Kerem Cosar, University of Virginia
Presenter: Kerem Cosar, University of Virginia
Paper: Trade, Merchants and Lost Cities of the Bronze Age
Abstract: We analyze a large dataset of commercial records produced by Assyrian merchants in the 19th Century BCE. Using the information collected from those records, we estimate a structural gravity model of long-distance trade in the Bronze Age. We find a distance elasticity for ancient trade close to modern estimates. We also use our structural gravity model to locate lost ancient cities. In many instances, our structural estimates confirm the conjecture of historians who followed a radically different method. In some instances, our estimates confirm one conjecture against others. Finally, using historical data on political centers, as well as modern data on regional trade and incomes, we document persistent patterns in cities’ prominence across four millennia even after controlling for time-invariant geographic attributes such as agricultural suitability, mineral resources and defensive ability. Discussing related quantitative and qualitative evidence from historical geography, we argue that the locational advantage brought by natural transport routes dictated by topography is a key factor in explaining the persistence of city size distributions.
The International Economics Seminar series is presented jointly with the Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Economics Department of Georgetown University.