Re: Curse of Akkad - What happened to Sumer

7 Aug 1996 20:25:02 GMT

Timo Niroma ( wrote:
: In article <4u5s88$>, (HARRY R. ERWIN) says:
: >(snips)
: >
: >2. Sumer had a serious (eventually overwhelming) problem maintaining its
: >urban centers.

: This is news to me. Or do you mean wars? Or what kind of serious problem did they
: have before 2200 BC? If an urban center (Ur and Uruk for instance) last over
: thousand years and offer unheard-of welfare to their citizens, what problem do you
: have in mind? The famines came only after the Akkadian period.

: >These were sinks for population in almost all cultures
: >prior to modern medicine, and Sumerians castrated their male slaves, which
: >aggravated the problem.

: According to legends from the Akkadian period there was rather overpopulation. There
: are no signs of any great epidemics from the period 2900-2200 BC. Even the medieval
: Europe was in a more bad shape.

: >The Akkadians were based in the countryside, not
: >the urban centers.
: >
: >Harry Erwin, Internet:

: Do you mean that the southern Sumerian cities were more cities than northern
: Akkadian cities? If so, in what way?

: Timo Niroma

Prior to the development of modern medicine, urban centers had higher
death rates than birth rates (among other sources, Trout Rader, 1971,
Economics of Feudalism). To maintain an urban center, there had to be
immigration of population from the countryside. This was generally (about
90% of the time) maintained by elite policies at a rate that was
unsustainable in the long term (Hodges and Whitehouse, 1983, Mohammed,
Charlemagne and the Origins of Europe). This usually led to urban center
collapse. See my paper (H R Erwin, 1990/1996, "The Dynamics of Peer
Polities," chapter 3 in van der Leeuw, S E, 1996, Time, Process, and
Structured Transformation, Routledge, One World Archaeology Series,
originally presented at the Cambridge Conference on Dynamic Modelling and
Human Systems, December 10-13, 1990).

Harry Erwin, Internet:, Web Page:
49 year old PhD student in computational neuroscience ("how bats do it" 8)
and lecturer for CS 211 (data structures and advanced C++)