Ancient Trade Changed the World

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Re: Ancient Packaging

Postby Flintz » Mon Feb 25, 2008 7:22 am

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. :D


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 :D

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?
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Postby Digit » Mon Feb 25, 2008 8:28 am

I think the idea of 'branding' a container to indicate its contents is obvious......once someone points it out! 8)
Wonder how long it will take for acceptance though?
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Postby Flintz » Mon Feb 25, 2008 1:08 pm

Digit wrote:I think the idea of 'branding' a container to indicate its contents is obvious......once someone points it out! 8)
Wonder how long it will take for acceptance though?


...Can we hope not too long? coincidentally enough, this from yesterday's newpage:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 130334.htm
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Ancient Branding

Postby Cognito » Mon Feb 25, 2008 3:48 pm

From the article: "Ancient societies not only imposed strict forms of quality control over these commodities, but as today they needed to convey value to the consumer. Wengrow finds that commodities in any complex, large society needs to pass through a "nexus of authenticity."

As spoken six thousand years ago:

Dorkus: "I'm making the containers now. So how should I mark them?"

Atroceous: "The good stuff gets pictures of naked women. Stems gets your normal design, and junk laced with parsley gets scribbles. Don't mix up the contents or you'll lose an ear!"

Dorkus: "Alright, so you still want to give R/S the scribbly ones?" :shock:

Atroceous: "Of course, he's so high all the time -- he'll never notice!" :twisted:
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Postby Flintz » Thu Feb 28, 2008 1:13 pm

LMAO :lol:

...I think I know those guys. ;)
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Postby Minimalist » Fri Feb 29, 2008 1:51 pm

An interesting add-on to the discussion about "branding."

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/125407

“In contrast with the large cluster of bullae (seals) that was found two years ago, in which all of its items contain graphic symbols (such as a boat or different animals – fish, lizards and birds) but are of an earlier date (end of the ninth-beginning of the eighth century BCE), the new items indicate that during the eighth century BCE the practice had changed and the clerks who used the seals began to add their own names to them.”



Perhaps the simplest implication is that by the 8th century BC (700's) literacy had become widespread enough to allow for labelling instead of branding! This would be consistent with the failure to find inscriptions dating from the 9th century and before.
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Re: Ancient Branding

Postby Rokcet Scientist » Fri Feb 29, 2008 5:30 pm

Cognito wrote:
As spoken six thousand years ago:

Dorkus: "I'm making the containers now. So how should I mark them?"

Atroceous: "The good stuff gets pictures of naked women. Stems gets your normal design, and junk laced with parsley gets scribbles. Don't mix up the contents or you'll lose an ear!"

Dorkus: "Alright, so you still want to give R/S the scribbly ones?" :shock:

Atroceous: "Of course, he's so high all the time -- he'll never notice!" :twisted:



Oops! Almost missed that! I was distracted for a while. Checkin' out the babes. But what's that about trying to flog me junk? It ain't gonna work, bro. You want dead or somethin'? You'z talking to the Jedi of buds, ya hear!

You did demonstrate another aspect as old as trade, though: the rip deal.
It started many a war, shaping humanity's development.

Now lemme get back to this roach. Please don't distract me. It's (yet another) work of art!

Pffffffffff mmmmm yummie
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