Collapse is a Recurrent Phenomenon in Societies

The Roman Empire's dramatic collapse (followed by many centuries of population decline, economic deterioration, intellectual regression, and the disappearance of literacy) is well known, but it was not the rst rise-and-collapse cycle in Europe. Prior to the rise of Classical Greco- Roman civilization, both the Minoan and Mycenaean Civilizations had each risen, reached very advanced levels of civilization, and then collapsed virtually completely [Morris, 2006; Redman, 1999]. The history of Mesopotamia |the very cradle of civilization, agriculture, complex society, and urban life| presents a series of rise-and-declines including the Sumerians, the Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian, Sassanid, Umayyad, and Abbasid Empires [Yoee, 1979; Redman et al., 2004]. In neighboring Egypt, this cycle also appeared repeatedly. In both Anatolia and in the Indus Valley, the very large and long-lasting Hittite and Harrapan civilizations both collapsed so completely that their very existence was unknown until modern archeology rediscovered them. Similar cycles of rise and collapse occurred repeatedly in India, most notably with the Mauryan and the Gupta Empires [Thapar, 2004; Jansen et al., 1991; Kenoyer, 1998; Edwards et al., 1971, 1973]. Southeast Asia similarly experienced multiple and overlapping histories of collapse and regeneration" over 15 centuries, culminating in the Khmer Empire based in Angkor, which itself was depopulated and swallowed by the forest during the 15th Century [Stark, 2006]. Chinese history is, very much like Egypt's, full of repeated cycles of rises and collapses, with each of the Zhou, Han, Tang, and Song Empires followed by a very serious collapse of political authority and socioeconomic progress [Chu and Lee, 1994; Needham and Wang, 1956; Lee, 1931].

Collapses are not restricted to the Old World". The collapse of Maya Civilization is wellknown and evokes widespread fascination, both because of the advanced nature of Mayan society and because of the depth of the collapse [Webster, 2002; Demerest et al., 2004]. As Diamond [2005] puts it, it is dicult to ignore the disappearance of between 90 and 99% of the Maya population after A.D. 800 . . . and the disappearance of kings, Long Count calendars, and other complex political and cultural institutions." In the nearby central highlands of Mexico, a number of powerful states also rose to high levels of power and prosperity and then rapidly collapsed, Teotihuacan (the sixth largest city in the world in the 7th C) and Monte Alban being just the largest of these to experience dramatic collapse, with their populations declining to about 20-25% of their peak within just a few generations [Tainter, 1988].

We know of many other collapses including Mississippian Cultures such as Cahokia, SouthWest US cultures such as the Pueblo and Hohokam, Andean civilizations such as Tiwanaku, Sub-Saharan civilizations such as Great Zimbabwe, and many collapses across the Pacic Islands, such as Easter Island. It is also likely other collapses have also occurred in societies that were not at a sucient level of complexity to produce written records or archeological evidence. Indeed, a recent study [Shennan et al., 2013] of the Neolithic period in Europe has shown that in contrast to the steady population growth usually assumed, the introduction of agriculture into Europe was followed by a boom-and-bust pattern in the density of regional populations". Furthermore most regions show more than one boom-bust pattern", and in most regions, population declines of the order of the 30{60%" can be found. The authors also argue that, rather than climate change or diseases, the timing and evidence point to endogenous causes for these collapses in 19 out of 23 cases studied, suggesting the possibility of rapid population growth driven by farming to unsustainable levels". Moreover, through wavelet analysis of the archeological data, S. Downey [personal communication] has shown that the average length of such boom-and-bust cycles is about 300{500 years.

In summary, despite the common impression that societal collapse is rare, or even largely ctional, the picture that emerges is of a process recurrent in history, and global in its distribution" [Tainter, 1988]. See also Yoee and Cowgill [1988]; Goldstein [1988]; Ibn Khaldun [1958]; Kondratie [1984]; Parsons [1991]. As Turchin and Nefedov [2009] contend, there is a great deal of support for the hypothesis that secular cycles | demographic-social-political oscillations of a very long period (centuries long) are the rule, rather than an exception in the large agrarian statesand empires."


Folksonomies: society cycles collapse

dramatic collapse (0.921447 (negative:-0.603998)), Greco- Roman civilization (0.847606 (neutral:0.000000)), rst rise-and-collapse cycle (0.836516 (neutral:0.000000)), collapses (0.811838 (negative:-0.590419)), steady population growth (0.805944 (neutral:0.000000)), [Webster, 2002; Demerest et al., 2004]. (0.804872 (positive:0.446325)), Century [Stark, 2006]. (0.801743 (neutral:0.000000)), societal collapse (0.798044 (neutral:0.000000)), rapid population growth (0.794403 (negative:-0.712098)), period (centuries long) are the rule, rather than an exception in the large agrarian statesand empires.`` (0.793415 (positive:0.313919)), Long Count calendars (0.791282 (neutral:0.000000)), nearby central highlands (0.789417 (neutral:0.000000)), large agrarian statesand (0.789366 (neutral:0.000000)), Mycenaean Civilizations (0.758919 (neutral:0.000000)), Abbasid Empires (0.753691 (neutral:0.000000)), population decline (0.742726 (negative:-0.443748)), Gupta Empires (0.741395 (positive:0.215522)), Harrapan civilizations (0.740412 (neutral:0.000000)), Song Empires (0.737458 (neutral:0.000000)), Recurrent Phenomenon (0.730901 (negative:-0.603998)), economic deterioration (0.729395 (negative:-0.579286)), Sub-Saharan civilizations (0.728954 (neutral:0.000000)), advanced levels (0.728651 (positive:0.414042)), Similar cycles (0.728465 (negative:-0.227430)), Andean civilizations (0.727688 (neutral:0.000000)), Roman Empire (0.727066 (negative:-0.603998)), complex society (0.724258 (positive:0.234432)), Maya population (0.723820 (negative:-0.217500)), Maya Civilization (0.723725 (positive:0.683583)), urban life| (0.723676 (neutral:0.000000))

Europe:Continent (0.766948 (neutral:0.000000)), Redman:Person (0.658014 (neutral:0.000000)), Minoan and Mycenaean Civilizations:Facility (0.630370 (neutral:0.000000)), Tainter:Person (0.615691 (neutral:0.000000)), Egypt:Country (0.607239 (neutral:0.000000)), Classical Greco- Roman:Facility (0.541398 (neutral:0.000000)), Angkor:City (0.498456 (neutral:0.000000)), Indus Valley:GeographicFeature (0.494711 (neutral:0.000000)), Yoee:City (0.488178 (neutral:0.000000)), Southeast Asia:Region (0.486232 (neutral:0.000000)), Ibn Khaldun:Person (0.481761 (neutral:0.000000)), Cahokia:City (0.474840 (neutral:0.000000)), Anatolia:Country (0.473808 (neutral:0.000000)), Lee:Person (0.471963 (neutral:0.000000)), India:Country (0.467614 (negative:-0.227430)), Turchin:Person (0.461155 (neutral:0.000000)), Mexico:Country (0.460822 (neutral:0.000000)), Morris:Person (0.455580 (neutral:0.000000)), climate change:FieldTerminology (0.454298 (negative:-0.616084))

Civilization (0.986121): dbpedia | freebase
Societal collapse (0.602293): dbpedia | freebase
Society (0.575957): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Population (0.572899): website | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Maya civilization (0.563894): dbpedia | freebase
Demography (0.489461): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Mesopotamia (0.473241): website | dbpedia | freebase
Cradle of civilization (0.454667): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies
Periodicals>Journal Article:  Motesharrei, Rivas, Kalnay (March 18, 2014), Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies, SESYNC: Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, Retrieved on 2014-08-09
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: society modeling collapse