Economics with Ancient Data
Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM
- Chair: Gojko Barjamovic, Harvard University
Of Mice and Merchants: Trade and Growth in the Iron Age
AbstractWe study the causal connection between trade and development using one of the earliest massive trade expansions in prehistory: the first systematic crossing of open seas in the Mediterranean during the time of the Phoenicians. For each point on the coast, we construct the ease with which other points can be reached by crossing open water. This connectivity differs depending on the shape of the coast, the location of islands, and the distance to the opposing shore. We find an association between better connected locations and archaeological sites during the Iron Age, at a time when sailors began to cross open water very routinely and on a big scale. We corroborate these findings at the level of the world.
Landscape Change and Trade in Ancient Greece: Evidence from Pollen Data
AbstractIn this paper we use pollen data from a number of sites in southern Greece and Macedonia to study long-term vegetation change in these regions from 1000 BCE to 600 CE. Based on insights from environmental history, we interpret our estimated trends in the regional presence of cereal, olive, and vine pollen as proxies for structural changes in agricultural production. We present evidence that there was a market economy in ancient Greece and a major trade expansion several centuries before the Roman conquest. Our results are consistent with auxiliary data on settlement dynamics, shipwrecks, and ancient oil and wine presses.
Roman Roads to Prosperity: Persistence and Non-Persistence of Public Goods Provision
AbstractHow persistent is public goods provision in a comparative perspective? We explore the link between infrastructure investments made during antiquity and the presence of infrastructure today, as well as the link between early infrastructure and economic activity both in the past and in the present, across the entire area under dominion of the Roman Empire at the zenith of its geographical extension (117 CE). We find a remarkable pattern of persistence showing that greater Roman road density goes along with (a) greater modern road density, (b) greater settlement formation in 500 CE, and (c) greater economic activity in 2010. Interestingly, however, the degree of persistence in road density and the link between early road density and contemporary economic development is weakened to the point of insignificance in areas where the use of wheeled vehicles was abandoned from the first millennium CE until the late modern period. Taken at face value, our results suggest that infrastructure may be one important channel through which persistence in comparative development comes about.
- N7 - Transport, Trade, Energy, Technology, and Other Services
- O4 - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity