Friday, December 18, 2009

Farmers Became Amorites 2000 BC

The climate change that took place in Mesopotamia around 2000 BC did not lead to war, but in fact led to the development of a new shared identity. Although increasing drought often leads to competition and conflict, there seems to be no evidence of this in northern Mesopotamia according to Dutch researcher Arne Wossink.

Wossink studied how the farmers and nomads in northern Mesopotamia -- currently the border area between Turkey, Syria and Iraq -- responded to the changes in climate that took place between 3000 and 1600 BC. He expected to find considerable evidence of competition: as food and water became scarcer the natural result could well be conflict. He discovered, however, that the farmers developed much closer bonds with the semi-nomadic cattle farmers.

Competition caused by rapid population growth

The archaeologist analysed previous finds from the area as well as ancient texts. His research shows the importance of not seeing climate as the only cause: human responses in particular play a major role. Wossink studied three regions and only one of these demonstrated traces of competition between settlements. However, the completion in this area was probably due to the strong population growth that was taking place there.

Access to trade

The farmers in northern Mesopotamia chose not to compete with one another, but to adapt to the circumstances. Wossink shows that the arrival of the Amorites, who had until that time been regarded as (semi-)nomadic, was not simply a process of infiltration. The rise in the Amorites should be seen as the spread of an identity that brought crop farmers and cattle farmers together. By adopting the Amoritic identity, the farmers gained access to a large trading network that was necessary to survive the period of drought.

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