Purple Dye (or Spiny) Murex sea snails
The early Phoenician economy was built on timber sales, woodworking, glass manufacturing, the shipping of goods (like wine exports to Egypt), and the making of dye. Phoenician dyes (ranging in color from a pink to a deep purple) were made from the secretions of the carnivorous murex sea snail. In Rome, this highly coveted dye was called Tyrian Purple (after the Phoenician city of Tyre where it was made) and it was worth (quite literally) more than its weight in gold.
Phoenician merchants may have traded for tin as far north as Cornwall (Lizard Point, Cornwall, England, UK)
Gradually the Phoenician city-states became centers of maritime trade and manufacturing. Having limited natural resources, they imported raw materials and fashioned them into more valuable objects that could be shipped profitably, such as jewelry, ivory carvings (discovered at sites in Mesopotamia) metalwork, furniture (found in tombs on Cyprus), housewares, and specialty items like painted ostrich eggs. They borrowed techniques and styles from all corners of the world that they touched as traders. The ancient Roman Pliny, writing about the Phoenicians decades after the fall of Carthage, stated that they “invented trade.”
(In 1958 CE, a hoard of ornate gold jewelry dubbed the El Carambolo treasure was found buried near Seville, Spain. Sixty years later, a study of this beautiful work using isotopic analysis concluded that the gold came from a nearby Spanish mine; but it was also determined that the ornaments were crafted using Phoenician techniques. In 2014 a 2,700-year-old Phoenician wreck was discovered off the coast of Malta that had carried a shipment of grinding stones made of lava rock and scores of amphorae. We can only hope that more discoveries will be made revealing new secrets about this culture.)
Modern sculpture of Herodotus (Born c. 484 BCE) in the Classical style
By fortifying strongholds in Sicily and North Africa, the Phoenicians effectively denied other traders access to the riches of Spain (silver and other ores), the West African coast (gold, exotic woods, and slaves), and Britain (tin, a crucial strategic resource required to make bronze). The ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote that, in bygone days, the Phoenicians taught the Greeks of Boeotia the writing system that would eventually become the Greek alphabet. He also noted that Phoenician traders brought frankincense to the Aegean; and taught the Greeks the word for an exotic spice: cinnamon.