Thousands of years ago, there once stood a place called Punt, a land of gold and ebony, and ivory, frankincense and myrrh.
To the pharaohs who built their palaces along the Nile, the Land of Punt was the source of great treasure. Among the most prized were Punt’s leopards and baboons, which they viewed as sacred and took as royal pets.
The pharaohs sent great expeditions to Punt; they welcomed delegations of Puntites to their palaces, and their scribes recorded their gifts and commercial products in detail.
But not one of the Egyptian scribes who wrote about the strange land – Ta netjer, or God’s Land, as it was sometimes called – ever revealed exactly where it lay.
The riddle was left to modern-day scholars to solve.
Now researchers armed with the sophisticated tools of modern physics have tackled the problem and declared that while they still can’t tell exactly where Punt was, they do know where it wasn’t.
Disputes over Punt’s location have gone on for decades. Punt (pronounced Poont), archaeologists have said, was in Mozambique, or Somalia; or on the Sinai Peninsula or in Yemen, or somewhere in Western Asia where Israel, Lebanon and Syria now lie.