Show students the painting of the Nubian envoys from Sebekhotep’s tomb. Ask them to identify the products they are bringing to the Egyptian king: gold rings, baskets of jasper and incense, ebony logs, animal skins, giraffes’ tails and live animals. Discuss why these things were valuable to the Egyptians. What might they have used them for? Repeat this exercise with the paintings of Syrian and Levantine envoys, identifying the horses, ivory and vessels of gold, silver and bronze.
Using the Egyptian geography resource in For the classroom, explore the topography of Egypt and discuss how it affected the way the Egyptians related to their neighbours. What were their natural defences? Where were they vulnerable? Who could they trade with?
Using the resources under More information in About the object, For the classroom and A bigger picture, discuss the different ways in which the Egyptians handled foreign relations with their neighbours. Why did they treat the Nubians differently from their northern neighbours? Read the class extracts from diplomatic letters, royal stelae and security reports. What were the results of these different policies? Which approach does the class think is best: diplomacy or conquest?
Read the class the scribe’s view of army life and compare it with the autobiographies of soldiers – see For the classroom. Who do they believe? The scribe’s account was part of a text taught to schoolboys. What do the students think the teachers wanted their pupils to learn from this? Which future would they choose – a secure job in the government or the chance of glory and riches in the army?
Use the interactive resources in For the classroom to compare Hatshepsut’s trading mission to Punt with Ramesses II’s expedition to Nubia. Ask students to imagine themselves as soldiers one of these expeditions. What would the journey have been like? How would they have felt at seeing the strange landscape and houses? What would they have thought of their reception? Students could create an account of the trip as they would tell it when they got home.
Using the maps in the Explore section of Egyptian geography (see For the classroom), ask students to locate Egypt’s natural resources. Use digital or hard copy images to create a map showing where they came from. Which resources did the Egyptians use themselves, and which did they export? Repeat the exercise for goods the Egyptians imported, adding these and their sources to the map to build up a picture of Egypt’s trading network. Have students research the main trade routes and add these to the map.
Explain how leaders of countries communicated in the ancient world, and compare their methods to those national leaders use today. Give groups simplified examples of diplomatic letters to and from the Egyptian court. What do they tell us about the relationships between Egypt and its neighbours? Ask students to imagine they are the recipient and write a reply to share with the class.
Egyptian traders often had to trade with people who did not speak a common language. One way this was achieved was for one party to make a pile of things they had to trade and stand back. The other party then selected what they wanted from that pile and made another pile of goods they were prepared to offer in payment. The two sides then added and subtracted from the piles until both parties were satisfied with the deal. Give groups some items to trade and let them try this method – no speaking allowed!