Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


1 February 2019

Technological change in the East Mediterranean Bronze Age: capital, resources and marketing

Andrew & Susan Sherratt In A. J. Shortland (ed.) 2017. The Social Context of Technological Change. Egypt and the Near East, 1650-1150 BC, Oxford: 15-38.

This paper explores some of the factors of technological change, in terms of socio-political, environmental and economic-structural relationships, (and the dialectics between them). These ‘factors of production’ only partly coincide. Areas which are in a position to concentrate capital (such as southern Mesopotamia) are often poor in natural resources; areas with particular resources (e.g. the Caucasus) may be too remote from contemporary trade routes; areas advantageously placed for maritime traffic (e.g. the Levant and Cyprus) maybe dependent on consumers in other political blocs over which they have no control. Technological change results from the combination and interaction of these elements. Metalworking, for instance, required both the political centralisation capable of supporting specialised workshops, and also control of abundant raw materials. Metallurgical innovation, and the production of secondary materials (e.g. glass) thus took place neither in the ‘heartlands of empire’, nor in remote metalliferous areas, but in areas such as Cyprus and the Levant where mineral wealth, centrality in maritime trading patterns, and the gradual emergence of political centralisation, slowly came together. (It was this conjunction which was critical in the first development of large-scale ironworking – an advance which had global repercussions.) The paper thus discusses the geography of innovation, comparative advantage, and the factors which favoured it in the Late Bronze Age.


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