Saturday, July 1, 2017

Extra Credits: Bronze Age Collapse

       Reflecting Joseph Tainter's thesis on the collapse of complex societies, this second part of a three-part series on the Bronze Age Collapse, briefly reviews how the very complexity that made these societies prosperous also made them vulnerable if important segments of the social structure disappeared, such as scribes or the warrior class trained to operate and use chariots. As I've noted before, I do not think it was a coincidence that the Bronze Age Collapse coincided with the Exodus from Egypt. While I have focused on how the loss of a couple million slaves would destroy Egypt's economy, and harm its neighbors that relied on Egypt's grain production, this video raises another point, which is the military impact of losing the professional warrior caste that maintained and used chariots. Chariots were expensive, and the warriors that used them were highly trained: it would have taken a generation to replace those warriors. And yet we know from Exodus that Egypt lost almost all of its chariot corps in the Red Sea.

        I'm not saying that the Exodus was the sole cause, or even a primary cause, of the Bronze Age Collapse--there seems to have been a perfect storm of events that combined to shatter the Bronze Age civilizations. But it certainly did not help that, just when Egypt most needed to be able to produce grain surpluses and project its military power, the slaves that planted and harvested the grains disappeared and the core of its military strength was destroyed. And, as we know, Egypt never fully recovered from the Bronze Age Collapse. While it fared better than its neighbors--most of which completely collapsed--it never recovered its power and majesty.

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