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Commoditization, Consumption and Interpretive Complexity: The Contingent Role of Cowries in the Early Modern World

Author(s): Barbara Heath

Year: 2016

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Summary

 The commoditization of cowrie shells in the 17th and 18th centuries was central to the economics of the consumer revolution of the early modern world. Cowries drove the Africa trade that cemented economic relationships between rulers, investors, merchants, and planters in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. From their origins in the Pacific, to the markets of India, from Europe to West Africa, and from West Africa to the New World, cowries played a central role as both commodities and consumer goods in their own right. Using an object biography approach, I will use documentary evidence and shells excavated from archaeological sites to trace the complex web of global and local interactions that formed around the distribution of two species of Indo-Pacific snail shells, Monetaria moneta and Monetaria annulus.


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Commoditization, Consumption and Interpretive Complexity: The Contingent Role of Cowries in the Early Modern World. Barbara Heath. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Washington, D.C. 2016 ( tDAR id: 434575)


Keywords


Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 77

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America