This study presents a revised view of Egyptian foreign relations in the eastern Mediterranean during the Old Kingdom (3rd-6th Dynasties) based on an extensive analysis of old and new archaeological data, and its relationship to the well-known textual sources. The material demonstrates that while Egypt’s most important relationships were with Byblos and the Lebanese coast generally, it was an active participant in the geo-political and economic affairs of the Levant throughout much of the third millennium BC.
The archaeological data shows that the foundation of these relationships was established at the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period and essentially continued until the end of the 6th Dynasty with ebbs, flows and changes of geographical and political emphasis. It is argued that, despite the paucity of textual data, the 4th Dynasty represents the apogee of Egypt’s engagement in the region, a time when the centralised state was at the height of its power and control of human and economic capital.
More broadly, this study shows that Egyptian interaction in the eastern Mediterranean fits the pattern of state-to-state contact between ruling elites which was underpinned by official expeditions engaged in gift and commodity exchange, diplomatic endeavours and military incursions.