchant or trader, is worth putting alongside the fact that Phoenicians were reknowned as traders.

Quite apart from the troubling etymology, asura meaning drunkard seems an unlikely ancestral form of the name of Assyria. The Cholas are Tamil-speakers of south India and their rise to power is much too late to be relevant for the ancestry of the Chaldaeans/Babylonians.

The term of Pani is highly unlikely to relate to the Latin label of Puni/Poeni that in turn is a Romanisation of a Greek term for a people who always saw themselves as from Canaan not Phoenicia, even down to the days of Augustine of Hippo (4th c. A. D. north African). He reported that Phoenico/Punic remnants around Carthage still called themselves Chanani in his time. So Pani can have had little bearing on Phoenician origins. In any case, there was never a united “Canaan/Phoenicia”, as it was always a collection of independent city-states. It may be relevant that ancient Indian texts apparently regard the Pani as thieves.

Nor is it normal to equate the Lohita Sagar as the Indian Ocean with what the Greeks called the Erythraean Sea, as the latter is generally seen as indicating only the western Indian Ocean. It is most famously known from the title of The Periplus of the  Erythraean Sea (1st c. A. D. Greek) by an unknown writer but whose name may have been “Diogenes”. Nor should it be overlooked that the “Red” Sea for Herodotus was what is now called the Gulf of Oman/Persian Gulf. However, there was an Eretria,the modern island of Ischia in the bay of Naples.

Relevant here are the Omani ports of Sur and Kuryat. S. B. Miles (Geographical Journal 1896) linked them to Phoenician homeland. They will be discussed later. It is in this general region that such as Herodotus (5th c. B. C. Greek), Strabo (1st c. Greek), Pliny (1st c. A. D, Roman), etc, concur in placing the  Phoenician homeland.

Most authorities treat the above as little more than curiousities of history. Easily the most widespread opinion of where the Phoenician homeland was is what the Bible called “the Land of Canaan”. It faced what will be called here the Alexandria (Egypt)/Antakya (= Antioch, Turkey)/Athens (Greece) or A/A/A-arc of the east Mediterranean. Its western counterpart is the Messina (Sicily)/Marseilles (Med..facing sth. France)/Malaga (Med.-facing east Iberia). Facing the southern shores of the Mediterranean is the Magreb (= most of north Africa west of Egypt).

Between 1200-1100 B.C., great events were happening. They came to affect all the ancient world. In that part of the Aegean Sea, the Minoan civilization of  the island of Crete was replaced by Mycenaeans from mainland Greece who were in turn ousted by Dorian Greece. In Anatolia (= Asia Minor = most of mainland Turkey), the Hittite Empire (= Hatti) was overthrown. The dispossessed Hitto-Anatolians and/or Mycenaean Greeks appear to have been the major elements of the motley groups that Egypt lumped together as the Peoples of the Sea.

Several inscriptions set up by the Egyptians record apparent Egyptian victories over these Sea-Peoples. One of the most famous of these victory stelae is that called the “Israel” Stele. If the interpretations about its contents are correct, then the chaotic circumstance of today’s ally is tomorrow’s enemy may not always have pertained. As one of such as the Lebu/Rebu (= Libyans) and Meshwesh (Libyan allies) west of Egypt plus Shasu (= ?ProtoBedouin) and  Habiru (= ProtoHebrews) east of Egypt, etc, the Habiru/Hapiru grouping did not fall apart on a particular occasion passing.

However, clearly not all the 12 Tribes making up the Israelites/Hebrews felt they were fully of the confederacy. The classic example is in that book of the Bible called the book of Judges and the so-called Song of Deborah. The 12 Tribes were called to battle by Barak to fight Canaanites at Tabor yet it is said “Reuben stayed with his flocks, Gilead tarried in the east & Dan stayed in his ships”.

It has long puzzled scholars why the Danites were in ships. A leading light among them is Nancy Sandars ( The Sea Peoples 1978). She came to the conclusion that the Anatolo/Hittites compared with Danites on grounds of cattle and/or wagons (even with women & children aboard) used as almost as tanks. They were also compared with the Mycenaean Greeks known too as the Danioi in the long epics by someone called Homer (? 9th c. B. C. Greek). In this way, the Tribe of Dan associated with ships is altogether more explicable. The Danites/Danioi conquered Jaffa (&? its hinterland) and this is the furthest north that “Sea-Peoples/Philistine” Ware(s) occurs.

According to some writers, Indians, west Africans, Egyptians, east Africans Semites, etc, greatly feared the sea. Online at Shipbuilding and Navigation in Ancient India site it was said that Indians stopped being Hindus when at sea. Roy Bridges (in Africa & the Sea ed. J. C. Stone 1985) quotes French opinion saying west Africans had a horror of the sea. Egypt had a religious edict banning Egyptians from the “Great Green” (= the Med.). Strabo (1st c. B.C. Greek) says east Africans only rarely went to sea. Stephen Collins (The Equinox Project) cites American writers saying ancient Semites (esp. Phoenicians ships carried others also -- Hebrews) really feared the sea.

There is a very considerable antiquity behind Indian seafaring and was so successful that Hindu-based cults had spread to Indo-China and Indonesia. Just how west Africans fit into this is fully discussed in West Africa & the Sea in Antiquity. Egyptian dockyards at Saqqara, “our harbour for ships” at Tanis (Egypt), sea-borne relations with the Minoans of Crete and the Phoenicians of Canaan, the Punt expeditions, etc, at the very least tell for Egyptian interest in the sea. Where east Africans fit here is discussed below. That at least one of the 12 tribes of Israel was very sea-minded (as just above), has added to it the doings of Solomon’s Israel, the book called “ The Children of  Noah” by Raphael Patai ( 2001), Collins answering supposed Hebrew fears of the sea, etc.

James Muhly (Berytus 1970) compared the emergence of the Philistines in the Bible and the Phoenicians in Homer. The first mentions of the Philistines seems to be in Genesis and Exodus. The former says they occupied some part of Canaan/Palestine in Abraham’s day and Exodus shows the Sea of Philistim was that part of A/A/A/-arc off Canaan. This fits with the Biblical coupling of Cherethites (= ?Minoan Cretans) and Pelethites (= ?the Peleset or Plst/Prst of the Egyptians = Philistines) linked to Caphtorim (= Assyrian Capturi/Cabturi = Keftiu = Crete) that indicates maritime activity. The more so given that Minoan Crete seems echoed by Minoa (an old name for Gaza) and the hinterland of Gaza as the Negev of the Cherethites.

The Philistines are described as uncircumcised in the Books of Samuel, are called allophylai (= foreigners) in the Septuagint (= Gk. form of the Old Testament) and are replaced in the Book of Isaiah list of foreign looters of Israel by the term of tous Hellaenus (= Hellenes = Greeks) in the Septuagint version of Isaiah.

This contrast of Greeks and Jews in Canaan/Palestine may take us to the Ramessid boast of having resettled defeated Sea-Peoples in Egyptian-ruled parts of south Palestine and Muhly (listed by Sandars) as saying Mycenaean Greeks resettled in Palestine became Philistines. This is greatly boosted by the great similarity of Mycenaean IIIbi pottery and what was seen above to be  variously called Sea-Peoples or Philistine Ware(s). We further note H.R. Palmer saying (The Carthaginian Voyage …1931) that the Keftiu/Caphtorim used earlier of the Aegean and/or Crete became the Kipti/Kepht/Kaphtorim used of Palestinians (= Philistim) by Muslim historians.

The last two paragraphs may presumably be seen as opposites, as Philistines can be seen both as long-time and as new-coming settlers in Palestine. However, this may not be quite as far as apart as might appear. Notions of older populations absorbing newcomers is hardly confined to Philistines and north Italy can be taken as  an example. It seems the prevailing literature and archaeology leads us to conclude the Anatolian people variously labelled as Teresh/Trusha/Trusci became the equally variously spelt Trusci/Etrusci/Tusci that came to rule over the native Villanovans (& named Tuscany) in north Italy. In a similar way, the mainly Semitic groups naming Canaan came to have Aegeo/Cretan and later Danioi/Danaan rulers who in time came to be conquered by and absorbed into Israel.

A recent book by Trude and Moshe Dothan bears the title of “ A People of the Sea: The Search for the Philistnes 1996). They say that Plst/Prst (an Egyptian term for the Peleset/Pelethites = Philistines) may appear in Prstvae (a tribe of the Illyrian/Croatian coast), so may be part of the maritime dispersal of the Sea-Peoples after the Egyptian victories. Contained mainly within Philistia but very much older, was what became Latinised as Via Maris (= the Way of the Sea). A major Philistine deity was the half-man/half-fish god named Dagon. He seems to have been a maritime deity. The question must be why would the supposedly non-maritime Philistines need a god of the sea? Equally, what need would the Philistines have for anything contained in this paragraph if they were not sea-minded?

If the emergence of Phoenicians and Philistines is chronologically tied, evidence of the Phoenicians on the A/A/A-arc at the time of the latter is to be expected. The opening of pages of Herodotus incorporate a version of what caused war between Mycenaean/Achaean Greeks and that seeming ally of Hatti called Troy. This is called the “Persian” version of the events that led to this war between the Mycenaeans and the Trojans. The Persians blamed the Phoenicians for starting tit-for-tat kidnappings that would eventually lead to Paris of Troy (& son of the King of the Trojans) abducting Helen (wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta). Herodotus apparently regarded the Phoenicians as the fount of all subsequent Euro/Asian disputes

Persian and Greek belong to what has been already been seen as the I/E family of tongues. The earliest known written Greek is that called Linear-B by archaeologists. Several Semitic words appear in Linear-B Script. They include Semitic (Akkadian samassama, Ugaritic ssm) as Greek sesame; Sem. (Akk. kittinu, Ug. ktn, Hebrew ktonet) as Gk. kito (= chiton = light armour and/or tunic); Sem. (Akk. kurasa, Ug. krs, Heb. harus) as Gk. kurosa (= gold), etc. Linear-B also includes ponikijo. This not only pertained to an ointment but also apparently means Phoenician, so may connect with the herba Phoenica (= Phoen. spice) mentioned by Pliny (1st c.A.D. Roman). In passing and given the very long Phoenician ties with Cyprus, it is interesting that Cyprus is called kuprijo ( = Land of Copper) in Linear-B.

This ancient linkage of Canaan/Phoenicia and Alasiya/Kuprijo (= Cyprus)has great interest in the light of Gelidonya (Turkey) and Uluburun Turkey) wrecks. Paul Nicholson et al  (Journ. of Eg. Arch.1998) shows close Egyptian links for the glass ingots of the Uluburun shipwreck. An opinion oft-cited says Egypt did not make glass but relied mainly on captured craftsmen to do so. Certainly, Pliny gave glassmaking a Sidonian (= Can./Phoen.) origin and the Bass/Pulak  views ( as Pulak IJNA 1998) of the Gelidonya/ Uluburun ships is that they too are most likely to be Syro/ Canaanite.   

Some balance for these Semito/Canaanite/Phoenician words in Early Greek are words if evident I/E origin that should mean that they are of Greek sources and appear in early Phoenician. Thus Greek navis/anaji (= ship) as Phoenician oni (= boat) and oniyath (= ship); Greek kerkouris (= warship) as Phoenician kirkarrah; Greek gaulois (= merchant-man/cargo-ship) as Phoenician golah.

Paul Johnstone (Seacraft in Prehistory 1980) points to the Greek hippos (= horse) being so named both the horse-headed stems-&-sterns and its being the workhorse of the sea from its lighterage, harbour and offshore duties; observe the too the comments of those noting the dhow (and its descendants) of east Africa and south Yemen with camel-headed figureheads as the “camels of the sea”. On the other hand,  practical boat/ship-building had been around for millenia, so it may yet prove that proven principles of  bouyancy were at work here.


Most with any knowledge of English Medieval history will know the phrase of “England beyond Wales”. It refers to Dyfed (= s/west Wales) being occupied by Anglo/Normans before the intervening parts of Wales were conquered. The alliance of Hiram of Tyre and Solomon of Israel led to the Aqaba/Elath/Eilat region of Israel being “Phoenicia beyond Israel” as Phoenicians from the city-state of Tyre built ships for Solomonic Israel of what has been called the Tarshish type. The name may be from their being built at Tarshish and/or from running between a place called “Tarshish” and Israel.

The Bible almost joins Aqaba/Elath to Ezion-geber but they were separate. Patai thought it likely that Elath was the inland district  and that Ezion-geber was the port/harbour/shipyard where the ships were built. Patai refers to excavations at Tell-el-Khelefyah. Here were found fragments of thick rope, nails of iron and an of alloy of copper plus iron lumps of resin caulking between planks and pitch for tarring them all over the outside of a ship. These are all relevant for shipbuilding that may in turn indicate that here was where Phoenicians built ships for Solomon.

Rafael Patai (Children of Noah- Jewish Seafaring through the Ages 2001) also adverts to Jezirat Fara’oun (= Pharoah’s Isle). It is an island in the Gulf of Aqaba/Elath and is yet another candidate for being Ezion-geber. It may yet prove that the shipbuilding occurred in more than one place. Certainly given the Phoenician predilection for secure bases and the fact that Edomite/Idumaean Yemenis several times  raided Ezion-geber, this would probably be a prudent thing to do. At the same time, of exactly the right period is the island harbour that is of typically Phoenician form.

The book in the Bible that is 1 Kings also says ships were later built at Ezion-geber in the reign of Jehosophat (King of Judah). They were destroyed when still in the harbour (presumably by the east wind described in Psalm 41). So significant was this event that a supernatural explanation was sought. In this case it came up that God objected to the alliance of Jehosophat and Azahiah (King of Israel & husband of Jezebel) and sunk the Jewish fleet in anger. Absolutely salient here is the absence of Phoenicians during Jehosophat’s shipbuilding activities.

If Jezirat Fara’oun fits one typical pattern, Jezirat Tiran fits yet another. Tiran is another island in the Gulf of Aqaba/Elath but this time at the mouth of the Gulf. Goods from the southern and central parts of the Red Sea were transhipped to other vessels on an island at the northern end of the Red Sea. George Hourani (Arab Seafaring 1996) would identify that island with Tiran. Islands offshore as bases that could be made secure in times of trouble was typically Phoenician and both Fara’oun and Tiran both belong here, so may mean that this Red Sea commerce was in Phoenician hands for a while.

On the Red Sea or west coasts of Arabia were several kingdoms. According to The People's List, Hamitic Peoples they were Ausan (= Awsan = Uzal = Sanaa), Hatzar-mavet (= Hadramaut), Maan (= Main = Minnae), Qataban (= Qahtan = Savtekan), Seba(= Saba = Seva), Joktan, etc.  An official site at the Saudi Embassy Magazine, Winter 97 regards the jewelry of modern Yemeni women as showing considerable influence(s) from Phoenician beads, goldwork, jewelry, etc. Comparable jewelry is worn by women throughout the Islamic world. Further thought to indicate the Phoenician presence are what appear to be ProtoYemeni scripts.

As to scripts, the test is their usefulness. Thus J. O. Lucas (Religion of the Yorubas 1947 & 1999) traced hieroglyphs as part of Egyptian influences on west Africa and that as this lessened, new and more localised forms occurred in Yorubaland (Nigeria). Bernardino de Sahagun (16th c. Spanish) collected PreConquest tales in Mexico. He showed the hieroglyphs brought “from the sunrise” (= the east) lessened over time, so again different writing emerged. Mention has been made of Linear-B Script but not that it is supposed to have been replaced by a Cadmean-derived (= Phoenician) alphabet.

Clearly, not all these instances are precise parallels and the matter is complicated by the relationship of Linear-B and the Cypriote Syllabary used till late centuries B.C. However, as the Phoenicians had very close links with Cyprus, it might expected the Cadmean script to be in use yet the Linear-tied Cypriote Syllabary continued till very late. On the other hand, it is Greek legend stating Cadmus of Phoenicia brought symbols that became the basis of the most Western alphabets. This is reinforced by those seeking a Phoenician-derived ProtoYemeni/Nabataean/Yemeni sequence. In all cases, utility will have seen off anything earlier and would be especially true of maritime book-keepers.

More Sabaean products are aromatic gums, notably myrrh plus frankincense.  These gums or resins in Yemen are mainly from plants grown from Oman in the east to Yemen in the west.   They came along what might be recalled the Sheba or overland route apparently running parallel with Red Sea coasts from Yemen in the south to the Gulf of Aqaba/Elath in the north. They also came in ships built by  Phoenicians to Aqaba/Elath and further north.

Chapters in the Book of Genesis speak of the sons of Joktan as including Havilah, Ophir, Seba, etc. From this Joktan is taken to mean most of that Peninsula and that Havilah, Ophir and Seba were part of what are now called Yemen/Oman. This will mean that the gold of Ophir of which much is made in the Old Testament is from some part of Yemen. This gold is also referred to in an inscription on potsherd from Tell Qasile (nr. Tel Aviv, Israel). This does much to confirm this was not purely legendary. The gold and gums from Yemen were part of the cargoes taken to the Israel ruled by Solomon in ships constructed mainly by the Phoenicians.

The fact that Arabic and Phoenician are Semitic languages might explain the similarities. Equally, it should be said that one name is that of the greatest of the  Phoenician colonising cities, namely Tyre (now Sur). The other is that of the most famous of Phoenician colonies, Kuryat as Carthage. Miles was inclined to this opinion. So too are messrs. Cary & Warmington (The Ancient Explorers 1929 & 1963) in an admittedly brief but apparently favourable reference to the Miles article. Their book is described by Rhys Carpenter in the like-themed “Beyond the Pillars of Hercules” (1973) as “authoritative”.

Sailing on the IOW has a very considerable antiquity behind it. Thus the tentative sea-fishing shown by apparent nets, finds of like type on various islands showing inter-island movement in Indonesia Im. and 1/2m. years ago. Australia was reached c. 50,000 years ago from Indonesia. The island-name of Java (Indonesia) is echoed by several in the Pacific and there is the astonishing mass-migration from Java to Madagascar. There is also the apparently extensive sea-trade between “Melluha” (=? Harappan India), Tilmun/Dilmun (= ? Bahrein) and Makkan (= Sumeria = south Iraq). There is more than enough here to indicate that any Phoenician trading here would do so by tapping into very long-established patterns that included Havilah, Ophir plus Tarshish.

Ships of the type of the type called Tarshish are closely linked to the Phoenician city-state named Tyre in the book of the Bible that is Ezekiel: with going west from Jaffa (Israel) to Tarshish in the Book of Job; with Carthage by the Jewish savants translating from Hebrew to Greek; with Tartessos by such as Hippolytus of Rome (3rd c. A.D. Greek), Eusebius of Caesarea (3rd c. A. D. Greek), etc. The latter is followed by many modern commentators.

Ships of the Tarshish class seen above to have been built at Ezion-geber are thought to have then gone through the Gulf of Aqaba into the Red and Erythraean (= western Indian Ocean) Seas. This can only mean that the eastern and western instances of Tarshish as a placename were geographically far apart. Complicating this further are another series of names. They are such “Sons” of Javan as Dodanim/Rodanim, Tarshish, Alashiya, etc. Javan is clearly  Ionia (= Greek cities in Anatolia), Rodanim is thought to be Rhodes, Tarshish is Tarsus (Turkey & birthplace of Saul of Tarsus/St. Paul), Alashiya is very definitely Cyprus (as proven by Hittite, Ugaritic & Assyrian texts), etc. There being more than one Tarshish is by no means a new idea, as it is mentioned in William Smith’s Dict. of the Bible (1857). This will be seen to be the case with other places with good Phoenician links.

This will mean that places called Tarshish existed in three different places, presumably on Red Sea, the A/A/A-arc plus west Iberia and given that both “Tarshish” and somewhere called “Ophir” have several claimants, this becomes even more complex. This is despite that online (ktrcom.tripod/krtajingham/id) it is claimed that the question is settled once and for all where Ophir was. Included there are such Tamil words in Hebrew in ipam (= Heb. ibha = Eng. ivory), kapi (= Heb. kapi = Eng. apes), aighil (= Heb. ahalim = Eng. incense), tokai (= Heb. tukeyium = Eng. peacocks), etc. These are among what Phoenicians brought from “Tarshish” to Israel, so may fit with Tamil ovar (= craftsmen) as Heb. Ophir  but this is more complex.

Favourites for being Ophir are Sophara and Sofala. In both cases, the s-prefix is seen regarded as having been dropped over the course of time to become Ophara and Ofala. Sophara is India in that Yemeni-influenced descendant of Old-Egyptian called Coptic and apparently came via Yemeni. Sofala is from Yemeni safala (= shallows/shoals). As these words attach to the rise of Islam, they are plainly irrelevant for the origin of placenames recorded in the 1st millennium B.C. If the dropping of the s-prefix is so important, it is worth noting the capital of Seba/Saba was Safara and a dropped-s would give Afara. This in turn fits with what was said above about Ophir and it seems to me that there is no valid reason for a change of mind here.

Numerous online sites suppose Phoenicians reached such as Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia. Apart from the Phoenician connection, a major characteristic of most of these sites is that they rarely get the support that they might expect from certain quarters.


Background: East Africa and the Red Sea

With but one exception (discussed below), movement across the Red Sea takes most attention and west/east seems earliest. This is based on tools of a type named Olduwan after Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania) between 1m. and 50,000/40,000 years ago. There are also claims of languages of apparent east African source(s) in west/south Arabia that by c.4000 B.C. were apparently starting to be Semitised. In early centuries A.D., Kings of Axum (nth. Ethiopia) are recorded as having ruled parts west Yemen.

Yet it is east/west movement that is best known. Most famous are elements from west Yemen reaching parts of east Africa and most notable are from Saba/Seba. The Bible has (the Queen of) Sheba getting to Israel by camel, the Koran has Solomon coming to the Queen and the Kebra Negast (= Book of Kings = the national epic of Eth.) has her reaching Israel from Ethiopia (& returning pregnant). Psalm 72 (usually attributed to Solomon) distinguished between Seba (= Saba) and Sheba (=? nth. Ethiopia). Steering between this and the umpteen theories, it seems safest to assume that south Arabia gave part of Ethiopia a ruling dynasty and the Geez language of Semitic origin.

Matthew Curtis (Cultural exchange across the Red Sea) adverts to Ethiopian obsidian in Predynastic Egypt (3500/3200 B. C.) It will be seen that other east African material also reached early Egypt and it may be that this sometimes comes from south of the Horn of Africa (Somalia). The one exception to the fame of the Saba (Seba/Yemen)/Sheba (= Ethiopia) connection as indicative of Red Sea movement is that of Egypt to “Punt” (& the reverse). Punt seems to have also  been called Gods’-land by the Egyptians. Punt/Gods’-land seems to have been some  part of east Africa that is now represented by such as Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea (formerly the coast of Ethiopia) etc.

South of the Horn

Some writers (Zanzibar Portal) regard it is as likely that islands off such coasts as east Africa as Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania were being occupied by about the time of the latter stages of the Olduwan form(s) in Arabia. By 3500-3000/1500 B. C., it seems Africans were reaching Madagascar. Or at least there is a sharing of the names of the Agysimba (? of east Sudan), Vazimba, Symboaye/Zymboaye (once used of Zimbabwe), Simba (a people of east Africa), Vazimba ( a little-known  people driven into the interior of Madagascar), etc. W. H. Ingrams (Zanzibar: Its Hist. & its People 1931) commenting on the speech of people from the Comoros (islands off nth. Mad.), says it is not Yemeni and makes it African.   Musimbi/Muzimbi seems to be a part of a pattern of African names echoed across the sea has interest on several counts. So too must be that it identifies Mozambique. This is because there are suggestions that Mozambique is named from Mouzinho de Alburquerque (19th c. Portugese). Against this is the fact that Vasco da Gama (15/16th c. Portugese) had already referred to Mozambique and apparently thought it meant  “place of boats”. The significance of this comes home when it is realised that legends of very mixed sources in the Maldives (islands in the Indian Ocean) combine Mozambique at one end and Siam/Thailand at the other, in short, the length of the Indian Ocean.

A major factor in sailing on the Indian Ocean is mastery of the monsoon-cycle and looming large in this is the apparent longevity of sailing on various coasts facing the Indian Ocean in what are now Indonesia, India and east Africa. Roughly every six months, the pattern changes. Thus every winter monsoons blow northeast/southwest or India to Arabia/east Africa and reverse direction in the summer. Journeys across the Indian Ocean by east Africans are discussed by Y. M. Kobanishchanow ( Journal of African Hist. 1965), Richard Pankhurst (Ethiopia Across the Red Sea and Indian Ocean) plus others.   

This was all based on the hollowed-out tree-trunk or dugout-canoe. It was not the only the standard African form at this time but also continued until millennia later, as the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (c. 50 A.D. Greek) shows them used by Africans trading with foreigners in east Africa in much the manner reported in the PseudoScylax (? 400 B. C.? Carian) summary of the Periplus of Hanno (c.500 B. C. Carthaginian) showing Africans trading with foreigners in west Africa.

Dugouts were usually paddled but could also be sailed and it may be relevant that tanga (= sail) seemingly occurs in east Africa as part of Tanganyika (= the major part Tanzania). This was/is also the case in the Pacific Ocean, where the basis of the Polynesian diaspora was the dugout that were both paddled and sailed. So too was the dugout-canoe in west Africa. The west African dugout was successfully taken across the Atlantic by Hannes Lindemann. The Lindemann voyage continued the millennia-long all-fish diet of the African Aqualithic and naming the Icthyophagi (= Fish-eaters). This all goes to show that the African dugout is surprisingly seaworthy.    

It may or may not correct to regard the anonymous Greek merchant that wrote The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea as the otherwise unknown Greek merchant called Diogenes by Ptolemy (2nd c. A.D. Alexandrine Greek) but is a working theory. “Diogenes” is also said by Ptolemy to have been wrecked on that part of the IOW coast of east Africa labelled as Ausanitic by “Diogenes” and off which was put the Sea of Azania by Pliny (1st c. A.D. Roman).  Azania was said by “Diogenes” to begin at Opone (= Hafun/Ras Hafun, Somalia) and was said to have its last market at Cape Rhapton (=? the Rufiji Delta, Kenya) according to Ptolemy.

From this it seems that the distinction between Saba/Seba and Sheba is paralleled by Ausan and Ausan/Azania (in east Africa south of the Horn of Africa). “Diogenes” says that each of the ports of Azania had its own chief. This is a pattern that makes more sense of the maritime connections that Leo Frobenius (Voice of Africa 1913) described as a littoral empire on coasts of west Africa. What this also shows is that while here there were commercial rivals they were also trading partners.

Part of this background lies in the poor soils of most of the small islands/islets that meant fishing supplemented by trading were the economic mainstays not farming. This does much to explain the likely littoral trade-network of east Africa rather than the Phoenicians further suggested to have gone on to have built Great Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe). This was seen to have had a west African parallel from what was seen to have been said by Frobenius. Such writers as Mikey Brass (The Antiquity of Man), Felix Chami (Tanzanian dig unearths ancient secret), Harry Bourne (West Africa & the Sea in Antiquity), etc demonstrate this as mainly in African hands.

Traders on these coasts have been touched on and those with light skins reported by Abu ibn Hawqal (10th c. Arab) have been regarded as Greeks in east Africa. Henri de Contenson (UNESCO Gen. Hist. of Af. 1981) cites a stone throne from Haoulti-Melagi (Eth.) bearing carvings men with “Semitic” noses that may be more of ibn Hawqal’s light-skinned traders. If taken as Arabs, they stand with such south Sabaean state-names as Seba/Sheba, Ausan, etc, in parts of east Africa south of the Horn. Kaseem Abdullah (Ancient Records) citing messrs. Crabtree ( Primitive Speech 1922) and Ingrams (Zanz.: Its Hist. & People 1931) tying Arapin and Aamu (= ?Old-Eg. for Arab) and Arabic al-Amu (= ? Lamu; an island off Kenya).

A layout reflecting northern skies not those of south of the Equator has prompted suggestions of Egyptians building Great Zimbabwe (naming the modern state). A connection of the falcon/hawk-headed Horus (an Egyptian god) and the birds of soapstone carved at Gt. Zimbabwe has been allowed in the past. The birds of the Astarte-cult at Sidon (an early Phoen. city) and those of soapstone at Gt. Zimbawe have also been compared. One of the first Europeans to see Great Zimbabwe was Carl Mauch (19th c. German). He thought the Cedars of Lebanon (= Phoenicia) were the source of the timber used at Gt. Zimbabwe. Mauch concluded that Phoenicians built  the monument in the time of the Queen of Sheba.

Matthew Hall (Timeless Time) cited Theodore Bent as holding similar views but denying the Sheba linkage. As did William Hall and Richard Neal (The Ruins of Rhodesia 1904).  Hall, as curator of the monument felt the need to remove the “Kaffir” filth from the place. When it is realised that Kaffir was/is the white South African equivalent of the U. S. term of the N word, the racist basis of this thinking is immediately exposed. This is nicely underlined by the comparison by Bent of Black Africans/Kaffirs and baboons.

Early phases at Great Zimbabwe appear to begin c. 200 A.D., its main floruit was of the 13th. c A. D.. and was still being added to in the 15th c. It has several close relatives spread over a wide region. Plainly, our putative Phoenician architect(s) would not only have been remarkably elderly but also somewhat busy. It is also known that almost every feature known at Great Zimbabwe are known in the region around. Most of them produce the Karanga Ware of the ancestors of the Shona (easily the largest ethnic grouping of modern Zimbabwe).

In any case, what is left unexplained is how Egypt and/or Phoenicia suddenly acquired the military wherewithal to march several hundreds of miles inland, conquer large parts of east-central Africa and construct a capital at Great Zimbabwe. The more so given that the Phoenician city-states never really combined to give military clout at home and certainly would not have so thousands of miles away.

The roots of these views are that Black Africa could not possibly erect large structures. The stone-&-earth banked-enclosures in west Africa named after Eredo (Nigeria) are not just said to be the largest structures in SubSaharan Africa but also to be the largest in the whole continent of Africa (inc. the Pyramids). They are also claimed to be the largest ancient structures after the Great Wall of China and to have involved more labour than the Pyramids. The Pyramids, Eredo-types and Great Zimbabwe possess several shared traits. They all attest very organised societies; owe very little/nothing to outside; that very large ancient structures could be built in Black Africa; etc. but above all, are all largely  products of SubSaharan/Black Africa .

If correct, it means that this cannot be tied to Egyptians and/or any Phoenicians coming after them coming to Punt. Given the umpteen attempts at locating where Punt was, it might be asked why bother? Nor is this helped by what appear to be incorrect assumptions claimed about Greeks and Yemenis on these coasts.

Possible early Greeks on these coasts would be ruled out on the light-skinned traders. This may mean that that the gentlemen with aquiline/Semitic noses seen to have carved on the Haoulti-Melagi throne and ibn Hawqal’s light-skinned traders were as likely to have been Phoenician as anything else.

Monsoons are called “the rains” in the Rigveda (c.1000 B. C. Indian) and Vasco da Gama (15th /16th cs) wanting to take pepper-plants back to Portugal, prompted Indian comment “he may take our plants but he cannot take our rains”. The four months of waiting before “The Shipwrecked Sailor” could return to Egypt and what was said above about the long history of sailing in east Africa suggests the same for the length of east Africa. Ingrams linking the Aamu with of the Egyptians and the al-Amu (? naming the off-Kenya island of Lamu) of the Yemenis shows on coasts with which historically they had very close ties using the monsoons. This very long background for use of the monsoon-cycle for sailing directly from India to east Africa and back takes us to the story of “The Half-drowned (Indian) Sailor” who apparently took Eudoxus (2nd c. B. C. Greek) directly to India. No less an ancient authority than Herodotus places Phoenicians on east African coasts.

It is wrong to conclude that the first direct crossings of the western Indian Ocean or the Erythraean Sea date only from the days of Hippalos, indeed this must be so as the voyage of Eudoxus occurred 2/300 years before Hippalos. If this is so fundamentally incorrect, it follows that any comments denying Phoenicians any knowledge will be equally so. After all, the Phoenicians knew that south of the Equator the sun was on the right and this too was equally a part of the natural phenomena of the Indian Ocean.  

East Africans and Phoenicians are shown as partners-in-trade by J. T. Wheeler (The Geo. of Herodotus 1854). Hebrews plus Phoenicians (seen above) and Egyptians plus Phoenicians (just below) are well known partners-as-trade. From what has just been said, the same  seems likely for the Phoenicians on Red and IOW Seas. Sataspes (c.? 600 B.C.) attempting to round Africa could have been stopped at any time by Carthage (a Phoen. colony) but he was sent by Persia (a Phoen. ally). The Phoenician colony of Karikon (Morocco) may have carried the name of the Carian allies of the Phoenicians. PseudoScylax (see above) attests west Africans and Phoenicians as partners in west Africa. Rufus Avienus (4th c. A.D.? Roman) says the same of Tartessos (s/west Spain) and Phoenicians and Phoenicians from Carthage and Gadir/Cadiz in west Europe.

Ships built of timber from the Cedars of Lebanon prove links between Egypt and Phoenicia/Lebanon, as far back as the reign of Sahure (see above). Of the New Kingdom (1600-1100 B. C.). were shipyards at Saqqara (Egypt) of KPT/KBT (= kepenite) class otherwise called Byblos(= Geibel; an early Phoen. city). Craftsmen at Saqqara included “Asiatics” (a standard Old-Egyptian term for Semites). R. D. Barnett (Antiquity 1958) says this usually means Phoenicians.

Instances of ships built by Phoenicians that then took part in Red and IOW Sea trade have been seen but applied to Bybliote/KBT ships would have been rather earlier than what is suggested for Tarshish ships built for Solomon of Israel. However, there hints are that chronological problems can be lessened. The ships used on trips to Punt/God’s-Land as depicted in scenes painted on the walls on the tomb of Hatshepsut (15th c. B. C. Pharoah/Queen). A scene painted in the mortuary-temple of Hatshepsut shows Perehu (King of Punt) and Ati (his wife). The king wore the asem (= ring[s] of gold) on his right leg, in fact several of them. These rings are so closely associated with Phoenicians, that on occasion, Punt is seen as Phoenicia. This would indicate Phoenicians in east Africa before c. 1500 B. C. (but see below).

One method of commerce is that variously called dumb/silent trade/barter/commerce. It is recorded by Cosmas Indicopleustes (6th c. A. D. Alexadrine Greek) in east Africa (esp. Ethiopia) and Herodotus (5th c. B. C. Ionian Greek) in west Africa (esp. west Magreb). This silent/dumb-trade was a system devised to try and draw hostile or timid tribes into trading. Herodotus says that the people who devised the system were the Phoenicians. If longevity is a true test of utility, it can be noted it was still being recorded in parts of Africa into the 19th c.

Herodotus further says that this needs complete trust on both sides. The same could be said of partners-in-trade and Phoenicians. In the Indian Ocean World (= IOW), this could be attached generally plus to what will be called here the Port-Suez-to-Port Said (= Suez-to-Said = S/S) voyages (as this approximates to what Herodotus says re. the Necho-funded circumnavigation of Africa by Phoenicians). Either or both could be the agent for the spread of the Kora harp traced to Madagascar and parts of east Africa in history of harps by Alison Vardy (Celtic Harp). Vardy attributes this to the Phoenicians.  

The royal dog of Madagascar is the breed called the Bichon and their spread is put to Phoenicians and other sailors. A somewhat smaller island is Lamu (off Kenya). Here are cats with many traits shared with those depicted in various Egyptian media.. Neil Todd (Scientific American 1977), James Baldwin (Carnivores Genetics Newsletter 1979) and H. & M. Bourne (Feline Hist. Group Newsletter 2002) show their spread. J.O. Lucas (see below) shows many west African words for cats owing nothing to Europe but may owe something to Egypt. Cats were so highly regarded that well into the 19th c., Yemeni crews in east Africa refused to sail unless a cat was on board. The crews that are held to have aided spread the ships’-cat are again Phoenician plus others.

Egyptians and Phoenicians in east Africa

It has to be said that there was/is very considerable scepticism about non-IOW foreigners from the Egypt-to-Punt ships on east African coasts south of the Horn. This applies especially to Phoenicians on what is seen here as the Necho-funded S/S voyage. One question to be asked is why would an Egyptian king send Phoenicians to circumnavigate Africa? How credible is what Herodotus says about this voyage. The more so given that the S/S voyage took three years to complete, their crew sowed crops en route and reported the sun was on the right for the part of the journey.

Punt was generally seen as God’s-Land too. It is probably some part of Somalia/Djibouti/Eritrea (formerly the coast of Ethiopia.). The voyages apparently began in the reign of Sahure of the 5th Dynasty (25th c. B. C.), had their floruit in the time of Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty (15th c. B. C.) and were still being referred to in the reign of Pharoah Necho of the 26th Dynasty (7th c. B. C.).

These are probably the only movements on the Red Sea more famous than those going across that sea. Occasionally, it seems these voyages came south of the Horn but this may not always have intentional. One such example would be “The Voyage of the Shipwrecked Sailor” (c. 2000 B. C. Egyptian). The “Sailor” spins a tale of a wondrous island identified by him with Punt and ruled by a giant serpent. Some writers would point out wondrous also applies equally to the large island of Madagascar. Further is that William Ellis (Hist. of Mad. c. 1838 & Crocodiles in Madagascar - PDF) points out a giant serpent also occurs in a Malagasy folktale from Madagascar.

Another Punt-like voyage but south of the Horn is that attributed by Herodotus to a Pharoah he calls Sesostris. The Sesostrids are usually seen as those Pharoahs of the 12th Dynasty (19th c. to 17th cs. B. C.) aka Senusret. Herodotus seemingly incorporates elements of a journey made by a Ramessid Pharoah of the 12th Dynasty (late 13th to 12th cs. B. C.) again south of the Horn so far as can be established from Egyptian texts. H. says Sesostris/Senusret finished his trip in shoals. It may be relevant to note Sofala (Mozambique) seems to be named from Yemeni sufala (= shoals or shallows (but observe the Periplus saying the same of Red Sea coasts) .

Goods brought from Punt to Egypt included aromatic gums/resins and woods, certain minerals (antimony, tin, gold, etc). The ships in which they came were sometimes of timber. If of local timber this would have been of the short lengths of acacia-wood noted from the Dahshur ships (c. 2500 B. C.) to those described by Herodotus (c. 450 B. C.), as Egypt grows few large trees. If of imported timber, this is most likely to have been of Cedars of Lebanon (= Phoenicia) indicating contact between Egypt and Byblos (an important Palaeo/Early Phoen. city). Ships of the KPT/KBT or Bybliote type were so-called from being on the Egypt-to-Byblos run or from being built at Byblos (= Gebel/Geibel).

The most important material for Egyptian shipbuilding seems to have been reeds. Reed-ships have been demonstrated by Thor Heyerdal (The Ra Voyages 1971, The Tigris Voyage 1981) to have been very seaworthy on two separate oceans, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. It seems the well- known “Makan” ships trading between India and the Near East were of this material. They most  famously  were built at Saqqara (Egypt) by shipwrights that included “Asiatics”. The latter was a common term for mainly Semites. No less an authority than R. D. Barnett (Antiquity 1958) thought these Semitic names included many that were Phoenician.

If the quality of Egyptian shipbuilding is judged by some of those found close to burial-complexes, it was poor indeed. Many would have sunk within five minutes of entering the water. It would not have been helped by the religious taboo banning Egyptians from sailing on the sea (see above). Many writers have pointed out that the Old-Egyptian word of ym (= sea) is usually expressed in syllabic not hieroglyphic form and that this shows a foreign word. The suggestion is that this particular foreign word is the Semitic word of yam(=sea) and that this would have come with the Phoenician shipbuilders and/or sailors already seen in Egypt.

Some of the changes attendant on the defeat(s) of the Sea-Peoples by the Egyptians were described above. One not touched on is the growing lack of respect towards the Pharoah detailed in the “Tale of Wen-Amun” (11th c. B. C. Egyptian). What was indicated is that from now on, the position had changed and no longer was respect automatic from inhabitants of Canaan/Phoenicia towards rulers of Egypt. The new attitude is shown by Zakar-Bel (king of Byblos) towards Wen-Amun (emissary of Pharoah Ramesis XI). This basically was that if you want timber from us, let us see the colour of your money first.

Trading between Egypt and Punt was on a different basis. Scenes painted at Deir-el-Bahari (Egypt) attest Egyptians trading mainly strings of beads for Puntite raw materials in Punt. Mustapha Haji Nur (Somaliland the "Land of Punt"  and it's Ties with Ancient Egypt) notes apparent finds of Egyptian beads of  the 11th Dynasty and 18th Dynasty in Kenya and Jubaland (Som./Kenya) respectively. This is reinforced by such as a claimed Egyptian statuette at Mogadishu (Somalia), the Chami finds made at Juani Cave (Mafia Island, Tanz.), (?) possible trips by Sesostris and Ramesis south of the Horn, etc. By the time of the later finds, the Bible tell us that Phoenicians and Janet Picton (Phoenicians in Egypt) show Phoenicians as carriers for the Hebrews and the Egyptians.

Nur also says the Old-Egyptian and Somali hur (= hawk) shows a hawk-headed god from Egypt to Somalia. There is also a general comparison of Egyptian and Puntite/Somali shipbuilding. Moreover, Nur refers to headrests called barsi in Old-Egyptian and barshi/barshin (= berkin). The possible Egyptian links shown south of the Horn are further on this, moreover, Phoenicians on these coasts are proven, if what Herodotus says about Phoenicians rounding Africa is correct.

Phoenicians & east Africans in east Africa

Attempted tying of tying of  “birds” in Egypt/Somalia and Gt. Zimbabwe brings even greater dating problems than those of Phoenicia and Gt. Zimbabwe. However, a linkage of those of Sidon (Phoen.) and ancestral forms of what was carved at Great Zimbabwe remains possible (note the influence of the birds on centuries-later Zimbabwean sculpture). Moreover, hawks/falcons are seen as godly/royal symbols elsewhere in Africa. Thus J. O. Lucas (Religion of the Yorubas 1947 & 2001) and Eva Meyerowitz (Divine Kingship in Ghana 1963) trace this Nigeria and Ghana respectively. Charles Seligman (Divine Kingship in Egypt & Negro Africa 1934) saw this falcon/hawk-worship in Africa as Phoenician-spread.

This accords with any Phoenico/Punic influence in middle and eastern Africa being in other than military fields. Clyde Winters ( shows Posidonia (= part of Ethiopia) and notes the Icthyophagi (= Fish-Eaters) of Ethiopia/Somalia honoured “Poseidon”. The trident-symbol of “Poseidon” is noted in east Africa by Ingrams (so Tanz. & Zanzibar) and Palmer in west Africa (so Gambia & Kanem parts of Nig.). H. R. Palmer (The Carth. Voyage to West Africa 1931) also gave an Afro/Phoenician ancestry to Poseidon. A. A. Webb (Phoenician influence on Greek Religion) shows extensive Phoenician influence on early Greek myth and Chronology of Greek Mythology has “apo Sidon” (= Father [of the Phoen. city] of S.) and/or “abo Sidon” (= from S.) giving Poseidon. The perhaps surprising source of Lucas says Ziphon (= Phoen. storm-god) became Typhon (one of the roaring giants of Greek mythology called the Titans).

Gods of the sea and/or storms are to be expected of maritime peoples. Certainly, the dangers of east African shores are nicely proven by such as the tales of the Shipwrecked and Half-drowned Sailors, the Phoenico/Punic wreck found by Eudoxus, that of Eudoxus himself, that of “Diogenes”, etc. Also the Sesostrid and Ramessid voyages that may have ended in the Sofala shoals/shallows may be borne in mind. It may be relevant that the Eudoxus-found wreck was found near Cape Prasum (= ?Cape Delgado, Tanz./Moz.border), could have been heading towards Cape Rhapta (= the ?Rufiji Delta) and was apparently seen as Phoenico/Punic by the Greeks.

A chain at Bulbury  (Hants, Eng.) and a sword at Ballyshannon (Donegal, Ire.) from (?) Celtic ships; anchor-stocks at Setubal (Portugal) and Porth Felen (nth. Wales) from (?)Greek ships; a Roman pot of olla type and three coins in Iceland from (?)Roman ships,etc, fit a consistent pattern. It is one that means the somewhat more substantial find in the form of the prow of a ship found by Eudoxus is rather easier to accept as something authentic. Also that this wreck was that of a Phoenico/Punic ship and that its findspot at Cape Prasum/Delgado seems likely to indicate it was heading towards what Ptolemy referred to as the market of Rhapta/Rufiji.

It was seen there was this ancient trading-system from Opone/Hafun (Somalia) to Rhapta/Rufiji (Tanz.) and if correctly linked to some coastal wrecks, certain islands belong here too. They would include Lamu (Kenya), Pemba (Tanzania), Zanzibar (Tanz.), Mafia Island (Tanz.), Mozambique Island (= the Ilha, Moz.), etc. Such islands would be welcome as refuges from storms and /or monsoons. They would be near actual and/or potential customers but far enough offshore to be capable of being made secure temporarily if things went awry in times of trouble. This was an absolute Phoenician requirement.

Beads and other jewelry were seen to have been traded over most of this Somalia-to-Mozambique/South Africa spread from Egyptian times on, to judge from the “Puntite” scenes in Egyptian art and/or the finds noted above. The possibility that this continued into periods when Phoenicians were carrying goods for both Egypt and/or Israel is strengthened by other evidence. When noting that Phoenician influence is held to account for the form of Near Eastern jewelry, mention was also made of bead-types and gold rings that were shown in Puntite scenes. They are also known to have been made in Phoenicia.  

Egyptians in the role of the superior technology trading baubles/trinkets for the raw materials of the natives is a classic one. It will be obvious that by taking over types they knew to be popular on both sides of the Red Sea, the Phoenicians were following suit. This would be more so if we follow the opinion of Jona Lenderer (The First Circumnavigation of Africa). Lenderer noted that antimony occurs in the Punt cargoes reaching Egypt. He says that as antimony comes from Mozambique, Punt must be Mozambique and that Phoenicians followed on these same coasts.

Tin was another valuable commodity and remained so even when the combination of tin plus copper giving bronze gave way in the archaeological record to iron. Legend has it Phoenicia went to great lengths to obtain tin, even to seeking British tin but for which there is little proof. John Dayton (Technology and Provenance of Metals, Origins of Tin -- PDF) says Ugandan tin has an unmissable “signal” echoed in Haifa (Israel) tin-bronzes. John Taylor (Oxford Journal of Archaeology 1988) noted the closeness of dates for the Voyage of Hanno and that for the oldest workings for Nigerian tin. Both Dayton and Taylor attribute this tin-trade to Phoenicians.

On the Kenya/Mozambique/South Africa stretch of east Africa, it will be immediately apparent that even when exploring for others, the Phoenicians did not neglect commercial opportunities. Wheeler(The Geography of Herodotus1854) was of the opinion that these contacts kept the Phoenicians supplied with food once the victuals they had brought with them started to run out.

Another method of keeping themselves fed was to plant crops en route. This matches Tamerlane (15th c. Uzbek) taking waggon-loads of seed-corn to sow when on the long march from Uzbekistan to China. Similarly thorough were Eudoxus (2nd c. B. C.Greek) and the Vivaldo brothers (13th c. A. D. Italian), etc preparing for projected circumnavigations of Africa. One difference is that Eudoxus and the Vivaldos were never heard of again whereas, our Phoenicians were.

It was probably not until they were past the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa), that the Phoenicians on this S/S voyage had a need for further re-supply. On the arguments of  Wheeler , this would have been off Angola. Here would have occurred the first planting of crops referred to by Herodotus. It seems that this was part of what led to the whole journey (yet note that Tarshish voyages also took three years but if so, this was for different reasons). It was at some part of the northward leg that they would have noted that the sun was back in its familiar position of being to the north or left of the ship(s), so were  north of the Equator and homeward-bound.


As said near the beginning of this article, there are innumerable theories about most of what has been said here. My reference to the various Semitic groups are intended to to demonstrate that the Phoenicians are not non-Semitic in their taking to the sea but are one of several such groups. They may be exceptional in the lengths to which they took this but then the circumstance of the homeland in the Lebanon plus the strong I/E presence they apparently absorbed may partly explain this. Certainly, easily the thing for which they are most famous is their maritme expertise.

Nor should that of the east Africans be overlooked. The fact that Africans were capable of sailing along long stretches of east African coast lessens those arguing against the S/S  or Suez-toSaid journey on grounds of severe problems on those same shores.

Also the interactions between Africans and Phoenicians seems to have been absolutely crucial for this voyage. The reporting of the reverse position of the sun was what caused Herodotus to doubt the veracity of the Phoenicians on this count but is the very detail that prompts acceptance by most modern authorities. It should be noted also that virtually each and every point raised by Herodotus re. the S/S voyage has parallels elsewhere.

© Copyright 2003 Harry Bourne

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