Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Archaeologists have discovered an ancient trade network crisscrossing Vietnam's Mekong Delta region.
As revealed by several excavations, a vast network of manufacturing hubs and trade routes moved large amounts of goods from settlement to settlement between 4,500 and 3,000 years ago.
"We knew some artefacts were being moved around but this shows evidence for a major trade network that also included specialist tool-makers and technological knowledge. It's a whole different ball game," Catherine Frieman, an archaeologist at the Australian National University, said in a news release. "This isn't a case of people producing a couple of extra items on top of what they need. It's a major operation."
The network's discovery was made possible by the excavation of several stone tools at an archaeological site called Rach Nui in southern Vietnam. The stone artifacts included a sandstone grinding stone believed to be sourced from a quarry some 50 miles away in the Dong Nai River valley.
"The Rach Nui region had no stone resources. So the people must have been importing the stone and working it to produce the artefacts," she said. "People were becoming experts in stone tool making even though they live nowhere near the source of any stone."
The newly discovered trade routes offer new insights into the transition from hunter-gatherer communities to agricultural settlements. As people established settlements, they developed their own material cultures and economic specialties.
"Various complex trading networks emerged between these communities, some of which resulted in the movements of materials and manufacturing ideas over quite long distances," Frieman said.
Researchers shared their analysis of ancient Vietnamese trading networks in the journal Antiquity.