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Empires and the acceleration of wealth inequality in the pre-Islamic Near East: an archaeological approach

Squitieri, Andrea; Altaweel, Mark; (2022) Empires and the acceleration of wealth inequality in the pre-Islamic Near East: an archaeological approach. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences , 14 , Article 190. 10.1007/s12520-022-01659-3. Green open access

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Abstract

We present an approach comparing wealth inequality between c. 3000 BCE and 224 CE in the Near East using house sizes and urban area from 1060 houses in 98 archaeological sites. We divide this dataset into two chronological phases, firstly c. 3000-800 BCE and secondly 800 BCE - 224 CE. The first phase is characterised by small, relatively weak states, while the second phase is characterised by major empires and large states, termed as the Age of Empire (AoE). For these two periods, inequality is measured using house size in relation to settlement scaling, and applying, in addition, the Gini and Atkinson indices on house sizes. Results demonstrate that pre-AoE houses have a lower scaling metric (β) that measures house size relative to site size (0.24), while for the AoE the value is higher (0.41). This indicates more rapid median house size expansion during the AoE as cities grew larger. For the pre-AoE, Gini and Atkinson inequality measures result in 0.45 and 0.16, respectively, while the AoE demonstrates 0.54 and 0.24 for the same measures, respectively. This demonstrates greater house size inequality in the AoE. Overall, we see that wealth inequality is not only greater in the AoE, but that increased wealth inequality has a likely power law relationship to increased settlement area. Alternative metrics to minimise data biases affecting results, including median house size and bootstrap sampling, are applied to strengthen these results and overall conclusions.

Type: Article
Title: Empires and the acceleration of wealth inequality in the pre-Islamic Near East: an archaeological approach
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s12520-022-01659-3
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-022-01659-3
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Wealth inequality, Age of Empire, House size, Ancient empires, Near East
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10155404
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