Marc Van De Mieroop

Production and Commerce in the Old Babylonian Period

  • Abstract

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Production and commerce were closely interwoven in the Babylonian economy of the early second millennium bc, but only some of the activities involved are documented in the abundant textual sources of the period. This was a pre-industrial society in which agriculture dominated economic life. The income of Babylonia's rich cereal fields, orchards, herds, and marshes enabled the feeding of a large population and provided a surplus that could be used for the production of manufactured goods for trade. This trade brought in materials that increased agricultural productivity, but also supplied at least some inhabitants with luxury goods. During this period we observe important changes from earlier periods of Babylonian history in the management of these different activities, especially the inclusion of private urban entrepreneurs to make the system work smoothly. They organized the exchange between owners, producers, and consumers and it is their records that provide the core of the documentation for the analysis here.

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