Circular economy and urban sustainability in Antiquity: Comparative perspectives from the ancient world with a point of departure in Roman Palmyra

Navn på bevillingshaver

Rubina Raja


Aarhus University


DKK 4,544,349




Strategic Grants


The project focuses on the analyses of primary sources revealing economic patterns in Palmyra, including coins (degrees of monetarisation versus other non-monetary economies), sculptural production, monuments, inscriptions and materials such as pottery, glass, metal and agricultural installations around the city, which also inform us about the fluctuation of the size of Palmyrene society – a much-discussed matter. These resources were all reused and recycled over centuries and thus inform us about the economic patterns of the city – both regarding internal and external developments. The project will apply methods from the humanities and high-definition methods drawn from the natural sciences, and will contextualise the results within culture-historical contexts.


Through a full-quantification approach to the collected data, we can use the data proxies as indications of the economic, social and cultural evolution of Palmyra and pinpoint how ancient societies dealt with sustainability and resource management. At the same time, these changes in material culture enable us to identify challenges and threats as well as opportunities generated by this economic system and, moreover, to investigate them within a multi-causal formal simulation model. By combining the rich corpus of empirical evidence with modern computational techniques (simulation), we will be able to generalise our findings on the circular economic systems and the mechanisms that drive them to current socio-political situations.


These goals can be achieved by implementing a robust scientific methodology that includes: Establishing a measure of the level of circularity in the economy. Finding its correlation with demographic, environmental and social variables. Agent-based modelling of the processes that support or hinder the development and sustainability of circular economy. Testing the limits and sources of circular economy resilience during natural (environmental) and social fluctuations. Testing competing hypotheses against different proxies for the circular economy in Palmyra.

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