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Archaeological Investigation of the Eastern North Atlantic Trade and Globalizing Economic Systems


Project start
Project end
Type of project
Project theme
Society, economy and culture
Project topic
Culture & history

Project details

Science / project summary

This award supports archaeological research on the development of trade networks in the North Atlantic and women's role in weaving cloth and participating in these trade networks for 1000 years. Past studies tell us that trade in the middle ages connected the North Atlantic islands to only one country. However, this scientist's earlier research showed that nearly 1,000 years ago the Vikings traded and sold cloth in London and other European markets. This means that 900 years ago, women in places as far away as the islands of the North Atlantic made cloth for markets in distant places. The reason this is important is because it suggests that women's work was key to developing commodity markets that were the ancestors of today's market. By understanding how early international trade began in the North Atlantic and expanded as far as the Volga river, the research will contribute knowledge about the emergence of today's more complicated trade systems, how trade affects women's labor, and how people make decisions about what to make and what to trade. This scientific investigation will employ a mixed methodology to document and analyze textile collections from rural and urban, North Atlantic and European contexts. AMS, dye and material analyses, strontium isotope analyses, and X-Ray Fluorescence will be employed to further characterize North Atlantic collections and compare them to previously collected data assemblages. Strontium isotope analyses and pXRF data of archaeological samples and modern wool will be carried out in order to map isotopic signatures geographically and provide insight into the movements of textiles and the compounds used in their production across long distances, such as to North America, northern Europe and Eurasia. Bringing together analyses ranging in scale from trans-continental trade to assessments of individual women's handiwork and to their products' elemental and isotopic signatures, this project has transformative potential to provide an engendered, interdisciplinary perspective on trade, women, and the emergence of early globalized economies in the North.