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Going the Distance to Uncover The Roots of Trade in the Near East

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Science  08 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5928, pp. 717
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_717

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Trade in gemstones and other precious goods has generally been seen as playing only a minor part in the emergence of civilization. Now archaeologists are finding a more important role for trade at the start of the 2nd millennium B.C.E., when the first complex societies took hold across the Old World. There is growing evidence that more ordinary goods—ranging from textiles to food—were transported over long distances, it was reported at the recent Society for American Archaeology meeting, held in Atlanta, Georgia, from 22 to 26 April. That network, connected in part by mobile pastoralists or nomads, may have played an important role in encouraging the growth of the world's first cities, as well as mercantile classes, standardized measures, and other aspects of life we take for granted in our globalized economy.