The Bureaucracy of Trade in the Late Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1996


Imported objects, royal and personal archives stacked with commercial documents, and shipwrecked cargoes provide evidence for widespread contact and exchange in the Late Bronze Age (LB) eastern Mediterranean. Attempts to reconstruct the patterns and motives for this trade usually concentrate on studies of the documents and the trade items themselves. One category of evidence that, although frequently noted, has not been subjected to rigorous examination, is the secondary marks with which objects-ingots and pottery, for example-were labelled in the course of exchange. Signs incised or painted on pottery are a particularly good source of information, since the widely-exported ceramics have often survived the ravages of time. By tracing how and where the vases were marked, it may be possible to learn something specific about the routes that the vases travelled, the people who carried them from place to place, and the administration of trade.


American Schools of Oriental Research


Boston, MA

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