- Trade and exchange systems can be reconstructed if the materials in question are distinctive enough for their source to be identified. When an artifact found in one location is determined to have its origin in another location, contact between the two locations has occurred.
- Through characterization, artifacts are examined for the characteristic properties of the material from which they are made, thus allowing the source of that material to be determined. For this to work, there must be something about the source of the material that distinguishes it from other sources. The observation of stone objects in thin section, for example, allows the researcher to identify the source of the stone based on its mineral components. The trace elements of an object, which are found in very small quantities, can be used to characterize an object. Neutron activation analysis, for example, can source a piece of obsidian to a particular volcano and, sometimes, even a particular eruption of that volcano.
- When written records exist they offer a wealth of information about the distribution of goods. Trade goods are often marked by their producer in some way (such as with a clay sealing or even a written name) and from this information a distribution map can be created based on where the goods of a particular producer have been found. Distribution maps aid in the spatial analysis of sites or artifacts. Another way to visualize distribution is through fall-off analysis, where quantities of material found are plotted against the distance of their find spot from the material’s source.
- Greater understanding of trade networks comes from studies of production in areas such as mines and quarries, and the study of consumption of goods.
- Societies that had contact with each other through trade of material goods also exchanged ideas and other information. This most likely had a direct role in the spread of technology, language, and culture.
The Study of Interaction
Scale and "World System"
World system, p.358
Internal exchange, p.358
External exchange, p.358
Gift Exchange and Reciprocity
Modes of Exchange
Market exchange, p.361
Materials of Prestige Value
Intrinsic value, p.362
Valuables and Commodities
Primitive valuables, p.364
Sphere of exchange, p.364
Discovering the Sources of Traded Goods
Thin-section analysis, pp.365–66
Trace-element analysis, pp.366–70
Isotopic analysis, pp.370–371
Analyzing Artifact Composition
Atomic absorption spectrometry, p.368
X-ray florescence analysis, p.368
Neutron activation analysis, p.369
The Study of Distribution
Direct access, p.375
Fall-off analysis, p.377
The Study of Production
The Study of Consumption
Consumption, p.382, 384
Exchange and Interaction: The Complete System
Interaction spheres, p.388