War Was the Main Driving Force In the Evolution Of Ancient Societies



By Dan Bart | October 2, 2013 5:38 pm

War was the main driving force in the evolution of ancient societies, a controversial new study of Dr. Turchin finds. 

War was important in driving the evolution of complex ancient societies

War was important in driving the evolution of complex ancient societies

Turchin’s approach — which he calls cliodynamics after Clio, the ancient Greek muse of history — is part of a groundswell of efforts to apply scientific methods to history by identifying and modelling the broad social forces that Professor Turchin and his colleagues say shape all human societies. It is an attempt to show that “history is not ‘just one damn thing after another’”, says Turchin, paraphrasing a saying often attributed to the late British historian Arnold Toynbee.

The study used a computer model to predict the time and place of ancient empires’ origins. Researchers found that incorporating the spread of military technologies resulted in a model that was 65 percent accurate in explaining how these societies evolved and spread. An alternative model that omitted such technologies was only 16 percent accurate.

“Before we went through this exercise we did not know whether competition between societies, taking the form of warfare, was really an important driver in the evolution of large complex societies,” says Peter Turchin, lead author of the study. “Now we know that it is the main factor, with the presence of agriculture as a necessary condition, and various environmental effects also playing a role.”

Since it is only 65 percent accurate, some of the factors that account for the spread of societies are missing. “Undoubtedly, cultural peculiarities also play a role, although they were not included in the model,” Turchin says. “But since the model predicts two-thirds of variance in the data, other factors must be of lesser importance than those included, at best explaining the remaining third.”

If war was important in driving the evolution of complex ancient societies, is it still doing the same today?

“We have a plan to develop a model for post-1500 history, but of course instead of cavalry and archery we will use gunpowder weapons and oceangoing ships,” says Turchin.

This type of model, though, would not be the most accurate to explain 21st century cultural evolution, he says.

“More recently, non-military competition between societies has become of more importance, compared to the period we studied,” he says. “So [to explain today] we need to focus on economic and perhaps ideological competition.”

 “Our results are likely to generate much controversy, which is why we plan to continue with this research program to address various criticisms that people will be bringing forth.”

top_banner PRINT THIS

Comments are closed.



  • rek1
  • rek2

    Jan OvlandJan Ovland
    Ann TyllerAnn Tyller
    Dan BartDan Bart
    Serge KSerge K
  • RSS Top News

    • This RSS feed URL is deprecated December 17, 2017
      This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news
    • Words banned at multiple HHS agencies include 'diversity' and 'vulnerable' - Washington Post December 17, 2017
      Washington PostWords banned at multiple HHS agencies include 'diversity' and 'vulnerable'Washington PostThe Trump administration has informed multiple divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services that they should avoid using certain words or phrases in official documents being drafted for next year's budget. Officials at the Centers for ...Word ban at CDC includes 'vulnerable,' […]
    • The MLBPA has a big problem to address as Dodgers, Yankees, Marlins dump salary - CBSSports.com December 16, 2017
      CBSSports.comThe MLBPA has a big problem to address as Dodgers, Yankees, Marlins dump salaryCBSSports.comIn terms of shock value, there hasn't been a more surprising trade in recent years than Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. The Dodgers sent Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, and Charlie Culberson to Atlanta for Matt Kemp. I thought ...Dodgers' […]
    • 5 injured in Pennsylvania ski lift mishap - ABC News December 16, 2017
      ABC News5 injured in Pennsylvania ski lift mishapABC NewsCompany 5 and Centre Hall Volunteer Fire Company were dispatched to assist Boalsburg Fire Company with a high-angle rescue at Tussey Mountain Ski Resort in Pennsylvania, Dec. 16, 2017.more +. 0 Shares. Email. Five people were injured at a Pennsylvania ...Ski lift malfunctions, four chairs with riders […]
    • Trump lawyer says Mueller obtained transition emails illegally - The Hill December 16, 2017
      The HillTrump lawyer says Mueller obtained transition emails illegallyThe HillA lawyer for President Trump · Donald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for 'serious case of amnesia' after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don't want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers ...Trump transition lawyer: Mueller improperly […]
  • RSS NYC Latest News