From sciencemag.org: Did Rumbling Give Rise to Rome?
Looking for a recipe for a great civilization? How about: Take people, add water, and shake very, very vigorously. Earthquake-prone areas along the edges of tectonic plates were far more likely to give birth to great ancient civilizations than less dynamic landscapes, according to a new study. Researchers say the relationship suggests that forces typically viewed as destructive — such as earthquakes — might have also played a constructive role in human history.
"It’s not a connection that seems to make much sense at first glance," says geologist Eric Force, the study’s author. "But you can’t ignore the pattern — look at a map, and it just jumps out at you."
Force first recognized the relationship while he was on a camping trip, trying to get to sleep. The geologist had recently retired after a long career with the U.S. Geological Survey and had been taking some university classes on ancient history. “I realized that a lot of the civilizations we were talking about sat right along major tectonic plate boundaries,” says Force, who is now affiliated with the University of Arizona, Tucson. It wasn’t long before he pulled out his geological maps and began trying to quantify the relationship, to see if the link was just a fluke. [continue]