Week 3: Specialized Production and Trade

I always find it fascinating to read about ancient civilization’s engineering, architectural, and specialized production techniques because these people were ahead of their time, in my opinion, and I often wonder how they ever thought to invent or do these things. Kohler’s article discusses the specialized production of crafts and the trading of Ancient Egypt during the Neolithic, the Chalcolithic, and the Early Dynastic Periods. During the Neolithic, populations relied on animal husbandry, fishing, agriculture, and sometimes hunting to maintain their subsistence economy. In this kind of economy families produced enough product for their families alone. When the Chalcolithic began their economy became a wealth-and-staple-financed economy, with this economy the people were able to conduct specialized production techniques and produce product surpluses.

They created full-time industries, regional centers, and workshops for pottery/ceramic products, making stone vessels and flint tools, and for other luxury goods. They began using the technique of metallurgy, mining, and smelting copper ore. During the early Dynastic they made various goods from agricultural produce, like textiles, oils, beer/wine, and bread. These populations imported many goods, like cooper ore and ingots, different types of wood, oils, wine, precious stones, gold, silver, exotic animal skins, etc. Their trade routes networked through the Mesopotamia, Levant, Anatolia, Nubia, and other parts of Africa, Sinai, and the Eastern Desert. Merchants and donkey caravans traveled these routes, and later routes to the Mediterranean and Levant were traveled by ship. They participated in direct, indirect, and down-the-line trading. These routes began to contribute and become very important for the sustainment of their economy.

I often wonder how these people began trading; did they just take their goods and start walking until they found other cities with something they wanted? Or did they begin trading only after other travelers came to their city and exchanged goods? I also wonder, when I read about their craft production and other techniques, about what event(s) led them to think or consider these techniques? Did some other population teach them? Were they accidents or chance occurrences, or did individuals think them up or engineer them? These are questions that we or I may never know the answers to, but I have read of other civilizations inventing and/or using the same or similar techniques (and others that may not have be seen in Ancient Egypt) as the populations of Ancient Egypt and they all seem to suggest that these same techniques developed independently within each civilizations. I find that a rather large coincidence that every civilization throughout their own growth/evolution all came up with almost identical techniques independently from one another. I would hope that further research of these civilizations would solve these questions, but I am unsure if it will be able to in the future.

3 thoughts on “Week 3: Specialized Production and Trade

  1. I often wonder how they begun trading as well! I mentioned in my blog post this week that it it probably stems from the fertile Nile River Valley allowing them to produce an excess of crops, which led them to trade it for something they didn’t have. Of course that is what I would do given the situation. It’s hard to know exactly how things were working because from what I was understanding there wasn’t much written record from the early predynastic time.

    It seems that the trading networks they established was not only essential but vital to stimulating and maintaining their economy.

    I like how you said, ” I find that a rather large coincidence that every civilization throughout their own growth/evolution all came up with almost identical techniques independently from one another”, which I agree with. But it’s hard to speculate as to how the political and sociological frameworks transferred across wide distances. I can imagine that there are some extreme opinions and speculations as to how this happened, which I am not going to attempt.

    In all, great post! It’s too bad that in the foreseeable future we won’t know much more about how the trade routes started and how they were maintained.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your blog post because you did a great job summarizing specialized production of crafts and trade in Ancient Egypt during the Neolithic, the Chalcolithic, and the Early Dynastic Periods. I wrote about how socio-political processes and warfare impacted the unification process so it was nice to read your summary of a completely different topic in the reading. I liked how you summarized the fact that Neolithic populations relied on “animal husbandry, fishing, agriculture and sometimes hunting” and that Chalcolithic populations relied on more of a “wealth-and-staple-financed economy”. Also, to continue the discussion in your post, “how these people began trading”, I think that maybe people started trading only after other travelers came to their city and exchanged goods. I would assume what happened was travelers began going to other cities and started finding things that they need or want. Once people started trading and learning that maybe they can benefit from possessing items from other cities, it simply caught on and trading was gradually incorporated into the society. However, the only way we could really find out how people began trading would to hop into a time machine and observe them ourselves! My favorite thing about this blog post is that you genuinely seem interested in this aspect of the reading, which is great! It makes reading your post a billion times more interesting!

  3. I don’t really know for sure how countries and people groups started trading, but I’ll give my theory. When people from one land traveled away from their homeland, they encountered other people who they eventually got to know. After the two people groups became familiar with each other, they eventually realized that the other person had some goods that they didn’t have (or, perhaps, they saw something the other person was wearing, say a gold necklace or arm band, and wanted something like that for themselves). Either way, I’m sure that at some point, different populations realized that there were some desirable goods that they couldn’t produce in their own country or land, and they other people could. At this point, bargaining probably started.
    I’d also bet that, if there was a population that had more valuable resources (gold, silver, copper, ivory, etc.), these countries became the most powerful, since, if people couldn’t get these goods anywhere else, they’d be willing to trade their most valuable possessions to the people who had whatever they really wanted. Some time later, as people developed charts for sailing, and making long journeys overland, they probably also realized the benefits of taking goods that were unique to their country, and trading them in faraway lands. That is my guess/theory as to how trading began.

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