West Asian Economy in the Dark Ages
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Dark Age Economy

The political collapse around 1200 BC in West Asia may have been related to an economic collapse about the same time. Between about 1200 and about 1000 BC, not so much trade was going on. We don't know what caused this economic collapse, but it is possible that a climate change was involved. Maybe the weather got a little warmer for a while, or a little cooler. Whatever the reason, people went on farming their land and growing barley and lentils and making pottery, but they stopped sailing and riding around on horses and trading with each other. Maybe with all the wars that were going on it was too dangerous for traders to travel, or maybe people were too poor to buy things.

But the news wasn't all bad. A lot more people began to use iron tools instead of stone or wooden ones at this time, which is why we sometimes call this time the beginning of the Iron Age. Iron tools were sharper and harder than the stone ones. With an iron tip on your plow you could plant a field much faster than before, and with iron sickles you could reap it faster too.

This was also the time when the alphabet really took over as the main writing method for business. Cuneiform writing was so hard to learn that only specially trained expert scribes could do it. But pretty much anyone could learn to read and write with the new alphabet, and soon many more business-people (men and women) were using writing to keep their accounts, to send messages to their partners, and to keep track of the laws.

Bibliography and further reading about West Asian trade in the Dark Age:

Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture, by William H. Stiebing (2002). Expensive, and hard to read, but it's a good up to date account.


West Asian Economy in the Iron Age
More about the Hittites
More about West Asia
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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