Early Medieval Central Asian Population Estimates

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

Abstract

Census data from 8th-century Eastern Central Asian oases, combined with the measurements of the oases and data from archives discovered there, allow us to calculate estimates both of the individual oases’ populations and of their respective feeding capacities, which is to say the number of people who could be fed from the output of one hectare of agricultural land. These numbers in turn have parallels in Western Central Asia, where oasis sizes can also be calculated by examination of preserved archaeological landscapes and oasis walls. It is therefore possible to reach a rough idea of the populations dwelling in the main oases and valleys of sedentary Central Asia. As regards nomadic regions, the data are far more hypothetical, but references in certain sources to the sizes of nomad armies and rates of nomadic military levying can allow us to calculate at least the possible scales of magnitude for populations living to the north of the Tianshan.

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