This project took the lead weights from Thonis-Heracleion as a point of departure to focus on long-distance trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, using archaeological evidence to offer a comprehensive perspective that is lost in studies that concentrate on local trade activities. The aim was also to highlight the maritime networks that had been in place at least since the Late Bronze Age, evolving with the changing political landscapes in the first millennium BC.
The term ‘Achaemenid–Hellenistic transition’ was intended to draw attention away from a more Hellenocentric narrative, broadly emphasizing the role of the Persian Empire, including Egypt and Anatolia, as a vital player in the patterns and dynamics of long-distance trade that continued into the Hellenistic period.
The economy of the fourth century BC is little studied, but it forms a crucial link between the Egyptian Saite dynasty, the Greek world, the Persian Empire, and the subsequent Hellenistic world. Thonis-Heracleion, a port and customs post on the Egyptian Mediterranean coast from the late seventh century onward, has a good archaeological context and thus acts as a crucial case study for understanding the economic processes involved in maritime long-distance trade. This city experienced its heyday during the fourth and third centuries BC, and its submerged archaeological remains permit detailed contextual analysis. By using the archaeological record, including weights and ingots, and contextual analysis such as spatial distributions, to complement the narrative derived from Demotic documents, this research proposed to track any changes in areas of exchange (marketplaces and sanctuaries) as indictors of essential mechanisms of trade interaction: finding equivalences across different weight systems for exchange and the ways in which this space was controlled.