This paper examines the relationships among the high demand for specialist-produced goods in early urban society, the roles of those goods in negotiating social identities, the organization of craft production, and the status of craft workers. Textual and archaeological data from mid-third millennium B.C. northwest Mesopotamia provide insights into three categories of craft goods that were produced by specialists: pottery, textiles and metal objects. Results suggest that the organization of production varied, depending on factors such as the scarcity of the raw materials, the degree of skilled labor required, and the social and political uses of the goods. Similarly, the status of craft workers was highly variable, depending on factors such as who they worked for and the kinds of crafts they produced. The high demand for specialist-produced craft goods in early urban society, stemming from the importance of goods in negotiating social identities, gave craft workers a vital role in the political economies of early urban societies.
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