Trade was the mainstay of the urban economy in the Middle East

  • Trade was the mainstay of the urban economy in the Middle East, as caravans negotiated the surrounding desert, restricted only by access to water and by mountain ranges. This has been so since ancient times, partly due to the geology of the area, which is mostly limestone and sandstone, with few deposits of metallic ore and other useful materials Ancient demands for obsidian (a black volcanic rock useful for making mirrors and tools) led to trade with Armenia to the north, while jade for cutting tools was brought from Turkistan, and the precious stone lapis lazuli was imported from Afghanistan. One can trace such expeditions back to ancient Sumeria, the earliest known Middle Eastern civilization. Records show merchant caravans and trading posts set up by the Sumerians in the surrounding mountains and deserts of Persia and Arabia, where they traded grain for raw materials, such as timber and stones, as well as for metals and gems. Reliance on trade had several important consequences. Production was generally in the hands of skilled individual artisans doing piecework under the tutelage of a master who was also the shop owner. In these shops differences of rank were blurred as artisans and masters labored side by side in the same modest establishment, were usually members of the same guild and religious sect, lived in the same neighborhoods, and often had assumed (or real) kinship relationships. The worker was bound to the master by a mutual contract that either one could repudiate, and the relationship was conceptualized as one of partnership.

    According to paragraph 1, why has trade been so important throughout the history of the Middle East

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