About this Project

University of Chicago economists are working closely with specialists on the ancient world to investigate the applicability to ancient trade of the mathematical and computational methods employed by economists to study modern trade. In addition to UChicago faculty members, staff, and students in five different departments (Economics, Booth School of Business, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Classics, and the Oriental Institute), this collaborative project involves specialists in ancient economy and society at Harvard University, Brigham Young University, and the University of Copenhagen. Serious engagement with economic data from the ancient world demands close collaboration between economists who know the formal methods and scholars who know how to interpret the documentary sources and reconstruct the cultural and institutional contexts of economic action. Methods and issues related to the economic analysis of ancient trade will be pursued in considerable depth over a three-year period using as a case study a large corpus of several thousand ancient documents inscribed in the Mesopotamian cuneiform script and preserved on clay tablets found in central Turkey. These documents bear witness to a long-distance caravan trading system that connected northern Iraq and central Turkey in the Old Assyrian period (1950–1750 BCE). This is the earliest attested example in world history of entrepreneurial, market-oriented private trade; however, it has never been studied in detail using modern methods of economic analysis. This research project leverages the strengths of the University of Chicago in both economics and ancient studies. A series of public workshops and a concluding international conference will provide a venue for cross-disciplinary methodological and theoretical discussions about the relationship between social institutions and economic behavior, past and present.


Neubauer Collegium celebrates opening of new home at 5701 S. Woodlawn

April 21, 2015

In a milestone for the ambitious research initiative, the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society celebrated the opening of its permanent home at 5701 S. Woodlawn Ave. on April 20 with remarks by University of Chicago leaders and a panel discussion featuring Neubauer Collegium Faculty Fellows.

Visiting Fellows bring expertise, energy to the Neubauer Collegium

March 8, 2015

The robust Neubauer Collegium Visiting Fellows Program supports both short and long-term visits from guest scholars, facilitating an exchange of ideas that enriches the Neubauer Collegium’s projects.

Project Updates

Recent Publications

The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy: Institutions, Markets, and Growth in the City-States
In this English-language translation of his acclaimed work, Alain Bresson offers a new theoretical framework for studying the economy of ancient Greece.


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