made in China thousands of years ago
We are used to the idea of buying goods from all over the world. We don’t think it’s that strange that we can buy products that were made in China at our locals’ shops. We can even buy these products directly from the producer, from the internet.
However, we wouldn’t expect that there would be goods ‘’Made in China’’ on sale in ancient Rome.
Yet, China was as famous for its exports in ancient Rome as it is today. However, back when China was not known for cheap goods you can buy at the dollar store. China was most famous for luxury goods. It was known as the Land of the Silk.
Until the smuggling of the silkworms from China to Byzantium China had a global monopoly on silk production
There is ample evidence of global trade in antiquity. Asian goods reached every region of Europe. In 1954, researchers archaeologists discovered a Buddha statue in a small town, Helgo, in Sweden. The archaeologists dated the statue to the 5th century, likely coming from Kashmir, Northern India and hypothesize it was carried as a talisman by merchant traders. It was carried over thousands of miles, through steppes of Eurasia, perhaps after two or three hundred years of travel.
Romans, on the other hand, highly esteemed by Chinese, exported high-quality glass from Alexandria and Syria to China. Roman glass has been discovered as far as Japan, within a 5th –century burial.
Other exports were gold-embroidered rugs, gold-colored cloth, amber, non-flammable asbestos cloth (yes, really) and the prized sea silk, made from the silk-like hairs of the Pinna Nobilis, a Mediterranean shellfish.
Direct trade between the Mediterranean lands and India had been established in the late 2nd century BC by the Hellenistic Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. Greek sailors used the regular pattern of monsoon winds for their trade journeys to the Indian Ocean. Excavation in India brought in the light Roman coins.
Trade was the indispensable lifestyle of the ancient Greek world like sailing. First raw amongst other goods, like ivory, was carried from the East, as was fundamental for the construction of Art pieces 8 centuries BC.
Most of the early trade in antiquity was in luxury items. This is to be expected since the cost of transportation was much higher than today. It only made economic sense to take goods which had a high value per unit of weight on such long journeys.
Unlike today, there was no global market for cheap goods
These findings are not accidental. They did not travel halfway across the world by accident. The chances of that happening are extremely small. Rather, these findings are evidence of a global network of trade that existed since the earliest times. Goods have been traveling across the world for thousands of years. They would travel distances no man ever had.
Silk Road is a good example. As late as the early modern age, it was the most significant trade link between Europe and Asia.
The two empires stood at either side of Eurasia, and the Silk Roads connected their diverse cultures. The Han Dynasty and Imperial Rome. The two great powers were too far separated to have any sort of military conflict.
The Chinese valued Roman metalworking and glass, while Chinese silks were among the most prized possessions in many rich Roman households. Goods traveled on the Silk road non-stop, even though very few people ever made the entire journey.
So it is from the Bronze Age the trade network and migration routes that brought people from across Eurasia into contact, and beyond goods, political, social, and artistic ideas, as well.
intercultural evolution along the steppes and the seas of that era
All it took for a good to travel these huge distances was that the price difference is high enough and that there are people on the other end that are willing to buy. Simple supply and demand.
Along the way, as a good went farther and farther from its destination, its price rose. Merchants could make small journeys and all would make a profit along the way. That was enough to create a truly globalized economy of antiquity.
We think of globalization as a modern phenomenon, but even before the great voyages in the Age of Discovery, and before Arab merchants conquered the Indian Ocean, there was a robust trading network that linked Europe to Asia.
That is a testament to the importance of trade for the development of our civilizations.
Co-Author & Journalist David Marsanic
Axiom by Medusaudi
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