Modeling trade to discover lost cities

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Science  20 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6459, pp. 1261-1262
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6459.1261-f

The locations and characteristics of ancient cities are often disputed. Barjamovic et al. developed a comprehensive dataset of trading routes among cities in the Bronze Age originally recorded by Assyrian merchants. They then used the data to build a model that captures the locations and trade flows among those cities, which can be extrapolated to provide probable locations of undiscovered cities. In some cases, the model corroborates qualitative hypotheses by historians, while in others, the model supports one hypothesis over another. They are also able to model the likely size, density, and network importance of these cities. These results have implications for our understanding of ancient trade and how cities have changed over time.

Q. J. Econ. 134, 1455 (2019).

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