The Egyptian Deities Essay Research Paper The — страница 9

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Hatti, Egypt, Assyria and Babylonia, as well as smaller powers such as the Levantine city-states, Cyprus and Mycenaea, were all cooperating and competing for power and prestige within a delicately balanced system of alliances. International diplomacy was negotiated largely by the exchange of gifts (accompanied by letters), which created mutual obligations; formal treaties often resulted from—and were validated by—gift giving. Within this atmosphere entrepreneurs were allowed to conduct international trade and were protected by treaty. Ancient records and letters tell us that kings patronized many merchants, but also that not all business was royal business, and those rulers acquired goods through other means besides gifts. In this era of increased internationalism foreign

cities became more dependent on one another for commodities and luxury goods. From an archaeological point of view the end result of this international activity is a mixed material culture, especially at the elite level, at many sites. All of which makes it difficult to ascertain just who was running the Uluburun ship. Items estimated to be of personal nature, found mostly in the stern portion of the wreck, are likely of Aegean and Levantine provenance. Scholarly attention has now focused on trying to determine whether private or royal agents conducted trade, and whether it took place within a context of commercial (capitalistic) or gift (reciprocal) exchanges. It is tempting to compare the database of artifacts from the Uluburun shipwreck to some of the letters preserved on clay

tablets from the 14th century BC; the lists of objects exchanged between rulers, in a few cases, match the database practically word for word. Do we then conclude that what we have discovered is the wreck of a royal shipment, sent from one city to another, non-stop, as it were? This would certainly satisfy those who see all early sea trade as a royal monopoly, but there are serious problems arising from such an interpretation. First, we must admit that an elite, bureaucratic level of society not intimately connected to the seafaring class , produced the records and letters at our disposal. Seafarers are rarely mentioned, and when they are, there is little description of their business. In other words, the textual basis for comparison is biased; we don’t know what a private

shipment should look like. Secondly, some of the Uluburun cargo does not fit well into the scheme of a purely royal gift exchange. There is a lot of scrap metal, unfinished goods, and a large assortment of balance-pan weights whose commercial purpose is inconsistent with gift giving. The argument that sea trade was conducted only by the wealthiest institutions in early societies is overturned by contemporary records that show private ownership of boats and by a 13th century BC wreck that Bass showed to be a “tramper,” that is, a small craft going from port to port, buying and selling goods and services in a capitalistic, entrepreneurial way. Thus, the contemporary evidence suggests the function of the Uluburun shipment was a combination of royal and private ventures. A

cross-cultural look at the role of sea traders in society supports this interpretation. In non-industrialized societies of various periods, and especially Medieval Italy, a consistent pattern emerges in which traders and royalty are related as business partners or clients. While it is often the case that rulers own and maintain navies, they very rarely attempt to monopolize foreign trade. Anthropological research offers reasons for this that may equally apply to the Late Bronze Age scenario. Rulers in non-industrial, agriculturally based states walk a fine line to acquire and maintain their power. Wealth is necessary to symbolize their high position and to pay off those who help them secure it, such as bureaucrats and armed forces. But, since these rulers are expected to be just,

honest and fair, acquiring wealth becomes a politically risky business, one better left to a class of people that can be kept at a politically safe distance, namely foreigners and seafarers. Foreign merchants historically reside in special city-quarters set aside for them, and it was indeed this way throughout the Bronze Age (ca. 3000-1200 BC), as ancient records tell us. To close a deal, Mesopotamian traders rolled a “signature” seal on a clay tablet. The original 1750 B.C. stone design bore a king, goddess and tiny priest. An Assyrian artisan added agriffin circa 1350 B.C. Anthropological research shows that ethnic groups, defined as minority groups perceived as different from a majority, often specialize in foreign trade because of the commercial advantages of “social