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Trade Routes Continued

Ancient Trade Routes Develop

Written for the KidsKnowIt Network by: Debora Dyess

The importance of some goods – such as frankincense and myrrh, only available in Arabia €“ made kingdoms strong. As their trade grew, so did their power in regions far beyond their boundaries. In the case of Arabia and their precious resins, not a temple or wealthy household existed in the ancient world that did not trade to gain frankincense and myrrh. Cyprus prospered from their production of copper, Egypt traded valuable papyrus and wool. Cedar and dyes produced by Phoenicia became important trade goods, and China gained power by their trade of jade, spices and silk. Even Britain, hundreds or thousands of miles from its trade partners, became important for their production of tin.

Spices were common items on the ancient trade routes

But areas rich in resources were not the only ones to grow rich. Merchants kept a great amount of the profit to cover the cost of their caravans and the danger they undertook along the way. Towns sprang up along the routes, providing these men with shelter and food for them and their pack animals. Cities and towns that did not participate in trading soon fell by the wayside and turned to ghost towns.

A caravan traveling across the desert

Long-range trading was saved for expensive and unusual items. No one was willing to go to the time and expense of transporting goods that could be found locally. Because routes were created for trade with specific places to gain specific goods, the trade routes often had the name of the item they supplied. The Silk Route ran from China to Western Asia and the Mediterranean area. The Spice Route brought rare and wonderful spices form South Asia. Many of these routes became roads and allowed the spread of ideas, religions and culture. Armies also used these routes to conquer what started as trade partners.

Trading was not easy. Camels, the primary animal used to transport goods, average 25 miles (40km) per day at a leisurely walking speed. The Silk Road was 2485 miles (4000km) long. If a caravan was formed to travel from one end of the Silk Road to the other, it would take just over a year to complete the journey. Along the way, merchants faced bad weather, injury or illness and robbers. Even with all of the dangers, trading was worth it. It created a network of roads, spread culture and religion and created prosperous cities. Trade routes changed the face of the world forever.