The Assyrian Textile Trade in Anatolia (19th century BCE): From Traded Goods to Prestigious Gifts

Abstract : During the 3rd millennium BCE, we observe a “wool revolution” in Mesopotamia. Wool became the main woven material and was distributed to male and female workers as subsistence rations. According to cuneiform documentation, in parallel with long established domestic production, large-scale textile production began at that time.1 Early in the 2nd millennium BCE, international trade in textiles expanded. In southern Mesopotamia, palaces employed merchants to market the wool produced by their herds; at Aššur, private entrepreneurs were engaged in a long distance textile trade. During the 19th and 18th centuries BCE – a period called conventionally Old Assyrian –, Assyrians exported large quantities of textiles to Anatolia. This international trade was private, but controlled by the authorities who imposed various taxes and took political decisions which could sometimes affect the textile trade. In Anatolia, the trade was based on treaties and agreements with the local rulers; Anatolian princes and high officials acquired Assyrian and Babylonian textiles. Assyrian woollen products and weaving techniques were considered as of excellent quality and the textiles produced were goods that the Anatolian elite was eager to wear. Thus, in some instances, textiles became prestige goods offered by the Assyrians to the local elite.
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Cécile Michel. The Assyrian Textile Trade in Anatolia (19th century BCE): From Traded Goods to Prestigious Gifts. Dross-Krüpe, Kerstin. Textile Trade and Distribution in Antiquity Textilhandel und -distribution in der Antike, Harrassowitz Verlag, pp.111-122, 2014. ⟨halshs-01442644⟩



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