Cliodynamics is a transdisciplinary area of research integrating historical macrosociology, cultural and social evolution, economic history/cliometrics, mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, and the construction and analysis of historical databases. Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution is an international, peer-reviewed, open-access journal that publishes original articles advancing the state of theoretical knowledge in this transdisciplinary area. In the broadest sense, this theoretical knowledge includes general principles that explain the functioning, dynamics, and evolution of historical societies and specific models, usually formulated as mathematical equations or computer algorithms. Cliodynamics also has empirical content that deals with discovering general historical patterns, determining empirical adequacy of key assumptions made by models, and testing theoretical predictions with data from actual historical societies. A mature, or ‘developed theory’ thus integrates models with data; the main goal of Cliodynamics is to facilitate progress towards such theory in history and cultural evolution.
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Volume 14, 2023
Exploring Phenomenological Models for Societal and Technological Transitions of the Neolithic Revolution and Early Civilization Formation.
Several qualitative models have been proposed to explain significant historical shifts in both societal and technological domains. Despite advancements in modeling, certain transitions remain enigmatic, such as the early shift from hunter-gatherer to agriculture-dependent societies, marked by a substantial increase in effort. Another perplexity involves the coordination of agricultural activities into cities and civilizations, despite the larger overhead effort and loss of independence. The exploration of simplified models featuring aggregate, dynamic, and nonlinear processes holds the potential to uncover distinctive facets of each transition. The transitions under consideration span from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural societies and then to early civilizations. Other analogies are suggested for further exploration for transitions to market systems, capitalism, industrialization, and sustainable societies, incorporating factors like land pressures, economies of scale, suppressed growth, and chain reactions.
Diverse modeling approaches can be employed for these transitions. Initially, fundamental characteristics, such as the width and midpoint of transitions, are deduced by analyzing historical events influencing the transition. However, this approach offers limited insights into the dynamics or parameters of the transition. For a more comprehensive understanding, two historical transitions are examined using a simple phenomenological model. These simplified models do not aim to quantitatively address the intricate details of actual historical mechanisms; instead, they leverage analogies to natural systems to gain insights.
Evolutionary radiation of mid-Holocene lanceolate points from the highlands of the South Central Andes
Through phylogenetic reconstruction this work analyzes the diversification of lanceolate points of the South Central Andes which began in the early Holocene and spanned the entire mid- Holocene. Based on a regional-scale data, we discuss the links between the increasing mid-Holocene risk conditions, the patterns of diversification of point lineages, demographic change and animal resources consumption. We distinguish a first instance of greater diversity of points, a higher rate of innovation and less class longevity. These trends progressively stabilized, giving rise to a pattern of less innovation, decreasing taxa diversity and greater class longevity as well as an age-related extinction pattern. We show that as projectile points diversified,hunting efficiency increased along the mid-Holocene by the increased representation of high-return fauna in the regional zooarchaeological record. We suggest that this diversification of lanceolate points was an adaptive evolutionary radiation which began with the increase in the rate of innovation for coping with the increasing risk of the beginning of mid-Holocene in the South Central Andes. From this we conclude that technological innovation was a prerequisite for the human specialization in camelid hunting and for the development of a highly economically efficient foraging strategy in the south Andean highlands
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Jewish Networks in the Spread of Early Christianity: A Mathematical Model of Marcionite and Lukan Christianities
The authors reconsider the dynamics of Jewish and non-Jewish networks in the spread of early Christianity. For mathematical modeling of complex processes like these, they apply Lukan and Marcionite Christianities as strictly coded test cases. Despite weak historical evidence, it is obvious that these two movements, which are newly assumed to be contemporaneous, maintained different attitudes to the Jewish background of Christianity and so they probably used Jewish and non-Jewish networks in a different way. While Lukan Christianity, which remained open to the Jewish tradition, may still have utilized Jewish Mediterranean networks, Marcionite Christianity, which rejected the Jewish heritage, probably ignored them. On this reduced historical basis, the authors constructed a mathematical model of temporal spreading on the network which was common for both of the hypothesized types of Christianity. The nodes of this network, representing big cities of the ancient Mediterranean, contain only two different kinds of diffusivity – Jewish and non-Jewish. At the level of the common network which remains stable, the model examines the importance of global centers for the spreading dynamics of early Christianity. On the other hand, the employment of the Jewish sub-network is manipulated over time according to the regular alteration of early Christian generations. This way, the necessity of the Jewish sub-network for the spread of early Christianity is tested.
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The past few decades have witnessed a proliferation of large comparative cultural databases, primarily consisting of contemporary data (e.g., ethnographic writings), but increasingly historical data as well (including archaeological materials). Individually, these databases already serve as valuable resources as evidenced by the growing number of papers utilizing them. However, further benefits could result from merging or linking these data in ways that surpass their original intentions and ambitions. One avenue is the integration of ethnographic and historical data to help remedy the weaknesses of each (e.g., by addressing lacunae, imprecision, bias, subjectivity, and unreliability) and draw on their reciprocal strengths (e.g., by combining longitudinal depth and primary source material) of these different forms of evidence. The work presented here is a further step in that direction. This article shows how efforts to quantitatively examine historical variation in features of warfare benefit from combining ethnographic, historical, and archaeological data. It describes the general challenges faced by combining datasets (e.g. units of analyses, differing variables across datasets, sampling issues, etc.), how these challenges can be mitigated, and what further challenges remain to be addressed. The overall aim is to encourage further research into the benefits and challenges of integrating such datasets.
This is a review of Foundations of Real-World Economics, 3rd edition, by John Komlos (Routledge, 2023)
A review essay on End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration by Peter Turchin (Penguin Random House 2023)
In End Times, Peter Turchin takes us on three journeys: One is his personal history of the discovery of patterns in history, which form the basis for his development of cliodyamics; a second is his tracing of the primary pattern, namely how elite overproduction and popular immiseration have repeatedly led to state breakdowns across history; and third is the history of the United States, reprising and updating his findings in Age of Discord (Turchin 2017). The journeys converge on a rather distressing endpoint, however: Turchin has found that the pattern of state breakdown that recurs across history is now unfolding in the United States; and in 75% of the times this pattern has been seen in past societies, it led to some form of convulsive state breakdown, including revolution or civil war.