The Bronze Age Collapse – The Wheel and the Rod – Extra History – #2
The Bronze Age Collapse – The Wheel and the Rod – Extra History – #2

The wheel turns, ages pass, society becomes more advanced. Advancement leads to stability, to connection, to peace. But what happens, when that’s not true? Often, when we think of the ancient past, the times before the Greeks and the Romans, we think of a barbaric, or a primitive age. But that age of barbarism we think of, actually followed the late Bronze Age collapse. Before the collapse, there were societies that wouldn’t be rivaled again for half a millennium. So today, let’s look at the technology, social policies and political structures that made these kingdoms so impressive, so advanced. And that may in the end have lead to their downfall. First, we have to talk about bronze itself. As we touched on last time, bronze is an alloy of tin and copper. And most of the Bronze Age world was missing at least one those components. This meant that Bronze Age civilisations had to trade. And I’m not just talking about small time exchanging of shinies. We’re talking a full on, modern day “our society requires trade to function” type of trade. Everything from farmng to war depended on bronze. Much in the same way it depends on petroleum today. So a globalised, internationalised system of trade sprung up around bronze. And with it came trade in almost every other good. This was a positive thing. It allowed a material standard of wealth, especially for the nobility that was unrivaled anywhere in the world, except maybe for China. This level of wealth wouldn’t be seen again, until the Classical Age. But it also meant that the kingdoms of the period were sort of like a Jenga tower. They stood tall, but if too many pieces got pulled out, that whole thing would come crashing down. So, this interconnected system of trade while enormously beneficial, may perhaps have also been one of the factors leading to the Bronze Age’s collapse. Next, let’s talk war. Because in this period, the chariot was king. Almost all the major powers of the time built their armies around a chariot core of one type or another. And here’s the thing about chariots: they’re really expensive and they’re difficult to use. You can sort of think of them like medieval knights. It takes a lifetime of training to use these weapons, and maintaining them costs a small fortune. This meant that, like medieval knights, Many kingdoms had a hereditary warrior class that was dedicated to doing just this. But what happens if you lose a ton of those guys at once? You can’t just replace them. It takes years to train a guy up to the point where he can be proficient with a chariot. And what happens if your economy collapses? You no longer have the spare resources to maintain a caste whose singular role is to train to use some complex weapon. Much less to pay artisans to build that weapon, and technicians to maintain it. And so, while this particular engine of war was highly effective in a time when we hadn’t really bred horses big enough to carry a man in full armor, It was also a liability. If things went really wrong, you could no longer maintain this highly sophisticated military machine. And then what happens if you need to defend yourself? What happens if you face some outside threat? What happens if you have to fight, but your whole conception of what an army is is no longer viable? And so again, this very weapon that made many of these states so dominant is perhaps one of the dominoes that sets us up for the Bronze Age Collapse. And, since we’re talking about armies, let’s talk about the governments they fought for. Because these were incredibly organized, incredibly centralized governments. The level of central control in the late Bronze Age state is almost mind-boggling. Far, far beyond the monarchies of the Middle Ages, perhaps even more than many modern states. Which is important because due to this centralized control, many of the late Bronze Age kingdoms were structured as command economies. Every piece of grain, every dram of olive oil, every bar of bronze was tallied by the central government. Farmers were told what to plant, where to plant, and when. Mines were state-run operations. And, clearly this varies a bit from nation to nation, but from Egypt to Mycenae, you had top-down economies organized by the central authority. But what happens to a top-down economy when the top goes missing? If you’re a laborer, and, every year an official comes and gives you the seeds you were supposed to plant, and tells you when and where to plant them, What happens if that official just stops showing up? And this issue is compounded by two other pieces of technology: the first is irrigation. Bronze Age societies had very sophisticated irrigation systems. These were massive public works projects that took effort to maintain. And it took some element of centralized planning to build them efficiently, to maximize crop yield. After all, having every farmer dig their own irrigation is gonna get way messier than simply laying out a thousand plots at once. This was great, as it meant high crop yields which in turn meant that you could support big cities filled with artisans, priests, warrior-nobles and bureaucrats. And being able to support so many specialized positions in turn means more material wealth, a stronger government, and more opportunities for innovation. But what happens when that irrigation system gets destroyed? Or simply, stops functioning as efficiently? Well, then you’ve got a whole mess of people in your society who don’t make food. And, even ignoring the potential problems that arise from the fact that some of these people are *very well-armed*, what happens when you can’t support the non-food producers, but *they’re* the planners who make this system run? The problem just compounds until you have a runaway collapse. And that’s not the only problem cause by using advanced irrigation to support an ever-growing population. First, there’s the obvious issue of overpopulation. Even if your food supply can support a large number of people, can the rest of your infrastructure? There are health and sewage concerns. There’s a question as to whether your economy can really employ all of these people. And of course, there’s the question of whether you can keep these people from revolting. But there’s also a less obvious problem with this type of intense agriculture. And that is soil degradation. Whenever you heavily farm an area, you leech out minerals. You create erosion, and you disturb the soil biology. Today, we do a great deal with modern farming techniques to avoid this, but the late Bronze Age was perhaps the first time that humans had farmed on this scale. And, as we mentioned last time, while the Nile did bring with it rich silt that helped to restore the soil whenever it flooded, This just wasn’t true of many of the other kingdoms. And so, silently, year after year, perhaps too slowly for anyone to really notice, crop yields decreased. And with them, the ability to support the ever-growing population of the late Bronze Age states. And lastly, we have to talk about writing. Because the Bronze Age world had come to rely on writing, for everything from highly advanced record-keeping, to international diplomacy. But a scribe is sort of like a knight of letters. They’re amazingly powerful but they’re also expensive, and they require training from a young age. And, though history shows that having the written word propels civilizations forward, and that every small increase in literacy ends up rippling out into large increases in the wellbeing of a society over time, even this idea that we usually think of as a purely positive, beneficial technology, creates a potential liability. After all, if your whole society depends on written records and on record-keeping, what do you do when there’s no one left to write the records? And so, piece by piece, the very complexity, the very advanced-ness (?) that made late Bronze Age society so impressive, so much better to live in than anything that followed for hundreds of years, also made them more fragile. As societies became complex, interweaving chains of trade, agriculture, education and bureaucracy, the potential damage that could be caused by removing any link from those chains grew and grew. So join us next time, as we look at what might have caused those chains to snap.

100 thoughts on “The Bronze Age Collapse – The Wheel and the Rod – Extra History – #2”

  1. Extra Credits says:

    After the Bronze Age collapse, we would not see societies so advanced for another half a millenium. What happened?

  2. ghosttimer says:

    So socialism is what cause the collapse.

  3. Morahman7vnNo2 says:

    What happens when our electronics fail after an EMP, and there's no way to retrieve the archives because they can only be accessed through electronic means?

    The solution then becomes the problem.

  4. P 1 says:

    Unprecedented of wealth and prosperity dependent on huge numbers of specializations and a stable environment with an unsustainably growing population supported by a small proportion of the population producing food from an increasingly poor soil… Why does that sound familiar?
    Not meaning to sound like the voice of doom but our collapse looks inevitable and when it comes it'll make the Bronze Age's look as insignificant as their societies do to ours.
    Time to dig a bunker in the woods and stock the fridge with your own world-repopulating semen.

  5. Princess Tabi says:

    "You're only as strong as your weakest link." This was very true for the Bronze Age.

  6. bryan rut says:

    Hum. Sounds like a filmiar story…

  7. einsamaberfrei says:

    1:35 I don't agree with this. China was in the bronze period during late Shang and Zhou dynasty, which is roughly the same period or just slightly later than the near east. They were reliant of bronze. There were bronze drinking vessels, masks, helmets, bells uncovered from archeology. The bronze age continued until the warring state period, and there had been stories of famous sword makers in the state of Wu and Yue, that the sword maker has to shred blood in order to produce the best sword. And these two states were fighting for precious metals. And when Qin became the first state that mastered the production of iron, Qin got the power to crush the other states and unified China into a huge empire.

  8. Carniez says:

    I think people are obsessed with the bronze part. Yes trade made it possible, but I think bronze was the by product of that trade and not the reason for it. It was never the common man's metal anyway. Only the wealthy even had it at all. Also the collapse of the societies was not because of the loss of bronze. bronze was lost when trade stopped. So you still get to the same questions without this magical bronze fueling everything…

  9. DarthSironos says:

    You should really write sources. Without listing sources, your videos have a lot less historical credibility than if you did.

  10. skillzuh ? says:

    This is why command economies suck

  11. Jim Jr44 says:

    Can someone tell me how to send this to the US government?

  12. Oslier says:

    Bronze Age was just spaghetti code… I mean infrastructure.

  13. Wanderer in the Dust says:

    1:34 "Except maybe for China." HAHAHA!

  14. Noah Zolinski says:

    I loved Egypt but that was before I found out that they had Hebrew slaves

  15. R R says:

    1:20 …"globalized"? were they even aware of the other continents (e.g. 'the future Americas?

  16. Setnakhte Ke Ra says:

    BronzeDollar! 😉
    Great video! Proud to be Middle Easterner.

  17. Lance Mclaughlin says:

    Till they met IROOOOON!!!! an a few deadly snakes on the way .

  18. søren Hulemose says:

    they should have made a series about the iron age

  19. William Wallace says:

    beer-ucrats. I know that's not what you said, but that's what the filter turned it into. That's the best thing ever. 100% approve. 😛 Also, history always makes me look around at the current state of the modern world in a state of horrified confusion and dawning understanding… ahahahahaha… oh this is gonna burn to the ground like dry hay in a volcano. o/ My single hope is I live long enough to just die before that happens (and have maybe left some small difference that puts the fire off a bit longer).

  20. Peter Peterson says:

    so maximized socialism along with compounding factors of population and government destabilization from within or outside caused the downfall of all bronze age nations at the same time…. very plausible in my opinion.

  21. Furry Dot says:

    the way you draw your pharoahs is goofy to me and makes me laugh, i like him, ill call him jimmy

  22. Jeremy Smith says:

    Sea Peoples

  23. The Q says:

    My dad being a christian like to think that the ten plagues from Moses is what caused everything.

  24. xXSk8nGokULeGolAs_4_LFE_69_YOLOSWAG420BLAZEITFAGGITXx says:

    Nice video! Your little jingle at the beginning reminds me of "Birth of the People" from the Actraiser soundtrack

  25. Cosmin-Radu Craciun says:

    All of that makes a society more evolved. It's either that or being in the dark ages all the time. You can do that comparision with all great societies that existed. You can argue that the romans had a complex society and the inner workings started to go wrong, so it failed.
    Those things didn't make the societies flawed. It's the thing that made them exist in the first place.
    I just feel that the video takes great thing that those societies had and says "oh, if that dissappeared, you have a problem". Well of course! You can say that to literaly anything.

  26. Rand Huso says:

    Egyptian slaves? 3:41 The hemu were only considered "slaves" at the end of the Old Kingdom.

  27. jay ch says:

    Bronze age is when ghandi starts to plan how to nuke everyone.

  28. Dylan Draper says:

    Top down economies and state run resource extraction? I CANT IMAGINE WHY IT FAILED

  29. Johnrich Talunay says:

    China is whole again then it broke again

  30. Chingers says:

    same thing for us if someone happens like internet or electricity goes away were dead.

  31. PewPewPlasmagun says:

    Modern farming techniques have depleted the soil of most of the elements of the periodic table. One major source of midern disease types.

  32. Llyd ApDicta says:

    I'd be very interested in a series about how this reflects in the modern world due to the obvious parralels. What is being done today to have redundancies ik case of our society cornerstones crumble?

  33. Robert Galletta says:


  34. Grant McDaniel says:

    Am I the only one that draws very strong correlations between the late bronze age and modern society

  35. TheBlackadder Edmund says:

    The long forgotten age of internet…

  36. Chris Jager says:

    And now we're more dependent on international trade than Bronze Age people ever were.

  37. umesh Sonune says:

    Our dependence on internet?

  38. Deninogaming MC says:

    "except for china" that's make me laugh out loud

  39. Zaia Sarkis says:

    Who here learnt from Runescape that tin and copper makes bronze?

  40. Greatsaiyakirby says:

    It's like Pharaoh Seti said in The Prince of Egypt "But ONE weak link can bring down a MIGHTY dynasty!"

  41. Mureithi Kivuti says:

    So humans just straight up created the bigger horse we have today??

  42. Guillermo Ramírez says:

    I am very interested in understanding why do you believe that central plannign of irrigation infrastructure works was more efficient than autonomous farmers organizations.

  43. E C says:

    I love your channel, but i noticed you have alot of what if's…….

  44. tanishq shukla says:

    If that society was based on complex chain of blocks, isn't our society just another advanced form of that-> a blockchain?

  45. Baron Bar says:

    It is not true that we do a great deal with modern technology to avoid soil degradation. We are degrading the soil faster than has ever been the case before. We are using technology to accelerate soil, forest, water and air degradation so that we now destroy in a decade what the bronze age took two millennia to destroy.

  46. Allison Tricity says:

    "BP's annual report on proved global oil reserves says that as of the end of 2013, Earth has nearly 1.688 trillion barrels of crude, which will last 53.3 years at current rates of extraction"

    Get ready y'all, next collapse is coming!

  47. TheMakeshiftHero says:

    Sounds like people will be watching videos of us soon about this type of shit

  48. noluckst2 says:

    1:10 "Smelting may be fine for the lads, but I'm no smelter. And while bronze may be terribly clever, stone was all my old dad ever needed to feed a family of as many hands as I have and then more. As a tribe, why don't we leave bronze to the smart-alecks and whiz kids, and we'll carry on using stone axes like we always do?"

  49. John Smith says:

    I noticed you didn't mention Israel in all of this. Was that before or after this point?

  50. YoshPrimePainting says:

    I'm not a hippie or a pacifist, but when you think of the rivers of blood made throughout history in those areas of the Mediterranean Sea. Humans sure enjoy killing each other. : /

  51. Bloodlyshiva says:

    So we have RTS economy, where the commander went missing.

  52. Zoomp says:

    Here we sit in the dawn of the information age

  53. Nickdee21 says:

    When I played the original Rome Total war, I noticed a correlation between adding irrigation systems leading to high squalor and eventually revolts. Love seeing that kind of stuff come full circle in history !

  54. Stewie Griffin says:

    Bronze Age collapse is no different from a modern SHTF scenario.

  55. ju2au says:

    Same Danger Signs for Modern Society. Military relying on advanced technologies such as the F-35 that requires a fortune to maintain. Climate Change, Soil Acidification, Loss of Natural Habitats and Human Overpopulation leading to shortages of food.

    Our very Complexity which is a Strength is also a Weakness as it is Fragile. For example, thanks to the Internet, our access to Knowledge and Information is unparalleled in History. However, if for some reason we lose Electricity or suffers a serious Solar Flare then all of that is gone in an instant. Whereas the old fashion books are much harder to lose or destroy. The even more primitive Stone Tablets have shown that they can pass knowledge through the Ages even after the repeated destruction of Civilizations.

    While watching this YouTube video, I can't help feel a sense of deja-vu, as if we are entering a dangerous period where the complex systems in which our high quality lifestyles depends on are much more fragile than we realised.

  56. Michael Weskamp says:

    REminds me of some today topdown organized countries like Syria, Libya etc. Some people seem to think, when i give weapons to all the people, they will sort out the right government for themselves. Sometimes it works like in tunesia but without weapons and too much disturbing of the social organization. On the other hand, keep a tyranny in place and its structures at any cost, cant be the answer either. Man, i am glad not to be a politician. Russia lost its system and its empire but kept important structures so as secret service, army, management and personnel in the heavy industry (still mainly state owned or controlled).

  57. Michael Weskamp says:

    By the way, our acres ARE degrading since we started using artificial fertilizers. Ask the farmers.

  58. Michael Weskamp says:

    I think there was a long draught in the eastern mediteranean before the collapse. Plus a seria of earthquakes, one under the capital of i think the hatti empire. Anatolia, anyway. After centuries of farming they pretty much knew how to keep the soil healthy.

  59. K Dog says:

    You made some historical errors such as the Hittites were still a major power but actually they were shrinking to its downfall in 1200bc and their empire lasted for 450 years and were once offered the kingdom of Egypt after the death of King tut

  60. Gopi Krishna says:

    Except for China… we’re gonna totally ignore India …….

  61. Gabriel Muñoz says:

    I love how you guys draw horses. Adorable.

  62. Jack Xiao says:

    Countries should have contingency plana

  63. Ilikepie Ilikepie 3 says:

    it was walpole

  64. Aditia Mokoginta says:

    All political leaders must know about this and learn to not repeat the mistakes

  65. ProRaptor7 says:

    Farming in minecraft

  66. Deeply Redstone says:

    So there economies were COMMUNISM working


  67. Raymond Law says:

    1:34 was China really that impressive? Just asking

  68. Dr.WhipperSnapper says:

    I was killed in the dark zone while claiming a supply drop(player). So I’m sad

  69. Drake Mcfee says:

    BWAHAHAHA!! now i know what the battlecry of my khorne barbarians following my Darkoath Warqueen will be!!! "BAR BAR BAR BAR…" oh god there gonna lynch me!😁

  70. Goggingolf says:

    U should do something about the Viking attack on Britain (:

  71. R Carter says:

    "There are some who call my order the knights of the mind" – Maester Luwin, AGOT.

  72. Yannic says:

    2:10 oof

  73. mrmeatymeatball says:

    So the period before of the darkest dark age that we know of was propped up by a heavily interwoven system of international trade. Instability in which may have been at least partially responsible for the collapse into said dark age.


  74. Lord Karasu says:

    Easy-time travelers went back and invented fidget spinners early, nearly killed culture…

  75. Ricky Hand says:

    1:34 yeah.. China was probably MORE advanced with bronze

  76. Reytian says:

    Whenever I hear about powerful and advanced civilizations I always wonder how long America or Russia or any modern day country will last. There have been empires that were once considered advanced just like technology is could have been the wheel, or fire, or maybe better armor. Honestly in the next five hundred years the iPhone will look like a rock compared to what they have now. I'm rambling a bit but long story short it's amazing to see that no matter how powerful something is, nothing lasts

  77. Satanic Coffee Shop says:

    The modern equalivant would be the EU…

  78. Macanada says:

    Our world is pretty similar to Bronze age one. Petroleum age collapse anyone? Just me? Okay

  79. Adrian Christian Yap says:

    6:50 The main problem is people themselves. Too much people is a disease.

  80. Dominic Crannis says:

    tfw most of this applies to us, but to an even greater extent

  81. Porfirio Villena says:

    am gradee 6 and i rlly like u doin this stuff more on mythology

  82. Porfirio Villena says:

    and history boii

  83. Kowboy USA says:

    What really happened: Bronze Age Brawndo

  84. Samuraisahsah says:

    How the hell have I never heard of or seen this channel???!
    This content is fucking fantastique, muy magnifique!!!

  85. Un-ironic Reference. says:

    People in the comment suspected the SEA PEOPLE to be Mongol, Philipino and the Fire Nation.


    NO one.
    Literary no ONE!

    Me: It the Viking… it those Raider from Bronze Age Scandinavian…Well, EIther that or it Sponge Bob

  86. Thor Skjelver says:

    I feel like there are some lessons to be learned from this.

  87. anna marie t Parreno says:

    0:23 Is us when we don’t have wifi.

  88. Bob The Builder says:

    I can see a Domino effect from one person ending a trade, causing a end to the economy. When each nation basically has half of bronze and a failing trade world could have made this collapse

  89. AustrianSchoolUbermensch says:

    Should be titled fall of ancient communism

  90. Adrian Cimpoi says:

    Damn! We are far more vulnerable than those Bronze Age guys! One brick and…

  91. Ryan Mugits says:

    So much of this reminds me of our current age and the reliance on digital information

  92. LightRunner says:

    5:20 just making a time stamp for myself don’t mind me >•>

  93. anna marie t Parreno says:

    0:26 us when we don’t have wifi

  94. andy Gian says:

    watching this make me wonder, what happens if internet suddenly gone? no computer or smartphone? no more google so everyone will not knowing what happens to them, are we in the brinks of collapse?.

  95. ewan hussami says:

    Usury collapses everything, all the time.
    Financial pyramid schemes anyone?

  96. Bob Jonson says:

    You keep saying classical era but the classical era is in the 1700s I think you mean the Roman era

  97. James Nguyen says:

    Hmm.. "Ass"yrians

  98. Ahmad Ali says:

    i get where you got that intro bro, it was from the wheel of time.

  99. Вячеслав Герасимов says:

    0:33 me before school end and after

  100. Sylvia Schultz says:


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