Ancient civilizations may have been more connected than previously thought

21 September 2018
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1,000-year-old Persian cup unearthed in remote region of Arctic Russia
Ancient civilizations could have benefited, and at times suffered from belonging to an interconnected global economy, according to evidence presented in a newly-published study. The international team behind the research hope that the work could help present-day society learn from the mistakes of early globalism.

It is a sad but unavoidable fact that flourishing civilizations use up vast amounts of raw materials, and, subsequently, produce prodigious amounts of waste. By observing the amount of waste produced by an ancient society, researchers can estimate the amount of energy used, and attempt to track periods of growth, prosperity and decline.

This was the approach used in a new study, which attempted to determine whether historical civilizations ranging back 10,000 years were connected by a global economy. If this were the case, the fortunes of contemporary societies would be observed to rise and fall in tandem. This is known as synchrony.

Joining an interdependent global network can bring significant benefits. This could include an increase in wealth from trade goods, and other resources that allow a society to increase its carrying capacity, or maximum population, beyond the limits of an isolated people.

However, it would also render the societies involved susceptible to the maladies of their partners. For example, open trade and movement of peoples could encourage the spread of disease, and lead to detrimental changes to a nation’s ecosystem and social system.

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