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Journal Article

Bronze Fish: marine resources and the Bronze Age economy


Hudson,  Mark
Archaeolinguistic Research Group, Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Hudson, M., & Muñoz Fernández, I. M. (2023). Bronze Fish: marine resources and the Bronze Age economy. Old world: journal of ancient Africa and Eurasia, 3(1): 20230006. doi:10.1163/26670755-20230006.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-2C8E-3
The Bronze Age was a time of pivotal economic change when new long-distance trading networks became associated with a macro-regional division of labour and decentralised political complexity. These developments occurred against the background of a shifting mosaic of subsistence patterns, which included the east-west exchange of crops across Eurasia and (in some areas) greater use of secondary products. As Bronze Age economies became more specialised and diverse, it might be assumed that there was also an increased emphasis on the procurement and trade of fish and other marine resources. However, archaeological analyses of such resources are limited in contrast to land-based subsistence patterns and many questions remain. This essay aims to build a broad interpretive framework for analysing the role of marine resources in the Bronze Age. Our provisional results find that an increased emphasis on specialist systems of agropastoralism reduced the use of marine resources in many parts of Eurasia during this period. However, evidence from Japan and the eastern Mediterranean suggests that, at least in some regions, marine resources became commodities traded over long-distances by the late Bronze Age, though this requires further quantification. Island Southeast Asia displays a different pattern from other regions considered here in a greater continuity of marine resource use from the Neolithic into the historic era, perhaps due to a lower reliance on agropastoralism.