Trade. Commerce. Business. A staple in the footprint of human civilization since the dawn of time. An exchange of goods, an exchange of services and an exchange of currencies. Items of value have long been utilised as a means of income and wealth. None more so than the varying forms of marketplaces. Bazaars and markets have long been featured in historical artworks, literature and any documentation detailing how humans lived their day to day affairs in the past. It is no secret that markets remain a staple in the modern age, although, it is more likely that the traditional marketplaces have largely adapted to the modern realities of technology and the internet. In order to fully understand how the nature of markets developed from traditional settings to the structure that we currently know them to exist in- it is important to walk through the historical journey.
The traditional market has existed for as long as humans have engaged in any type of trade. The existence of these markets are said to have developed more than 5000 years ago (3000 BC) in the form of the bazaars. Documentary sources indicate that specific zones were set out for traders to carry out their business in these Bazaars in specified areas within a given city. This structure quickly spread from the market places of the Middle East all the way through to wider Persia and eventually into Europe.
In the Middle East, typically markets were set out in long strips with stalls on either side, while an appropriate roof was built over the general area in order to safeguard both the product and the traders from the menacing heat.
Europe on the other hand was a little slower in their development. Largely operating in an informal and unregulated format for many years, eventually making way for a universally chartered market in the 12th century. As the case of the Middle East indicates, the market structure largely developed in accordance with the weather.
As such, the Asian markets differed depending on the time of day. For example, morning markets were usually a hub for fresh produce while the night markets were made for products that were not impacted or reliant on the weather.
Certain marketplaces have become renowned areas of historical and even architectural significance- as they aptly represent the social structure at the time. Throughout the centuries, the marketplace quickly became a standard feature of daily life since its inception 5000 years ago. Given that people relied upon the market to provide life’s basic necessities in the form of food, their importance is vital. Although, the dynamic structure and the degree to which they differed is notable. As the structure often relates not only to the weather, but also the culture.
For this reason. The Bazaar of Tabriz is a good example of this narrative, as it stretched to an astounding 1.5 km making it the longest vaulted bazaar in the world. Many historians have noted how this bazaar differed from the markets of the West, which were not as linear, but a lot more centralised. Another example of how a market can serve as an element when interpreting certain dynamics, is the traditional marketplaces of Egypt.
According to Greek Historian Herodotus, the marketplaces of Egypt saw a role reversal in comparison to many other places in the world. This is because Egyptian markets were largely occupied by female traders, while the men remained at home to wove cloth.
Thus, it is of paramount importance to recognise the historical value of markets and how they have been moulded relative to the area of the world in question.