Silica Valley
September 27, 2015 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Adam Davidson,The V.C.s of B.C.
Through a series of incredibly unlikely events, archaeologists have uncovered the comprehensive written archive of a few hundred traders who left their hometown Assur, in what is now Iraq, to set up importing businesses in Kanesh, which sat roughly at the center of present-day Turkey and functioned as the hub of a massive global trading system that stretched from Central Asia to Europe. Kanesh’s traders sent letters back and forth with their business partners, carefully written on clay tablets and stored at home in special vaults. Tens of thousands of these records remain. One economist recently told me that he would love to have as much candid information about businesses today as we have about the dealings — and in particular, about the trading practices — of this 4,000-year-old community.

The Archaeological Site of Kültepe-Kanesh is a trove of clay tablets that information about life in the ancient world.

A review of A Historical Geography of Anatolia in the Old Assyrian Colony Period by Gojko Barjamovic.
Mogens Trolle Larsen, author of Ancient Kanesh: A Merchant Colony in Bronze Age Anatolia, a hub of early commercial travel

Kanesh was part of a network throughout Mesopotamia whose "circumstances made it important to minimize bullion shipments,leading to the creation of financial instruments" in what might be considered The Origins of Globalization. How donkeys helped create inequality.
posted by the man of twists and turns (7 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
In related "fortuitous survival of 4000-year-old administrative records" news, Smithsonian Magazine reports on "The World's Oldest Papyrus and What It Can Tell Us About the Building of the Great Pyramids":
The discovery of the papyri at such a distant location is significant, Tallet says: “It is not very logical that [the writings] should have ended up at Wadi al-Jarf. Of course [the managers] would have always traveled with their archives because they were expected always to account for their time. I think the reason we found [the papyri] there is that this was the last mission of the team, I imagine because of the death of the king. I think they just stopped everything and closed up the galleries and then as they were leaving buried the archives in the area between the two large stones used to seal the complex. The date on the papyri seems to be the last date we have for the reign of Khufu, the 27th year of his reign.
posted by Sonny Jim at 11:09 AM on September 27, 2015 [6 favorites]

The Wikipedia article notes that the Hittites, whose empire would rise and fall centered in Anatolia during the ensuing millenium, mostly called [Kanesh] Neša, occasionally Anisa and that The native term for the Hittite language was nešili ‘language of Neša’.

Also of the Kültepe texts, Although they are written in Old Assyrian, the Hittite loanwords and names in these texts constitute the oldest record of any Indo-European language (The Old Assyrian dialect of the Akkadian language which the traders would have used being from the Semitic language family like Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic.)

Nice post! Especially the link to the book The Origins of Business, Money, and Markets in the "throughout Mesopotamia" link. I love reading about ancient sophisticated financial contracts and instruments that have in the past been attributed as inventions of Renaissance Europeans.
posted by XMLicious at 12:03 PM on September 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

posted by supermedusa at 12:50 PM on September 27, 2015

the level of financial sophistication and complexity is amazing. thanks for this awesome post!
posted by supermedusa at 1:02 PM on September 27, 2015

This is so awesome. Simon Schama's book about Jewish history starts with these kinds of records and it's fascinating.
posted by winna at 1:11 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Gravity Model may seem like bad news for people who want the economy to be fairer.

No, it isn't. Taxation and redistribution are how you fix the unfairness of the market. It has little to do with trade.

The inevitability of trade actually makes this easier, because it suggests that no matter how much you tax and redistribute, the trade will still flow.
posted by clawsoon at 6:52 AM on September 28, 2015

Goddammit, I don't need to be introduced to more giant assemblages of fascinating knowledge that will suck up my remaining free time!
posted by clawsoon at 7:43 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

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