In This Chapter

Bookmark and Share

Chapter Summary

  • 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.

Key Concepts

The Study of Interaction

Exchange, p.357

Scale and "World System"

World system, p.358
Internal exchange, p.358
External exchange, p.358

Gift Exchange and Reciprocity

Kula, p.360

Modes of Exchange

Reciprocity, p.361
Redistribution, p.361
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

Characterization, p.365

Analytical Methods

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
Obsidian, pp.378–79
Uluburun, pp.380–81

The Study of Production

Production, p.382

The Study of Consumption

Consumption, p.382, 384

Exchange and Interaction: The Complete System

Interaction spheres, p.388
Competition, p.388
Peer-polities, p.388