Thursday, December 10, 2009

Buried Coins Speak of Population Declines in Ancient Rome

During the period of time after Julius Caesar's assassination, Rome's government and peoples were in turmoil. But according to records, it it hard to tell whether Roman population declined or increased during that period due to discrepancies on who was counted in censuses at that time. Recently, Peter Turchin, a theoretical biologist, decided to answer the population question with buried coins. Apparently, during times of trouble, people would bury their wealth for safety until they could come back to it. However, if they where killed in the resulting trouble they would be unable to come back for the coins. So now it becomes possible to guess at population changes by counting the number of stashes that are, or where, still buried at that time. More buried coins could indicate population loss. The coin model when used for known populations in Rome proves that it is accurate. The large amounts of coins found from the questionable period in Rome, shows that the population was most likely on the decrease. “It is very difficult to see how a population could grow during such a period of such violence...” said Turchin.

-Niki S.

Period 5

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