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The Deep Dig

Trade Secrets of Ancient Egypt

Live Online

Thursdays, Mar. 7 - 28, 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm ET

$175 General | $125 Member

Egyptian Papyrus.

From pharaohs to merchants, meet history's earliest entrepreneurs fueling complex trade and business strategies. Join Shelby Justl, Ph.D. for a look at how the Ancient Egyptians took their economy and culture global in this four-week virtual course.

As one of the wealthiest civilizations in the ancient world, what was the secret to Egypt’s economic power? What were the cultural, environmental, and technological elements that shaped ancient Egypt’s long-enduring economic and political influence? Egyptians traded their own grain, gold, linen, and papyrus by land and sea to acquire resources such as ivory, incense, spices, and jewelry. This four-part course will examine the types of materials and finished objects imported and exported and their cultural meaning and social connotation as a luxury object or an item for the everyman. From pharaohs and merchants to craftsmen and administrative officials, meet history’s earliest moguls and entrepreneurs fueling sophisticated business strategies in this four-week course.

Don’t miss this incredible journey of human expression connecting us throughout the ages.

Week 1: Trade, Imports, and Exchange Rates in Ancient Egypt
Learn about trade from the early pharaoh burials of Abydos, which contained imported goods like lapis lazuli from outside of Egypt, as well as seashells and wine in jars adorned in hieroglyphs and ivory labels. Goods that came from land beyond the Egyptian Nile Delta were labeled to describe their contents. By looking at ancient receipts and records, you’ll learn about exchange rates and how items were valued, as well as objects made it into tomb and temple scenes.

Week 2: The Pharoah as Businessman and Diplomat
The pharaoh oversaw trade with foreign lands and often gave gifts to the leaders of other communities in Mycenae, Hatti, Mitanni, Assyria, and Babylon. This exchange of goods helped maintain diplomatic relations and avoid war. Expedition texts and biographies of Egyptian officials reveal data about travels abroad and the role of the official to bring back certain items as directly ordered by the pharaoh.

Week 3: Maritime Trade on the Nile, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean
Learn about the trials and tribulations that merchants, ship captains, and sailors faced traversing the "Great Green," as Egyptians called the Mediterranean Sea. Fictional stories, like the “Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor,” combine with archaeology of real shipwrecks. We’ll ask questions like, “What happens when ships sink?” and “What if someone steals your cargo?”

Week 4: Egyptian Culture Goes Global
What happened when Egyptian technology, culture, religion, and objects went abroad? We look at objects like Mycenean pottery in New Kingdom palace towns, as well as objects that mimicked Egyptian styles (known as “Egyptianizing” objects). Trade tools and religion traveled with Egyptian merchants and craftsmen as they moved and resettled, bringing their techniques and home deities to Egyptian administrative centers abroad, as in Beth Shean in Canaan.


About the Instructor

Shelby Justl.

Shelby Justl, Ph.D.

Shelby Justl is a Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, currently teaching in the Critical Writing Department. She graduated with a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations with a concentration in Egyptian Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. She also worked on the Penn Museum’s archaeological expedition in Abydos, Egypt.

Member Preview

February 27, 2024

7:00–7:45 pm

Members are invited to a free preview of this course. Join us for a sneak peek of the content, meet the instructor, and ask questions. Not a member? Join today.