Interlinking exchange: The search for communalities in prehistoric networks (Europe, W-Asia, N-Africa - 8000 to 1 BCE)

Prehistoric exchange networks satisfied demands for raw materials of daily use as well as for prestige and luxury goods (e.g. flint and ground stone varieties, conchilia, ivory, metals, semi-precious stones). Building on an already existing database of those networks, the project looks into a special and hitherto hardly recognized socio-economic phenomenon in networking: communalities. 

Communalities are expected to have had most important effects in economic networks as, e.g., 1) they strengthen already existing ties between exchange partners, 2) already existing ties can be immediately used for the new exchange of goods not distributed so far, using effects of path-dependency and avoiding investments and information costs for establishing new partnerships, 3) transaction costs are reduced by simultaneous transactions of several goods, 4) mixed transport allows differentiated adjustment to transport capacities in relation to expected returns, thus 5) triggering the development of comparative advantages.  

We define communalities as those parts of networks where different goods flow together between exchange partners, sometimes exchanged even in the same transaction. New and general insights into the economics of prehistoric exchange are expected from the interdisciplinarity between the archaeology of raw material distributions, novel data science approaches and the advice from geo- and material sciences. To which extend are communality effects crucial internal societal processes, acting as important drivers? If so, communalities can be suspected to be evolutionary shortcuts to building complex social, political, economic relationships.

The project adopts a network perspective in close collaboration between the archaeologies, data sciences and advisors from geosciences and material sciences regarding raw material provenance.


This project evolves from cooperation between the ROOTS subclusters Inequality, Conflict, and Knowledge.

Involved ROOTS members:
Tim Kerig:
Lorenz Kienle:
Jutta Kneisel:
Oliver Nakoinz:
Matthias Renz:
Andrea Ricci:
Johanna Hilpert:


External Collaborators:
Yamirka Rojas-Agramonte (Institut für Geowissenschaften | Petrologie und Geodynamik, CAU Kiel)


Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions