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The Construction of Value in the Ancient World

Edited by John K. Papadopoulos and Gary Urton

The Construction of Value in the Ancient World
Hardback, 664 pages £50.00
Published: 2012
ISBN: 9781931745901
Format: 254mm x 178mm
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Subjects: Archaeology

Scholars from Aristotle to Marx and beyond have been fascinated by the question of what constitutes value. The Construction of Value in the Ancient World makes a significant contribution to this ongoing inquiry, bringing together in one comprehensive volume the perspectives of leading anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, linguists, philologists, and sociologists on how value was created, defined, and expressed in a number of ancient societies around the world.

Based on the basic premise that value is a social construct defined by the cultural context in which it is situated, the volume explores four overarching but closely interrelated themes: place value, body value, object value, and number value. The questions raised and addressed are of central importance to archaeologists studying ancient civilizations: How can we understand the value that might have been accorded to materials, objects, people, places, and patterns of action by those who produced or used the things that compose the human material record?

Taken as a whole, the contributions to this volume demonstrate how the concept of value lies at the intersection of individual and collective tastes, desires, sentiments, and attitudes that inform the ways people select, or give priority to, one thing over another.

Part I: Place Value
Significant stones, significant places: monumentality and landscapes in Neolithic western Europe by Chris Scarre
The negotiation of place value in the landscape by John Chapman
Spare values: the decision not to destroy by Susan E. Alcock
Emplacing value, cultivating order: places of conversion and practices of subordination throughout early Inka state formation (Cusco, Peru) by Steve Kosiba
The revaluation of landscapes in the Inca Empire as Peircean replication by Charles Stanish
Part II: Body Value
Objectifying the body: the increased value of the ancient Egyptian mummy during the socioeconomic crisis of Dynasty 21 by Kathlyn M. Cooney
From value to meaning, from things to persons: the grave circles of Mycenae reconsidered by Sofia Voutsaki
Dressing the body in splendor: expression of value by the Moche of ancient Peru by Christopher B. Donnan
Interpreting the Paracas body and its value in ancient Peru by Lisa DeLeonardis
The value of chorality in ancient Greece by Leslie Kurke
Bodies and their values in the early Medieval West by Patrick J. Geary
Part III: Object Value
Systems of value among material things: the nexus of fungibility and measure by Colin Renfrew
Money, art, and the construction of value in the ancient Mediterranean by John K. Papadopoulos
The construction of values during the Peruvian Formative by Richard L. Burger
Bronze, jade, gold, and ivory: valuable objects in ancient Sichuan by Rowan Flad
The value of aesthetic value by James I. Porter
Light and the precious object, or value in the eyes of the Byzantines by Ioli Kalavrezou
Figurine fashions in formative Mesoamerica by Richard G. Lesure
From rational to relational: re-configuring value in the Inca Empire by Tamara L. Bray
Competing and commensurate values in colonial conditions: how they are expressed and registered in the sixteenth-century Andes by Tom Cummins
Part IV: Number Value
Equivalency values and the command economy of the Ur III period in Mesopotamia by Robert K. Englund
Constructing value with instruments versus constructing equivalence with mathematics: measuring grains according to early Chinese mathematical sources by Karine Chemla
Recording values in the Inka Empire by Gary Urton
The varieties of ancient Maya numeration and value by David Stuart
Calculative objects: sustaining symbolic systems in the ancient Mediterranean by Melissa A. Bailey

In summary, the volume provides ample food for thought, as well as a large selection of contributions on a diverse range of themes. Individual papers may be of interest to those within their particular discipline, but the book's real value – if the reader will excuse the term – lies in its comprehensive picture of the current state of the art, the opportunity for comparison of similar themes in the archaeology of different regions and time periods, and the overarching narratives winding their way through the separate papers. In short, it is a vital addition to the library of anybody studying the archaeology of value.

Chloë N. Duckworth, University of Nottingham

- Bryn Mawr Classical Review

John K. Papadoupoulos is professor of classics and archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gary Urton is the Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies in the archaeology program of the department of anthropology at Harvard University.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 664 pages
 254mm x 178mm

BIC Code:
  HIS002000, SOC003000
 Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press


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