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Ancient cliometrics and archaeological proxy-data : between the devil and the deep blue sea

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Abstract
This essay has been an exploration and a plea for a research programme to integrate economic archaeology fully into global economic history. Without archaeology economic history is condemned to stare myopically at the handful of societies which over the few recent centuries have left enough textual evidence for statistical analyses. I have argued that archaeological proxy-data can be quantified and mathematically processed but not translated into the econometrics that cliometric history tries to establish. This, however, should not stop us from working on the development of what I call archaeo-cliometrics because the commonly used econometric indicators are not good at capturing the performance or the structure of real economies in premodern societies. The discipline of economics is richer than the neoclassical synthesis that non-economists often confuse it with. Its subject is not markets or equilibrium theory but how societies organise themselves to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of their populations. Meaningful econometrics should capture how (un)successful a society is in achieving this. Economic archaeology is indispensable to achieve this for preindustrial societies. I have argued therefore for an empirically based archaeo-cliometrics that captures the determinants of real economic systems in global history. At this moment four promising fields can be distinguished: (a) anthropometrics to measure biological standards of living, (b) rank-size and network analyses to compare the structural features of urban systems, (c) energetics of architecture and fuel consumption to measure levels of ability to capture and control energy, and (d) product diversity and ubiquity as a proxy for the collective productive knowhow and knowledge embedded in societal networks. The overarching theoretical framework is that of complexity economics. Clearly the datasets that are currently available are insufficient. E
Keywords
Roman economy

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Chicago
Verboven, Koenraad. 2018. “Ancient Cliometrics and Archaeological Proxy-data : Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” In Cuantificar Las Economías Antiguas : Problemas y Métodos : Quantifying Ancient Economies : Problems and Methodologies, ed. José Remesal Rodriguez, Victor Revilla Calvo, and Manuel Bermúdez Lorenzo, 345–371. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona. Edicions.
APA
Verboven, Koenraad. (2018). Ancient cliometrics and archaeological proxy-data : between the devil and the deep blue sea. In J. Remesal Rodriguez, V. Revilla Calvo, & M. Bermúdez Lorenzo (Eds.), Cuantificar las economías antiguas : problemas y métodos : quantifying ancient economies : problems and methodologies (pp. 345–371). Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona. Edicions.
Vancouver
1.
Verboven K. Ancient cliometrics and archaeological proxy-data : between the devil and the deep blue sea. In: Remesal Rodriguez J, Revilla Calvo V, Bermúdez Lorenzo M, editors. Cuantificar las economías antiguas : problemas y métodos : quantifying ancient economies : problems and methodologies. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona. Edicions; 2018. p. 345–71.
MLA
Verboven, Koenraad. “Ancient Cliometrics and Archaeological Proxy-data : Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” Cuantificar Las Economías Antiguas : Problemas y Métodos : Quantifying Ancient Economies : Problems and Methodologies. Ed. José Remesal Rodriguez, Victor Revilla Calvo, & Manuel Bermúdez Lorenzo. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona. Edicions, 2018. 345–371. Print.
@incollection{8565379,
  abstract     = {This essay has been an exploration and a plea for a research programme to integrate economic
archaeology fully into global economic history. Without archaeology economic history is
condemned to stare myopically at the handful of societies which over the few recent centuries have
left enough textual evidence for statistical analyses. I have argued that archaeological proxy-data can
be quantified and mathematically processed but not translated into the econometrics that cliometric
history tries to establish. This, however, should not stop us from working on the development of
what I call archaeo-cliometrics because the commonly used econometric indicators are not good at
capturing the performance or the structure of real economies in premodern societies. The discipline
of economics is richer than the neoclassical synthesis that non-economists often confuse it with. Its
subject is not markets or equilibrium theory but how societies organise themselves to ensure the welfare
and wellbeing of their populations. Meaningful econometrics should capture how (un)successful
a society is in achieving this. Economic archaeology is indispensable to achieve this for preindustrial
societies. I have argued therefore for an empirically based archaeo-cliometrics that captures the
determinants of real economic systems in global history. At this moment four promising fields can
be distinguished: (a) anthropometrics to measure biological standards of living, (b) rank-size and
network analyses to compare the structural features of urban systems, (c) energetics of architecture
and fuel consumption to measure levels of ability to capture and control energy, and (d) product diversity
and ubiquity as a proxy for the collective productive knowhow and knowledge embedded in
societal networks. The overarching theoretical framework is that of complexity economics. Clearly
the datasets that are currently available are insufficient. E},
  author       = {Verboven, Koenraad},
  booktitle    = {Cuantificar las econom{\'i}as antiguas : problemas y m{\'e}todos : quantifying ancient economies : problems and methodologies},
  editor       = {Remesal Rodriguez, Jos{\'e} and Revilla Calvo, Victor and Berm{\'u}dez Lorenzo, Manuel},
  isbn         = {978-84-9168-107-6},
  keyword      = {Roman economy},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {345--371},
  publisher    = {Universitat de Barcelona. Edicions},
  title        = {Ancient cliometrics and archaeological proxy-data : between the devil and the deep blue sea},
  year         = {2018},
}