The first real explorers of the Ancient World were the Phoenicians. They were a people who had settled on a costal strip of land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, now known as the Lebanon, who had many colonies, the most important being Tyre and Sidon. Phoenician wealth originally came from a dye made from a small shellfish found on their shores which was called murex. It produced the color known as ‘royal purple’, favoured by kings and the nobility. No other country had this dye, but as the supply of murex dwindled, the Phoenicians were forced to search for other sources of wealth. Their courageous seamen took their single-masted galleys along the shores of the Mediterranean and then, some time after 900 B.C. they struck out into the unknown. Sailing their ships into the Red Sea, they eventually crossed the Indian Ocean to India.
The Phoenicians also ventured northwards and traded with Europe and the countries on the Baltic. They were frequent visitors to Devon and Cornwall on the south coast of England, which they called the ‘Tin Islands’, exchanging cloth and jewellery for tin, copper and skins.