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Old 04-05-2015, 05:59 PM
 
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What were some of the most popular retail items and valuable commodities that got traded across ancient and medieval Eurasia, and common folk were the largest target market for?

Apparently the Silk Road was named after silk, but I believe only the wealthy nobles could afford it. But apparently Chinese ceramics were very popular item. Why is that? Could the west and Middle east not produce their own? I hear Roman wines were also popular. Was it a popular item in ancient/medieval taverns and restaurants?
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Old 04-05-2015, 06:06 PM
 
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The best Roman wine were Falerean, with popular brands of Falerean being the highland Caucinian and Faustian varieties. Alban wine was popular, and Caecuban was a kind of super-elite wine.

Silk was so popular in Rome that over time, the trade imbalance caused by it led to currency debasement. It was a huge problem. Romans traded in silver more often than gold.

I don't know anything about ceramics.
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Old 04-06-2015, 11:42 AM
 
Location: Nescopeck, Penna.
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Originally Posted by NJ Brazen_3133 View Post
What were some of the most popular retail items and valuable commodities that got traded across ancient and medieval Eurasia, and common folk were the largest target market for?
The overwhelming majority of the "common folk" lived by subsistence agriculture -- growing and/or making by hand almost everything for which they had a need. What things they needed, but could not produce -- salt, for example -- could usually be obtained within a reasonably short distance. And since moving goods over water was far cheaper than moving them overland with horses, carts and wagons. trade tended to gravitate toward centers on large bodies of water, touching in turn on a multiplicity of cultures and resources -- places like the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas.

There was far less of a need for "money" as we know it -- when it was necessary, a commodity with a high intrinsic value, such as precious metals, was usually the medium of choice. The less-privileged classes might hold small amounts of gold or silver for emergencies; and there was little banking as we know it, because usury, the lending of wealth in return for interest, was forbidden in both Christian and Islamic cultures.
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Old 04-06-2015, 04:01 PM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
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Originally Posted by NJ Brazen_3133 View Post
But apparently Chinese ceramics were very popular item. Why is that? Could the west and Middle east not produce their own?
No, not for a long time. There is a material that is essential to making it (kaolinite) and it was found in China - even once Europeans understood this and imported it, the full process of making Chinese ceramics/porcelain wasn't totally understood. There were attempts to make it in Europe but they were unsuccessful until the 18th century. Once Europe was able to produce it on their own, they also began copying the oriental designs people were used to seeing on it - one of which is still popular today: Blue Willow.
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Old 04-06-2015, 07:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by PA2UK View Post
No, not for a long time. There is a material that is essential to making it (kaolinite) and it was found in China - even once Europeans understood this and imported it, the full process of making Chinese ceramics/porcelain wasn't totally understood. There were attempts to make it in Europe but they were unsuccessful until the 18th century. Once Europe was able to produce it on their own, they also began copying the oriental designs people were used to seeing on it - one of which is still popular today: Blue Willow.
But why was the ceramics so sort after?
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Old 04-06-2015, 08:00 PM
 
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The overwhelming majority of the "common folk" lived by subsistence agriculture -- growing and/or making by hand almost everything for which they had a need. What things they needed, but could not produce -- salt, for example -- could usually be obtained within a reasonably short distance. And since moving goods over water was far cheaper than moving them overland with horses, carts and wagons. trade tended to gravitate toward centers on large bodies of water, touching in turn on a multiplicity of cultures and resources -- places like the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas.

There was far less of a need for "money" as we know it -- when it was necessary, a commodity with a high intrinsic value, such as precious metals, was usually the medium of choice. The less-privileged classes might hold small amounts of gold or silver for emergencies; and there was little banking as we know it, because usury, the lending of wealth in return for interest, was forbidden in both Christian and Islamic cultures.
Then what was traded along the Silk road, and who were the buyers? Was it mostly just the aristocratic families?

But they must have lusted for things they could not make themselves. It is human nature. Then how did towns, and cities ever develop? There must have been some trade going on.
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Old 04-07-2015, 01:25 AM
 
Location: Independent Republic of Ballard
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Only high-value commodities, raw materials, or products could be traded across long distances: silk, spices, salt, incense, ivory, wine (concentrated), gems, pearls, amber, beads, precious metals, papyrus, fine linens, woven cloth, rugs, etc. In the neolithic, obsidian and flint would have been primary trade items.
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Old 04-08-2015, 05:13 PM
 
Location: Nashua
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I always thought that spices were traded the most. After all, isn't pepper from India? Plus spices,per pound, along with silk were the most economical to transport.
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Old 04-08-2015, 05:24 PM
 
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Cats!

That's right, cats! Highly prized for their ability to chase mice and rodents, and protect grain stores. I read oftentimes crusaders would go forth with a pair or more of male & female cats of breeding age, to trade for silk, olive oil, whatever.
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Old 04-08-2015, 09:11 PM
 
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Re:
"The overwhelming majority of the "common folk" lived by subsistence agriculture -- growing and/or making by hand almost everything for which they had a need. What things they needed, but could not produce -- salt, for example -- could usually be obtained within a reasonably short distance. And since moving goods over water was far cheaper than moving them overland with horses, carts and wagons. trade tended to gravitate toward centers on large bodies of water, touching in turn on a multiplicity of cultures and resources -- places like the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas"

Interesting overview of trade way back when. Just to add , a few decades ago archaeologists found what was to be known as the 'Uluburun' shipwreck off the coast of Turkey in the late Bronze Age. What divers found gave great insight to trade in that ancient time.

Their haul of 17 tons of artifacts showed copper, colored glass and iron ingots, gold and silver, African black wood (for furniture) , ivory, ostrich eggshells, opercula and terebinth resin which were ingredients used for incense, spices, condiments and foodstuffs. There were also beads, metal vessels, pottery and textiles.

The ship's contents show the extent of its trading around the Mediterranean plus the many cultures involved namely Caananite, Mycenaean, Baltic and Nubian during that very early time. The archaeologists did make the determination that the ship represented an 'elite dispatch of an enormous wealthy and diverse cargo of raw materials and manufactured goods for a specific destination'. No doubt the recipients were upper caste and perhaps even 'royalty'. I'd think it had to be. The voyage itself must have cost a bunch especially in organizing it. And it was suggested the ship had 'security' personnel to guard the trade items as it steered around the Mediterranean coasts. Even at that time trade had its costs.

Not sure if any items got down to the 'commoners' but it was considered likely that some on the ship involved in the trade would do some business 'on the side' perhaps after the main delivery was done. Just like today no doubt.
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