Core-periphery relations in the classic world systems construct, as conceived by Emmanuel Wallerstein in his study of the rise of modern (17-18th century) imperial and mercantile capitalism, comprise an asymmetrical set of economic linkages. Core regions import raw materials from the periphery, convert them to specialized manufactured goods, and export them back to the periphery, usually in a fixed manner deliberately advantageous to the core. Key points in the formation of such systems are the relatively higher levels of political integration and technology in the core region, essentially providing both the pre-conditions for the development of the system, and the means for usually forcible maintenance. In the Near East, the general model has been applied, with varying degrees of success, to a range of cultures and periods, from the Uruk and early Egyptian expansions, through the Neo-Assyrian Empire, etc, and up to and including the Ottoman empire.
Given the above, the relations between desert and sown are NOT typical core-periphery relations, due to both the absence of significant markets in the periphery for the absorption of core-manufactured goods, and the difficulties of establishing control over desert nomadic populations. Nevertheless, the development of economic asymmetries and consequent dependence relationships play a major role in the evolution of desert societies.
Three general developmental phases can be outlined:
1. The Hunter Gatherer Baseline: In the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, nomadic hunter-gatherers in the southern Levantine deserts constitute a periphery in contrast with their Mediterranean cousins, established village farmers. However, although generally perceived as part of the PPNB Levantine Interaction Sphere, the hunter-gatherers of the Negev and Sinai were essentially autonomous and economic relations cannot be defined as either asymmetrical or dependent.
2. The Herder-Gatherer Phase: The earliest direct evidence for the penetration of domestic herd animals, sheep and goat, into the Negev and Sinai, dates to the Early Pottery Neolithic period, in the late 7th millennium BC. In the gradual development of desert pastoral societies over the next three millennia, attributable primarily to the ramifications of owning herds, there is little evidence of intensive economic relations between the desert pastoralists and their fully agricultural Neolithic and Chalcolithic brethren in the north. Although on one level the desert can be viewed as peripheral, the basic autonomy of desert societies in this long phase precludes the asymmetries and dependence of classic core-periphery relations.
3. The Early Pastoral Nomadic Phase: The rise of complex urban societies and economies in the Early Bronze Age impacted desert pastoral societies on several levels. We can trace a major increase in contacts and trade between the desert and the edge of the urban zone in a range of goods, including metals, milling stones, other stone tools, beads, and other trinkets and semi-precious items in this period.
Concomitantly, a major increase in number of sites, at least 10-fold over previous periods, and site size, is evident. Furthermore, this increase is comprised of both local desert culture sites, and in Aradian variant sites, both reflecting increased populations and intensity of contact. These phenomena are undoubtedly causally connected; the (relatively) large populations levels in the desert imply that some basic threshold of herding-gathering carrying capacity was surpassed, rendering the trade connection now a necessity for basic subsistence. The collapse of this system with the abandonment of Arad supports the model. Thus, this intensification of desert-sown relations in the Early Bronze Age, an early form of what Khazanov would call pastoral nomadism, constitute the rise of desert core-periphery relations.