ISAWorkshop Schedule [v. 3-12-06]

“Measuring and modeling cycles of state formation, decline and

upward sweeps since the bronze age”

[upward sweeps= those cases in which much larger states(empires) emerge than have existed previously within a region.]

Nsf proposal is at

angkhor wat

Spatial and temporal framework:

1. the central system (political-military network or system of states)
(from 2500 BCE or as soon as the size of the major states can be estimated) Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Aegean, Western Asia , the
eastern Med and then expanding to the west, east , north and south as
delineated by David Wilkinson.
2. the East Asian region from the bronze age to now.
3. South Asia after the rise of states in the Ganges Valley (not Indus
because not enough information)
4. and probably Mesoamerica, possibly the Mayan region, Oaxaca and Central Mexico – wherever it is possible to estimate the territorial sizes of states.


Workshop schedule:

8:30am-5pm Monday March 20, 2006. Town and Country Resort, Towne Room, San Diego

(each session will have at least 20 minutes for discussion; each presenter should talk for about 15 minutes)

8:30- 9:00 Welcome. Chris Chase-Dunn, overview of the 3 year project, Jobs we want to do. Final products we want to produce. Biggest issues at this point. Expense reimbursement forms, etc.


Empirical tasks[1]:


9:00- 9:50 Walter Scheidel and Dan Pasciuti , Estimating the population sizes of largest cities, states and empires in the Bronze and Iron ages: problems and proposed techniques for improving upon existing estimates. Measurement error models. And excel file contains Chandler’s estimates of the population sizes of largest cities is here.


9:50-10::40: Guillermo Algaze and Chris Chase-Dunn Measuring Empire Sizes and identifying upward sweeps: “Methods for estimating the territorial sizes of empires and trading states” Rein Taagepera’s coding of the territorial sizes of empires is here:


Break: 20 minutes


11:00-12:10 Gene Anderson, David Wilkinson and Tom Hall Coding Core/Periphery positions: “Coding semiperipherality: definitional and empirical issues” [differentiate between different types of semiperipheral development:  (khaldun processes, randall Collins: geopolitical marcher state advantage,  metaethnic frontiers (turchin-quigley),  ecologically marginal regions (toynbee), recently formed states out on the edge of an old core region (wilkinson), and etc.] Start with wilkinson’s “cores, peripheries and civilizations” at

Tom Hall’s draft workshop paper is here:


12:10- 1:00   Lunch on your own. Back by 1:00


1:00- 1:50 Modeling approaches and substantive processes: Bob Hanneman and Claudio Cioffi-Revilla

What are the options regarding different methods for quantitatively modeling systems in which there are two or more levels of analysis, e.g. states and interstate systems? What are the pros and cons for using these different methods taking into account the focus of our project, which is long-term change in interstate systems since the Bronze Age? We want to consider classical mathematical systems modeling, spatial modeling, agent-based modeling, modeling of networks, hybrids and any other approaches that may be useful.


1:50-2:40 Peter Turchin and Jonathan Turner.  Modeling agrarian states, rise and fall in interstate systems (including non-state peoples) and upward sweeps in which states emerge that are much larger than any in adjacent regions.


2:40-3:30: Steve Sanderson and Doug White

Modeling trading states and network dynamics. 

Semiperipheral capitalist city-states emerge in the Bronze Age (e.g. Assur – the old Assyrian city-state and its colonies) and replicate in the Iron Age (e.g. the Phoenician city-states. These “thallasocracies” often have colonial empires but the outposts are chosen to facilitate profit-making. The rise and fall of these states may obey different rules than the rise and fall of agrarian empires and so they may need to be modeled differently. All systems are composed of interaction networks that include trade of different sorts (bulk goods, prestige goods) as well as political alliances and military conflict. Network theories node have been used to account for the rise of large cities in human ecology, and more sophisticated network theories are being used to study changes in settlement size hierarchies. :

Break: 15 minutes


3:45- 4:35 William R. Thompson and Chris Chase-Dunn

Modeling international political integration and world state formation. Global governance in the modern world system has arguably displayed some emergent evolutionary properties (e.g. unusual resistance to world empire formation and instead the rise and fall of a series of system leaders (hegemons) that do not conquer their neighboring core states. But a process of international political integration may have been occurring within the context of the still strong state system over the past 250 years. Waves of decolonization extended the European state system to the rest of the world, and international political organizations began to emerge (e.g. the Concert of Europe, the League of Nations and the United Nations). In this may be seen the possibility of another upward sweep in the future – the formation of a global state. Can these processes be modeled as combinations of the earlier rise and fall patterns with new emergent properties?

4:35- 5:00 wrap up, summary and next steps.

5:00pm adjourn


6:00 pm wine and cheese at Doug and Lilyan’s home in La Jolla 
7:30 dinner out 

[1] As you know, our primary focus on the empirical side of things will be putting together a database of empire and population sizes. Specifically, the main variables of interest are city population sizes, total population of states and empires, territorial sizes of states and empires, and coding states and polities according to several different indicators of coreness and peripherality.

But in addition we want to find information about some other things as well. Essentially what we are looking for is any kind of time-series data on economic, demographic, environmental, social, and political aspects of processes that might have relevance to state formation and decline. If you have any such data, or know a bibliographic or web source from which we could obtain them, please let me know. I have recently learned some rudiments of databasing (using FileMaker) and will serve as a central place for storing these data and making them available to all of you.

Send Peter Turchin suggestions by e-mail.
To get you thinking more broadly about potential data sources, here are some kinds of "proxy" data that I think can yield useful indicators of dynamics:

1. The temporal distribution of coin hoards appears to be a good indicator of internal instability, whether resulting from civil war or a catastrophic invasion by an external enemy.

2. Time distribution of public buildings (temples, churches) as an indicator of disposable income by states and/or elites for conspicuous consumption.

3. Individual heights as an indicator of population pressure.

4. Deposition rates of many things in the archaeological record : potsherds, leather shoe remnants, ornaments, etc.