Cores, Peripheries, and Civilizations



               David Wilkinson






The terminology of "core" and "periphery"

allows us to address substantive issues of

interest to the study of world politics, of

world systems, and of civilizations: issues

of geographic differentiation, inequality, and

uneven change.  Power, pelf, prestige, prog-

ress, population and piety are significantly

centric: spatially located, concentrated,

radiating outwards, radially diminishing.  To

some degree, but not completely, their spatial

distributions overlap, creating the sense of

historic "cores" for macrosocieties; at some

timescales, cores seem stable, at some longer

scales they move in apparently nonrandom ways.

   Reprise.  This is one in a series of papers

exploring the relationship of civilizations

theory to world politics.  In this series

(e.g., Wilkinson, 1987) I have defined "a

civilization" using criteria of level-and-

politicomilitary-connectedness rather than

the more customary criteria of level-and-

cultural-uniformity.  Screening a list of some

seventy candidates yielded a list of fourteen

entities which appeared to be societies at a

civilized level (criteria:  cities, record-

keeping, economic surplus, non-producing

classes, etc.) which were also connected

world-systems -- militarily closed, geotechno-

logically isolated social-transactional net-

works with an autonomous political history

during which they did not take or need not

have taken much account of the possibility of

conquest, invasion, attack -- or alliance and

cooperation -- from any outsiders, although

the members of each such system did recurrent-

ly conquer, invade, attack, ally with, com-

mand, rule, legislate, cooperate with, and

conflict significantly and effectively with

(and only with) one another.





   Table 1 gives the resulting roster of

civilizations/world systems.







Table 1. A Roster of Fourteen Civilizations

(listed in their approximate order of incorporation into Central Civiliza-






CivilizationDuration               Terminus





1.  Mesopotamian      before 3000 B.C. - c. 1500 B.C.Coupled with


                                 to form Central

2.  Egyptianbefore 3100 B.C. - c. 1500 B.C.Coupled with


                                 to form Central

3.  Aegeanc. 2700 B.C. - c. 560 B.C.Engulfed by Central

4.  Indic      c. 2300 B.C. - after c. A.D. 1000Engulfed

by Central

5.  Irish      c. A.D. 450 - c. 1050    Engulfed

by Central

6.  Mexicanbefore 1100 B.C. - c. A.D. 1520Engulfed by Central

7.  Peruvianbefore c. 200 B.C. - c. A.D. 1530Engulfed by Central

8.  Chibchan? - c. A.D. 1530       Engulfed by Central

9.  Indonesianbefore A.D. 700 - c. 1700Engulfed by Central

10. West Africanc. A.D. 350 - c. 1590   Engulfed

by Central

11. Mississippianc. A.D. 700 - c. 1700  Destroyed


12. Far Easternbefore 1500 B.C. - after c. A.D. 1850Engulfed by Central

13. Japanesec. A.D. 650 - after c. 1850Engulfed by Central

14. Centralc. 1500 B.C. - present  ?















Figure 1 is a chronogram showing the lifespans

and relative (Mercator) locations of the

civilizations in the roster.













































































   The most striking effect of the new defini-

tion on accustomed lists of civilizations is

that such accustomed entities as Classical-

Hellenic/Greco-Roman civilization, Hittite

civilization, Arab-

ian/Magian/Syriac/Iranic/Islamic civiliza-

tion(s), Orthodox Christian civilization,

Russian civilization, and even our own famil-

iar Western civilization, must be reclassified

either as episodes of or as regions within a

previously unrecognized social-network entity,

by my definition both a civilized society and

a world system, hence a single civilization.

This civilization I have labeled Central


   Central civilization was created in the

Middle East during the 2nd millennium B.C. by

an atypical encounter between two pre-existing

civilizations.  Civilizations may coexist,

collide, break apart or fuse; when they have

fused, they have typically done so by an

asymmetric, inegalitarian engulfment of one by

the other.  But the linking of the previously

separate Egyptian and Mesopotamian civiliza-

tions through Syria was an atypical, relative-

ly  symmetric and egalitarian "coupling" which

created a new joint network-entity rather than

annexing one network as a part of the other

entrained to its process time.  The new Cen-

tral network, in an unbroken existence and

process since then, has been atypical in

another way: it has expanded, slowly by the

reckoning of national and state turnover

times, but quite rapidly by comparison to

other civilizations, and in that expansion has

engulfed all the other civilizational networks

with which it once coexisted and later collid-

ed.  Now expanded to global scale, Central

civilization constitutes the single contem-

porary instance of the species "civilization."

Figure 1 shows "Greco-Roman" and "Western" as

epochs of regional dominance within Central

civilization; these dominant regions in fact

constituted long-lived, but impermanent, cores

of Central civilization.  The Near Eastern,

Medieval and global phases of Central civili-

zation also possessed cores, but they were

larger and less culturally homogeneous than

the Greco-Roman and Western cores. 

   Civilizations considered in their political

aspect (and as world systems, in their world-

political aspect) ordinarily have one or the

other of two political structures: the states

system (= state system = multi-state system =

system of many independent states) and the

universal empire (= universal state = world

state = one-state system).  Figure 2 is the

chronogram from Figure 1, complicated by

symbolization of the states-system periods,

the epochs of universal empire, and the cur-

rently unclassifiable eras of each civiliza-










































































About twenty-three universal empires and about

twenty-eight states systems may be identified.

The universal empires of the fourteen civili-

zations are listed in Table 2 (see also Wilk-

inson, 1988), the states systems in Table 3.

Table 2. The World States of the Fourteen Civilizations



CivilizationState   Span           Duration





1.  Mesopotamiana. Akkadianc. 2350 - c. 2230 B.C.120

          b. Third Dynastyc. 2050 - c. 1960 B.C. 90

              of Ur

          c. Babylonianc. 1728 - c. 1686 B.C. 42

2.  Egyptiana. Old Kingdomc. 2850 - c. 2180 B.C.670

          b. Middle Kingdomc. 1991 - c. 1786 B.C.205

          c. New Kingdomc. 1570 - c. 1525 B.C. 45

3.  Aegeana. Minoan      c. 1570 - c. 1425 B.C.145

4.  Indic      a. Maurya      c. 262 - c. 231 B.C.


5.  Irish         None?

6.  Mexicana. Aztec      c. A.D. 1496 - 1519


7.  Peruviana. Inca c. 1470 - 1533  63

8.  Chibchan   None?

9.  Indonesiana. Srivijayac. A.D. 695 - late 13th C.600

          b. MadjapahitA.D. 1293 - 1389  96

10. West Africana. Ghana      c. A.D. 950    


          b. Mali   c. A.D. 1330     ?

          c. Songhai     c. A.D. 1500     ?

11. Mississippian   None?

12. Far Easterna. Ch'in-Han221 B.C. - A.D. 184405

          b. Sui-TangA.D. 589 - 750161

          c. Mongol-Ming-A.D. 1279 - 1850571


13. Japanesea. Taiho     A.D. 702 - 1336634

          b. Hideyoshi-A.D. 1590 - 1868 278


14. Central

     Near Easterna. Neo-Assyrian663 - 652 B.C. 11

   Phase  b. Persian-525 - 316 B.C.209


     Greco-Romanc. Roman      20 B.C. - A.D. 235







Table 3. The States Systems of the Fourteen Civilizations



CivilizationStates SystemsNotable StatesDuration





1.  MesopotamianA. Pre-SargonidUruk, Kish, Nippur, Ur,

Lagash,        ?

             to c. 2350 B.C.    Umma, Elam, Mari, Agade

          B. Pre-Urnammu Agade, Guti, Erech, Ur, Lagash,   


             c. 2230 - c. 2050 B.C.  Uruk, Elam, Assyria


Table 3. Continued      



CivilizationStates SystemsNotable StatesDuration





1.  MesopotamianC. Pre-Hammurabic  Ur, Uruk, Isin,

Elam, Lagash,     232

     (continued)   c. 1960 - c. 1728 B.C.  Eshnunna, Larsa,


                           Mari, Kassites, Assyria

          D. Post-HammurabicBabylon, Sea Lands, Kassites,


             c. 1686 - c. 1500 B.C.  Hittites

              (becomes 14A)

2.  EgyptianA. Pre-NarmerUpper Egypt, Lower Egypt       ?

             to c. 2850 B.C.

          B. First IntermediateHeracleopolis, Thebes     189

             c. 2180 - c. 1991 B.C.

          C. Second IntermediateThebes, Xois, Avaris


             c. 1786 - c. 1570 B.C.

3.  Aegean(A. Pre- Thalassocracy(Knossos, Phaistos, Mallia?)


             to c. 1570 B.C.?)

          B. Post-ThalassocracyMycenae, Knossos, Pylos,     ___

             c. 1425 - c. 560 B.C.  Troy, Athens, Thebes,

              (merging into 14A)  Tiryns, Miletus, Samos, Sparta,

                           Corinth, Phrygia, Lydia

4.  Indic      A. Pre-Asoka   Maghada, Kosala, Ujjain,


             to c. 262 B.C.     Vamsas, Kalinga

          B. Pre-Engulfment   Maghada, Bactria, Sakas,


             c. 231 B.C. -      Kushana, Andhra, Kanauj,


             c. A.D. 1000  Gurjara-Prathiharas, Pallavas,

                           Chalukyas, Pandyas, Rashtrakutas,

                           Cholas, Ghaznavids

5.  Irish      (A. Pre-Engulfment  (Tara, Dublin,

Munster,         ?

             to c. A.D. 1050?)  Ulster, Connaught?)

6.  MexicanA. Pre-Montezuma   Tenochtitlan, Texcoco,


             to c. 1496    Tlacopan, Azcapotzalco, Mixtecs,

                           Zapotecs, Tarascans, Tlaxcala

7.  PeruvianA. Pre-Huayna CapacCuzco, Charcas, Chimu, Quito


             to c. 1470

8.  Chibchan(A. Pre-Engulfment(Tunja, Bacata?)


             to c. 1530?)

9.  IndonesianA. Pre-SrivijayanSrivijaya, Malayu, Kalah


             to c. A.D. 695

          B. Pre-Madjapahit   Srivijaya, Singosari,


             (late 13th C. A.D.)  Madjapahit

          C. Pre-Engulfment   Madjapahit, numerous

Malay     ___

             c. 1389 - c. 1550  States







Table 3. Continued      



CivilizationStates SystemsNotable StatesDuration





10. West AfricanA. Pre-Ghana  Ghana, Songhai 


             to 10th C. A.D.?

          B. Pre-Mali    Diara, Soso, Mossi, Manding,


             11th C. A.D. - 1325  Songhai

          C. Pre-Songhai Manding, Songhai, Tuaregs

   60?                 A.D. 1433 - 1493

11. Mississippian(A. Pre-Natchez?)          


          (B. Post-Natchez?)                 


12. Far EasternA. Pre-Ch'inCh'in, Chin, Han, Chao, Wei,


             771 - 221 B.C.     Ch'u, Ch'i, Lu, Sung, Yen

          B. Pre-Sui          3 Kingdoms, W. Chin, 6


             A.D. 184 - 589     Dynasties, 16 Kingdoms,



                           N. Wei, E. Wei, W. Wei, N. Ch'i,



                           N. Chou, S. Ch'en, Sui, Annam, 

                           Champa, Nan-Chao, Tu-yu-hun

          C. Pre-Mongol  Uighurs, Tufan, Nan-chao, 5


             A.D. 750 - 1279    Dynasties, 10 Kingdoms,


                           (Liao), Hsi-Hsia, N. Sung,

                           Jurchen, (Ch'in), Ch'i, S. Sung,

                           Annam, Khmer, Champa, Wu 

                           Yueh, Mongols, Koryo

13. JapaneseA. Pre-Taiho Koguryo, Paekche, Silla, Imna,


             c. A.D. 300 - 702  Yamato

          B. Pre-Hideyoshi    Ashikaga, Yoshino,

Enryakuji,     254

             c. A.D. 1336 - 1590  Ikko, Various daimyo

14. CentralA. Pre-AssurbanapalEgypt, Mitanni, Hittites,

Elam,     837

             c. 1500 - 663 B.C.  Babylon, Assyria, Urartu,



                           Damascus, Israel, Tyre, Judah,

                           Ethiopia, Media, Nubia

          B. Pre-Darius  Assyria, Armenia, Elam,     127

             652-525 B.C.  Babylonia, Media, Anshan,

                           Persia, Lydia, Egypt, Libya,

                           Ionia, Judah, Tyre, Meroe

          C. Pre-AugustanSyracuse, Carthage, 


             316 - 20 B.C.      Macedonia, Rome,


                           Egypt, Pontus, Armenia, Parthia

          D. Post-Roman

             A.D. 235 - presentRome, Persia, Byzantium,   1750+

                           Arab Caliphate, Frankish

                           Empire, Holy Roman Empire, Mongol

                           Khanate, Ottoman Sultanate, Spain,



                           Austria, France, Britain, Germany,



                           Japan, Russia, America

Both universal empires and states systems

ordinarily have cores.  The core in a univer-

sal empire will usually be the metropolitan

territory and people which conquered, united

and governed the world system; the core in a

states system will ordinarily include its

great-power oligarchy.

   Terminology and assumptions.  At this

point, it seems useful to stipulate some

definitions, which will in due course become

issues, since definitions contain the bones of

revered but unnamed ancestral theories, and

disturb the spirits rendered thereby non-

ancestral.  In this case the terminology

offered will contain and embody explicit

theoretical assumptions, which (being assump-

tions) will be expounded, but not defended.

   An ideal-type civilization / world-system /

macrosociety, because its characteristics are

unequally distributed over space; and, because

they are distributed centrically; and, because

their unequal distributions overlap; and,

because the inequalities are connected intrin-

sically to its past history of expansion (for

civilizations tend strongly to expand, Central

civilization being an extreme rather than an

exceptional case) characteristically possess-




   (1)         a core (central, older, ad-

vanced, wealthy, powerful)



   (2)         a semiperiphery strongly con-

nected to the core (younger,            fring-

eward, remote, more recently attached, weaker,

poorer,             more backward), and



   (3)         a weakly connected periphery

(nomads; peasant subsistence            pro-

ducers not yet attached to a city; and other

civilizations            that trade but do not

habitually fight or ally with the subject




   Civilizations usually begin in a geographi-

cally restricted area composed of cities and

the hinterlands their fighters can control;

this is surrounded by an area to which the new

cities are politically irrelevant.  We may

call these zones the (initial) urban core,

controlled semiperiphery, and uncontrolled

periphery of the civilization.

   Civilizations usually expand over time by

raiding, invading and conquering adjacent

areas; and by sending out colony-cities and

military settlements and trading forts; and by

fascinating and addicting previously indiffer-

ent peripheral people to their products (gods,

drugs, laws, weapons, music, ornaments, com-

modities, etc.).  The territories affected by

this civic expansion -- whether the expansion

be colonialist, imperialist, cultic, develop-

mental -- may be considered to have been

incorporated by the civilization when their

occupants -- settlers or settlees -- undergo

urbanization and begin to interact politically

on a regular basis -- as subjects, allies,

tributaries, enemies -- with the civilization-

al core.  This area of later expansion and

control is the (enlarged) semiperiphery of the


   Once a semiperiphery exists, and it comes

to exist quickly, it also persists.  Thus one

of the main continuing patterns that reveals

itself in the history of civilizations and

world systems is that they tend -- not by

definition, but empirically -- to be markedly

geographically tripartite.  In the core,

military force, political power, economic

wealth, technological progress, cultural

prestige, and theogony are concentrated.  The

periphery is far from the core in all senses,

containing peoples and territories known but

scarcely noted.  The semiperiphery, more or

less recently penetrated or engulfed, is a

zone characterized by military subjection,

powerlessness, relative poverty, technological

backwardness, and low cultural prestige.

   But while the tripartition of a civiliza-

tion is very durable, no area has permanent

tenure in any role, and tenure of coredom is

rather precarious.  The global civilization of

today, which expanded from a Mesopotamian-

Egyptian core, is not ruled from Uruk, nor

from Egyptian Thebes; the lobbyists of the

world do not seek favors in Agade, nor do its

engineers and physicians study in an Imhotep

institute of Gizeh; there are no great powers

based in the Fertile Crescent; Babylon is not

the world's Hollywood; Amon's

devotees are few.  Cores are not eternal;

civilizations can outlast their origi-nal

cores.  A history of cores must therefore be

kinematic, describing their rises, shifts and

falls; a theory of cores must ultimately be

dynamic, accounting for their motion and


   A theory of peripheries must largely ac-

count for their secular decline.  Civilization

as such -- the sum of the territories and

peoples of the various civilizations -- has

expanded continually since its origins, de-

spite some regional setbacks and a single

holocivilizational collapse (that of Missis-

sippian civilization), by conquering and

colonizing and assimilating its non-civilized

peripheral peoples and territories.  This

contradicts the idea that civilizations rise

and fall, rise and fall: they almost never

fall.  It also contradicts the image of peace-

ful sedentary civilized peoples always threat-

ened and occasionally overwhelmed by neighbor-

ing barbarians: most of the "overwhelming" has

been inflicted by the civilized societies on

their peripheral neighbors.  When noncivilized

peripheral peoples -- usually nomads -- attack

and conquer civilized territory, the result

has ordinarily been that they settle down,

take over, enjoy ruling the civilization, and

continue expanding it; on the whole, peripher-

al peoples have not developed a sense of

peripheral identity and pride sufficient to

impel them to destroy the civilizations they

have sporadically conquered.  Civilizations,

on the contrary, strongly tend to destroy

their peripheries, through incorporation.

   Tenure in the semiperiphery is more secure

than core tenure (cores decline) or peripheral

tenure (peripheries are devoured).  But there

is some upward mobility.  A semiperipheral

area remains semiperipheral as long as it is

politically annexed to, urbanologically subor-

dinate to, militarily dominated by, culturally

provincialized by, economically outaccumulated

by, technologically outcompeted by, and culti-

cally devoted to, the old core.  When and

where the semiperiphery acquires states as

influential, forces as dangerous, cities as

populous and wealthy, culture as attractive,

technique as progressive, gods as efficacious

as those of the core, that part of the semi-

periphery becomes core; the core area expands

to encompass it.  And if the old core should

peak and decline, be overtaken and passed in

its military and political, demographic and

economic, cultural and technical and theologi-

cal development by its semiperiphery (or a

part of it), so that the old core becomes a

historic backwater, becomes marginal to the

affairs of the civilization, while the former

semiperiphery becomes the new core, we may

properly say that the core of the civilization

has shifted.  And cores do shift: witness

Karnak, witness Babylon.

   The ideas of core-periphery distinctions

and inequalities are important to theories of

civilizations (especially Carroll Quigley's

evolutionary theory, 1961) and of world sys-

tems (especially Immanuel Wallerstein's world-

systems analysis -- Hopkins, Wallerstein, et

al., 1972; Wallerstein, 1974, 1975, 1979,

1982, 1983, 1984).  I would like to make a

stab at roughly locating cores for the civili-

zations/world systems I recognize, discuss the

empirics of their gross movement patterns, and

juxtapose these "facts" to the theories of

Quigley and Wallerstein -- which differ termi-

nologically and substantively from each other,

and from the exposition just given -- so as to

judge which, or what combination, or what

alternative theory, seems most helpful in

describing, explaining, and projecting core-

periphery behavior.





Empirics: Cores and Core Shifts in Thirteen




The most direct approach to sketching the

general locations and movements of civiliza-

tional cores, as defined above, would be to

assume that in a universal empire, the capital

city and metropolitan district have politico-

military core status by definition, and proba-

bly contain the cultic core, extract and

consume economic surplus, maintain the cosmop-

olis with the largest urban population, sup-

port the cultural elite, and contain the loci

of invention: hence their location coincides

with the core, and shifts of capital/metropole

are core shifts.  This assumption is a useful

ideal-type fiction rather than a universally

true empirical generalization; we shall see

that exceptions soon emerge.  A desirable

future project would be to measure rather than

assume these consistencies, and observe the

order in which preeminences are gained and

lost by cores.  Correspondingly, in a states

system the great powers, the rich states, the

religious centers, the megalopoleis, the

cultural producers and critics, the great

engineers, should be assumed to correspond

closely enough that one of these measures will

ordinarily suffice to demark a core state,

absent contrary data.  Where there are contra-

dictions, power will take precedence over

wealth in our narrative.  In the civiliza-

tional game, diamonds may be forever; but

clubs are always trumps. 

   1. Egyptian.  Egyptian civilization was

frequently united under a world state; core

shifts are indicated by movements of the

capital.  After a predynastic period which may

have been all-core/no-core (primacy dispersed

among nomes), an Upper Egyptian state con-

quered the country c. 2850 B.C., but then

moved its capital to Lower Egypt (Memphis),

where power remained in Dynasties I-IV, to c.

2440 B.C.  The kings were war-leaders, and

gods, gods'-sons, or high-priests, as well;

the pyramids display the compresence of tech-

nique (architecture) and wealth (manpower

mobilization, funeral offerings) with art and


   The Vth dynasty (2440-2315) sees a small

expansion of the core to nearby Heliopolis

(Lower Egypt), and power-sharing with the

priesthood of the sun-cult of Re.

   Dynasty VI (c.2315-2175), witnessing the

loss of a universal state and the rise of a

states system under the local "nomarchs," also

seems to reflect the evaporation of the Lower

Egyptian core without any clear replacement.

This then seems to be an all-core/no-core period.

   A new core, more dispersed or perhaps

faster-shifting, seems to have emerged gradu-

ally, with prominent states appearing at

Memphis (Dynasty VII) in Lower Egypt, Coptos-

Abydos (VIII) in Upper Egypt, Heracleopolis

(IX-X) in Middle Egypt, and Thebes (XI) in

Upper Egypt.  (These dynastic capitals are

partly simultaneous, partly sequential.)  In

due course the emerging core shrank, receding

southwards, until it stopped at Thebes (Middle

Kingdom, under Mentuhotep II, c. 2050).

   A Theban dynasty (XII, c. 1991-1786) re-

turned the capital northward, to Lisht (Lower

Egypt), near Memphis, while maintaining the

imperial god Amon at Karnak (Upper Egypt),

near Thebes.  This is a notable instance of

core partition and specialization, an excep-

tion to the general practice of concentrated


   Circa 1785-1570 Egyptian civilization was

politically fragmented under dynasties XIII-

XVII, partly simultaneous regional dynasties:

XIII at Thebes, XIV at Xois (Lower Egypt), XV

-- Hyksos invaders -- at Avaris (Lower Egypt),

XVI Hyksos, XVII Thebes.  This may be another

all-core period, or one of a rapidly-shifting


   Egypt was reunited under dynasty XVII

(Thebes), during whose tenure Egyptian civili-

zation couples with Mesopotamian to form

Central civilization; until then, the mili-

tary, political, religious and economic struc-

ture of Egyptian civilization was Theban-core.

   This capsule history may be read as fol-

lows, in core terms.  (1) There was usually,

but not always (predynastic, dynasty VI, and

perhaps XIII-XVII), a semiperiphery in Egyp-

tian civilization.  (2) Its core shifted

frequently, from the time-perspective of the

civilization.  (3) The duration of core sta-

bility, or speed of core shift, fluctuated,

with no core enduring more than 4 centuries.

(4) Core preeminences -- military, political,

economic, religious, technical, cultural --

were usually, but not always (dynasty XII's

divided core) collocated in space.  (5) Ex-

core areas (Memphis in XII, Thebes in XVII)

sometimes regained core status; but core

shifts more often recruited new areas (Heli-

opolis in V, Coptos-Abydos in VIII, Heracleo-

polis in IX, Thebes in XI, Xois in XIV, Avaris

in XV).

   The Egyptian core history shows directional

movement combined with expansive-contractive

pulsation, in the following sequence: all-

core/no-core -a Southern core - a Northern

core - all-core/no-core - Middle - Southern -

Northern - all-core/no-core - Southern.  Two

different rhythms may underlie this sequence.

The core shuttles between south and north,

implying the fall of an old core to semi-

peripheral status simultaneous with the rise

of a semiperipheral area to core status;

whatever conditions rendered aged cores inca-

pable of continuing seem to have been elimi-

nated by a term in the semiperipheral purgato-

ry.  Behind this shuttle pulses the longer

rhythm of states system -- universal empire,

in which decentralization and core-enlargement

alternate with centralization and core-con-

traction, implying an alternation of equaliza-

tion processes -- limited semiperipheral rise

or limited core decline -- with polarization

processes.  The core process is clearly relat-

ed to, but not reducible to, the states system

-- universal empire political process.

   2. Mesopotamian.  The Uruk-core period of

the second half of the 4th millennium B.C.

appears to have been succeeded by an all-core

period.  (Cf. Algaze, 1989.)  The Early Dynas-

tic 1st dynasty of Uruk may be legendary, but

the legend suggests another period in which

Sumer, and within it Uruk, had core status.

Later core evolutions include:



   c. 2600-2500 Akkad (Kish)

   c. 2500-2360 Sumer (Ur, Lagash, Umma)

   c. 2360-2180 Akkad (Agade)

   c. 2180-2060 dispersed -- Akkad (Guti of

Agade) and Sumer                        (Uruk,

Lagash) -- hence all-core/no-core

   c. 2060-1950 Sumer (Ur)

   c. 1950-1700 dispersed -- Ur, Isin, Larsa,

Elam, Nippur,                      Babylon,

Mari, Assyria, Qatna, Aleppo, Eshnunna

   c. 1700-1530 Akkad (Babylon)

   c. 1530-1500 dispersed -- Hittites, Kassite

Babylon, Sea-Land.

     (Beyond about 1500 BC Mesopotamian and

Egyptian civilizations are,        as noted

previously, understood as parts a larger,

Central civilization,         whose core

history is capsulized infra.)



   Most generalizations applied above to

Egyptian core history appear largely applica-

ble to Mesopotamian as well.  There was usual-

ly, but not always, a semiperiphery.  The core

shifted "frequently" -- from the civiliza-

tion's duration-perspective!  Core preem-

inences were usually combined -- but Nippur

was a specialized religious center.  Cores

lasted a century or two.  Old cores occasion-

ally, exceptionally, resurged.  There was a

north-south core alternation or "shuttle," and

a separate concentration/dispersal rhythm

associated with a states system -- universal

empire oscillation.  Mesopotamia was, however,

longer and more frequently in a "dispersed" or

"all-core" condition.

   The latter difference may have been conse-

quential.  Wesson has argued in general (-

1978:1-18) and specifically with respect to

Sumer and Egypt (1978:42-44, 90-91) that

"pluralism" of several sorts been causally

connected to creativity in civilizations.  A

similar point is made by Ekholm and Friedman

(1982:96).  Core dispersion would seem to be

yet another sort of "pluralism," likely to be

similarly connected.

   3. Aegean.  An historical "gross anatomy"

reveals a Cretan core (c. 2600-1425), with

palaces on Crete (Knossos, Mallia, Phaistos,

Hagia Triada) and dispersed trade-raid-taxing

centers ("Minoa" seaports).  This is succeeded

by a Greek-mainland core (c. 1425-1100, with

centers at Mycenae, Pylos, Tiryns, Athens,

Thebes), and a semiperiphery including Milet-

us, Melos, Knossos, Troy.  This structure is

in turn replaced, after an all-core epoch of

many poleis, by a rather dispersed largely

Anatolian and insular core (c. 750-560) in-

cluding Miletus, Phocaea, Chalcis, Eretria,

Rhodes, Lesbos, Thera, Corinth, Megara, Ach-

aea, as centers of colonialism around much of

the Mediterranean; plus non-Greek Phrygia and

then Lydia, which eventually provided the link

that brought Aegean civilization into Central

civilization during this period.  The Cretan

core fell as the Mainland semiperiphery rose;

the Anatolian semiperiphery rose only after

much of the Mainland core fell.

   There was usually, but not always, an

Aegean semiperiphery.  The Aegean core did

shift.  The Cretan core was however quite

durable, lasting perhaps 800 years; "occasion-

al" rather than "frequent" core shifts seem to

characterize Aegean civilization (one per

millennium, vs. 8 per millennium in Mesopota-

mian, and a similar frequency for Egyptian).

There was no "shuttle" with a clear renascence

of a former core region.

   4. Indic.  In the Indus valley epoch (c.

2500-1500), a dual core emerged, upstream at

Harappa (Punjab), downstream at Mohenjo-Daro

(Sind).  The Aryan conquest and city-breaking

destroyed this core, an all-core/no-core epoch

ensuing (inhabited ruined cities), until a new

core arose in the Ganges Valley, where Hasti-

napur was a major center to the flood in c.

900 BC.  Though the sixteen great states of

Indic civilization around 600 BC stretched

from the Punjab (Gandhara, Kamboja) to the

Deccan (Asmaka), most cities (Sravasti, Kapil-

avastu, Rummindei, Kusinagara, Sarnath, Varan-

asi/Benares, Rajagriha, Bodhgaya/Sambodhi) lay

among six states (Kosala, Malla, Vrijji, Kasi,

Anga, Magadha) of the middle and lower Gange-

tic basin; this represents the emergence,

perhaps even the re-emergence, of a Ganges


   The Maurya conquest and empire contracted

the core to the metropolitan state, Magadha,

and its capital and religious center Patalipu-

tra/Patna c. 260 B.C.   With the fall of

Maurya after c. 230, the core as expanded as

semiperipheries rose to core status -- Ionians

(Yavanas) in Bactria and the Punjab; Chera,

Pandya and Chola in the far south in the 2nd

century BC; Saka-Pahlava and Yue-chi Kushana

in the 1st century BC and Andhra-Pallava from

the 1st century AD.  The epoch seems no-


   A brief Kushana empire was established in

the north (upper Ganges and Indus basins) by

Kanishka at Peshawar c. A.D. 78-100. inciden-

tally re-forming an Indic core.  Another

dispersal and all-core period followed, with

Satavahana/Satakani in the Deccan, Ujjain/Mal-

wa, Pallava, Ceylon, all noteworthy centers.

   The Gupta empire, once more with Magadha as

metropole and Patna as capital c. 330-c. 500,

restored a Gangetic civilizational core,

though not quite qualifying as a universal

state.  Following the Guptas, there was a

dispersal again: Huns (Ephthalites), Malwa,

Magadha, Ujjain, Pallava, Chalukya, Chola,

Pandya all notable.

   A Gangetic empire was founded by Harsha at

Kanauj 606-647, reconstituting a core.  Then

once more a dispersal: Kanauj, Gurjara-Prati-

hara, Pala, Rashtrakuta, Rajputs, Sind, Chola,

Pallava, Chalukya, Vengi, Pandya, Ceylon,

Chandella, Paramara, Yaminis of Ghazni.

   If we consider (as I prefer to) the engulf-

ment of Indic by Central civilization to have

been accomplished by the Muslim invasions in

the 11th century, India next became a semi-

periphery of Central civilization, and remains

so.  If we do not consider Indic civilization

to have been integrated into Central civiliza-

tion till the 18th century, the period from

the 11th to the 18th centuries continued the

alternation of north Indian core empires with

states-system chaos, hence of semi-

peripheralization with core expansion. 

   In either case, after an initial core

shift, the pattern of a core empire/semi-

periphery alternating with a states sys-

tem/expanded core is well established.  Howev-

er, the dispersed-core or all-core pattern

predominates, and contracted cores are short-

lived.  Cores are preferentially located in

the north, with some alternation between

Ganges-valley and Indus-valley metropoles, but

a stronger inclination to the Ganges.  Magadha

was twice a metropole.

   5. Irish.  Turgesius (Turgeis) the Viking,

after intensive looting from A.D. 837 on, set

up a "longport" or naval camp at Dublin in 842

for greater convenience in plundering Irish

states, churches and monasteries.  The many

Irish kings and occasional hegemonic high

kings resisted.  The Norse pressed, the Irish

pressed back, each nation fought within it-

self; Dublin sacked Armagh and was itself

sacked.  By 842 Irish-Norse alliances are

recorded in the Annals of Ulster, by 856 the

"Gallogoidel" Norse-Irish mixed bands were a

distinct fighting group.  No core was evident.

   Periodically an Irish dynasty or king did

achieve hegemonic high-kingship, first the

northern Ui Neill of Ulster (from Malachy I,

846-862, to Malachy II, 980-1002 and 1014-

1022), then upstart kings of Munster (Brian

Boru, 1002-1014, Turlock O Brien 1064-1086,

Muircertach O Brien 1086-1119), of Connacht

(Turlock O Connor 1121-1156, Rory O Connor

1166-2286), or of Ulster (Muircertach Mac

Lochlainn 1156-1166).  Some of the eleventh-

and twelfth-century high kings achieved hege-

mony over the Norse cities -- raided, took

hostages, imposed tribute (Malachy II and

Brian Boru and Muircertach Mac Lochlainn on

Dublin) or actually reigned from them (Turlock

O Brien from Limerick) or named their kings

(Turlock and Muircertach O Brien, and Turlock

O Connor, for Dublin).  One could defend the

proposition that there was an Ulster core

around 1000, a Munster core around 1100, a

fast-moving unstable core in the 12th century

(prior to the Norman invasions which attached

Irish to Central civilization).  However,

power seems to have been so dispersed, person-

al, resisted, and rapidly displaced that, at

time scales comparable to those at which cores

persisted in other civilizations, there was no

clearly definable core to Irish civilization.

All the kingdoms seem to have had rough equal-

ity, roughly upheld.

   6. Mexican.  About 1200-600 B.C. the "-

Olmec" area appears to be core, with Gulf

coast sites (San Lorenzo, La Venta, Tres

Zapotes) and Basin of Mexico sites (Tlatilco).

   By 600 B.C., the valley of Oaxaca (Zapotec

Monte Alban, with the Temple of the Danzantes

showing slaughtered "Olmecs," and  Mitla) had

become the core.  Semiperipheries rose: Teoti-

huacan in the Basin, Mayan Kaminaljuyu (Guate-

mala City) in the Guatemalan Highlands in the

Late Preclassic (300 BC-AD 250), perhaps

qualifying this as an all-core/no-core period.

   From about A.D. 200-700 ("Classic" period)

the core was the Basin of Mexico, centered on

Teotihuacan; semiperipheries seem to have

included the Gulf Coast (El Tajin; Teotihuacan

pottery), Oaxaca (Monte Alban; pottery; Zapo-

tec quarter of Teotihuacan), and the Maya

region (probable colonization of Kaminaljuyu

as a subimperial center; Teotihuacan figures

on Tikal stelae, Teotihuacan-style pottery at

Copan and Escuintla).  Teotihuacan influence

waned and was not replaced among the Maya in

the 6th century, and the Late Classic Lowland

Maya rose to core status in the 7th and 8th


   There was a collapse at Teotihuacan around

700-750, apparently under the impact of north-

ern-peripheral "Chichimec" invaders (including

Toltecs).  After the destruction and abandon-

ment of Teotihuacan there seems to have been

an all-core/no-core period: Cholula, Tula and

Xochicalco in Central Mexico, El Tajin on the

Gulf Coast, and Late Classic Maya Lowland

Palenque, Piedras Negras, Tikal, Uaxactun,

Copan, were all of importance.

   The rise of Toltec Tula more or less coin-

cides with the fall of the Southern Lowlands

Classic Maya cities in the "Epiclassic" 9th-

10th centuries (Copan abandoned after 800,

Palenque after 810, Tikal abandoned end of

10th century), and of Monte Alban (abandoned

c.900) in the 10th, suggesting that the Basin

of Mexico was once again moving to core sta-

tus.  During this Basin-core epoch (11th-12th

centuries), West and Northwest Mexico rose to

be an important semiperiphery, and the Maya

lands declined to semiperipheral status:

Chichen Itza was occupied by Toltecs c. 1000-

1180 and dominated the Northern Maya Lowlands;

the Southern Lowlands remained depopulated;

the Highlands showed Toltec influence.

   Tula and the Toltec empire collapsed in the

13th century, perhaps again under the impact

of northern-peripheral "Chichimec" invaders.

The 14th century was again all-core/no-core:

the Tarascans at Tzintuntzan in West Mexico,

the Mixtec in Oaxaca (Monte Alban and Mitla),

the Totonac at Cempoala on the Gulf Coast,

Quiche in the Guatemalan Highlands, Mayapan

dominating the Northern Yucatan Lowlands, the

Tepanecs at Azcapotzalco in the Basin, mercan-

tile Putun sea-traders at Cozumel and along

the Gulf coast.

   The 15th century saw the rise of the Aztecs

of Tenochtitlan, hence the return of a Mexico-

Basin core.

   In  shorter compass: a Gulf-and-Basin dual

core; a shift of the core to Oaxaca; an all-

core/no-core epoch; a Basin core; an all-

core/no-core epoch; a Basin core; an all-

core/no-core epoch; a Basin core.  There was a

semiperiphery about as often as not.  Core

lifetimes ranged from two to six centuries.

The Basin of Mexico was usually, but not

always, the core; no "shuttle" appears, but

the equalization/polarization rhythm is dis-

tinct, though a universal empire emerged only

from the final polarization.

   7. Peruvian.  Six phases seem distinguish-


   (1) Initial Ceramic, 1900-1200 B.C.: in

monumental communally constructed ceremonial

complexes -- highland Kotosh before 1800,

coastal El Paraiso and central-coast Cerro

Sechin (c. 1200).  Probably all-core/no-core.

   (2) Early Horizon, 1200-300.  Widespread

cultural unity in Chavin style, after N.

Highland Chavin de Huantar, perhaps a Kotosh

offshoot, spread through most of Peru, with a

north coast manifestation (Cupisnique) and a

south coast region (Paracas).  Chavin seems to

be the civilizational core on grounds of

cultural domination; no universal state or

core empire is apparent.

   (3) Early Intermediate, 300 B.C.-A.D. 700:

Cultural diversity, nationalism, interregional

warfare.  Coastal sites: Vicus, Moche (milita-

ristic-expansionist), Lima (Maranga, Pachacam-

ac, Cerro de Trinidad sites), Nazca (Cahuachi,

Tambo Viejo), Atacameno.  Highland sites:

Cajamarca, Recuay, Huarpa (Huari; expansion-

ist), Waru, Tiahuanaco (expansionist).  Re-

gional cultural variety and political polycen-

tricity suggest this was an all-core/no-core


   (4) Middle Horizon, A.D. 700-1100.  Cultur-

al unity under Tiahuanaco (southern) and Huari

(northern) cultures and empires, with the

Huari style derivative and the Huari center

and empire shorter-lived (though greater in

extent, with sites at Cajamarca, Cajamar-

quilla, Pachacamac, Chakipampa, Pacheco,

Piquillacta).  Probably best classified there-

fore as a twin-core period but (as with Har-

appa/Mohenjo Daro), arguably either Huari-core

or Tiahuanaco-core.

   (5) Late Intermediate 1100-1438/78.  Cul-

tural diversity.  Peruvian coastal cultures,

states and styles: Chimu (Chanchan), Chancay,

Pachacamac, Chincha (La Centinela), Ica.

Highlands: Cajamarca, Chanca, Killke (Cuzco),

Lucre, Colla, Lupaca.  Constant fighting,

several empires: all core/no-core.

   (6) Late Horizon 1438-1532.  Cultural unity

or unification imposed via Inca expansion from

Cuzco, with notable sites at Machu Picchu,

Cajamarca, Huanuco Viejo, Cushichaca, Tambo

Colorado, Ollantaytambo.

   The sequence seems then to be: all core/no-

core; Chavin core; all-core/no-core; Huari-

Tiahuanaco core; all-core/no-core; Cuzco core.

The move from Chavin to Huari-Tiahuanaco was

southward, that to Cuzco northward again.

Core and all-core periods were very long,

especially earlier, e.g., the 9-century Chavin

core and 1000-year all-core Early Intermediate

period.  All-core seems the norm.  Core epochs

were too few to display a shuttle.  Old cores

did not resurge.

   8. Chibchan.  At the Spanish conquest,

Chibchan civilization was politically bipolar,

with some indication that the more sparsely

populated, economically advanced, militarily

aggressive state of the Zipa in Cundirramarca

(Cundinamarca) was a semiperipheral upstart

attacking the smaller, denser, more tradition-

al, older religious-center core states allied

with the Zaque in Boyaca, and that the Spanish

conquest anticipated a core shift (and imple-

mented it when the Zipa's capital of Bacata

became the Spanish administrative center Santa

Fe de Bogota).  But there is not a long enough

archaeological record for the Chibchan case to

contribute much to our inquiry into core-

periphery kinematics.

   9. Indonesian.  The locations of the key

states are not all certain.  A tentative

sequence would be: Sumatran core (Ko-ying) 2nd

century A.D.; all core/no-core 3rd-4th centu-

ries; Javan core (Ho-lo-tan) 5th century;

Sumatran core (Kan-to-li) 6th century; all-

core/no-core 7th century; Sumatran core (Sriv-

ijaya) 8th-12th centuries; all-core/no-core

13th century (rise of Singosari in Java and

Ligor in Malaya); Javan core 14th century

(Madjapahit); Malayan core 15th century (Mal-

acca); engulfed by Central civilization in

16th century, perhaps with the capture of


   This sequence shows an oscillation between

core and no-core/all-core phases (4 core, 3

all-core periods) and a core shuttle among

Sumatra (3 times), Java (twice) and Malaya

(once).  The all-core phase prevails earlier,

the core phase later.  When the core shifted,

it returned to a former core area somewhat

more often than it moved to a never-core


   10. West African.  A case could be made

that the core of West African civilization

was, and remained throughout its autonomous

history, the general area of the great bend of

the Niger river.  However, given that the

shift of power over the centuries was from

Ghana's universal empire (Kumbi Saleh), to the

Soso hegemony, to Malian empire (Timbuktu), to

Songhai empire (Gao, Timbuktu), to the Hausa

confederation (Zaria, Kano, Katsina), and that

this sequence shows a general tendency (the

Soso ascendancy and Songhai return to Timbuktu

excepted) eastward and downriver, it makes

somewhat more sense to speak of a slow and

fairly steady eastward drift, with Kumbi out

of the core in the 13th century after its sack

by Sumanguru of Soso (1203) and its destruc-

tion by Sun Diata of Mali (1240).  The overall

drift is rather more like the Aegean than the

Egyptian pattern.

   11. Mississippian.  The Adena core is in

the Ohio Valley; Hopewell has an Ohio and an

Illinois twin-core; the Temple Mound core

seems to lie in Illinois, around Cahokia.

This may be treated as a single very slow

shift, or an expansion to and contraction

around a new, formerly semiperipheral site.

It is not clear whether all-core epochs were


   12. Far Eastern.  Macroscopically, northern

China was the core area of Far Eastern civili-

zation from Shang times (late 2nd millennium

B.C.) through the Later Han (3rd century

A.D.).  When one looks more closely the pic-

ture becomes at once more blurred, more shift-

ing, and more complex: there are cores within

the core.  While the economic-demographic-

cultural core seems to remain in the Yellow

River plain, political-military power (imperi-

al capitals; great powers) oscillates.  Shang

capitals (e.g., the last, An-yang/Yin) seem to

lie within the economic core.  The Chou,

formerly a semiperipheral client people, first

establish a metropole on their home territory

in the Wei Valley (capital Sian), then move

east (to Lo-yang), nearer the economic-demo-

graphic core.

   With the breakup of the Eastern Chou core

empire, the civilizational core remains in

North China, but again partitions: small

populous rich central states, politically and

militarily weak but culturally progressive,

are surrounded by large young states which

become politico-militarily dominant.  This

period is therefore a split-core taxonomic


   The Ch'in and Former Han universal empires

continue the core split:  the political and

communications center is again in the Wei

valley (Ch'ang-an), the economic-demographic

center downriver in the Yellow River plain.

The Later Han ends the division by again

moving the capital eastward, to the westerly

fringe of the demographic core (Lo-yang).

   The Three Kingdoms symbolize the expansion

of the core area from North China to Szechwan

and the Yangtze basins, and seem to reflect an

all-core epoch.  This continues during the

Southern and Northern Dynasties, accompanied

by a shift of population from the Yellow River

to the Yangtze basin due to steppe-nomad

invasions, destruction and depopulation, which

push the core southward.

   A new politico-military power emerges in

the northwest under Sino-nomad elites and

states, and under the Sui and T'ang states

creates first a core empire and then a univer-

sal state encompassing the bulk of the semi-

periphery as well as the core.

   From late T'ang onward, the expansion of

the civilized area without full acculturation

of Koreans, Khitans, Uighurs, Tibertans, Tai,

Annamese, Tanguts, etc. makes it appropriate

to refer to "China" as such as the core area

of the Far Eastern civilization -- meaning by

"China" approximately the territories united

by the Northern Sung, i.e. excluding 20th-

century Korea, Manchuria, Mongolia, Sinkiang,

Tibet, Yunnan, Vietnam.  The enlarged core was

divided by Chin and Southern Sung, reunited by

the Mongols, and may be considered to have

remained the Far Eastern core under Ming and

Manchus, down to the absorption of Far Eastern

by Central civilization in the 19th-20th


   Far Eastern civilization has normally had a

core.  Core preeminences have however often

been partitioned in space: politico-military

and demographic-economic-cultural cores split

apart, then drift together.  The Far Eastern

core has tended to expand more than to shift,

even more markedly than will be seen in the

core history of Central civilization.  The Far

Eastern core has been very durable indeed.  On

the other hand, the cultural hegemony of the

core states (ability to Sinicize peripheral

peoples as or after they are semi-

peripheralized) diminished noticeably in the

Later Han, and again diminished with the later


   13. Japanese.  The Nara period (710-784)

sees what is probably the first core along

with the first fixed capital.  The move to

nearby Heian (Kyoto), in 794, leaving the Nara

monasteries behind, is a local shift of this

rather tiny core.  The division of function

between administrative-religious Kyoto and

politico-military Kamakura (1185-1333) expands

the core, with both capitals serving as cul-

tural-artistic centers.

   Decentralization in the Ashikaga period

(1336-1568) sees the growth of economic cen-

ters -- Sakai (Osaka), Hyogo (Kobe), Hakata

(Fukuoka) -- while the politico-cultural

capital returns to Kyoto after the divided

dynasties of the Yoshino period (1336-1391);

this seems an all-core/no-core period.

   Further commercial decentralization (Naga-

saki 1570-1638, Hirada 1609-1641) is reversed

by the Azuchi-Momoyama national unification

period (1568-1600), during which the function-

ing core contracts, perhaps as narrowly as to

the Oda castle at Azuchi (1578-1582), the

Hideyoshi castle at Osaka (1538-1598) and

finally in the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) to

the Tokugawa military base of Edo-Tokyo, which

becomes the political-economic and cultural

center.  Kyoto remains the formal capital and

enjoys a brief renaissance in the last decades

of the Tokugawa period, which marks the begin-

ning of the 19th-20th century incorporation of

Japanese into Central civilization.

   The reckoning would seem to be: an all-

core/no-core period; core at Nara; core shift

to Heian; core expansion Kyoto-Kamakura, and

later Kyoto-Yoshino; an all-core period; core

at Edo-Tokyo.  The core epochs seem the norm,

lasting longer than the all-core periods.  A

functionally split core prevails.





Empirics: Expansion and Core History of Cen-

tral Civilization



Writing an approximate history of core areas

and core shifts in Central civilization will

be a considerably more complex undertaking

than doing the same for even Indic and Far

Eastern civilizations, the next most taxing

candidates.  The task is complicated by Cen-

tral civilization's 3 1/2-millennium expan-

sion, which has converted periphery into

semiperiphery and allowed semiperipheral areas

to enter an expanding core.  Before locating

the motion and change of the Central core over

time and space, we need to estimate the expan-

sion of Central civilization as a whole.  That

expansion can be usefully examined, and the

issues that must arise in its study exposed,

by searching for the frontiers of Central

civilization over time.

   It is convenient to use eight compass

directions in this examination.  Central

civilization, starting from a core in the Nile

Valley + the Fertile Crescent, has expanded

southeastward into Arabia; eastward into Iran,

India, Southeast and East Asia; northeastward

into Central Asia and Siberia; northward into

the Caucasus, the Ukraine, Russia; northwest-

ward into Anatolia, the Balkans, northwest

Europe; westward through the Mediterranean

basin, then to the New World; southwestward

into West Africa; and southward into the

Sudan, the Horn, East, Central and Southern

Africa.  What follows is a sketch, again

hypothetical and preliminary, of what should

became a fertile field of civilization re-

search: suggested answers (or subquestions) to

the question, When did Central civilization

arrive where, how, and what did it encounter


   The "arrival" of an extant civilization in

a new territory is represented by its estab-

lishment of strong and durable political

links, conflictual or cooperative -- conquest,

imperial integration, recurrent war, alliance,

etc.  Its imputed pace of expansion will

depend upon the intensity and duration of the

political connections established by threat,

attack, invasion, conquest, occupation etc.

Brief or weak linkings will pose problems: an

urban area that perceives a continuing threat

from another is linked to it in a single

political system precisely by the threat; yet

an intercivilizational interaction, much

stronger than a mere threat -- invasion and

conquest -- may, if the invaders go home and

never return, or the conquerors lose all

political linkage with their home civiliza-

tion, produce no lasting or significant trans-

actional linkage at all between the "source"

and "target" civilizations.

   When some picture of the local "arrivals"

of Central civilization is developed, the

question of when (if at all) the Central core

arrived in the same territories can then be

addressed.  Core status has surely arrived

when and where, in a states system, one of the

independent semiperipheral states (e.g., the

United States) becomes a Great Power;  or, in

a universal state, when a new capital city is

built in a semiperipheral area (e.g., Constan-

tinople).  A semiperipheral state, or a non-

metropolitan province of a world state, may or

may not have attained core status -- the

circumstances of each particular case would

have to be examined -- if, in a peaceful epoch

of its world system, it happened to become the

system's center of wealth, culture, invention,

or piety.

   Central civilization, and its core, have on

occasion contracted or shifted.  We must be

able to say when a territory is lost to a

civilization, or to its core, in general. 

   A territory is lost to a civilization when

it is de-urbanized, or when its cities' ongo-

ing politico-military connection thereto is

cut, by voluntary mutual isolation or by the

de-urbanization or depopulation of an inter-

vening and connecting area.  A territory is

thrust out of the core when conquered and

occupied.  It slips out of the core peacefully

when, declining in power, wealth and prestige,

its provinces/states and peoples come to be

patronized, taken for granted, treated as

backward, uplifted, advised, educated, helped,

used, abused, proselytized, enlightened,

snubbed, etc., when previously they had been

accustomed to patronize, help, enlighten and

abuse.  Measurement of peaceful loss of core

status is more difficult, or requires inspec-

tion of longer historical durations, than

measurement of loss through conquest.

   The southeastward expansion of Central

civilization.  I would provisionally treat the

trade settlements in Bahrein (Dilmun) and

Qatar from the late 2nd millennium B.C., and

the Yemenite kingdoms of Minya, Sheba, Qataban

and Hadramaut from the early to middle first

millennium B.C., as southeastward extensions

of the Central semiperiphery to incorporate

coastal Arabia.

   The dating for the incorporation of the

Persian Gulf coast will remain provisional

until political-archeological data are recov-

ered.  The Red Sea coast dating involves a

centralist/pluralist controversy.  It could be

argued, though I would not do so, that an

autonomous Yemenite civilization existed from

at least c. 750 B.C. ("Saba" known to the

Assyrians) to some later date when it was

incorporated into Central civilization: c. 500

B.C. (consolidation of Sheba in response to

Persian conquests in N. Arabia); or the 1st

Century B.C.  (Roman invasion of Yemen); or

the 1st Century A.D. (formation of Axum as a

"bridge" state between Central and "Yemenite"

civilizations?); or the 4th Century A.D.

(first Axumite conquest of Yemen); or the 6th

century A.D. (second Axumite conquest of

Yemen; Persian conquest of Yemen); or even the

7th century (Muslim conquest of Yemen and

Syria).  But I prefer the interpretation that

the Persian Gulf and Red Sea settlements

represent southeastward extensions of the

Central semiperiphery, rather than autonomous

civilizations, in which case they have re-

mained outside the Central core until today.

   The eastward expansion of Central civiliza-

tion.  Elamite Susa seems to represent the

initial eastward outpost of Central civili-

zation's core, Susa's hinterland the initial

semiperipheral Ostmark.  The Medean-Persian-

Macedonian eastmarch is the Indus, while

Persepolis/Istakhr, Ecbatana/Hamadan, and Rayy

join Susa as the easterly core cities in that

age.  Central civilization's frontier retreats

westward with the Seleucid evacuation before

the Mauryas.  Menander's kingdom advances it

eastward again, to the upper Indus.  The Roman

universal state drives Mesopotamia out of the

core into semiperipheral status; it returns to

the core with the Sassanids and Abbasids.  The

Surens and Sakas probably succeed the Greek

principalities as easterly marchers.  The

Kushans, White Huns and Turks probably jitter

between peripheral and semiperipheral status,

and the eastern frontier jitters with them.

   The eastern frontier of Central civiliza-

tion is pushed into the Punjab again by Mahmud

of Ghazni's raids around 1000 A.D. and deeper

into India by the Delhi dynasties.  The Mongol

invasion destroys some of the eastern urban

extensions of Central civilization, especially

in Afghanistan.  Timur's invasions of India

re-establish the (hostile) connections, and

the Mughals complete the linkage of the Indic

to the Central civilizational network, thereby

pushing the eastern frontier of Central civi-

lization to the delta of the Ganges.

   As regards the easterly progress of the

Central core: Semiperipheral Anatolia begins a

long tenure as core territory with Constan-

tine, and returns to the semiperiphery with

the 19th-century Ottoman decline.  Mesopotamia

enjoys core status until Timur's wars drive it

down and out of the core of Central Civiliza-

tion.  While the Nile Valley jitters between

core and semiperiphery during the Turco-Islam-

ic dynasties, India, semiperipheralized by the

Muslim conquest, makes a bid for core status

under the Mughals; both Egypt and India re-

enter the semiperiphery during the Western

empires, and remain there today after the

Western retrenchment -- as do Mesopotamia and


   To return to the eastward march of Central

civilization: European military-economic-

political penetration and rivalries bring

southeast Asia (both the continental portion,

which is prised from Far Eastern civilization,

and the autonomous Indonesian civilization)

into the Central semiperiphery in the 16th-

18th centuries; there it still remains.  The

Manchu empire, Japan

and Korea -- the rest of Far Eastern, and all

of Japanese, civilizations -- enter Central

civilization's semiperiphery in the 19th

and/or 20th centuries, somewhere between the

Opium Wars and World War I, and immediately

begin to struggle for core status.  Japan

attains core status in a military sense 1905-

1918, loses it in 1945, regains it economical-

ly from the 1970's, militarily sometime in the

1980's.  China probably achieved core status

in the 1970's, and has probably not yet lost

it.  (In the last map, I have however excluded

the non-Han, poor and near-empty west of

"China" from core status on the ground that

contemporary "China" is a multinational em-


   The northeastward expansion of Central

civilization.  The expansion of Central civi-

lization along a "northeastward" axis begins

from Ecbatana/Hamadan and Rayy.  Next come

Hecatompylus/Damghan, Merv and Bactra/Balkh;

Bactria (the state) may even have been a core

state, but the Yue-Chi, Kushans, White Huns

and Turks in Bactria (the territory) were

certainly at best semiperipheral. 

   A debate exists over whether Central Asia

ever had civilizational autonomy; I incline to

see it as always an extension of Central

civilization, but one whose records of linkage

have been peculiarly obscured by peripheral

counterinvasion and destruction.  Certainly no

later than the Ummayads, the Central frontier

advances to the Jaxartes; the Tahirids and

Samanids may well have put Transoxania into

the Central core, after which it jitters

between core, semiperiphery and periphery,

tending toward long-term decline, under Karak-

hanids, Seljuks, Ghuzz, Karakhitai, Khwariz-

mians, Mongol Khanates, Timurid Emirates and


   The eastward extension of the Musco-

vite/Russian frontier through Siberia, to the

Manchu frontier, enveloping Kazakhs and Uzbeks

in Central Asia, becomes the main expansive

force of Central civilization in this "north-

easterly" direction after the Uzbek conquest

of Transoxania.  Under Muscovite, Russian and

Soviet empires, Central and North Asia become

stably semiperipheral, and mostly so remains

today, though the Trans-Siberian corridor

seems more genuinely "Russian," and so more

properly "core" than most of the Asian USSR or

RSFSR; again I have so indicated on the final

map in the set.

   The northward expansion of Central civili-

zation.  In the 2nd millennium B.C. the Mit-

anni and Assyria are Central civilization's

marchers; Van and the Medes push the Central

frontier northward into the Caucasus.  Arme-

nia, the Bosporan kingdom, Colchis, Lazica,

Iberia, the Albani, the Abasgians are key

players on the frontier, moving it northward

only slightly over a long period.  The Khazars

move it faster; Kievan Russia and its succes-

sors complete the northward movement.

   The northward movement of Central civiliza-

tion is notable for its slow pace, and for the

degree to which it is embodied less in imperi-

alist conquests of peripheral territory by

core states than in the formation of "reaction

states" -- states formed by peripheral peoples

under pressure from/in admiration of/to defend

against/to imitate/to excel their civiliz-

ational neighbors.  The entry of the northward

semiperiphery into the core of Central civili-

zation comes late, with Russian participation

in the great wars of the 18th century, but

Russia remains in the core, except, perhaps,

between the two World Wars of the 20th centu-


   The northwestward expansion of Central

civilization.  The Hittites are 2nd millennium

members, first of the Mesopotamian civiliz-

ation's semiperiphery, then of the Central

civilization's core.  Peripheral Phrygians and

Luvians first force the civilization's fron-

tier backward by invasion and conquest, then

form reaction states and become members of the

Central semiperiphery.  Cimmerians push the

civilizational frontier back.  Lydians advance

it again, definitively recruiting (or re-

recruiting) the peoples of Aegean civilization

to Central, first as semiperipherals.

   Persians push the Central semiperiphery

into Thrace.  Epirus and Macedon remain march-

ers for a long time.  Anabasis and Alexander

reflect unsuccessful and successful bids for

core status by the Greco-Macedonian semi-

peripheral peoples on the Central northwest.

Rome drives these peoples back to semi-

peripheral status by the 2nd century BC; some

return to the core in the 4th century AD, but

lose that status again over the long period of

Islamic (Arab/Turk) expansion to local hegemo-

ny.  The Roman imperial frontiers from Britain

to Thrace would then embody the next substan-

tial forward movement of Central civili-

zation's northwest frontier, after the Balkan

entry in the 5th-4th centuries BC.  The

Frankish -- Ostrogothic -- Byzantine frontier

represents the next main hesitation and jitter

in the continual but discontinuous Central

expansion northwestward.  The missionary

advance of Roman and Eastern Christianity

after Charlemagne and Cyril, because it repre-

sents enduring political linkage and not

simply a change of worldviews, thereafter

roughly marks the assimilation of eastern,

northern and northwestern Europe into Central

civilization.  States from this frontier

(Frankish, Holy Roman, France, England, Aus-

tria, Prussia/Germany, to a lesser degree

Holland, Denmark, Sweden) enter the Central

core, and by the 17th century largely consti-

tute that core, though always sharing that

status with some others, increasingly so in

the late 20th century, when core wars perhaps

temporarily semiperipheralized Northwest


   The westward expansion of Central civiliza-

tion.  Phrygia and Lydia become the instru-

ments by which Central civilization engulfs

Aegean Civilization (by then Greek-dominated).

Phoenicians/Carthaginians and westward-moving

Greeks bring in the eastern, then the western

Mediterranean (and the Atlantic at Cadiz) via

colonialism.  Etruscans, then Latins/Romans,

become reaction-state marchmen, as do Numid-

ians and Mauretanians.  Rome brings in the

rest of Iberia by straightforward imperialism.

The westward expansion then stops at the

Atlantic for a millennium and a half.

   Rome enters the Central core in the 3rd-2nd

centuries BC, leaving it in the 4th-5th centu-

ries AD.  Iberia enters the core in the late

15th century, leaves it in the 17th.  Italy

returns to core status during the Renaissance,

and again via nationalistic and imperialist

wars in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Today the states of this western frontier seek

core status, and Italy has perhaps regained it

once more, via European integration.

   Meanwhile Iberians, and then northwest

Europeans, restarting the westward expansion,

extend Central civilization to the New World

from the late 15th century A.D., in the pro-

cess reducing Mexican, Peruvian and Chibchan

civilizations to semiperipheries of Central

civilization.  European colonists carry the

Central frontier with them beyond the civil-

izational boundaries of the engulfed New World

civilizations: the American frontier is closed

in the late 19th century, the Canadian (and

Alaskan) in the mid or late 20th.  The Amazo-

nian frontier has probably closed by 1990,

with the recruitment of the remaining periph-

eral tribes to semiperipheral subordination

and/or resistance.  America enters the Central

civilizational core by World War I, Canada

after World War II; the remainder of the far

western (New World) frontier of Central civi-

lization is still semiperipheral today.

   The southwestward expansion of Central

civilization.  The southwestern frontier of

Central civilization remains not far from the

Nile Valley, blocked by the Sahara, from the

mid-2nd millennium B.C. to the mid-2nd millen-

nium A.D.  It is then extended by a politico-

economic-military envelopment maneuver, the

seafaring ventures along the West African

coast by Portuguese, Dutch, French and British

members of Central civilization, and by trans-

Saharan military ventures by Moroccans, which

incorporate the West African interior (includ-

ing the West African civilization) into Cen-

tral civilization.  This encirclement means

that the final "southwestward" penetration of

Africa is carried out by forces moving east-

ward, and by local opponents forming reaction

states in response to pressure from their

west.  The southwestward expansion of Central

civilization was completed not later than the

19th century; thus far no areas so penetrated

have entered the Central core.

   The southward expansion of Central civili-

zation.  Nubia is brought into Central civili-

zation by Egyptians in the late 2nd millennium

B.C., and is succeeded in the next millennium

by Meroe as the south-march (or simply moves

its capital upstream from Napata to Meroe?).

Axum/Abyssinia takes that marcher role in the

first half of the first millennium A.D.,

carrying Central civilization's frontier to

Eritrea and then to Ethiopian plateau.  Of

these territories, only Napata ever enters the

Central core, briefly, under Pi'ankhi (late

8th century BC), before the XXV Dynasty ("Eth-

iopian") moves its capital to Thebes.

   Beyond Axum, the southward expansion of

Central civilization quinquefurcates, with

different stories for each of the following

areas: Ethiopia, Nubia, Sudan, East Africa,

Central Africa.

   Southward expansion: Ethiopia.  The Arab

conquest in the 7th century broke Axum's land

and sea connections to the Byzantine empire.

The Ethiopian link to Central civilization was

however maintained -- oppositionally, via

Muslim states.  The Arab conquests were fol-

lowed by a continued semiperipherality of the

conquered regions, some of which may have

become peripheral.  Ethiopia was kept connect-

ed to Central civilization (1) through Muslim

attacks in the 13th-16th centuries, (2)

through Portuguese and Spanish connections in

the 16th-17th centuries, and (3) through

British and Italian connections in the 19th

and 20th centuries, and remains today in the

Central semiperiphery.

   Southward expansion: Nubia.  The outermost

Nubian area may have been lost to Central

civilization (through deurbanization) when

Meroe was destroyed by Ethiopians in the 4th

century, and its people moved westward; but a

post-Meroitic Nubian civilized area continued

downriver near Dongola, linked to Ethiopia and

therefore a part of Central civilization.

Islamized Egypt maintained this Nubia's Cen-

tral connection through repeated invasions

after the 7th century, infiltration and con-

version in the 13th-15th century, Funj rule in

the 16th-18th centuries, and Egyptian and

British conquests in the 19th century.  Con-

temporary struggles in the state of Sudan

represent the pressure of the Arabized north-

ern semiperipheral peoples upon the once

peripheral tribal peoples of the south, who

are thereby recruited into the Central semi-


   Southward expansion: Sudan.  Sudanic states

-- from Funj through Kordofan, Darfur, Wadai,

Bagirmi, Kanem, Bornu, to the westerly marches

of the Hausa states -- arose as a result of

westward penetration from Nubia by Arab trad-

ers and Islam, and in chain reaction, as an

extension (from Nubia) of Central civiliza-

tion.  The 19th century European conquests

simply enlarged and redirected the connections

of the Sudanic area with Central civilization.

   Southward expansion: East Africa.  Arab-

Islamic penetration established city-states,

outposts of the states system of Central

civilization, at Mogadisho (contemporary

Somalia, c. 900), Malindi (Kenya, 10th centu-

ry), Mombasa (Kenya, 8th century -- ivory,

slaves), Pate (Kenya), Kilwa Kisiwani (Tanza-

nia, by 1200 -- gold, ivory, skins), Sofala

(Mozambique after 1000 -- gold, ivory), Cuama

(Mozambique, after 1000), Inhambane (Mozam-

bique, after 1000 -- slaves, ivory).  Inland,

over against the coastal colonies, reaction

states formed, e.g., Monomatapa/Mwanamutapa

vis-a-vis Sofala c. 1420, and before it, from

the 11th century, Great Zimbabwe.  Thus civi-

lization in East Africa constituted a semi-

periphery of Central civilization well before

the 16th century imperialist expansions of the

Central states Portugal and Oman rendered East

African territories provinces of Central

civilization's semiperipheral states.

   Southward expansion: Central Africa.  State

formation was brought to Central Africa by the

Cwezi states (in current Uganda) not later

than the 14th century, and continued by their

Bito successors (Buganda-Bunyoro-Ankole) from

around 1500, the Kongo state (in current

Angola) in the 14th century, Tutsi states

(Rwanda and Burundi) in the 15th, Ndongo

(Angola) by the 16th, Luba and Lunda States

(Zaire) in the 16th, the Kuba kingdom of the

Shongo (Zaire) from the early 17th century.

The two extremes (Uganda and Angola) began

independently of each other; they were linked

up slowly over the next three centuries into a

Central African constellation whose states

were independent until provincialized through

Portuguese (15th century onward), then Zanzi-

bari, British and Belgian (19th century)

penetration.  When and where urbanization,

therefore civilization, occurred among the

Central African states, it occurred as a

reaction, not only to their penetration by

Central-civilization traders, but to the

colonial plantation of trading posts, mission

stations and city-states on the west and east

coasts -- and then to one another's citifica-

tion.  The urbanization of Central Africa

accordingly constituted a long and tenuous

extension of Central civilization's semiper-

iphery, and the territories thus recruited to

the semiperiphery have remained there, as

states, then as imperial colonies or provinc-

es, now once again as states.

   The "career" of Central civilization's

core.  As Central civilization expanded, in

all directions, at varying paces, the newly

recruited areas generally entered its semiper-

iphery, where most have remained.  Still, the

core of Central civilization has certainly

both expanded and shifted over time.  In the

Near Eastern phase the core was at first the

line of cities along the Fertile Crescent and

the Nile Valley; over time, the core expanded,

mostly westward into the Mediterranean litto-

ral, to Asia Minor and to Greece.  During the

Greco-Roman phase the core area expanded to

include Italy, and shifted westward from

Mesopotamia.  During the Medieval phase the

core area once again included Mesopotamia; the

core shifted eastward again toward Thrace,

Anatolia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq.  Italy went out

with the decline of Rome and returned to the

core with the rise of Venice and other cities

of Northern Italy.  During the Western phase

the whole core of Central civilization shifted

north and west to France, Spain, the Low

Countries, Germany, Britain.  In the global

phase the core seems to have expanded greatly,

to include America and Russia, and probably

Japan.  Plausible current candidates for

future core status include India and China;

Russia (as USSR) shows distinct signs of

strain and potential breakup and dropout, but

still remains a core state.  Many short-term

fluctuations and local attainments, disasters

and controversies are necessarily passed over

in these abbreviated descriptions, which

however give the general picture of core

enlargement/contraction and shift in language

comparable to that employed for the other

thirteen civilizations already described.

   There is plenty of work to be done debating

the dimensions of civilizational movement and

mapping core shifts; but it seems beyond much

dispute that Central civilization has expanded

in space; its core area has expanded in space;

its semiperiphery has also expanded in space;

its core has shifted over space, with old core

areas declining into the semiperiphery and new

core areas rising out of same.

   These propositions are illustrated in

Figures 3 through 11:



Central civilization in 825 BC, 375 BC, 145

BC, AD 737, 1028, 1212, 1478, 1600, and to-
























































































































































































































































































































































Core Theoretics



The political form of a civilizational core.

A civilization's core may have any of several

political forms.  It may be a single state, as

in: Mesopotamian civilization, perhaps, during

the (perhaps legendary) 1st Uruk dynasty, c.

2850-2600?; Aegean, perhaps, during the main-

land period (Mycenae); Indic during the Maurya

rise and fall and the Kushana, Gupta and

Kanauj empires; Mexican, perhaps during Oaxa-

can, Tiahuanaco and Toltec hegemonies and the

rise of the Aztecs; Peruvian, perhaps during

Chavin, surely during the rise of the Incas;

Indonesian, perhaps in the 2nd (Ko-ying),

surely in the 15th century (Malacca) and

during the rise and fall of Srivijaya and

Madjapahit; Far Eastern in late T'ang and

northern Sung, and during the rise of Ch'in,

the fall of Han, the rise of Sui and of the

Mongols; Japanese during Azuchi-Momoyama;

Central during the rise and fall of Assyria,

the rise of Media and Persia and Rome, and the

era of Justinian.

   The core may contain several several

states, successively hegemonic: in Mesopota-

mian civilization, the Sumerian core c. 2500-

2360 (Ur, Lagash, Umma).  It may constitute

several states simultaneously balanced, as in:

Egyptian during the Intermediate periods;

Mesopotamian during the Gutian and Isin-Larsa

eras; Aegean during the Anatolian period;

Indic between the major empires; Irish throug-

hout -- or at least between hegemonic high

kings; "Olmec" Mexican; Huari-Tiahuanaco

Peruvian; Chibchan; Indonesian in the 3rd-4th,

7th and 13th century intervals between ascend-

ancies; West African between universal states;

Far Eastern in the chaotic Eastern Chou, the

Han-Sui interval, and the Ch'in-Southern Sung

period; Japanese during the late Ashikaga

chaos; Central between universal empires, and

for most of the time since the Roman empire's


   The core may be the metropolitan region of

a universal state:  Egyptian during the king-

doms; Mesopotamian during the empires of

Agade, 3rd dynasty Ur, and Babylon; perhaps

Aegean, during the Cretan period; Indic during

the Maurya empire: Indonesian during the

Srivijaya and Madjapahit peaks; West African

during the Ghana, Mali and Songhai peaks; Far

Eastern during the Western Chou, Later Han,

Sui-early T'ang, and Mongol-Ming-Manchu peri-

ods; Japanese in the Nara, Heian and Tokugawa

periods; Central during the Assyrian, Persian-

Macedonian and Roman empires.  Or the civili-

zational core may be a functionally divided

set of areas in a universal state, as in Far

Eastern civilization in the Ch'in-Former Han

and Japanese civilization during the Kamakura


   The most frequent core forms are: the

single dominant or hegemonic state; several

competing states; and the universal-empire


   Pulsation of cores.  Core areas enlarge and

contract.  The Egyptian core included part of

the Nile valley, then the whole (Dynasties VI-

VIII), then part, then all (Dynasties XIII-

XVII), then part.  The Indic core contracted

under the Mauryas, Kushanas, Guptas and Hars-

ha, and reexpanded after the fall of each.

The Mexican core expanded between, but con-

tracted during the Teotihuacan, Toltec and

Aztec eras; the Peruvian behaved similarly

between and during Chavin, Tiahuanaco-Huari,

and Inca horizons, the Indonesian between and

during Ko-ying, Ho-lo-tan, Kan-to-li, Srivija-

ya, and Madjapahit-Malacca eras.  The Missis-

sippian core expanded from Adena to Hopewell,

contracted from Hopewell to Temple Mound.  The

Far Eastern core expanded in the Three King-

doms period.  The Japanese core expanded in

Kamakura and Ashikaga periods, contracted

during Azuchi-Momoyama and Tokugawa.  Central

civilization's core shifts -- westward in the

Greco-Roman phase, eastward in the Medieval

phase, westward again in the Western phase --

involved expansion at one edge synchronic with

contraction at the other; the global phase saw

core expansion east and west.  Contractions

are naturally enough associated with hegemonic

struggles and universal-state periods, expan-

sions with all-core epochs; but not perfectly.

   Are semiperipheries necessary?  Apparently

not, since civilizations are often all-

core/no-core, i.e. lack a semiperiphery.

Egyptian civilization had a semiperiphery

during the Kingdoms, did not during the Inter-

mediate periods; Indic did during the empires,

not between.  Mesopotamian civilization seems

always to have had a semiperiphery, Aegean

likewise; Irish never did.  Mexican civiliza-

tion had no discernible semiperiphery in the

intervals between the Teotihuacan, Toltec and

Aztec ascendancies, nor did Peruvian in its

Intermediate periods between Horizons.  Chib-

chan may have developed a semiperiphery in

Cundirramarca.  Indonesian civilization proba-

bly had none between the Sumatran, Javan and

Malaysian ascendancies, and probably did

during those ascendancies.  West African

civilization probably always had a semi-

periphery; Mississippian did at least during

Hopewell and Temple Mound.  Far Eastern civi-

lization almost always had one, with Eastern

Chou and the Han-Sui interregnum notable

exceptions.  Japanese civilization usually had

a semiperiphery, with the Ashikaga period

likely the exception.  Central civilization

has always had a significant semiperipheral


   Semiperipheries exist more often than not,

particularly in universal-empire periods when

the metropole is especially favored, but they

do not seem necessary features of a civiliza-

tion: power, wealth, creativity can all be

rather widely dispersed, though dispersal

usually alternates with concentration.

   Directionality of core shift.  Cores may

move in a single general direction, or oscil-

late.  The Egyptian core shuttled between

north and south, the Mesopotamian between

Sumer and Akkad.  The Aegean core moved north,

then east; the Indic core shuttled between

west and east, though with an eastward incli-

nation.  The Mexican core moved south, then

partway north again; so did the Peruvian.  The

Indonesian core oscillated between Sumatra and

Java and then to Malaya.  The West African

core drifted eastward with a few half-moves

back, the Mississippian core drifted westward,

the Japanese eastward.  The Central core half-

moved west, then east, then drifted west and

north.  No significant patterns are evident.

   Reversibility of core decline.  Does past

experience as a core preclude or assure return

to core status?  Apparently neither.  Let us

first take note of, and then set aside all the

apparent civilizational-startup first-time

cores: the Egyptian south in first unifica-

tion; Mesopotamian Sumer in the 4th millennium

BC; Aegean Crete; Indus basin at the beginning

of Indic civilization; all Ireland; Mexican's

"Olmec" Gulf and Basin zones; the Peruvian

Initial Ceramic complexes; Chibchan Boyaca;

Indonesian Sumatra (Ko-ying period); West

African Kumbi Saleh; Mississippian (Adena)

Ohio; Far Eastern (Shang) Yellow River valley;

Japanese Nara; Central civilization's Fertile

Crescent + Nile valley.

   There are many cases in which a semi-

peripheral area, never before a core, rose to

core status: the Egyptian North in the Old

Kingdom; Mesopotamian Akkad in the Kish peri-

od; Aegean Greece and Anatolia; Indic (Maurya)

Patna, (Kushana) Peshawar, (Harshan) Kanauj;

Mexican (Zapotec) Oaxaca; Peruvian (Early

Horizon) Chavin, and then (Early Intermediate)

most coastal and highland sites; Chibchan

Cundirramarca; Indonesian (Ho-lo-tan) Java,

(Malaccan) Malaya; West African (Malian)

Timbuktu, perhaps Songhai Gao; Mississippian

(Hopewell) Illinois; Far Eastern (Western

Chou) Wei valley; Japanese (Heian) Kyoto,

(Bakufu) Kamakura, and several Ashikaga cen-

ters.  In Central civilization, such first-

time core entrants included Assyria, Persia,

Greece (previously, however, an Aegean core),

Macedonia, Rome, Byzantium, Western Europe,

America, Russia.

   But there are several other cases in which

a fallen core area has returned from semi-

peripheral status, or has regained a solitude

it had lost to upstart sharers.  In Egyptian

civilization: the south in dynasties XI and

XVIII, the north in XII.  In Mesopotamian

civilization: Sumer/Uruk in the Early Dynastic

c. 2850-2600; Sumer and Akkad alternatively

2500-1500.  In Indic civilization: Patna under

the Guptas.  In Mexican civilization: the

Basin during Teotihuacan, Toltec and Aztec

periods.  In Peruvian civilization: Cajamarca

and Pachacamac in the Late Intermediate, after

their eclipse by Huari in the Middle Horizon;

Late Intermediate Chimu (replacing Early

Intermediate Moche) after the Huari coreship.

In Indonesian civilization: Sumatra during

Kan-to-li and Srivijaya; Java during Madjapah-

it.  In Far Eastern civilization:  the Wei

valley under Ch'in.  In Central civilization:

Abbasid Mesopotamia, and the classic renais-

sance of Renaissance Italy.

   In the transition from semiperiphery to

core, history seems somewhat more favorable to

naissance than to renaissance, but renaissan-

ces do happen.

   Within-core differentiation.  Different

areas may serve as military-political, econom-

ic, and cultural-religious cores, and core

shifts may occur in these features at differ-

ent times.  The Norse cities were Ireland's

economic core, the monasteries its cultural

core, the Kingly seats the politico-military

core: result, an all-core civilization.

Chavin may have been only Peru's cultural

center; Tiahuanaco may have been only a cul-

tural, Huari only a military core.  The Far

Eastern politico-military core long tended to

be north and west of the economic-demographic-

cultural core.  The Japanese religious, polit-

ico-military and economic cores drifted apart

in Kamakura and Ashikaga and were reunited in

Tokugawa days.  The most notable discrepancies

between Central civilization's economic-tech-

nical and politico-military cores are attested

by being corrected: the shift from Rome to

Constantinople, the Renaissance-ending inva-

sions of Italy, the revolt of the Netherlands,

the involvement of British finance and fleets

in Continental wars, and the American entry

into the World Wars of the 20th century.

There is thus some tendency for geographically

separated functions to be pulled together; the

political-military core may conquer the others

(the post-Renaissance invasions of Italy),

migrate to them (by a movement of the capital,

e.g., to Constantinople or Lo-yang) or usurp

them (by taxation and subsidy, e.g., Tokugawa

Edo); or economic cores may invest in politi-

co-military potency (Dutch, British, Ameri-






Critique of Core-periphery Theory



In the search for a core-periphery theory,

principally a theory of core motion and

change, we do not start entirely afresh.  Two

workers of note, the civilizationist Carroll

Quigley and the world-systems analyst Immanuel

Wallerstein, have elaborated definite proposi-

tions about "cores."  Their terminologies

differ from that employed here; their proposi-

tions are nonetheless of interest.

   Quigley on core and periphery.  Quigley's

spatial account of civilizations contains the

following major propositions bearing on core-

periphery issues.  (1)  Civilizations general-

ly arise on the periphery of previous civili-

zations, out of cultural mixture.  (Quigley,

1961: 78-80.)  (2)  Since every new civiliza-

tion has an instrument of expansion, such that

within it "inventions begin to be made, sur-

plus begins to be accumulated, and this sur-

plus begins to be used to utilize new inven-

tions,"  civilizations have early (and some-

times recurring) stages of expansion -- of

production, living standards, population, and

-- through colonization -- of territory.  The

expansion process is one half of the major

civilizational dynamic.  (1961: 80-81.)  (3)

Expansion produces partition.  "As a result of

the geographic expansion of the society, it

comes to be divided into two areas: the core

area, which the civilization occupied [origi-

nally], and the peripheral area into which it

expanded during [its stage of expansion]"

(1961:  81-82.).  Here is our first termino-

logical difference: I would agree that civili-

zations expand into their periphery, but would

then restyle the area expanded into as "semi-

periphery."  This term, of which so far as I

know Quigley is the originator, he twice

employs (1961:85); but more often he speaks of

"more peripheral" and "less peripheral" areas

(1966:85-87).       (4)  All civilizational

instruments of expansion tend to become cor-

rupted, "institutionalized," non-expansive.

The slowdown of expansion is the other half of

the major dynamic of civilizational change.

(5)  The slowdown of expansion is geographi-

cally partitioned.  "When expansion begins to

slow up in the core areas, as a result of the

instrument of expansion becoming institution-

alized, and the core area becomes increasingly

static and legalistic, the peripheral areas

continue to expand...."  Furthermore, as

latecomers they can often imitate core suc-

cesses while avoiding time-wasting blind

alleys explored by core innovators; so the

"peripheral areas...frequently short-cut many

of the developments experienced by the core

area.  As a result, by the latter half of [the

civilization's stage of expansion], the pe-

ripheral areas are tending to become wealthier

and more powerful than the core areas.  Anoth-

er way of saying this is that the core area

tends to pass from [a stage of expansion] to

[a stage of crisis and conflict] earlier than

do the peripheral areas."  (1961: 81-82.)  (6)

The slowdown of expansion produces, among

other effects, tension and class conflict. 

   (7)  Because the crisis of expansion is

geographically partitioned, it is particularly

acute in the civilization's core area.  (8)

The crisis of expansion also produces imperi-

alist wars intended to continue the local

expansion of parts of the civilization, now at

the expense of other parts.  (9)  The core

suffers these wars first.  (10)  The imperial-

ist wars lead to conquests that reduce the

number of states in the civilization, eventu-

ally to one.  (11)  The core is unified first:

a core empire precedes a universal empire.

(1961: 82-85).  (12)  "In the imperialist wars

of [the stage of conflict] of a civilization

the more peripheral states are consistently

victorious over less peripheral states."  Core

empires are created by semiperipheral states,

universal empires by fully peripheral states

(1961: 85). Quigley's terminology is such that

power for him can move, leaving the core

behind; I would speak of the same phenomenon

as the movement of the core into formerly

semiperipheral areas. 

   (13)  What are the reasons for the habitual

victory of more peripheral states over less

peripheral states during the stage of conflict

of any civilization?  One is the general rule

that "material culture diffuses more easily

than nonmaterial culture, so that peripheral

areas tend to become more materialistic than

less peripheral areas; while the latter spend

much of their time, wealth, energy, and atten-

tion on religion, philosophy, art, or litera-

ture, the former spend a much greater propor-

tion of these resources on military, politi-

cal, and economic matters.  Therefore, periph-

eral areas are more likely to win victories"

(1961: 86-87).  (14)  A second reason "arises

from the fact that the process of evolution is

slightly earlier in more central areas than in

peripheral ones," so that while more peripher-

al areas are still in a stage of expansion,

more central ones, in a later stage of devel-

opment, "are more harassed by class conflicts

and are more paralyzed by the inertia and

obstruction of institutions," and generally

have undergone and been weakened by a longer

period of imperialist wars.

   Wallerstein on core and periphery.  Immanu-

el Wallerstein presents a distinctive idea of

core and periphery.  Cores and peripheries are

features of multistate capitalist politico-

economic structures ("world-economies") rather

than of past one-state "world-empires," in

that a world-economy has a geographical as

well as a functional division of labor.

"World-economies...are divided into core

states and peripheral areas."  Core states are

advantaged, have weak or nonexistent indige-

nous states (1974: 349).  Core and periphery

are features of capitalism: "world-empires had

joined their 'edges' to the center by the

collection of tribute, otherwise leaving

relatively intact the production systems over

which they had 'suzerainty', whereas the

capitalist world-economy 'peripheralized'

areas economically by incorporating them into

the division of labor."  (Hopkins, Wallerstein

et al., 1982: 55.)

   Why is there regional polarization in

capitalist world-economies?  Wallerstein's

various answers include definitional or func-

tional requisiteness, geoeconomic regionalism

(core-likeness) and force (unequal exchange).

1.  Requisiteness.  "[W]ithin a capitalist

world-economy, all states cannot 'develop'

simultaneously by definition, since the system

functions by virtue of having unequal core and

peripheral regions."  (Wallerstein, 1975: 23.)

2.  Geography.  Production processes are

linked in complex commodity chains (1983: 16).

These chains have a directionality, raw-to-

finished.  Commodity chains have been geo-

graphically convergent: "they have tended to

move from the peripheries of the capitalist

world-economy to the centres or cores" (1983:

30).  The more easily monopolized processes

are concentrated in core areas, the less

skilled, more extensive manpower processes in

"peripheral" areas (1984: 4-5).  What "makes a

production process core-like or periphery-like

is the degree to which it incorporates labor-

value, is mechanized, and is highly profit-

able" (1984: 16).  There are core states and

periphery states because there "tend to be

geographical localizations of productive

activities such that core-like production

activities and periphery-like production

activities tend each to be spatially grouped

together" (1984: 15).  3.  Unequal exchange.

"The exchange of products containing unequal

amounts of social labor we may call the core-

periphery relationship" (1984: 15).  There is

a parallel political polarization between

strong core states and weaker peripheral

states, "the 'political' process of 'imperial-

ism' being what makes possible the 'economic'

process of 'unequal exchange'" (1984:5).

Unequal exchange "means, ultimately, the

transfer of some of the surplus of any one

area to a receiver of surplus in another" as

"consequence of the fact that more labor power

has gone into producing the value exchanged in

one area than in the other." (1982: 94)

Unequal exchange exists when commodities

moving one way incarnate more "real input

(cost)" than equally-priced commodities moving

the other way (1983: 31).  Unequal exchange

existed pre-capitalism when one party to a

market transaction used force to improve his

price (1983: 30-31).  Core zones are those

which gain profit or surplus by unequal-ex-

change transactions (1983: 31-32).  In capi-

talism, unequal exchange has been concealed by

the fact that commodity chains cross state

frontiers (1983: 31).  Strong core state-

machines keep peripheral state-structures

weaker, their economies lower on the commodity

chain, their wage-rates lower (1983: 32).

This is done by force    -- wars and coloniza-

tion -- when there are significant political

challenges to existing inequalities, otherwise

by market supply-and-demand with an enormous

apparatus of force latent (1983: 32-33).

   While in Quigley's terminology a semi-

periphery is geographically intermediate

between fully peripheral areas and the core

(and thereby advantaged against the core in

empire-building, but disadvantaged against the

periphery), in Wallerstein's terms a semi-

periphery is intermediate in other senses,

especially the economic.  "There always exist

semiperipheral zones" (1984: 15).  Seim-

peripheral states "function as loci of mixed

kinds of production activities" (1984: 15),

have enterprises engaged in both "corelike"

and "peripheral" processes.  In moments of

expansion of the world-economy, these states

"serve to some extent as economic transmission

belts and political agents" of some imperial

core power.  In periods of stagnation and

crisis, core powers' hold on these states may

be weakened; one or two, which are strong

enough, may play among the rivals, erect new

quasi-monopolies, displace some falling core

power, and impose themselves as new core

powers (1984: 7).  Semiperipheral areas "are

in between the core and the periphery on a

series of dimensions, such as the complexity

of economic activities, strength of the state

machinery, cultural integrity, etc.  Some of

these areas had been core areas of earlier

versions of a given world-economy.  Some had

been peripheral areas that were later promot-

ed, so to speak, as a result of the changing

geopolitics of an expanding world-economy."

(1974: 349).

   Quigleyan semiperipheries are contingent

products of geographic expansion; Wallerstein-

ian semiperipheries are necessary aspects of a

particular politico-economic form.  "The

semiperiphery is a necessary structural ele-

ment in a world-economy.  These areas play a

role parallel to that played, mutatis mutan-

dis, by middle trading groups in an em-

pire....These middle areas (like middle groups

in an empire) partially deflect the political

pressures which groups primarily located in

peripheral areas might otherwise direct

against core states and the groups which

operate within and through their state machin-

eries." (1974: 349-350)  The middle stratum in

world-economies consists of the semiperipheral

states. (1979: 23)  "The three structural

positions in a world economy -- core, periph-

ery, and semiperiphery -- had become stabi-

lized by about 1640." (1979: 18)

   In Wallerstein's theory, by contrast with

Quigley's, cores move over time (1984: 103;

1974: 350; 1979: 33).  New technologies render

different commodities "high profit, high-wage"

at different moments: "At first, wheat was

exchanged against textiles; later textiles

against steel; today steel against computers

and wheat" (1984: 103). 

   Quigley vs. Wallerstein.  Quigley seems

right to treat cores and peripheries as fea-

tures of all civilizations, not simply of

states-system periods or capitalist instru-

ments of expansion.  Universal empires cer-

tainly have metropolitan cores.  Quigley also

seems correct to treat core-semiperiphery-

periphery as always having primarily a spatial


   But Wallerstein seems right to assert that

cores move in space over time; this can be

seem as a different way of perceiving what is

implied in Quigley's contention that at least

some semiperipheral and peripheral states have

eventually succeeded in conquering their

civilizations.  If we adopt mobile-core lan-

guage, Quigley's contention can then be trans-

lated into the assertion that, simultaneously

as states systems are displaced by universal

empires, civilizational cores move long dis-

tances onto latecomer territories, which, once

peripheral, then incorporated into the semi-

periphery, finally attain core status as the

imperial metropole.

   Quigley seems right again to treat core-

semiperiphery distinctions as growing in the

first instance from a fact about motion in

space over time (rather than from the statics

of "capitalism"), in that expansion of civili-

zations in space over time necessarily means

that some regions will enter a civilization

later than others.  Quigley's causal mecha-

nism, geographic expansion over time, seems

sufficient to account for the origin of core-

semiperiphery distinctions.

   Wallerstein's ideas again seem useful in

accounting for the stability of core-periphery

distinctions, over the time in which they do

remain stable.  Wallerstein's theory must

however be generalized beyond capitalism and

states-systems, since universal empires show

persistence of their metropoles and capitals

at century-plus timescales.  The enormously

uneven concentration of particular natural and

social "endowments" (ores, soils, climates,

water; ports, trade routes, crossroads, stron-

gpoints) across the globe and each of its

regions may combine with a prevalent technolo-

gy (which renders such endowments "resources"

during a particular epoch), with the inequali-

ty of the distribution of human populations,

and with the self-interested power of the core

states/imperial metropoles to monopolize such

endowments, to account for the long persis-

tence of cores.  But this needs comparative-

empirical examination.

   The views of Quigley and Wallerstein on the

question of the balance of advantage in eco-

nomic expansion seem to differ.  Quigley sees

it as lying with the latecomers (because of

delayed corruption, developmental short-cuts,

and preferential diffusion of material cul-

ture); Wallerstein as clearly sees it lying

with the core states (greater force, stronger

state-machines, unequal exchange).  However,

if we accept that cores do move, but only

slowly, and are stable for significant peri-

ods, the apparent differences can be recon-

ciled: Quigley's cited forces may operate at

longer timescales than Wallerstein's, and in

the opposite direction.  The additional vari-

ables of technological stagnation (Quigley) or

change (Wallerstein), at least if surprising

or uncontrolled, and, more effectively and

inescapably, core wars (Quigley), may help to

account for core declines.  Again comparative-

historical study seems called for.

   It is not clear that the Wallersteinian

concept of "unequal" exchange is viable as a

description -- it seems to entail some variant

of the problematic labor theory of value -- or

as an explanation -- it seems to conflate

force, which would plausibly explain involun-

tary transfers of surplus, with technological

inequality, which would plausibly explain

voluntary exchanges of high-labor-output for

low-input commodities.  The degree to which

goods trans-ports are characterized by either

vs. both those mechanisms would seem to be an

intriguing but empirical question.  Once we

accept that world systems as such -- not just

capitalist world-economies -- have cores, it

would seem to make sense that it is the polit-

ico-military predominance of the core that

accounts for the core's ability to drain the

semiperiphery: loot, tribute, taxes, price

controls, confiscations, trade route closures,

and enforced monopolies are politico-military

ventures, though for economic objectives.  At

the same time, it also seems clear that urban-

ization, and eventually core status, has

tended to move slowly toward major semi-

peripheral supply sources, whose local popula-

tions have then perhaps managed to extract

maximum monopolistic advantage by establishing

political control over their commodities'

flows and prices; why they should be able to

do so, and at what time scales,  remain to be

explored by students of the political manipu-

lation of economic exchange.  Again we need

comparative studies, of core drainage and

semiperipheral resistance.

   From semiperiphery to universal empire?  In

support of his proposition that universal

empires are commonly the product of peripheral

(in our terms, semiperipheral) states, Quigley

offers numerous cases.  While some of these do

not conform to our criteria because they

involve only one culture-area within a larger

(i.e. Central) civilization, seven of Quig-

ley's cases seem to offer support for his

proposition even within our civilizational


   These seven cases are as follows.  (1)

Mesopotamian civilization: old core states

like Uruk, Kish, Ur, Nippur, and Lagash were

conquered by (preserving Quigley's terms) more

peripheral states like Agade and Babylon,

these by more peripheral Assyria, and the

whole of western Asia by fully peripheral

Persia.  (2)  In Minoan (Aegean) civilization

the core area of Crete itself seems to have

been conquered by peripheral Mycenae.  (3)  In

Classical civilization (for us, in Central

civilization, which is larger than "Classi-

cal"), peripheral Macedonia and more peripher-

al Rome rise to empire.  (4)  In Mesoamerica

the Mayan core (seen by Quigley) is overcome

by the semiperipheral Toltecs and these, in

turn, by the fully peripheral Aztecs.  (5) In

the Andes, the coastal and northern highlands

core are submerged by several more peripheral

cultures, notably Tiahuanaco from the southern

highlands, and the whole Andean civilization

was conquered by the "fully peripheral" Incas

from the "forbidding" central highlands.  (6)

In Far Eastern civilization, which Quigley

divides into Sinic and Chinese, Chou, Ch'in

and Han are seen as semiperipheral or periph-

eral conquerors of the Huang Ho core, Mongols

as remote, Ming and Manchu as peripheral.  (7)

In Indic civilization, divided by Quigley into

Indic and Hindu, Harappa is suggested as a

peripheral Punjab conqueror of a lower-valley

(Sind) Chandu-Daro core, while Maurya is

acknowledged a "local," i.e. core, dynasty.


   Do these cases represent a general rule?

If so, what?  If we attend to the conquering

peoples rather than their base areas, it does

seem that many of those cited by Quigley were,

a few centuries before their conquests, pe-

ripheral or semiperipheral to the civilization

they ultimately united, while peoples they

conquered in their careers of empire were

already in the core.  Mycenae, Macedonia,

Rome, Toltecs, Aztecs, Chou, Ch'in, Han,

Mongols, perhaps Ming, Manchus, all seem to

fit this mold.  If we rephrase Quigley's

proposition accordingly -- the conquering

peoples of universal empires are in general

recently promoted from semiperiphery and

periphery rather than veteran or renascent

members of the core -- is it correct? 

   In Egypt: for the Old Kingdom, uncertain;

for the Middle Kingdom, false; for the New

Kingdom, false.  In Mesopotamia: for Agade,

uncertain; for Ur, false; for Babylon, uncer-

tain.  In Aegean: for Minoan, uncertain,

probably not applicable; there seems not to

have been a Mycenean universal empire, but if

there had been, true for that.  In Indic: for

Harappa, uncertain; for Maurya, uncertain.  In

Mexican: if there had been a Toltec universal

empire, true for that; for the Aztec universal

empire, true.  In Peruvian: if there had been

either a Huari or a Tiahuanaco universal

empire, true for it; for the Inca universal

empire, true.  Indonesian: for Srivijaya and

Madjapahit, uncertain.  West African: for

Ghana, uncertain; for Mali, true; for Songhai,

true.  Far Eastern: for Ch'in-Han, true; for

Sui-T'ang, true; for Mongol-Min-Manchu, true.

Japanese: for Yamato uncertain; for Hideyoshi-

Tokugawa probably true, if we refer to "clans"

rather than "peoples."  Central: for Assyrian,

true; for Persian-Macedonian, true; for Roman,

true.  If we were to speak of areas rather

than peoples, the proposition would be false

for Agade, Babylon and the Aztecs, Srivijaya

and Madjapahit.  It is often the case, then,

that the builders of a civilization's univer-

sal empire are relative latecomers, to its

network and to its core; less often, but still

frequently, they begin their empire-building

from a more recently incorporated territory

than those they ultimately conquer.  Whatever

comparative advantages recent recruits may

have in the imperialist drama seem likely to

be both conditional and complex.








Civilizational cores may take any of several

political forms, most frequently being: a

single dominant or hegemonic state; several

competing states; and the metropolitan region

of a universal empire.  Core areas expand and

contract, the latter especially during hege-

monic and universal-state epochs.  Civiliza-

tions usually have a semiperiphery, especially

during such periods, but need not, and during

states-system periods sometimes do not.  Cores

may move in a single prevailing direction, or

shuttle.  Old cores return, and new areas

rise, to core status; history shows no marked

favoritism to either process.  Different areas

may serve a civilization as its political-

military, economic and cultural cores, though

there is some tendency for the functions to go

together or to drift together when parted.

Recent arrivals to core status have some

advantages in competitions to destroy states

systems, but they are not overwhelming nor

entirely self-evident. 

   "Coreness" and "semiperipherality" are

multidimensional phenomena, but certainly have

politico-military, economic, technological,

demographic, religious and cultural compo-

nents.  Politico-military driving variables

seem more obvious and accessible to analysis

than others, but are unlikely to function

alone.  Forces need to be posited to explain

both the motions and changes of cores --

formations, expansions, pulsations, shuttles,

drifts, evaporations -- and core persistence

and stability.

   Interesting speculative questions about

core-periphery include: can an all-core/no-

core global society evolve?  Would it require

a states system?  Does the end of the periph-

ery increase the chances for an all-core/no-

core society? or a freezing of current core-

semiperiphery boundaries? or a speedup in core

shift? or a narrowing of the core to a single

hegemonic state or imperial metropole?