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Trade involves the transfer of goods or services from one person or entity to another, often in exchange for money. A system or network that allows trade is called a market. An early form of trade, barter, saw the direct exchange of goods and services for other goods and services. Barter involves trading things without the use of money. Trade exists due to specialization and the division of labor, a predominant form of economic activity in which individuals and groups concentrate on a small aspect of production, but use their output in trades for other products and needs. Commerce is derived from the Latin commercium, from cum “together” and merx, “merchandise.

Trade originated with human communication in prehistoric times. Trading was the main facility of prehistoric people, who bartered goods and services from each other before the innovation of modern-day currency. Some trace the origins of commerce to the very start of transaction in prehistoric times. The caduceus has been used today as the symbol of commerce with which Mercury has traditionally been associated. Trade is believed to have taken place throughout much of recorded human history. There is evidence of the exchange of obsidian and flint during the stone age. Trade in obsidian is believed to have taken place in Guinea from 17,000 BCE.

The earliest use of obsidian in the Near East dates to the Lower and Middle paleolithic. Trade in the stone age was investigated by Robert Carr Bosanquet in excavations of 1901. Trade is believed to have first begun in south west Asia. Archaeological evidence of obsidian use provides data on how this material was increasingly the preferred choice rather than chert from the late Mesolithic to Neolithic, requiring exchange as deposits of obsidian are rare in the Mediterranean region. Obsidian is thought to have provided the material to make cutting utensils or tools, although since other more easily obtainable materials were available, use was found exclusive to the higher status of the tribe using “the rich man’s flint”. Obsidian was traded at distances of 900 kilometres within the Mediterranean region.