Evidence on river flow levels and other forms of climate indicators suggest significant variation in climate and water availability within the Bronze Age period. Intermittent deterioration in climate appears to have contributed to periodic crises (toward the ends of the fourth, third, and second millennia, as well as in the middle of the second millennium) manifested throughout the Near East. These periodic crises are associated variably with hinterland pressures on urban centers, governmental collapse, and, to a lesser extent, economic contraction. Climate was probably not the primary driver of these times of troubles, but climatic deterioration systematically made things worse.
William R. Thompson
In this article I examine how long-term economic strategies in the Bronze Age of northern Europe between 2300 and 500 BCE transformed the environment and thus created and imposed new ecological constraints that finally led to a major social transformation and a "dark age" that became the start of the new long-term cycle of the Iron Age. During the last 30 years hundreds of well-excavated farmsteads and houses from south Scandinavia have made it possible to reconstruct the size and the structure of settlement and individual households through time. During the same period numerous pollen diagrams have established the history of vegetation and environmental changes. I will therefore use the size of individual households or farmsteads as a parameter of economic strength, and to this I add the role of metal as a triggering factor in the economy, especially after 1700 BCE when a full-scale bronze technology was adopted and after 500 BCE when it was replaced by iron as the dominant metal. A major theoretical concern is the relationships between micro- and macroeconomic changes and how they articulated in economic practices. Finally the nature of the "dark age" during the beginning of the Iron Age will be discussed, referring to Sing Chew's use of the concept (Chew 2006).
La civilisation de l'Oxus
The Bronze Age civilisation of Central Asia developed during the second half of the third millennium BC. Besides elements resembling Middle Eastern contemporary civilisations (e.g. economy, art), it displays also some peculiarities resembling earlier periods (e.g. importance of hunting), as well as specific steppe relations (e.g. pottery, horses) and purely local traits (e.g. animal burials, camel domestication, lapis lazuli, tin trade). This original 'Oxus civilisation' raises a number of issues related to environmental (arid period), ethno-linguistic (Indo-Iranian), historical (chronology, origin, decline) and methodological problems, such as its place in a neo-evolutionist scheme as a manifestation of a proto-urban phenomenon. The longue durée, revisited as a system in the Middle Asian interaction sphere, seems a promising way of understanding this civilisation.
A Comparison of Okvik/Old Bering Sea and Liangzhu Ritual Art
One of the central decorative features of the Okvik/Old Bering Sea (OBS) Eskimo art is a theriomorphic design with an eyelike circle-dot motif. Seventy-five years ago, Henry B. Collins proposed the resemblance between OBS animal motifs and the Taotie (or t'ao t'ieh) faces on Chinese Shang and Zhou bronze wares. However, today his conclusion is based on outdated archaeological data. New evidence in recent decades indicates that the Chinese Bronze Age Taotie originated from mask-like imagery on jade objects of the Liangzhu Neolithic culture, third millennium BC in the Lower Yangtze River region. Comparative studies suggest more similarities in artistic designs between Okvik/OBS and Liangzhu jade than between Okvik/OBS culture and the Shang/Zhou Bronze Age cultures. The prototype theriomorphic design in Okvik/OBS Eskimo art, therefore, may originate from Liangzhu rather than from Shang and Zhou.
Many aspects of culture that we are used to interpreting in essentialist or even tacitly evolutionist terms might better be seen as acts of self-conscious rejection, or as formed through a schizmogenetic process of mutual definition against the values of neighbouring societies. What have been called 'heroic societies', for instance, seem to have formed in conscious rejection of the values of urban civilizations of the Bronze Age. A consideration of the origins and early history of the Malagasy suggests a conscious rejection of the world of the Islamic ecumene of the Indian Ocean, effecting a social order that could justifiably be described as self-consciously anti-heroic.