Daily Data Dump

By Razib Khan | April 6, 2010 1:12 pm

Dave Weigel is up & running at The Washington Post, covering conservative politics.

Archaeologists Uncover Land Before Wheel; Site Untouched for 6,000 Years. Of course the New World civilizations ~1492 were also pre-wheel.

Realty Check: ‘Extreme Makeover’ Downsizes Its Dream Homes. Mo money = mo problems (remember, home equal = $).

The Science of Kissing COVER! Sheril has a cover. Nice.

Today’s Social Liberal Is Tomorrow’s Social Conservative. Looking at the GSS I’ve found that conservatives of all ages tend to agree when it comes to issues like homosexuality, while liberals exhibit a split between old & young. Don’t know whether this is transitory, or a general feature of social change in the United States.

  • John Emerson

    Bulliet’s “The Camel and the Wheel” argues that the wheel wasn’t as important in Muslim civilization as it was elsewhere. Pack animals and boast did most of the hauling. Can’t remember any detail.

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  • Onkel Bob

    Wheels are over-rated. Most food distribution before railroad was by barge or other water craft. McNeill had a article many years back on the eccentricity of the wheel, and how few cultures relied on it. Remember the Chinese canal system predates the founding of Rome, so it gives you any idea how useful the wheel was to that culture. Same pattern occurred in Europe and America (Erie Canal anyone?) until the advent of the railroad.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Remember the Chinese canal system predates the founding of Rome, so it gives you any idea how useful the wheel was to that culture.

    are you sure this is true?

  • Onkel Bob

    Not sure if Wikipedia is authoritative, but it has the dates I was thinking of, i.e., late 5th century BCE.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Canal_(China) You are right that the Roman Republic is concurrent with that event, and that it was built on Etruscan roads. But it took 100 years to consolidate power on the Italian peninsula. I was thinking of Pompey’s and Sulla’s Rome, one where the rest of the Mediterranean is aware of their presence. By that time the Han had consolidated a much larger area, with a far greater population. While the greatest amount of work was completed in later centuries, it does reveal the importance that water transportation had in commerce. Commerce on the silk road collapsed not because demand waned but because one Portuguese ship could carry as much as a 500 animal caravan.

  • Brian Too

    @5. Onkel Bob,

    Re: “Commerce on the silk road collapsed… because one Portuguese ship could carry as much as a 500 animal caravan.”

    I am sure this is correct. However I believe there were other factors as well.

    The silk road was comparatively slow and hazardous when compared to the sea routes. The sea was dangerous enough but the land routes were absurdly vulnerable to raiders. This led to the system of caravanserai which must have helped security quite a bit.

    Also, my understanding is that every section of the silk road was subject to heavy taxation which drove up the costs of the cargos immensely.

    If you took a ship, at least in principle, you could keep the trip profits entirely to yourself and your sponsor. Sea trade was in effect a type of disintermediation.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    onkel bob, re: the canals. it really wasn’t super relevant until the sui, at which point in history the ‘grand canal’ had to be taken into account of chinese economic and diplomatic history. without that canal many of the northern capitals would simply not have been able to be provisioned cuz their hinterlands weren’t productive. it’s similar to the fact that walls were a feature of china starting in the warring states period, and the northern wall during the first emperor’s reign i believe, but the current substantial wall is a feature of the ming.

    there were times when the silk road wasn’t under too many different jurisdictions, and this is when it flourished. during parts of the han and tang dynasy for example chinese hegemony pushed into the area of modern tajikstan, on the borders of the parthian and sassanian empires.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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