Here we present an excerpt from the very interesting paper “Trade and communication in prehistoric Greece“, by Curtis N. Runnels.
“Trade – the reciprocal transfer or exchange of commodities, persons, or information – is a form of communication and, along with the transmission of culture, is the only archeological evidence we have for the communication among early peoples. Such solid proof for trade is very rare and there is no way to know how representative is the remaining evidence of the extent, content, purpose or manner of early trade as a whole. Twenty years ago it was difficult to point to any evidence of trade in the Eastern Mediterranean much before the beginning of the Bronze Age, ca. 3000BC. Recently a great deal of new evidence for trade has come to light thanks largely to new techniques for identifying the sources of raw materials and the publication of many new excavations. In this article, I wish to review the evidence for trade in prehistoric – specifically Stone Age – Greece and to summarize what we have learned from it about early communication.
Obsidian is a black volcanic glass and has been found at archeological sites of very early date on the mainland. It occurs at three localities in the Aegean, and it was the pioneering work of Colin Renfrew and his associates in the 1960s, that firmly established the island of Melos as the principal source for the mainland obsidian.
Since the time of their initial discoveries the geographical extent, magnitude and chronology of the distribution of obsidian has been considerably expanded. Melian obsidian has been documented up to 500 kilometers from Melos spanning a period of roughly 9,000 years. The earliest occurrence of this material on the mainland may be more than 10,000 years ago in Upper Paleolithic levels at Franchthi Cave on the Peloponnese.”