Lebanon in History from the Earliest Times to the Present

By Philip K. Hitti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI THE CANAANITES: FIRST MAJOR COMMUNITY IN LEBANON

THE dawn of recorded history breaking over the Eastern Mediterranean finds around 3000 B.C. a Semitic people, the Canaanites, in occupation of the Lebanese littoral as well as western Syria and southern Syria ( Palestine). This was a couple of centuries after the invention and development of the two earliest efficient systems of writing, the cuneiform by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia and the hieroglyphic by the Egyptians. References to Lebanon by name or implication begin in the first half of the third millennium and continue through Akkadian, Egyptian, Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian. Pharaoh Snefru, founder of the Fourth Dynasty (ca. 2650 B.C., according to the "short" chronology) records a voyage by sea, clearly to Lebanon, whence he brought forty ship-loads of cedar logs; he also reports shipbuilding of cedar wood.1 Well-preserved cedar beams have recently been found in Snefru's burial chamber inside the southern Dahshūr pyramid still doing service as props. Another dramatic glimpse into that ancient world was provided in the spring of 1954 when a young Egyptian archaeologist stumbled on a sixty-foot funerary bark of Khufu (Cheops), successor of Snefru, hermetically seale in the limestone by the great pyramid at Gizeh (al-Jīzah). Its furnishings were intact. Constructed of cedar, which is said to have retained a faint odour, the boat was intended to carry the "soul" of the Pharaoh on its eternal journey with the sun. This is the second oldest relic of the cedar of Lebanon thus far found. The Egyptian Museum at Cairo exhibits a number of cedar sarcophagi in good condition.

Dim beginnings

Lugal-zaggisi, Sumerian founder of the first empire in Mesopotamia, claims that the countries his might had overthrown extended from "the rising of the sun to the setting of

____________________
1
James H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, vol. i ( Chicago, 1906), §§ 146, 147.

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