Researchers from Dartmouth College, the University of California and the American University in College looked at a pair of baboon mummies to figure out the location of the mythical Punt, known to the Ancient Egyptians as the 'land of plenty'.
Gold, frankincense, myrrh. They're not just gifts that the Three Wise Men gave on Christmas. They're real imports that Ancient Egyptians took from a mysterious, faraway land. The land of Punt, known to the Egyptians as 'The Land of God', actually existed, but unfortunately, the Pharaohs didn't leave the best of maps behind. And so Punt has gone the way of Atlantis, lost to time and history, to be remembered as nothing more than a myth. But that may soon change, because the Ancient Egyptians got something else from there too: monkeys.
Two baboon skulls that had been preserved as mummies 3000 years ago may serve as a compass to the mythical land of Punt. Writings at the time have led archaeologists to believe that Punt was somewhere by the Red Sea, used as trade routes became more prominent throughout the known world. The Hamadryas baboon is thought to be a sacred creature; Thoth, the ibis-headed god of wisdom, is sometimes depicted as a baboon instead. And it just so happened that Egyptians used trade routes through Punt to bring these monkeys home. In fact, these baboons are the earliest recorded instance of animal imports in all of history.
But where exactly does that lead us? By looking more closely at a pair of baboon mummies, scientists have been able to narrow things down. Particularly, by looking at their chemical compositions and signatures to find out what they ate. Researchers from Dartmouth College, the University of California and the American University in College were able to figure out that their baboon mummies must have come from an area around present-day Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti (and possibly a part of Somalia and Yemen, too).
Other baboon mummies dated 500 years later showed that they've since been bred and born in Egypt. But these early imports reveal the truth of their origins. And perhaps, the truth behind the myth of Punt.