Babylonian Populations, Servility, and Cuneiform Records

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

Abstract

To date, servility and servile systems in Babylonia have been explored with the traditional lexical approach of Assyriology. If one examines servility as an aggregate phenomenon, these subjects can be investigated on a much larger scale with quantitative approaches. Using servile populations as a point of departure, this paper applies both quantitative and qualitative methods to explore Babylonian population dynamics in general; especially morbidity, mortality, and ages at which Babylonians experienced important life events. As such, it can be added to the handful of publications that have sought basic demographic data in the cuneiform record, and therefore has value to those scholars who are also interested in migration and settlement. It suggests that the origins of servile systems in Babylonia can be explained with the Nieboer-Domar hypothesis, which proposes that large-scale systems of bondage will arise in regions with plentiful land but few workers. Once established, these systems persisted and were reinforced through Babylonia’s high balance mortality, political ideologies, economic incentives, and social structures.

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