Thursday, March 06, 2008

Quantities of Trade   posted by Razib @ 3/06/2008 01:54:00 AM

I'm almost done with Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium. So I found this press release of interest:
Throughout the 12th and 13th centuries - during the time of the Crusades --ceramic vessels reached Acre from: Mediterranean regions, the Levant, Europe, North Africa, and even China -- reveals new research, which examined trade of ceramic vessels, conducted at the University of Haifa.

...Other vessel forms that arrived in smaller numbers include containers, jars, bowls and cooking wares. 44.5% of imports arrived from the Mediterranean regions of Cyprus, Greece and Asia Minor. There were also strong commercial links with the neighbors in Syria and Lebanon where 29.3% of the imports arrived from. Western Mediterranean regions-- such as France, Catalonia and Tunisia, were the source of some 3.3% of ceramic vessels and even Chinese pottery arrived in Acre - 0.2% of the imported pottery arrived from China.

Not much. But China is far away. There is an unfortunate problem in economic history and archaeology of assuming that the lit area of a dark street has all the answers. Some aspects of human history are easier to quantitize than others, but ease of precise comprehension and communication does not imply totality of understanding. Which is why narrative history in a more classical sense is still important. But, an interest in one is not necessarily exclusive with an interest in the other, though in practical terms it often is (unfortunately). But in any case, I would though offer that 0.2% of a physical commodity imported from China in the Levant is orders of magnitude greater than the amount of trade between these regions 2,000 years before this period. I suspect that the world of 1,000 AD was far more of a small-world network than the world of 10,000 BC, and that is important to keep in mind for dynamics of all types.