Informational Snippets of Importance. East Mediterranean Links with Bronze Age Europe
The Beginnings of Trade in Northwestern Europe During the Bronze Age [Eastern Mediterranean Links]
[Forwarded by Mark Williams]
Gottingen research confirms hypotheses on the complexity of commerce over 3,000 years ago
University of Gottingen
Credit: Wessex Archaeology
Newswise: People in England were using balance weights and scales to measure the value of materials as early as the late second and early first millennia BC. This is what Professor Lorenz Rahmstorf, scientist at the University of Gottingen and project manager of the ERC "Weight and Value" project, has discovered. He compared Middle and Late Bronze Age gold objects from the British Isles and Northern France and found that they were based on the same unit of weight. This confirmed the hypothesis of the research team of the project that there was already expertise in using standard weights and measures in many regions of Europe at that time. The results were published in the journal Antiquity.
Until now, it had often been assumed that trade during the Bronze Age in northwestern Europe was primarily socially embedded - for example as in the exchange of gifts. The existence of precise units of measurement, however, enabled people even at that time to compare exact ratios of material values of different goods such as metals, possibly also wool and grain. They were also able to calculate profits, to create currencies and to save up measurable quantities of metal. "Obviously, the exchange was already based on the economic interests of trading partners," explains Rahmstorf, director of the Institute for Prehistory and Early History at the University of Gottingen. "So it is clear we are talking about real trade."
What is surprising about the statistical analysis of the unit of weight that has been identified, is that it is very nicely compatible and possibly even identical with the dominant East Mediterranean weight of that time. This would be an indication that knowledge about standard weights and measures has been widely disseminated and possibly passed on through travelling traders. It was already known that people in the technologically advanced, literate cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia - for example Greece, Egypt or Mesopotamia - used such weights and scales as an aid. However, these findings now indicate that such value measurement systems already existed in many if not all parts of prehistoric Bronze Age Europe. "The results of our research show that we have so far underestimated the complexity of the early commercial transactions during the Bronze Age in Europe," said Rahmstorf. Further information on the "Weight and Value" project can be found at http://www.uni-goettingen.de/de/572018.html.
Original publication: Lorenz Rahmstorf. Scales, weights and weight-regulated artefacts in Middle and Late Bronze Age Britain. Antiquity 2019. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2018.257.
Nordic Graves Were Made by King Tut's Glassmaker
[Brought to our attention by Mark Williams]
Stunning glass beads found in Danish Bronze Age burials dating to 3400 years ago turn out to have come from ancient Egypt, in fact, from the workshop that made the blue beads buried with the famous boy-king Tutankhamun. The discovery proves that there were established trade routes between the far north and Levant as early as the 13th century BCE.
Twenty-three of the glass beads found in Danish Bronze Age burials by the team of Danish and French archaeologists were blue, a rare color in ancient times.
Lapis lazuli was the most precious gemstone in Nordic Late Bronze Age. Blue glass was the next best thing," Jeanette Varberg, who is associated with the research, told Haaretz.
The blue beads aren't the only evidence of trade between ancient Denmark and the region. Altogether 271 glass beads have been found at 51 burials sites in Denmark, the majority of which originated from Nippur, Mesopotamia, about 50 km southeast of today's Baghdad in Iraq.
One of the blue glass beads was found with a Bronze Age woman buried in Olby, Denmark, in a hollowed oak coffin wearing a sun disc, a smart string skirt decorated with tinkling, small bronze tubes (a decoration on the cords, placed at the front of the skirt), and an overarm bracelet made of amber beads. She had evidently been quite well to do.
One of the blue glass beads was found with a Bronze Age woman buried in Olby, Denmark, in a hollowed oak coffin.
The 23 blue glass beads were analyzed using plasma-spectrometry, a technique that enables comparison of trace elements in the beads without destroying them.
The analysis showed that the blue beads buried with the women turned out to have originated from the same glass workshop in Amarna that adorned King Tutankhamun at his funeral in 1323 BCE. King Tuts golden deathmask contains stripes of blue glass in the headdress, as well as in the inlay of his false beard.
Glass beads were a luxury adornment in ancient Egypt. They were not especially prevalent, except in the graves of the elite where the selection was choice but limited in quantity. It may seem inexplicable how cobalt beads fit for kings could end up in Nordic burials. But Kaul Flemming and Jeanette Varberg speculate that the two ancient lands traded the luxury glass beads for amber.
'Denmark is rich in amber and it was the primary exchange item from the North,' said Varberg. Amber, which is fossilized tree resin, was associated with the Sun God - in both ancient Egypt and the Nordic areas, it seems.Moshe Gilad
Nordic amber in Mycenae
The Egyptian and Mesopotamian glass beads found in the graves in Denmark indicates that trade was established already 3000 years ago, and conversely, Nordic amber has been found as far south as in Mycenae, Greece and at Qatna, near Homs in Syria.
Together with other finds such as Cypriot copper found in Sweden, the picture of an elaborate trade system emerges. Also, Nordic amber beads as well as beads made of Egyptian glass and copper ingots formed part of the precious cargo of the ship wrecked at Uluburun, outside the coast of Turkey.
'The glass beads travelled along the same roads as the amber. The glass came from Mesopotamia and Egypt to the North while the amber came from the north and reached the most distant part of the Mediterranean and even beyond,' Kaul Flemming told Haaretz.
However the glass exchange almost stops around 1177 BCE - probably due to attacks by the Sea Peoples.
'Trade systems in the Eastern Mediterranean seem to have collapsed around 1200 BC, which must have been due to troubled times, perhaps war and strife, and the emergence of the Sea Peoples. This collapse can also be observed in the Nordic burials. Fewer glass beads seem to have reached the north,' said Flemming, and adds, 'However an interesting phenomena occurred at the same time in Italy. In the Po Valley, new workshops arose, where they turned glass into glass beads. There are also large workshops where they processed Nordic amber from natural lumps into finished gems.'
According to Greek mythology and legend, amber was the tears of the daughters of the sun god Helios. Or, according to the Greek author Apollonius of Rhodes, amber was the tears shed by the sun god Apollo when he was visiting the land of the Hyperboreans (ancient Scandinavians) and heard about the death of his son.
The sun cult in the Nordic bronze age has resemblance to the Egyptian religion," concludes Varberg. "And yes, I see clear evidence of ideas travelling along the same exchange routes as amber and glass."
Imported glass beads from Egypt and Mesopotamia have also been found in Israel. Roni Hoofien at Tel Aviv University is constructing a new typological system and tracing manufacturing techniques and raw material provenance using the beads assemblage of Tel-Azekah, in the Judean Shepelah. ecause of the close proximity of Tel Azekah to Egypt, we believe that the glass beads were imported from Egypt," she said.