Trade, Merchants, and the Lost Cities of the Bronze Age

61 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2017 Last revised: 21 Jan 2023

See all articles by Gojko Barjamovic

Gojko Barjamovic

Harvard University

Thomas Chaney

SciencesPo - Sciences Po - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Kerem Cosar

Stockholm School of Economics - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Bogazici University - Center for Economics and Econometrics

Ali Hortacsu

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: November 2017

Abstract

We analyze a large dataset of commercial records produced by Assyrian merchants in the 19th Century BCE. Using the information collected from these records, we estimate a structural gravity model of long-distance trade in the Bronze Age. We use our structural gravity model to locate lost ancient cities. In many instances, our structural estimates confirm the conjectures of historians who follow different methodologies. In some instances, our estimates confirm one conjecture against others. Confronting our structural estimates for ancient city sizes to modern data on population, income, and regional trade, we document persistent patterns in the distribution of city sizes across four millennia, even after controlling for time-invariant geographic attributes such as agricultural suitability. Finally, we offer evidence in support of the hypothesis that large cities tend to emerge at the intersections of natural transport routes, as dictated by topography.

Suggested Citation

Barjamovic, Gojko and Chaney, Thomas and Cosar, A. Kerem and Hortacsu, Ali, Trade, Merchants, and the Lost Cities of the Bronze Age (November 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23992, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3065804

Gojko Barjamovic (Contact Author)

Harvard University

1875 Cambridge Street
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Thomas Chaney

SciencesPo - Sciences Po - Department of Economics ( email )

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France

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

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A. Kerem Cosar

Stockholm School of Economics - Department of Economics ( email )

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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

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Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Bogazici University - Center for Economics and Econometrics ( email )

Bogazici Universitesi
Bebek
Istanbul, 34342
Turkey

Ali Hortacsu

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

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Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-5841 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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