20 The Political Abroach to the Classical World knowledge of the long chain of political experience to which the classical world was heir. Our especial concern must be with Egypt. Her semi-isolated position, shut in on either side by the desert, together with the wealth of her natural resources, made her far more self-contained than other countries. Movements of world-wide significance touched her but indirectly; within her confines she could develop her own highly characteristic civilization. But no nation can remain isolated that lacks anyone essential raw material, none can withdraw from the outside world that produces any sought-after commodity. Egypt's need for copper led her early to Sinai, her lack of timber brought her to the Syrian ports of the Lebanon. In return, she exported gold, and such manufactures as linen and faience which were in universal demand. And thus she was brought more and more into touch with the surrounding world, and played her part in the making and unmaking of nations. In the long period of prehistory, when no written records can help us, and our only sources of information are archaeological, we are still groping dimly among suppositions. Some facts stand out clearly against a background of doubt. We can distinguish, by their different weapons and utensils, their ornaments, their modes of life, various peoples in the Near East and various move- ments of peoples, and it is thereby possible to attempt a recon- struction, if a tentative one, of the main story of this distant past. Which was the oldest of the Near Eastern civilizations ? It is a question still disputed among archaeologists, each of whom is apt to claim the honour for his own field of study. The answer must be that we do not know, that perhaps we shall never know. It cannot have been Sumer, for that country was not yet in exist- ence when the people of Cilicia and Syria were producing their earliest pottery. It may have been Egypt. But a scheme of comparative chronology cannot yet be established for s,o early a period, and the beginnings of civilization hardly concern us here.