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Retail markets have existed since ancient times. Archaeological evidence for trade, probably involving barter systems, dates back more than 10,000 years. As civilizations grew, barter was replaced with retail trade involving coinage. Selling and buying are thought to have emerged in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in around the 7th millennium BCE. Gharipour points to evidence of primitive shops and trade centres in Sialk Hills in Kashan (6000 BCE), Catalk Huyuk in modern-day Turkey (7,500–5,700 BCE), Jericho (2600 BCE) and Susa (4000 BCE). Open air, public markets were known in ancient Babylonia, Assyria, Phoenicia and Egypt. These markets typically occupied a place in the town's centre. Surrounding the market, skilled artisans, such as metal-workers and leather workers, occupied permanent premises in alleys that led to the open market-place. These artisans may have sold wares directly from their premises, but also prepared goods for sale on market days. In ancient Greece markets operated within the agora, an open space where, on market days, goods were displayed on mats or temporary stalls. In ancient Rome, trade took place in the forum. Rome had two forums; the Forum Romanum and Trajan's Forum. The latter was a vast expanse, comprising multiple buildings with shops on four levels. The Roman forum was arguably the earliest example of a permanent retail shop-front. In antiquity, exchange involved direct selling via merchants or peddlers and bartering systems were commonplace.

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