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  Gebel es-Silsila
  Kawa (Gem-Aten)






The ancient seaport Byblos is one of the oldest continually habitated cities in the world. It was occupied at the latest by the Neolithic period (ca.8000-ca.4000 BCE), and during the 4th millenium BCE an extensive settlement was already developing. The first traces of Lebanon pottery come from this period at Byblos, as well as the first evidence of metallurgy (copper and later bronze). The Phonecians, a group ethnically identical to the Canaanites, arrived around 3000 BCE. Herodotus and other Classical historians claim that they came from the coasts of the Erythraean Sea (i.e. the Persian Gulf), but this cannot be confirmed. The first urban settlement dates from between 3050 and 2850 BCE, rougly contemporary with Egyptian Dynasties 0 and 1.

Commercial and religious relationships with Egypt were established as early as the Fourth Dynasty. The earliest represntation of Phonecians in Egyptian art comes from a damaged relief at Memphis from the reign of the Fifth Dynasty pharaoh Sahure. This shows a Phonecian princess arriving to marry the pharaoh, escorted by Asiatics in boats of the type which was probably meant by the Egyptian term "Byblos ships".

Around 2150 BCE (at the end of the Old Kingdom) Byblos was destroyed by fire, probably by the invading Amorites. The Amorites rebuilt the city and reestablished close relations with Egypt. As the primary shipping point for cedar and other woods to Egypt, it became a great trading center during the Bronze Age. It was known as Kubna in Egyptian and Gubla in Akkadian. During the Twelfth Dynasty it was an Egyptian dependency, and its goddess Baalat ("the Mistress") was worshipped in Egypt, being equated with the goddess Hathor. Amorite rule of Byblos, as well as the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, ended around 1720 BCE with the invasion of the Hyksos. These were probably a Semitic people as they worshipped such gods as Baal, El, and Anath. Their cultural achievements were small but their rule of the entire Near East strengthened relations between Phonecia and Syria.

Pharaoh Ahmose drove the Hyksos out of Egypt around 1538 BCE and established the New Kingdom policy of conquest in Palestine. Records from his reign mention the capturing of oxen from the Fenkhw, a word which might refer to the Phonecians. Amateur botanist Thutmose III noted that the plains of Lebanon (called Djahy in Egyptian) were rich in fruit, wine, and grain. The incomparable cedars of Lebanon were still greatly prized by the New Kingdom pharaohs.

The Amarna letters reveal a state of unrest at the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty, with a constant threat of invasion from the Hittites to the north. King Ribaddi of Byblos wrote frequently; 70 of the surviving letters were written by him. Egyptian power in Palestine collapsed during the reign of Akhenaten, and letters from Ribaddi no longer arrived at the court. Ramesses II attempted to regain the empire, but it fell apart again soon after his death. The Tale of Wen-Amun, the story of an Egyptian official sent to Byblos to retrieve cedar around 1100 BCE (during the Twentieth Dynasty) intimates in its description of his inhospitable reception how little power Egypt held over Phonecia at that time.

After the collapse of the New Kingdom, Byblos became the greatest city in Phonecia. Nearly all known early Phonecian inscriptions come from Byblos in the 10th century BCE, but by that time the Sidonian kingdom, with its capital at Tyre, was dominant in Phonecia. However, Byblos continued to flourish until Roman times.

Aurelien Joly is a Tunahead.