West Asian economy – the Bronze Age

Home » West Asian economy – the Bronze Age
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Bronze Age tin ingots from a shipwreck near Haifa

West Asian economy: Bronze Age tin ingots from a shipwreck near Haifa

Trading for tin

When people first began to use bronze, about 3000 BC, they had to trade a lot more than they had before, because they needed tin to make the bronze. You don’t find tin just anywhere.

What is bronze?
Bronze Age timeline

At first there was some tin in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), but they used that up pretty soon, and then to get more tin they had to trade with people in Afghanistan and India.

What was going on in India?

Floating cedars on the river to Assur

Floating cedars on the river to Assur

Trading for cedar wood

Because by the Bronze Age people in West Asia had invented writing, we know more about what they were trading and where and how. The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is about a king who ruled in 2500 BC, describes how people from Sumer (modern Iraq) travelled all the way to Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast. They went that far to get cedar wood for building. Probably the Sumerians floated the big logs down the Euphrates river to the Sumerian cities. Like people all over the world – in Peru or California, Ethiopia or Chad – they used boats made of bundles of reeds tied together to move things on the river.

Cylinder seal of a boat carrying wicker-and-wood crates, a cow, and an enslaved woman - Uruk, ca. 2700 BC

Cylinder seal of a boat carrying wicker-and-wood crates, a cow, and an enslaved woman – Uruk, ca. 2700 BC

Later on, around 1500 BCAssyrian traders were going from Assyria (modern Iran) north-west to the Hittites (in modern Turkey) to sell cloth. Mainly men travelled with donkeys or on riverboats to the Hittite kingdom.

Where did donkeys come from?
More about the Hittites

Meanwhile, Assyrian women stayed home and ran the business in Assyria. These men and women sent letters to each other with instructions about the business.

Women in West Asia

Learn by doing: writing in cuneiform
More about sailing and boats in West Asia
Dark Age economy in West Asia

Bibliography and further reading about West Asian trade in the Bronze Age:

Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture, by William H. Stiebing (2002). Expensive, and hard to read, but it’s a good up to date account.

West Asian Economy – Dark Age

More about West Asia
Quatr.us home

By |2018-11-01T08:31:00+00:00September 12th, 2017|Economy, West Asia|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. West Asian economy – the Bronze Age. Quatr.us Study Guides, September 12, 2017. Web. December 16, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.