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The minerals business of the Bronze Age: Origins of geopolitical and economic power struggles
The discovery of bronze, and its first appearance in the Ancient Near East in the mid- 4th millennium BCE, introduced a hitherto unprecedented era of creative progress that transgressed all international boundaries of antiquity. The era of bronze was characterized by an expanding cultural universe of opulence, differentiation between the rich and poor, commercial and diplomatic contacts amongst nations and sagas of violence and drama.
Understanding the socio-political dynamics of the Ancient Near East and the rise and fall of its civilizations and empires over the almost three millennia that spanned the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age requires an overview of the political frameworks and economic activities that drove international trade and the quest for valuable natural resources, particularly metals. Access to tin, a relatively scarce metal used in the production of bronze, was a trading priority during that period.
While commercial exchange intensified throughout the Ancient Near East during the 3rd millennium BCE, so did the trading networks in Europe as the mineral wealth of the Atlantic zone was exploited. Up until the late 3rd millennium BCE, European Atlantic trading systems were largely self-contained but, thereafter, they were drawn inextricably into Europe and its trading partnerships - including the Mediterranean markets that became increasingly concentrated on the Aegean.
The history of the maritime fringe of the eastern Mediterranean in the 2nd millennium BCE was a saga of bitter rivalry to monopolize the seaborne trading routes. Maritime trade in the Aegean was coupled with increased social stratification, higher production of bronze weaponry, intensified fortification and conflict. While trade in and around the Mediterranean flourished under diplomatic arrangements between rival parties using intermediaries, pressures were mounting in the continental hinterland as populations moved away from economically depressed regions towards the wealthy centers.

May 19, 2021 11:30 AM in London

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