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The History of Ivory Trade Essay

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The History of Ivory Trade


Ivory’s appeal to the upper-classes as a symbol of affluence and its timeless style has lured people to the tusks since as far back as the ancient Egyptians around the year 3000BC. Since the Egyptians, every civilization with a significant upper class population has sought ivory and been willing to pay a premium price for it. The most expensive and most sought after was the ivory of East Africa where it was agreed that the ivory was, without a doubt, the best in the world.

For a long time Asian ivory was used, because it was much easier to obtain, though the ivory was harder to shape, more likely to break, and less attractive. The Asian ivory came from tusks of elephants that were largely different from African elephants. For starters, they had a smaller build and differently shaped tusks. The African elephants had an average tusk size of about sixty pounds to the Asian elephant’s forty. The African elephants lived in the tropical jungles of Africa’s east coast, while the Asian elephant lived in a far different environment. As it happened, it was the African elephant that man desired but had a difficult time getting to Africa. Believing that the danger of a trip to Africa outweighed the potential profits of the voyage merchants and consumers settled for the lower quality ivory.

With the advancement in sailing technology and the guarantee of turning a large profit ambitious traders ventured to East Africa to establish the ivory trade. In exchange for ivory, these merchants offered cloth, guns, tools, and other goods, but none matching the value placed on ivory in the varied cultures. With the ivory secured merchants turned to several different markets around the world to unload their ...


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...ers Relating to Africa This resource was very helpful in providing facts and putting into perspective the magnitude of the ivory trade.

Sheriff, Abdul. Slaves, Spices & Ivory in Zanzibar. London: James Currey Publishers, 1987. This book enabled me to understand the context and history of the ivory trade.

Alpers, Edward. Ivory and Slaves. Los Angeles: University of California press, 1975. This book explained the basic history of the ivory trade.

Bartleby Online. Bartleby Online: complete history of the world. 2 October 2002 http://www.bartleby.com/67/1528.html This source provides a very basic and concise overview of the ivory trade.

All Africa. August 2002. History of Trade Between Addis, Arabia And the Horn of Africa. 1 October 2002 http://allafrica.com/stories/200208050830.html. This source provides a history of the eastern ivory trade.


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