Markets, Merchants, and Systems of Exchange

Kenneth Hirth

in The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195390933
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Markets, Merchants, and Systems of Exchange

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  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology by Region
  • Industrial Archaeology


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The production and exchange of goods and services is a fundamental feature of all human societies, and this certainly was the case in ancient Mesoamerica. Complex forms of exchange linked every level of Pre-Columbian society from simple households to the king's palace. Trade was important for two reasons: meeting the needs that people had for specific goods and reducing subsistence risk and resource shortages. This article examines systems of exchange within Mesoamerica's dual economy. It discusses the structure of the economy along with the role of the marketplace in Mesoamerican exchange systems and how resources were exchanged through both professional and nonprofessional commercial networks.

Keywords: Mesoamerica; exchange systems; dual economy; marketplace; commercial networks

Article.  4450 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology by Region ; Industrial Archaeology

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