Ancient Economic Behaviors and Chemical Analyses - ISNAP ...

Ancient Economic Behaviors and Chemical Analyses - ISNAP ...

Ancient Economic Behaviors and

Chemical Analyses

How LA-ICP-MS helped us understand behaviors

such as market capture and competition

Presentation to the PIXE group

University of Notre Dame

September 18, 2009

Indian Ocean Exchange

• Oldest evidence of commercial exchange, ca

4000-3000 B.C.E.

• Proto-Industrial Production for Trans-Oceanic

Commerce between South Asia, Mesopotamia, the

Levant and North Africa

• Heavy Dependence on Texts for understanding the


• Archaeometric Analysis mainly used for Sourcing

and Provenance

From Provenance to Behavior

• Combining text and provenance analysis

– Many answers on production

• Quality of Production

• Targeted consumers

• Imitations

• Restrictions on Production

• But even more questions on behaviors not in the


– Smuggling, Dumping, Outsourcing, Market Capture

– Illicit production

• Important Questions

Towards Economic Behaviors

• Archaeology

– Provides These Surprises and Clues to Unexpected


• Combined with Archaeometry and Econometrics

– Clues to alternative and “hidden” economic patterns

• Bring in Ethnography

– Ethnographic and oral historical work on ethnic

merchants, traders, entrepreneurs

– Conservatism of business strategies

– Bricolage

– Clues to Ancient Economic Behaviors

Creating Models for Testing

• Ethnographic work on merchant responses

– Tested through archaeometry

• Compositional analysis

• Provenance analysis

• Model how merchants would be expected to


• Based on observed “real” behaviors of

contemporary or past merchants

Testing Models

• Derive Expected Archaeological and

Archaeometeric Patterns

• These patterns are emergent properties of the

modeled behaviors

• Analysis using LA-ICP-MS

– Non-destructive

– Bulk Samples

– High resolution in ppm and ppb

– Comparable to INAA

– Cost-effective

• Time period

– 1000-1800 C.E.

• Asia and Africa

• Prestige


– Gifts

– Commercial


Targeted Ceramics

Ceramic Types








• Stonewares - Celadons

900-1600 CE

– Southern China

– Green Glaze

– Hard Ceramic Body

– Found across Old


– Major Kilns in China

• Blue-and-White


• 1200 - present

– Southern China

– Thin Transparent Glaze

– Hard Porcelain

– Cobalt designs


– Highly Sought After

– Major Kilns in China

Problem of Imitation

• If something is “expensive enough, it will

be faked” (Rosenfeld)

• Are Southwest Asian Celadon/Blue-and-

Whites just mere “imitations?”

– Innovation

– Experimentation

– Create own styles for market demand

• Threatened to replace Chinese dominance

Imitation Blue-and-White and

Celadon ceramics

1 cm

1 cm

Relations between the state and

commerce in China

• Attempts to control trade

• Restrict commerce

• Taxes, duties, and levies on commerce

• Heavy regulation of export trade

• Frequent embargoes on export

• Exceptions: Tang - Sung, Early Yuan, Ming

Yongle (1403-1425 C.E.)

Modeling Responses


• Given constant demand

• Pressure to produce and export

• Faced with competition

– Loss of Market share

• Traders will react by

– Shifting to other commodities

– Intensifying production/export, keep market share

Main Strategy:

Invest in Informal Economy

Chinese Informal Economy

• Ample historical evidence

• Used Guanxi to sustain networks

• The informal economy included

– Merchants, entrepreneurs

– Craftspeople

– Officials and Nobility

– Smugglers and pirates

– Overseas traders

• Diasporan Chinese, other Asians and then Europeans

Trace and Major Element

Analysis Using LA-ICP-MS

• Focus on the Glaze

• Used Trace elements

– Co, Rb, Ni, Cu, Sr, Mn, Zr

– Used by other researchers for provenance

analysis (Cheng et al 2002, 2005)

• Major Element Al and Na in Oxide


Principle Components Analysis 1

Principle Components Analysis 1


Known Chinese

Blue and White

Known Islamic

Known Chinese


Principle Components Analysis 2

Principle Components Analysis 2

Chinese Blue-and-Whites

Co, Rb, and Ni sig. loaded

Middle Eastern Sherds

Cu sig. loaded

Chinese Celadon

Sr, Mn, Zr, sig. loaded

Principle Components Analysis 3

Possible Southwest Asia

Blue-and-Whites: n = 4 (2% ot Total)

Celadon: n = 3 (3% of Total)

Chinese Blue-and-Whites: n = 190 (92% of total)

Chaul: n = 72/78 (92%), Mtwapa: n = 110/124 (88%)

Chinese Celadons: n = 79

(86%of Total)

Southeast Asia,

Japan, Korea

n = 9 (5 % of total)

n = 10 (11 % of total)


• The results clearly show that

– Chinese porcelains and celadons dominated the assemblages at

Mtwapa and at Chaul (93% total)

– Chinese merchants retained their edge and market share

• We can conclude that the need to keep an edge led to the

development of a vast

– Informal entrepreneurial economy

– That formed the basis for the emerging Chinese economy of the

18th and 19th centuries.

Dating A Trade Boom

Commercial Boom in the Indian Ocean 1500-1600

Chinese Merchants would have responded

Against Imitation and Restrictions

Dating Chinese Ceramics through Mn-CO and Mn-FE

Trace elements in Cobalt

Foreign vs Local Cobalt

Different Mn, Fe, Co proportions

Documented use of different sources of Cobalt by Different

Chinese Dynasties

Expected Trend for Chinese Blue-and-White Sherds

Ease of Restrictions

Trade BOOM

Dating the Sherds: Mn-Co Ratios

• Foreign vs Local Cobalt, Different Mn-Co ratios

• High between 1403-1430 and after 1600 C.E (> 4.5).

• Low otherwise (< 4.5)

Dating the Sherds: Mn-Fe ratios

• Low between 1403-1430 CE (>0.35)

• High after 1600 CE (> 0.35)

Expected (line) vs Observed (bar)

Changes in Chinese Blue-and-Whites

Mtwapa: n = 43

Chaul: n = 31

Mtwapa: n = 8

Chaul: n = 7

Mtwapa: n = 0

Chaul: n = 3

Merchant Response to Boom

Chinese Merchants

Responded to Trade Boom and the

Resulting increases in Demand


Intensified Production


Internal Restrictions and External

Imitation by reverting to

Informal Economy

General Conclusions

• Traders will react against adverse conditions

• Given sufficient demand and need to keep market


• Profit despite restrictions

• Assumptions on the efficacy of state control of

commerce need to take into account

– Rebellion

– Resistance

– Resilience

• Of Trading Communities

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