For the most part, the study of large-scale trade and exchange in the ancient world remains distanced from the physical hardships of real human travel. Ancient trade or, more neutrally, ancient ‘interaction’ is often discussed as if it took place between actors who inhabited a flat and unchanging spatial surface. In fact, topography, climate and seasonality are essential to understanding the changing forms and intensity of human travel that enabled ‘interdependence’ between communities of the Near East. This paper demonstrates some of the steps needed to reintegrate seasonality with the study of ancient trade.
This visual essay explores the possibility of delineating two different types of routes, 'pathways' and 'highways', and the extent to which archaeology can help to analyse them. The technologies of cost-raster GIS analysis are introduced and applied to two case studies in Eastern Anatolia and Western Central Asia, c. 3000-1000 BC. It is to be hoped that the highlighted patterns, combined with a knowledge of contemporary material transformations, will provide insights into the processes of socio-economic change across these reconstructed networks of interaction.