Cognito wrote:He cited an example of Roman poppy-head-shaped pots that were used to transport opiates from central Asia - the shape is a non-linguistic 'label' on the pot, you know what you're getting.
Flintz, with that statement you just turned the analysis of ancient pottery art on its head. In many cases they were using designs to label the contents? Somewhat like ancient packaging? Makes perfect sense to me.
Thanks very much, but I'm afraid the credit goes to Andrew Sherratt - much as I'd love to overturn fixed thinking in art analysis.
Makes perfect sense to me too - and I'm astonished that it doesn't have more weight as an argument in the archaeological mainstream. It's pretty much to my mind an extension of Lewis Binford's theories about culture as a human reaction to the environment.
Beagle - That's a lovely piece on the shapes of amphorae, thanks - clearly, by such a 'late' (in terms of trade) date as the hellenic Greek period, we've got a complex system of labelling and product-placement, with competing town-producers using specially-shaped containers almost as 'brand names'. To paraphrase a comment from the 'origin of boats' debate, none of these examples are early, prototype work; they all show a mature material culture, indicating that we're missing the early, developmental evidence that stretches back into deep time.
The article on amphorae makes me wonder if some of the Later Iron Age sites in the UK might be useful for evidence of not just trade, but branding and customer loyalty, very ephemeral traces indeed.
Imagine that same two mediterranean locales, making competing wine in shaped amphorae. Now, suppose the Iron Age chieftain of a southern UK tribe gets a trader moor his vessel on the beach with both kinds of amphora on board. Is the chieftain is buying in the wine he/she likes? the stuff that gets the most kudos with the neighbours? The better quality stuff? Or the stuff the Romans drink? Most importantly, is he/she basing their decisions, judging where to spend the tribe's wealth on the basis of the amphora shape? Either way, the archaeology simply shows one type of amphora turning up in the graves much more often than the other, with the predictable interpretation. Simple supply-chain limits - the assumption is this is all they could get.
...Very interesting lines of enquiry to keep me busy for a while
John - Also thanks, I hadn't realised Demeter and Ceres 'had previous employment', as it were
John & Sam - I agree, there's a lot of converging lines of trade development, from alcohol to opium and all stages in between, all heading northeast from the fertile crescent into central asia.
I'd like to qualify the term 'proto scythian' from my post about Sherratt's theory - I'm not happy with the idea that 'proto-scythian' is still a valid term for so many thousands of years further back than the 'scythians' in the classic sense, but I can see a value for the name in describing an ancient horseback culture in the asiatic plains, similar in many superficial ways to both the mongolians and the scythians. I think I prefer your terms, 'the Scythian mists of time' and 'Very Early Indo Europeans' for this kind of culture, as it makes me think in terms of differences, ways the progenitor culture were *not* scythians. I think that's more valid
How much range of movement do you ascribe to horseback cultures? I'm no expert on horses, but this region seems to be a spawning-ground for militarily powerful nomadic horseback cultures. An example of the vast area they cover would be that when Genghis Khan died, the Golden Horde generals returned to Mongolia to elect a replacement. They travelled from the 'front line', roughly where Austria/Hungary is today. When horses were domesticated, is there any evidence of the spread of trading goods from central asia 'accellerating', due to movement capabilities like these?