The Construction of Value in the Ancient World


Series: Cotsen Advanced Seminar 5
ISBN: 978-1-931745-90-1
Publication Date: Oct 2012
Price: $65.00
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John K. Papadopoulos and Gary Urton

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. CoinBased 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.

Recipient of the Jo Anne Stolaroff Cotsen Prize

"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


Table of Contents

Part I: Place Value

  • Ch. 1: Significant stones, significant places: monumentality and landscapes in Neolithic western Europe by Chris Scarre
  • Ch. 2: The negotiation of place value in the landscape by John Chapman
  • Ch. 3: Spare values: the decision not to destroy by Susan E. Alcock
  • Ch. 4: Emplacing value, cultivating order: places of conversion and practices of subordination throughout early Inka state formation (Cusco, Peru) by Steve Kosiba
  • Ch. 5: The revaluation of landscapes in the Inca Empire as Peircean replication by Charles Stanish

Part II: Body Value

  • Ch. 6: Objectifying the body: the increased value of the ancient Egyptian mummy during the socioeconomic crisis of Dynasty 21 by Kathlyn M. Cooney
  • Ch. 7: From value to meaning, from things to persons: the grave circles of Mycenae reconsidered by Sofia Voutsaki
  • Ch. 8: Dressing the body in splendor: expression of value by the Moche of ancient Peru by Christopher B. Donnan
  • Ch. 9: Interpreting the Paracas body and its value in ancient Peru by Lisa DeLeonardis
  • Ch. 10: The value of chorality in ancient Greece by Leslie Kurke
  • Ch. 11: Bodies and their values in the early Medieval West by Patrick J. Geary

Part III: Object Value

  • Ch. 12: Systems of value among material things: the nexus of fungibility and measure by Colin Renfrew
  • Ch. 13: Money, art, and the construction of value in the ancient Mediterranean by John K. Papadopoulos
  • Ch. 14: The construction of values during the Peruvian Formative by Richard L. Burger
  • Ch. 15: Bronze, jade, gold, and ivory: valuable objects in ancient Sichuan by Rowan Flad
  • Ch. 16: The value of aesthetic value by James I. Porter
  • Ch. 17: Light and the precious object, or value in the eyes of the Byzantines by Ioli Kalavrezou
  • Ch. 18: Figurine fashions in formative Mesoamerica by Richard G. Lesure
  • Ch. 19: From rational to relational: re-configuring value in the Inca Empire by Tamara L. Bray
  • Ch. 20: 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

  • Ch. 21: Equivalency values and the command economy of the Ur III period in Mesopotamia by Robert K. Englund
  • Ch. 22: Constructing value with instruments versus constructing equivalence with mathematics: measuring grains according to early Chinese mathematical sources by Karine Chemla
  • Ch. 23: Recording values in the Inka Empire by Gary Urton
  • Ch. 24: The varieties of ancient Maya numeration and value by David Stuart
  • Ch. 25: Calculative objects: sustaining symbolic systems in the ancient Mediterranean by Melissa A. Bailey