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I'm part-way through "By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia" [0] and it does a fantastic job of illustrating the significance of markets in the ancient world. One tidbit that struck me as particularly interesting was that the appearance of the earliest civilizations in the near east demanded resources from other areas, notably the caucuses and beyond, which caused the emergence of more advanced civilizations in those regions as well--and similarly, when a given near-east civilization declined or collapsed, the satellite civilization declined or collapsed as well. In general, I'm always surprised that enormous markets existed before nation states, animal husbandry, before metallurgy, and even before agriculture itself. People were trading obsidian or other resources back into the stone age. I guess I always thought of widespread trade networks as a later development--something that depended upon (not preceded) the existence of agriculture, metallurgy, or nation states.


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