The ancient economy refers to the economic systems and practices of various ancient civilisations, including the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Egyptians. These economies were largely agrarian and were based on agriculture, trade, and the production of goods such as pottery, textiles, and metal products. Most of the population lived in rural areas and worked as farmers, herders, or labourers on large estates. In ancient times, trade began as a barter system in which people exchanged one object for another. Going back to prehistoric times, humans traded animal skins or services for food. Big changes took place when coins and currencies began to emerge.
In ancient times, money played a limited role in the economy and was often used in conjunction with bartering and gift-giving. Some primitive societies used shells or pearls as currency. The use of coins as a means of exchange became more widespread during the classical period of ancient Greece and Rome, and these civilisations developed a system of trade and commerce that was supported by a network of roads, ports, and markets.
Caption: Men weighing merchandise, side B of an Attic black-figure amphora
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Caption: Corinthian black-figure terra-cotta votive tablet of slaves working in a mine, dated to the late seventh century BC
Attribution: Huesca, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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Slavery was an important part of the ancient economy, particularly in Greece and Rome, where slaves were used to perform a wide range of tasks, from household work to skilled labour in mines and workshops.
Despite the limitations of their technology and infrastructure, the ancient economies were characterised by innovation, entrepreneurship, and trade. Many ancient civilisations, such as the Greeks and Romans, made important contributions to the development of economic theory, and their legacy continues to influence modern economic thought and practice.
Slavery in the ancient world, from the earliest known recorded evidence in Sumer to the pre-medieval Antiquity Mediterranean cultures, comprised a mixture of debt-slavery, slavery as a punishment for crime, and the enslavement of prisoners of war. Masters could free slaves, and in many cases, such freedmen rose to positions of power.
The institution of slavery condemned a majority of slaves to agricultural and industrial labour, and they lived hard lives. In many of these cultures, slaves formed a large part of the economy, particularly the Roman Empire and some of the Greek poleis built a large portion of their wealth from slaves acquired through conquest. The Sumerian King Code of Ur-Nammu includes laws relating to slaves, written circa 2100 – 2050 BC; it is the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today. The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, dating to c. 1700 BC, also distinguishes between freeborn, freed and slave.
The Early International Trade Network
The Classical Wisdom website describes the international trade network that blossomed after the collapse of the Bronze Age:
‘After the Bronze Age collapse caused by the invasions of the Sea Peoples, the international trade system was in disarray. It was the Phoenicians, based in what is now Lebanon, that revived trade. They bought metals from as far [away] as Spain and also traded luxury goods. Their colony of Carthage helped to create a pan-Mediterranean trade network.’
‘The Greeks competed with the Phoenicians, especially after they established many colonies in the 8th century BC. In particular, they controlled the trade with the Black Sea. City-states such as Athens grew wealthy from this trade, and they exported manufactured goods, such as vases, far and wide.’
‘By the 4th century BC, many parts of the Mediterranean traded with each other. They exchanged mainly luxury goods, such as wine, but also metals and grains. Olive oil and wine was also traded over vast distances and they were stored in amphorae. Most international trade was undertaken by oared galleys because land travel was too slow and dangerous.’
The Ancient World
A quick snapshot of some of the leading trading nations in ancient times is set out below, and on the following pages more in-depth analysis can be found:
- Ancient Rome: Ancient Rome was a major player in the Mediterranean trade network. They traded goods such as grain, wine, and textiles and established trade routes that connected Rome to other parts of the Roman Empire and beyond. In ancient Rome, the economy was based on a mix of agriculture, trade, and manufacturing. Rome was known for its large-scale agriculture and was the centre of a vast empire that controlled trade routes and markets throughout the Mediterranean. The Roman economy was also characterised by slavery, and slaves played a significant role in agriculture and industry. Rome is the only western society that autonomously grew a legal profession distinct from the political and religious power.
- Ancient Mesopotamia: Trade in Mesopotamia dates back to 4000 BC when they traded goods such as grains, textiles, and metals. They had a system of roads and waterways that connected cities, making trade easier.
- Ancient Egypt: Ancient Egyptians traded goods such as grain, gold, silver, and precious stones. They had a vast network of trade routes connecting Egypt to neighbouring regions, including the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. The Egyptian economy was based on agriculture and the exploitation of natural resources such as gold, copper, and iron. The Nile River was central to the economy, providing water for irrigation and transport. The ancient Egyptians were also known for exchanging goods such as papyrus, linen, and spices with neighbouring regions.
- Ancient China: During the Shang dynasty (1600-1046 BC), the Chinese traded goods such as silk, ceramics, and bronze weapons. During the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), the Silk Road was established, connecting China to the Roman Empire and facilitating trade between the two civilisations. In ancient China, the economy was based on agriculture and was characterised by a system of land ownership and distribution. The Chinese were known for their agricultural innovations, including irrigation systems, terracing, and developing new crops. They were also known for their manufacturing and trade, including silk production and the trade of spices, silk, and tea along the Silk Road.
- Ancient Greece: The ancient Greeks traded goods such as olive oil, wine, pottery and textiles. They established colonies and trading posts throughout the Mediterranean, facilitating trade with other civilisations, including the Egyptians and the Persians. In ancient Greece, the economy was primarily based on small-scale agriculture, trade, and craft production. The Greeks were known for their skills in metalworking, pottery, and shipbuilding, and these trades contributed significantly to the economy.
- Ancient India: As early as 500 BC, silver punch-marked coins were minted as currency belonging to a period of intensive trade activity and urban development by the Mahajanapadas in Ancient India.
Caption: Merchant. (6th December 2022).
In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchant.
Attribution: Phoenician merchants traded across the entire Mediterranean region. Publisher New York Ward, Lock, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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The above are just a few examples of ancient economies and how they were structured and operated. Despite their differences, in the beginning, all of these economies were characterised by a focus on agriculture, trade, and the exploitation of natural resources.
The study of the economies of the ancient city-state of Rome and its empire during the Republican and Imperial periods remains highly speculative. There are no surviving records of business and government accounts, such as detailed tax revenues reports and few literary sources regarding economic activity.
During the early centuries of the Roman Republic, the Roman economy was largely agricultural and centred on the trading of commodities such as grain and wine. Markets were established through this trade, and financial institutions, which extended credit for personal use and public infrastructure, were established primarily by interfamily wealth. In times of agricultural and cash shortfall, Roman officials and moneyers tended to respond by coining money, which happened during the prolonged crisis of the First Punic War and created economic distortion and difficulties.
After the Punic Wars, during the late Republic and the early Roman Empire, the economy became more monetised, and a more sophisticated financial system emerged. Emperors issued coinage stamped with their portraits to disseminate propaganda, to create public goodwill, and symbolise their wealth and power. The Roman Imperial monetary economy often suffered bouts of inflation caused primarily by emperors who ‘created’ money to fund high-profile imperial projects such as public building works or costly wars that offered opportunities for propaganda but little or no material gain or lasting benefit.
Although (in theory) members of the Roman Senate and their sons were restricted when engaging in trade, the members of the equestrian order were involved in businesses despite their upper-class values, which emphasised military pursuits and leisure activities. Vast numbers of slaves did most of the hard work and were themselves also the subject of commercial transactions.
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The intricate, complex, and extensive accounting of Roman trade was conducted with counting boards and the Roman abacus. The abacus, which used Roman numerals, was ideally suited to the counting of Roman currency and tallying of Roman measures.
The negotiatores were partly bankers because they lent money and charged interest. They also bought and sold staples of food and goods in bulk or did commerce in wholesale quantities of goods. The argentarii acted as agents in public or private auctions, kept deposits of money for individuals, cashed cheques (prescriptiones) and served as moneychangers.
Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent. Today, Mesopotamia occupies modern Iraq. In the broader sense, the historical region included present-day Iraq and parts of present-day Iran, Kuwait, Syria and Turkey.
Ancient Mesopotamia was known for its advanced trade network, which connected the region to various parts of the ancient world. Goods exported from ancient Mesopotamian included ceramics, glass, grain, leather products, cooking oil, reed baskets and mats, textiles, wool, spices, aromatic herbs, and livestock. Goods imported included copper, ivory, pearls, semi-precious stones, gold, silver, other precious metals, wood, and lapis-lazuli. The region was also known for importing goods such as cedar wood from the Lebanon, turquoise from Iran, and tin from as far away as Britain.
Another important aspect of trade in Ancient Mesopotamia was the use of a standardised system of weights and measures, which facilitated trade and commerce. The region was home to some of the earliest cities in the world, such as Uruk, Ur, and Babylon, which served as centres of trade and commerce.
It’s worth mentioning that trade played a crucial role in the development and growth of Mesopotamian civilisation, and its impact can still be felt today.
Citation: Map showing the extent of Mesopotamia. Shown are Washukanni, Nineveh, Hatra, Assur, Nuzi, Palmyra, Mari, Sippar, Babylon, Kish, Nippur, Isin, Lagash, Uruk, Charax Spasinu and Ur, from north to south.
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The following chronology of early Ancient Egyptian trade will provide a useful historical context for the ancient Egyptian economy and facilitate a better understanding of the origins and development of trade in ancient Egypt and how it was connected to other regions:
- The gradual creation of land and sea trade routes connecting the ancient Egyptian civilisation with ancient India, the Fertile Crescent, Arabia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Epipaleolithic Natufians carried parthenocarpic figs from Africa to the southeastern corner of the Fertile Crescent, c. 10,000 BC. Later migrations out of the Fertile Crescent would take early agricultural practices to neighbouring regions—westward to Europe and North Africa, northward to Crimea, and eastward to Mongolia.
- Foreign artefacts dating to the 5th millennium BC in the Badarian culture in Egypt indicate contact with distant Syria. In predynastic Egypt, by the beginning of the 4th millennium BC, ancient Egyptians in Maadi were importing pottery and construction ideas from Canaan.
- By the 4th millennium BC, shipping was well established, and the donkey and possibly the dromedary had been domesticated. Domestication of the Bactrian camel and the use of horses for transport then followed.
The Ancient Egyptians had a vast network of trade routes connecting Egypt to neighbouring regions, including the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. The Egyptian economy relied on agriculture and the exploitation of natural resources such as gold, copper, and iron. The Nile delta was a major agriculture centre, producing crops such as wheat, barley, and flax. The ancient Egyptians were also known for exchanging goods such as papyrus, linen, and spices with neighbouring regions. They also traded goods such as grain, gold, silver, and precious stones. In addition to the goods mentioned, the ancient Egyptians also exported goods such as oil, wine, and textiles.
Imports to ancient Egypt included a variety of goods, such as timber, copper, tin, and precious stones. The ancient Egyptians also imported luxury goods from other regions, including fine ceramics, glassware, and metalwork. A variety of means to store and transfer wealth, including metal coins and weights, as well as bartering, was used. The ancient Egyptians also used a system of accounting, which allowed for the efficient management of resources and labour.
In terms of labour, the ancient Egyptians relied heavily on both skilled and unskilled labour, including prisoners of war and debtors. Slaves were also used, particularly in agriculture and construction, but slavery was not as widespread in ancient Egypt as in other ancient civilisations such as Greece and Rome.
The ancient Egyptian economy faced several challenges, including frequent droughts and flooding, which could disrupt agriculture and trade. The country also experienced times of political instability, which impacted trade and commerce. Despite these challenges, the ancient Egyptian economy remained a vibrant and diverse system of production, exchange, and trade, which played a crucial role in the development and growth of one of the world’s oldest civilisations.
The ancient Chinese economy was diverse and robust, relying on agriculture, handicrafts, and trade. Farmers and artisans produced goods for local consumption and export, while merchants facilitated trade within China and neighbouring countries. Barter was the main means of exchanging goods, but metal coins and paper money were also used.
The buyers of Chinese goods included both domestic consumers and foreign traders, with the latter particularly interested in luxury items such as silk and porcelain. China’s imports included horses, spices, and precious metals. Labour was supplied by farmers, artisans, and merchants, with the government playing a significant role in the economy through taxes, public works projects, and regulation of trade.
Some of the challenges faced by the ancient Chinese economy included widespread poverty, economic inequality, and frequent natural disasters such as floods and droughts. Despite these challenges, the economy maintained a high level of growth and stability for many centuries.
The ancient Greek economy was mainly based on agriculture and trade. The Greeks traded with other city-states and with civilisations in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, such as the Persians, Egyptians, and Phoenicians. They also had a strong maritime trade network and were known for their advanced shipbuilding technology. Additionally, they engaged in cottage industries such as pottery, textiles, and metalworking.
Slavery was a significant part of the ancient Greek economy, with slaves used for manual labour and as household servants.
The Greek economy was heavily influenced by the barter system, but coins were introduced in the late 7th century BC and became a widespread medium of exchange. Despite the lack of a centralised monetary system, the ancient Greeks developed economic concepts such as supply and demand, as well as the idea of profit as a motive for trade.
The economy of ancient Greece was defined largely by the region’s dependence on imported goods. As a result of the poor quality of Greece‘s soil, agricultural trade was of particular importance. The impact of limited crop production was somewhat offset by Greece’s prominent location, as its position in the Mediterranean gave its provinces control over some of Egypt’s most crucial seaports and trade routes.
Beginning in the 6th century BC, trade craftsmanship and commerce, principally maritime, became pivotal aspects of Greek economic output. Up to 80% of the Greek population was employed in the agricultural industry. Agricultural work followed the rhythm of the seasons: harvesting olives and trimming grapevines at the beginning of autumn and the end of winter; setting aside fallow land in the spring; harvesting cereals in the summer; cutting wood, sowing seeds and harvesting grapes in autumn.
Image Credit: “The Great Theatre of Epidaurus, 4th century BC 3/13/09 #architecture #ancient #greece” by Sharon Mollerus is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
The ancient African economy was diverse and complex, varying greatly across different regions and periods. However, some common features included:
- Agriculture: Most ancient African societies relied on agriculture as their primary means of subsistence. They grew crops such as millet, sorghum, beans, and maize.
- Trade: Ancient African civilisations such as the Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai had a robust and important trade network connecting them to other African and Mediterranean regions. They traded goods such as gold, salt, spices and slaves.
- Cattle herding: In some regions of Africa, such as the savannas of East Africa, cattle herding was an important aspect of the economy. Cattle were used as currency, for food, and social status.
- Artisanal crafts: Ancient African societies had a rich tradition of artisanal crafts, including metalworking, pottery, weaving, and cloth production.
- Monetary systems: Ancient African economies had various forms of monetary systems, including gold, silver, and copper coins, as well as other forms of currency, such as cowry shells and salt.
- Many African societies relied on barter systems, exchanging goods and services directly.
In ancient Africa, work was performed by a combination of farmers, herders, artisans, and merchants. Slavery was also practised in some societies, with slaves serving as labourers and traders. Buyers of African goods included other African societies, as well as Middle Eastern and Mediterranean civilisations. Imports to Africa included luxury goods, such as textiles and metals, and necessary items, such as tools and weapons.
Some of the challenges faced by the ancient African economy included environmental factors, such as droughts and famine, as well as political instability and conflict between different civilisations. Despite these challenges, many African societies established robust and thriving economies.
The ancient Indian economy was a mix of agriculture, handicrafts, and trade. Agriculture was the main source of livelihood for the majority of the population, while handicrafts such as textiles, pottery, and metalworking provided supplementary income. Trade was also an important aspect of the ancient Indian economy, with merchants connecting India to the wider world through overland and maritime routes.
Buyers of Indian goods included both domestic consumers and foreign traders, with the latter particularly interested in luxury goods such as spices, textiles, and precious stones. India imported goods such as horses, metals, and wine. Labour was supplied by farmers, artisans, and merchants, while the role of the government in the economy was limited to collecting taxes and providing some public goods.
The ancient Indian economy faced several challenges, including widespread poverty, economic inequality, and frequent natural disasters such as droughts and floods. Despite these challenges, the Indian economy maintained a high level of growth and stability for many centuries, primarily due to the presence of a well-developed system of trade and commerce. The use of silver and copper coins as currency facilitated the exchange of goods and services, and a sophisticated system of weights and measures helped ensure trade fairness.
Around 500 BC, the Mahajanapadas minted punch-marked silver coins. The period was marked by intensive trade activity and urban development. By 300 BC, the Maurya Empire had united most of the Indian subcontinent, including Tamilakam, which was ruled by Three Crowned Kings. The resulting political unity and military security allowed for a common economic system, enhanced trade and commerce, and increased agricultural productivity.
The Maurya Empire was followed by classical and early medieval kingdoms, including the Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras, Guptas, Western Gangas, Harsha, Palas, Rashtrakutas and Hoysalas. The Indian subcontinent had the largest economy of any region in the world for most of the interval between the 1st and 18th centuries. Until 1000 AD, it was a subsistence economy with GDP per capita just above subsistence level and no GDP growth between 1 and 1000 AD.
Outstanding Figures from Ancient History
Six figures from ancient history known for their broad knowledge and expertise across multiple fields are:
- Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) – Italian Renaissance artist, scientist, and inventor.
- Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) – Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher.
- Archimedes (287-212 BC) – Greek mathematician, physicist, and engineer.
- Aristotle (384-322 BC) – Greek philosopher, scientist, and logician.
- Hippocrates (c. 460-370 BC) – Greek physician and father of Western medicine.
- Confucius (551-479 BC) – Chinese philosopher, teacher, and politician.
Image Credit: “Leonardo da Vinci self portrait, Chambord Castle, Loire Valley, France – The metallic stone effect is generated by computer” by MAMJODH is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Image Credit: Aristotle. Bronze statue, University of Freiburg, Germany, 1915.
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First Barter, then ‘Commodity Money’, then ‘Currency’
The word money derives from the Latin word moneta with the meaning “coin” via French monnaie. The Latin word is believed to originate from the temple of Juno, on Capitoline, one of Rome’s seven hills. In the ancient world, Juno was often associated with money. The temple of Juno Moneta in Rome was where the mint of Ancient Rome was located. The name “Juno” may have derived from the Etruscan goddess Uni (which means “the one”, “unique”, “unit”, “union”, or “united”) and “Moneta” either from the Latin word “monere” (remind, warn, or instruct) or the Greek word “moneres” (alone, unique). In the Western world, a general term for coin money has been specie, stemming from Latin in specie, meaning “in kind”.
Money may take a physical form (as in coins and notes) or may exist as a written or electronic account. It may have intrinsic value (commodity money), be legally exchangeable for something with intrinsic value (representative money), or only have a nominal value (fiat money), as explained next.
The Evolution of Money
The evolution of money can be divided into several stages:
- Barter system: The earliest form of exchange, where goods and services were traded directly for other goods and services without a medium of exchange.
- Commodity money: A form of money that has intrinsic value and can be used as a medium of exchange. Examples include gold, silver, and other precious metals.
- Representative money: A form of money that represents a claim on a commodity, such as gold or silver. Examples include paper money or coins.
- Fiat money: A form of money that has no intrinsic value but is used as a medium of exchange because it is backed by a government. Examples include the US dollar and euro.
- Digital money: A form of money that exists only in a digital format and is used for online transactions. Examples include cryptocurrency and digital wallets.
Caption: Double-die style struck coin from Ancient India, c 304-232 BC featuring an elephant on one face and a lion on the other.
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Each stage represents an improvement in the efficiency and convenience of transactions and has helped to facilitate the growth of trade and commerce.
In ancient times, bartering was a common method of trade. People would exchange goods or services directly without the use of money. Many difficulties and inconveniences in the barter system arose, and as time wore on, the need for a generally accepted medium of exchange emerged. As civilisations advanced, they developed various forms of currency, such as coins, paper money, and representative money (e.g., gold certificates).
Ancient trade was a critical component of society and was a means for people to exchange goods and services. The earliest form of trade was bartering, where people exchanged goods or services directly without using money. Bartering was common in pre-agricultural societies, where people were largely self-sufficient and didn’t need to trade with others.
Under commodity money or alternative money, several goods served as money, but the nature of goods varied from time to time and place to place (for example, agricultural goods, birds, slaves and animals etc.) To facilitate the exchange of goods, commodity money lost its popularity mainly because:
- Lack of Storability
- Lack of Divisibility
- Lack of Durability
- Lack of Transportability
- Lack of Homogeneity
- Lack of General Acceptability
As civilisations grew more complex and specialised, they developed various forms of currency, including coins, paper money, and representative money (such as gold certificates).
Coins were first used in the ancient kingdoms of Lydia and Persia and soon became a widespread medium of exchange. The oldest coins on Earth are believed to date to approximately the second half of the seventh century BC during the reign of King Alyattes who was in power in Lydia from 619 to 560 BC.
The first coins were made of precious metals such as gold and silver, and their value was based on the weight of the metal used. Later, coins were also made of bronze and other metals, and their value was based on the government’s promise to redeem them for precious metals. When metal coins were developed, it standardised the concept of ‘value’. It simplified trade because coins were counted without having to be weighed. It became possible for two countries to trade with each other as these precious metals had a standard, recognised value and allowed countries with a surplus of certain goods to sell these to other nations that needed them.
In addition to coins, ancient civilisations also used other forms of currency, such as paper money and representative money. Paper money was first used in China during the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) and was introduced to Europe during the 17th century. Representative money, such as gold certificates, was first used in the United States much more recently (in the 19th century) and was backed by a government’s promise to redeem it for gold.
The growth of trade and commerce led to the creation of trade networks and the expansion of markets, allowing people to access a wider variety of goods and services, thereby helping to foster economic growth and development. Ancient trade was also a major factor in spreading ideas, technologies, and culture, as merchants and travellers carried goods, technologies, and ideas from one place to another.
Although Fiat money is not backed by a physical commodity like gold or silver, its value is derived from people’s trust and confidence in the government that issues it:
- Advantages of Fiat money include greater control over the money supply by central authorities, the ability to respond more easily to changes in the economy, and increased stability compared to commodity-based currencies.
- Disadvantages of fiat money include the potential for inflation, as the supply of money can be increased by the government or central bank, leading to a decrease in the value of money. Additionally, the value of fiat money is subject to the strength and stability of the government that issues it, and can be affected by factors such as political instability, war, or economic turmoil.
Despite these limitations, fiat money has become the dominant form of currency in the modern world, with most countries using it as their official currency.
Digital money refers to a type of currency that exists in digital form and is used for online transactions. This includes cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, as well as digital versions of traditional fiat currencies, such as electronic transfers and mobile payment systems. Digital money operates using electronic systems and networks and can be stored in digital wallets and transferred between individuals or used to purchase goods and services online:
- Advantages of digital money include faster and more convenient transactions, lower transaction costs compared to traditional financial institutions, and increased security through cryptography and decentralised ledgers.
- Disadvantages of digital money include the potential for technical problems and hacking, the lack of widespread acceptance and understanding, and the potential for increased anonymity, which can facilitate illegal activities.
Of course, digital money did not exist, nor was it even dreamed about, in Ancient times. But today, digital money has already had a significant impact on the financial industry and has the potential to greatly disrupt traditional financial systems and change the way money is stored and transferred. Its use and popularity are growing rapidly, particularly with the rise of cryptocurrencies, and it is expected to play an increasingly important role in the global economy in the future.
Shells, specifically cowrie shells, are often cited as an example of primitive money. In many early societies, cowrie shells were used as currency due to their rarity and widespread acceptance as a medium of exchange. They were easy to transport and could be used to purchase goods and services, making them a convenient form of currency.
The use of cowrie shells as money was particularly prevalent in some parts of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific islands, where they continued to be used as a form of currency until the introduction of more modern forms of money, such as coins and paper money. Wampum beads were widely used by Native American Indians.
- A cowrie shell is a small, glossy, oval-shaped sea snail shell that was used as a form of currency in many early societies. Cowrie shells were valued for their rarity and were widely accepted as a medium of exchange, making them a convenient form of money. They were used for centuries in many parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, and the Pacific islands, before being replaced by more advanced forms of money.
- Wampum is a type of shell bead that was used as a form of currency by Native American tribes in the Northeastern United States. Wampum beads were made from the shells of quahog clams and were carefully drilled, shaped, and strung into belts or strings. These belts or strings of wampum were used as a medium of exchange and were also used to represent agreements or treaties between different tribes.
The earliest currency used in commercial transactions was in Egypt and Mesopotamia by the third millennium BC. It consisted of gold bars, which needed to be weighed to establish value each time they were used. Later they were supplemented by gold rings for smaller sums. In about 2500 BC, an extensive trade at Ebla in modern Syria was based on currency of this kind in silver and gold.
Crypto.com suggests that the earliest form of metal money (albeit not in a form we would recognise as ‘money’ today) was created in 1000 BC in China during the Zhou dynasty. It came in the form of small knives and spades made of bronze. The first manufactured coins appeared separately in India, China, and cities around the Aegean Sea around the 7th century BC.
The Silk Road
The Silk Road was a network of trade routes that linked the East and West, connecting China to the Mediterranean. It was first used in the 2nd century BC and was also known as the Silk Route or the Silk Road. The road linked countries such as China, India, Persia, Arabia, Greece, Rome, and other parts of Europe. It was used to trade goods such as silk, spices, gold, and other luxury items.
Originating at Xi’an (Sian), the 4,000-mile (6,400-km) road (actually a caravan tract) followed the Great Wall of China to the northwest, bypassing the Takla Makan Desert, climbed the Pamirs (mountains), crossed Afghanistan, and went on to the Levant; from there the merchandise was shipped across the Mediterranean Sea. Few persons travelled the entire route, and goods were handled in a staggered progression by middlemen.
After the loss of Roman territory in Asia and the rise of Arabian power in the Levant, the Silk Road declined, but it was revived in the 13th and 14th centuries by the Mongol Empire. Marco Polo, the Venitian, travelled the Silk Road during his expeditions to China.
The purpose of the Silk Road was to facilitate trade and cultural exchange between different regions and civilisations, such as the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, the Han Dynasty of China, and the Gupta Empire in India. The Silk Road allowed merchants and travellers to exchange goods, ideas, and technologies, contributing to the development of trade networks and the growth of cities along the route.
The Silk Road profoundly impacted trade, commerce, and cultural exchange. Trading in luxury goods, such as silk and spices, helped drive the regions’ economies along the route. The exchange of ideas and technologies led to the spread of Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, and other religious and cultural traditions.
The Decline and Collapse of the Silk Road
The Silk Road’s decline was gradual and caused by several factors. One of the primary reasons was the rise of sea routes, which provided a more direct and faster connection between East and West, reducing the reliance on overland trade routes. Additionally, the political instability and wars in the regions along the Silk Road disrupted trade, making it dangerous and difficult for merchants to travel. The spread of diseases along the road also contributed to its decline.
Another factor that contributed to the collapse of the Silk Road was the decline of the Mongol Empire in the 14th century. The Mongol Empire had provided a measure of stability and security for trade along the Silk Road, but with the empire’s decline, the road became more dangerous and less accessible.
The rise of new trade centres in the Atlantic world, such as Europe and the Americas, diverted trade away from the Silk Road and towards new markets.
Overall, the decline and collapse of the Silk Road marked the end of an era of world trade and cultural exchange. Although it was not the only reason, it played a significant role in the shift towards sea-based trade and commerce.
The Silk Road also allowed for the transfer of scientific knowledge, and technological innovations, such as the invention of paper, the magnetic compass, and gunpowder – gunpowder from China changed the very nature of war in Europe and beyond. The Silk Road was crucial in developing global trade and commerce, connecting different regions and civilisations and fostering exchange and growth. Its legacy continues to shape our world today, and its impact can still be seen in the cultural and economic ties between the East and the West. The Age of Exploration gave rise to faster routes between the East and West, but parts of the Silk Road continued to be critical pathways among varied cultures. Today, parts of the Silk Road are listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Innovations from ancient civilisations include:
- Agriculture: The development of agriculture allowed ancient peoples to produce food in large quantities and sustain larger populations.
- Aqueducts: The construction of aqueducts allowed ancient civilisations to transport water long distances, improving irrigation and public health.
- Architecture: Ancient civilisations developed advanced architectural techniques, such as the use of arches and domes, to create large structures like temples and palaces. The ancient world saw the creation of iconic architectural structures, such as the pyramids of Egypt and the Parthenon in Greece.
- Astronomical calendars: The creation of astronomical calendars allowed ancient peoples to keep track of time and plan for agriculture and other activities.
- Astronomy: Ancient civilisations significantly contributed to our understanding of the stars and the cosmos.
- Banking: The emergence of banking institutions allowed for the storage and transfer of wealth, making trade easier and more secure.
- Bookkeeping: The development of record-keeping techniques, such as tally sticks and ledgers, allowed for the tracking and accounting of trade transactions.
- Cartography: The creation of maps and navigation tools allowed traders to explore new markets and find trade routes.
- Ceramics: The creation of pottery and ceramics was a major innovation in the ancient world, allowing for the creation of functional and decorative objects.
- Contracts and laws: The creation of laws and contracts regulating trade helped ensure fairness and stability in commerce.
- Credit systems: The use of credit allowed for the financing of trade and the expansion of commerce.
- Currency: Using coins as a medium of exchange facilitated trade and commerce.
- Drama and Theatre: Ancient Greece is known for its contributions to drama and theatre, including the development of stage productions and the use of masks in performance.
- Glass production: The creation of glass allowed for the manufacturing of a range of products, including vessels and windows.
- Irrigation: Irrigation systems allowed for the control and distribution of water for agriculture, increasing food production.
- Marketplaces: The creation of marketplaces provided a centralised location for trade and commerce.
- Mathematics: Ancient civilisations made significant advancements in mathematics, including developing geometry and using numbers for calculation.
- Medicine: Ancient civilisations developed medical practices and systems of healing, such as traditional Chinese medicine and the use of herbal remedies in Greece.
- Metallurgy: The discovery and refinement of metalworking techniques led to the creation of tools and weapons and the minting of coins for trade.
- Navigation: The invention of the compass and improved shipbuilding techniques allowed ancient peoples to explore and trade with others across the seas.
- Philosophy: The development of philosophy helped shape ancient cultures and influenced how people thought about the world and their place in it.
- Plumbing: Ancient civilisations, such as the Romans, developed advanced plumbing systems for the distribution of water and the removal of waste.
- Road systems: Ancient civilisations built road networks to facilitate trade and communication.
- Shipping and transportation: Advances in shipbuilding and navigation allowed for transporting goods across seas and rivers.
- Specialisation of labour: The division of labour and specialisation of skills allowed for the efficient production of goods and facilitated trade.
- Steel production: Steel production allowed for the creation of weapons, tools, and other objects with improved durability and strength.
- Storage and preservation: The development of storage technologies, such as clay jars and granaries, allowed for the preservation of goods and facilitated trade.
- Surveying: The development of surveying techniques allowed ancient civilisations to measure and plan the construction of buildings and infrastructure.
- Textile production: Ancient civilisations developed techniques for the production of textiles, such as weaving and dyeing, and traded textiles as valuable commodities.
- Timekeeping: Ancient civilisations developed methods for measuring and recording time, such as the use of sundials and water clocks.
- Trade routes: Ancient civilisations established trade routes, such as the Silk Road, to connect cultures and markets.
- War machines: The development of war machines, such as siege towers and battering rams, revolutionized ancient warfare and impacted trade and commerce.
- Weights and measures: The standardization of weights and measures allowed for fair trade and reduced the risk of fraud.
- Wheel: The wheel was a major technological advancement that allowed for easier transportation of goods and people.
- Writing: The invention of writing systems, such as cuneiform and hieroglyphics, allowed for the preservation of knowledge and communication across distances.
Not all of the innovations listed above relate specifically to innovations in trading activity. Some of them, such as astronomy, philosophy, drama, ceramics, textile production, steel production, plumbing, architecture, surveying, astronomical calendars, war machines, and aqueducts, had a broader impact on ancient civilisations and their development but may not have had a direct effect on trade and commerce.
The following dates are rough estimates and can vary depending on the specific innovation and civilisation:
- Currency (circa 700 BC to 300 AD).
- Trade routes (circa 4000 BC to 1500 AD).
- Marketplaces (circa 3000 BC to 300 AD).
- Shipping and transportation (circa 3000 BC to 1500 AD).
- Weights and measures (circa 2500 BC to 300 AD).
- Storage and preservation (circa 3000 BC to 300 AD).
- Contracts and laws (circa 1700 BC to 300 AD).
- Banking (circa 800 BC to 300 AD).
- Bookkeeping (circa 5000 BC to 300 AD).
- Credit systems (circa 1000 BC to 300 AD).
- Specialisation of labour (circa 3000 BC to 300 AD).
- Cartography (circa 1000 BC to 300 AD).
The most innovative nations
It’s difficult to say which ancient civilisation was the most innovative in terms of trade. Each society made important contributions to the development of trade and commerce in its own ways. Some civilisations, such as the ancient Greeks and Romans, were known for their advancements in trade and commerce, while others, such as the ancient Chinese, were known for their innovations in transportation and shipping. Additionally, different civilisations had different cultural and historical contexts that shaped their development and innovations in trade. It’s important to recognise the unique contributions and strengths of each civilisation rather than ranking them in terms of innovation.
In ancient civilisations, luxuries were items or experiences considered rare or expensive, typically reserved for the wealthy or elite. These could include fine clothing and jewellery, rare spices and foods, works of art, expensive perfumes, and leisure activities such as hunting and entertainment.
Luxuries in ancient times varied depending on the specific civilisation but often reflected the values and wealth of the society.
In ancient times, record-keeping was done through manual methods. This included using clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, or parchment sheets. Each of these is described below.
Caption: List of the victories of Rimush, king of Akkad, upon Abalgamash, king of Marhashi, and upon Emahsini, King of Elam, c. 2270 BC.
Attribution: Louvre Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tablet_Rimush_Louvre_AO5476.jpg
Clay tablets were widely used in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) for record-keeping. They were made from clay that was moulded into rectangular shapes. Once baked, they were inscribed with cuneiform writing, made by pressing a stylus into the soft clay surface. Clay tablets were used to record various information, including legal contracts, business transactions, and tax records.
Papyrus scrolls were used in ancient Egypt and were made from the pith of the papyrus plant. The pith was cut into strips and laid out in horizontal and vertical layers, which were then pressed and dried to form a continuous sheet. The sheets were then glued together to form a scroll, which was used to record various information, including government documents, religious texts, and personal letters.
Caption: German parchmenter
Source: de:Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auff Erden, hoher und nidriger, geistlicher und weltlicher, aller Künsten, Handwercken und Händeln …” / from Jost Amman and Hans Sachs / Frankfurt am Main / 1568 / thanks to www.digitalis.uni-koeln.de
Parchment sheets were used in ancient Greece and Rome and were made from the skins of animals, such as sheep, goats, and cows. The skins were treated, stretched, and scraped to remove any hair or flesh, and then they were dried and smoothed. The resulting parchment sheets were used to create books, which were used to record everything from religious texts to legal codes.
In addition to manual record-keeping methods, some ancient civilisations also used wooden tally sticks – simple counting devices for tracking trade transactions. Tally sticks were usually marked with notches representing the number of goods or units traded.
Long Distance Trade
The world’s earliest evidence of a robust long-distance trading network comes from thousands of clay tablets excavated from the Bronze Age site of Kanesh, located in central Turkey. From around 2000 to 1750 BC, Kanesh, a vibrant and bustling city, attracted foreign merchants from Ashur, an Assyrian city some 700 miles to the southeast in modern-day Iraq. However, the government had a monopoly on trade.
At the end of the third millennium BC, Ashur’s king lifted the government monopoly on trade, opening the way for entrepreneurial private merchants to operate donkey caravans taking luxury fabrics and tin north into the Anatolian heartland, where they exchanged their wares for silver and gold bullion in at least 27 city-states. Lifting the monopoly facilitated the growth of long-distance trade networks in the ancient world.
The city-state of Ashur was part of the Akkadian Empire and later became the centre of the Assyrian Empire. The names of several famous Assyrian kings, such as Ashurbanipal and Tiglath-Pileser III, are known from later periods, but the identity of the king who lifted the government monopoly on trade at the end of the third millennium BC is not documented.
In addition to the trade network between Ashur and Anatolia, there were other long-distance trade networks in the ancient world, such as the Silk Road trade routes connecting the East and West. The Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans also engaged in long-distance trade and had extensive maritime trade networks that linked them with other civilisations in the Mediterranean cities and beyond.
The long-distance trade of luxury goods, such as spices, textiles, precious metals, and other commodities, helped spur economic growth, cultural exchange, and the development of new technologies in the ancient world.
Delivery of goods was made through various means depending on the civilisation and the goods being traded. Ancient civilisations had well-established trade networks and transportation systems that enabled them to trade goods with each other and with neighbouring regions. Some common methods included:
- Overland caravan: goods were transported by merchants and traders on foot or animal-drawn carts along trade routes connecting cities and regions.
- Sea trade: goods were transported by sea, either in ships or on rafts, to connect coastal cities and civilisations.
- River trade: goods were transported along major river systems using the same methods as sea trade.
Taxes and Banking Systems
Many ancient civilisations had systems of taxes to support their governments and fund public projects. The methods of taxation varied but could include tariffs on trade, property taxes, and taxes on commodities such as grain or livestock.
Banking systems also existed in some ancient civilisations, although they were not as developed as modern banking systems, for example:
- In Ancient Greece, the Temple of Delos served as a place for the deposit and storage of valuables.
- In Ancient Rome, there were money lenders and temples that served as banks.
However, the concept of banks as we know them today, with a wide range of financial services and complex financial instruments, did not exist in ancient times.
Economists and accountants were not necessarily a part of how traders dealt with delinquent debtors in the past. Traders typically had their own ways of managing credit and collecting debts. For example, they might use debt bondage, hire debt collectors, or take legal action to recover their debts. The methods used would have varied depending on the time period, cultural and legal context, and the relationship between the trader and the debtor. A few examples of methods used to deal with delinquent debtors are:
- Confiscation of assets: Traders might seize the assets of delinquent debtors as a means of repayment. This could involve confiscating land, livestock, or other property.
- Debt bondage: In some societies, debtors who could not repay their debts could be forced into bondage or indentured servitude, where they would work off their debts over time.
- Debt collectors: Traders might hire debt collectors to recover their debts. These debt collectors used various methods to recover debts, including intimidation, violence, and seizure of assets.
- Forced sales: Traders might also force the sale of assets belonging to delinquent debtors to recover the debt. This could involve, for example, selling the debtor’s property or goods.
- Imprisonment: In some societies, debtors who failed to repay their debts could be imprisoned. This was sometimes used to ensure repayment but could also serve as a form of punishment.
- Interest charges: Traders might also impose interest charges on delinquent debtors as a penalty for not paying on time. These interest charges could add up over time, making it more difficult for the debtor to pay the original debt.
- Legal action: Traders could also take legal action to recover their debts. This might involve going to court, using the legal system to seize the debtor’s assets, or garnishing the debtor’s wages.
- Negotiated settlement: In some cases, traders and debtors might reach a negotiated settlement to repay the debt over time.
- Property liens: Traders might place a lien on the property of a delinquent debtor, which would give them a legal right to seize the property if the debt was not repaid.
- Social pressure: Traders might also use social pressure to recover their debts by publicly shaming or ostracising debtors who failed to repay.
These methods of dealing with delinquent debtors have been used throughout history. For example, debt bondage and the use of debt collectors were documented in ancient civilisations such as Greece and Rome, while legal action and property liens were used in medieval Europe. Using interest charges and forced sales has also been a common practice in many societies throughout history.
Traders in the ancient world relied on a network of intermediaries, such as merchants, intermediaries, and envoys, to learn about the goods and resources available in other nations. They also relied on firsthand experience, personal connections, and word of mouth to gather information. They might also have learned through the exchange of goods and samples during trade fairs, markets, and other trading events. In some cases, traders may have even hired spies to gather information about their potential trading partners and the goods they had available.
The exact methods used varied depending on the region and the time period, but personal connections, intermediaries, and firsthand experience were often key factors. A few examples of how traders in the ancient world learned about goods and resources in other nations, are:
- Silk Road: The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that linked the East and West, stretching from China to the Mediterranean. Traders along the Silk Road used intermediaries, such as caravan leaders, to gather information about the goods available in the various regions they passed through. They also relied on personal connections and word of mouth to learn about new goods and resources.
- Phoenician Traders: The Phoenicians, a seafaring people from the eastern Mediterranean, established a vast trade network that extended from the eastern Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. They relied on personal connections and intermediaries to gather information about the goods available in other regions and used this information to plan their trade expeditions.
- Roman Traders: Roman traders relied on a network of intermediaries and merchants to gather information about the goods that were available in other regions. They also relied on personal connections, word of mouth, and information collected by Roman envoys and diplomats. The Roman Empire maintained a vast network of roads, which facilitated trade and allowed traders to move goods and gather information more easily.
How the Ancients learned how to become Traders
Trading is an ancient practice that has been around for thousands of years, and throughout history, people have learned how to become traders in various ways. Here are some common methods:
- Apprenticeship: In many cultures, young people would learn the trade from experienced traders by working alongside them. They would learn the skills and knowledge required to trade effectively by observing, practising, and receiving guidance from their mentors.
- Formal training: In some societies, there have been institutions or schools that offered formal training in trading and commerce. This might have involved attending lectures, studying texts, or working through case studies and simulations.
- Self-education: In other societies, traders would have learned through self-education by reading books, consulting with experts, or observing the market.
- On-the-job training: Many traders would have learned through on-the-job training by starting as a menial clerk or assistant to their father and gradually taking on more responsibility and learning the trade as they went.
- Networking: Traders also learned about trade and commerce through networking by building relationships with other traders, suppliers, customers, and experts in the field. This could involve attending trade fairs, joining trade organisations, or participating in professional associations.
The specific method used to learn how to become a trader would have varied depending on the cultural, legal, and economic context of each society and the type of trade being conducted at the time.
Caption: Marco Polo‘s caravan on the Silk Road, 1380
Attribution: Cresques Abraham, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Caravane_sur_la_Route_de_la_soie_-_Atlas_catalan.jpg
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End Notes and Explanations
- Sources: Multiple sources, including artificial intelligence, at: https://chat.openai.com/chat and from Wikipedia at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_ancient_Greece, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_history_of_India, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_money, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_economy, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_commerce, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk_Road, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polis and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_antiquity ↑
- Source: “Ancient Slavery”. Ditext.com. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_antiquity ↑
- Explanation: Polis literally means “city” in Greek. In Ancient Greece, it originally referred to an administrative and religious city centre, as distinct from the rest of the city. Later, it also came to mean the body of citizens under a city’s jurisdiction. In modern historiography, the term is normally used to refer to the ancient Greek city-states, such as Classical Athens and its contemporaries, and thus is often translated as “city-state“. The poleis were not like other primordial ancient city-states such as Tyre or Sidon, which were ruled by a king or a small oligarchy; rather, they were political entities ruled by their bodies of citizens. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polis ↑
- Source and acknowledgement: https://classicalwisdom.com/culture/history/international-trade-in-the-ancient-world/ ↑
- Source: Abstract of “Roman Law and Economics: Institutions and Organizations Volume I”, by Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci (ed.),Dennis P. Kehoe (ed.) at: https://academic.oup.com/book/40381↑
- Source: Nupam Mahajan and R. Balasubramaniam, “Scanning electron microscopy study of an ancient silver punch-marked coin with central pentagonal mark”, Numismatic Digest v. 22. ↑
- Sources: (1) “Ancient Indian Coinage”, RBI Monetary Museum, rbi.org, and (2) The World Economy: Historical Statistics, Angus Maddison ↑
- Sources: Primarily, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_economy and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_commerce ↑
- Source: Garnsey, Peter, et al. The Roman Empire: Economy, Society and Culture. 2nd ed., University of California Press, 2015, www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt9qh25h. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_economy ↑
- Source: Temin, Peter. “Financial Intermediation in the Early Roman Empire.” The Journal of Economic History, vol. 64, no. 3, 2004, pp. 705–733., www.jstor.org/stable/3874817. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_economy ↑
- Explanation: The First Punic War (264–241 BC) was the first of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage, the two main powers of the western Mediterranean in the early 3rd century BC. For 23 years, in the longest continuous conflict and greatest naval war of antiquity, the two powers struggled for supremacy. The war was fought primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters, and also in North Africa. After immense losses on both sides, the Carthaginians were defeated. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Punic_War ↑
- Sources: Andreau, Banking and Business in the Roman World, p. 2; Harris, “The Nature of Roman Money,” n.p. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_economy ↑
- Source: Bond, Shelagh (October 1957). “The Coinage of the Early Roman Empire“. Greece & Rome. 4 (2): 149–159. doi:10.1017/S001738350001593X. JSTOR 642136. S2CID 163277451. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_economy ↑
- Sources: Andreau, Banking and Business in the Roman World, p. 2; Harris, “The Nature of Roman Money,” n.p. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_economy ↑
- Source: Garnsey, Peter, et al. The Roman Empire: Economy, Society and Culture. 2nd ed., University of California Press, 2015, www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt9qh25h . Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_economy ↑
- Explanation: The negotiatores in ancient Rome, were merchants, traders, and businesspeople who facilitated commerce and trade in the Roman Empire. They played an important role in the economy of Rome, as they imported and exported goods, managed supply chains, and facilitated financial transactions. Some of the most successful negotiatores in ancient Rome were large-scale merchants who controlled significant portions of the trade routes between Rome and its provinces.↑
- Explanation: The argentarii were dealers in money, including money-changers, usurers, and bankers proper. Source: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0062:entry=argentarii-harpers ↑
- Explanation: Prescriptiones were a type of legal action in ancient Roman law that allowed a person to claim a right to property based on long-term and uninterrupted possession. The principle of prescription was a way to establish ownership of property without the need for a formal transfer of title through legal means, such as a sale or gift. In Roman law, if a person could demonstrate that they had peacefully and openly possessed a piece of property for a certain period of time, usually between 10 to 30 years, they could claim ownership of it through prescription. This legal concept was an important aspect of Roman property law and had a lasting impact on later legal systems. ↑
- Sources: (1) Seymour, Michael (2004). “Ancient Mesopotamia and Modern Iraq in the British Press, 1980–2003”. Current Anthropology. 45 (3): 351–368. doi:10.1086/383004. ISSN 0011-3204. JSTOR 10.1086/383004. S2CID 224788984, and (2) Miquel, A.; Brice, W.C.; Sourdel, D.; Aubin, J.; Holt, P.M.; Kelidar, A.; Blanc, H.; MacKenzie, D.N.; Pellat, Ch. (2011), “ʿIrāḳ”, in Bearman, P.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P. (eds.), Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Leiden: Brill Online, OCLC 624382576 Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesopotamia ↑
- Sources: (1) Sissakian, Varoujan K.; Adamo, Nasrat; Al-Ansari, Nadhir; Mukhalad, Talal; Laue, Jan (January 2020). “Sea Level Changes in the Mesopotamian Plain and Limits of the Arabian Gulf: A Critical Review”. Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering. 10 (4): 88–110, and (2) Pollock, Susan (1999), Ancient Mesopotamia. The Eden that never was, Case Studies in Early Societies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 1, ISBN 978-0-521-57568-3. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesopotamia ↑
Explanation: Lapis lazuli is a deep blue semi-precious stone prized since antiquity for its rich colour. It is a mineral composed primarily of lazurite, with smaller amounts of other minerals such as calcite, pyrite, and sodalite. Lapis lazuli was widely used in ancient times for jewellery, ornaments, and as a pigment for blue dyes and paints. The stone was highly valued in many cultures, including ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, where it was used to make a rich blue pigment known as ultramarine. It was also used in the production of religious and decorative objects, such as the ornamentation of clothing and household items, as well as for inlaying precious objects like jewelry and small sculptures. It has been mined for thousands of years in various locations, including Afghanistan, which remains one of the world’s largest producers of the stone to this day. ↑
- Sources: Mostly https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_trade ↑
- Explanation: The Epipaleolithic Natufians were a prehistoric group of people who lived in the eastern Mediterranean region around 12,000-9,500 years ago. They were among the first communities to adopt a sedentary lifestyle and were characterised by their use of grinding stones and sickle blades for harvesting wild cereals. They also hunted and gathered other plants and animals, and made intricate sculptures, figurines, and burial sites. The Natufians are considered to be an important transitional stage between the hunter-gatherer societies of the Paleolithic era and the agricultural communities of the Neolithic era. ↑
- Explanation: Parthenocarpic figs are figs that develop and mature without fertilisation. This means that they do not require pollination by fig wasps to produce fruit. Parthenocarpy is a naturally occurring phenomenon in some fig varieties and can also be induced in others through human intervention, such as the use of growth regulators. Parthenocarpic figs have a uniform size and shape and are commonly used in commercial production, as they are less susceptible to insect damage and have a longer shelf life than seeded figs. ↑
- Source: Kislev, ME; Hartmann, A; Bar-Yosef, O (2006). “Early domesticated fig in the Jordan Valley”. Science. 312 (5778): 1372–1374. Bibcode: 2006Sci…312.1372K. doi:10.1126/science.1125910. PMID 16741119. S2CID 42150441. ↑
- Explanation: The Badarian culture provides the earliest direct evidence of agriculture in Upper Egypt during the Predynastic Era. It flourished between 4400 and 4000 BC, and might have already emerged by 5000 BC. Badari culture is so named because of its discovery at El-Badari, an area in the Asyut Governorate in Upper Egypt. It is located between Matmar and Qau, approximately 200 km (120 miles) northwest of present-day Luxor (ancient Thebes). Sources: (1) Watterson, Barbara (1998). The Egyptians. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 31. ISBN 0-631-21195-0, (2) Holmes, D., & Friedman, R. (1994). Survey and Test Excavations in the Badari Region, Egypt. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 60(1), 105-142. doi:10.1017/S0079497X0000342X, and (3) Shaw, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. pp. 479. ISBN 0-19-815034-2.Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badarian_culture ↑
- Source: “Maadi Culture”. Digitalegypt.ucl.ac.uk. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_trade ↑
- Explanation: The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus), also known as the Mongolian camel or domestic Bactrian camel, is a large even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of Central Asia. It has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary. Its population of 2 million exists mainly in the domesticated form. Their name comes from the ancient historical region of Bactria, an ancient region in Central Asia in Amu Darya’s middle stream, stretching north of the Hindu Kush, west of the Pamirs and south of the Gissar range, covering the northern part of Afghanistan, southwestern Tajikistan and southeastern Uzbekistan. Domesticated Bactrian camels have served as pack animals in inner Asia since ancient times. With its tolerance for cold, drought, and high altitudes, it enabled the travel of caravans on the Silk Road. Bactrian camels, whether domesticated or feral, are a separate species from the wild Bactrian camel, which is the only truly wild (as opposed to feral) species of camelid in the Old World. ↑
- Source: Largely from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_ancient_Greece ↑
- Source: https://eh.net/encyclopedia/the-economy-of-ancient-greece/ ↑
- Source: Machine-generated artificial intelligence, at: https://chat.openai.com/chat ↑
- Source: Mainly from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_history_of_India ↑
- Source: Paul Bairoch (1995). Economics and World History: Myths and Paradoxes. University of Chicago Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-226-03463-8. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_history_of_India ↑
- Sources: Maddison, Angus (2007). Contours of the World Economy 1–2030 AD: Essays in Macro-Economic History. Oxford University Press. p. 379. ISBN 978-0-191-64758-1, (2) Maddison, Angus (2003): Development Centre Studies The World Economy Historical Statistics: Historical Statistics, OECD Publishing, ISBN 9264104143, p. 261, (3) Paul Bairoch (1995). Economics and World History: Myths and Paradoxes. University of Chicago Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-226-03463-8, and (4) “Power of Data Visualisation”. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_history_of_India ↑
- Explanation: A subsistence economy is an economy directed to basic subsistence (the provision of food, clothing, shelter) rather than to the market. In this context,”subsistence” is understood as supporting oneself at a minimum level. Often, the subsistence economy is moneyless and relies on natural resources to provide for basic needs through hunting, gathering, and agriculture. In a subsistence economy, economic surplus is minimal and only used to trade for basic goods, and there is no industrialisation. In hunting and gathering societies, resources are often if not typically underused. In human history, before the first cities, all humans lived in a subsistence economy. As urbanisation, civilisation, and division of labour spread, various societies moved to other economic systems at various times. Some remain relatively unchanged, ranging from uncontacted peoples, to marginalised areas of developing countries, to some cultures that choose to retain a traditional economy. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subsistence_economy ↑
- Source: Angus Maddison (2007). The World Economy Volume 1: A Millennial Perspective Volume 2: Historical Statistics. Academic Foundation. p. 260.ISBN 9788171886135. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_history_of_India ↑
- Source: D’Eprio, Peter & Pinkowish, Mary Desmond (1998). What Are the Seven Wonders of the World? First Anchor Books, p. 192. ISBN 0-385-49062-3. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money ↑
- Source: “Online Etymology Dictionary”. etymonline.com. ↑
- Source: https://www.investopedia.com/insights/what-is-money/ ↑
- Source: http://studylecturenotes.com/notes-on-stages-of-evolution-of-money/ Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money ↑
- Source: https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/4/113533/The-first-currency-in-history-Kingdom-of-Lydia-minted-gold ↑
- Source and acknowledgement: https://conexionintal.iadb.org/2017/03/06/la-evolucion-del-comercio-del-trueque-al-movil/?lang=en ↑
- Source and acknowledgement: http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/plaintexthistories.asp?historyid=ab14 ↑
- Source: https://crypto.com/university/history-of-money-barter-to-bitcoin ↑
- Source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Silk-Road-trade-route ↑
- Explanation: The Levant is a geographical term used to describe the eastern Mediterranean region, which includes modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Cyprus, and parts of southern Turkey and Syria. The term “Levant” comes from the French word “lever,” meaning “to rise,” as the sun rises in the east. The area has been a crossroads for various civilisations and has played a significant role in the development of Western culture, religion, and commerce. ↑