Archaeology Odyssey 2:5, November/December 1999

Littoral Truths

The perils of seafaring in the Bronze Age

By Eric H. Cline

Poor Wenamun! Stranded in a foreign city, his money stolen and letters of introduction misplaced, the Egyptian official throws himself upon the mercy of the local administration—an all-too-familiar tale of a traveler in distress. But Wenamun’s story dates to the end of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1075 B.C.), in the days before American Express.

Wenamun’s calamities are recorded on an 11th-century B.C. hieratic papyrus now housed in Moscow’s Pushkin Museum. Our ancient traveler is dispatched from the Egyptian court to purchase wood at Byblos, a port city on the coast of what is now Lebanon. While moored in the harbor off the coast of Dor (in northern Israel), Wenamun is robbed by a crew member who makes off with his silver and gold.

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