The alluvial lowlands of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in southern Mesopotamia are widely known as the “cradle of civilization,” owing to the scale of the processes of urbanization that took place in the area by the second half of the fourth millennium BCE.
In Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization, Guillermo Algaze draws on the work of modern economic geographers to explore how the unique river-based ecology and geography of the Tigris-Euphrates alluvium affected the development of urban civilization in southern Mesopotamia. He argues that these natural conditions granted southern polities significant competitive advantages over their landlocked rivals elsewhere in Southwest Asia, most importantly the ability to easily transport commodities. In due course, this resulted in increased trade and economic activity and higher population densities in the south than were possible elsewhere. As southern polities grew in scale and complexity throughout the fourth millennium, revolutionary new forms of labor organization and record keeping were created, and it is these socially created innovations, Algaze argues, that ultimately account for why fully developed city-states emerged earlier in southern Mesopotamia than elsewhere in Southwest Asia or the world.
In Roman times, the area between the Lower Rhine and the Meuse in the present day province of South Holland in the Netherlands, was known as the administrative district of the community of the Cananefates (the civitas Cananefatium). The formation of this community, as well as the changes that took place within this group, were researched by means of a systematic analysis of the archaeological remains. In order to understand the role of the Roman state in these processes, the urban and military communities were also studied. In this way an overview was created of an administrative region in which aspects such as the interaction between the different groups, the character of the rural community and the differences with other rural groups along the borders of the Roman Empire could be studied.
How did the classical Greek city come into being? What role did religion play in its formation? Athens, with its ancient citadel and central religious cult, has traditionally been the model for the emergence of the Greek city-state. But in this original and controversial investigation, Francois de Polignac suggests that the Athenian model was probably the exception, not the rule, in the development of the polis in ancient Greece.
Combining archaeological and textual evidence, de Polignac argues that the eighth-century settlements that would become the city-states of classical Greece were defined as much by the boundaries of "civilized" space as by its urban centers. The city took shape through what de Polignac calls a "religious bipolarity," the cults operating both to organize social space and to articulate social relationships being not only at the heart of the inhabited area, but on the edges of the territory. Together with the urban cults, these sanctuaries "in the wild" identified the polis and its sphere of influence, giving rise to the concept of the state as a territorial unit distinct from its neighbors. Frontier sanctuaries were therefore often the focus of disputes between emerging communities. But in other instances, in particular in Greece's colonizing expeditions, these outer sanctuaries may have facilitated the relations between the indigenous populations and the settlers of the newly founded cities.
Featuring extensive revisions from the original French publication and an updated bibliography, this book is essential for anyone interested in the history and culture of ancient Greece.
Political Landscapes of Capital Cities investigates the processes of transformation of the natural landscape into the culturally constructed and ideologically defined political environments of capital cities. In this spatially inclusive, socially dynamic interpretation, an interdisciplinary group of authors including archaeologists, anthropologists, and art historians uses the methodology put forth in Adam T. Smith’s The Political Landscape: Constellations of Authority in Early Complex Polities to expose the intimate associations between human-made environments and the natural landscape that accommodate the sociopolitical needs of governmental authority.
Political Landscapes of Capital Cities blends the historical, political, and cultural narratives of capital cities such as Bangkok, Cusco, Rome, and Tehran with a careful visual analysis, hinging on the methodological tools of not only architectural and urban design but also cultural, historiographical, and anthropological studies. The collection provides further ways to conceive of how processes of urbanization, monumentalization, ritualization, naturalization, and unification affected capitals differently without losing grasp of local distinctive architectural and spatial features. The essays also articulate the many complex political and ideological agendas of a diverse set of sovereign entities that planned, constructed, displayed, and performed their societal ideals in the spaces of their capitals, ultimately confirming that political authority is profoundly spatial.
Contributors: Jelena Bogdanović, Jessica Joyce Christie, Talinn Grigor, Eulogio Guzmán, Gregor Kalas, Stephanie Pilat, Melody Rod-ari, Anne Parmly Toxey, Alexei Vranich
This distinctive book is the first to address the topic of landscape archaeology in early states from a truly global perspective. It provides an excellent introduction to—and overview of—the discipline today. The volume grew out of the Fifth Biennial Meeting of the Complex Societies Group, whose theme, States and the Landscape, paid tribute to the work of Robert McC. Adams. When Adams began publishing in the 1960s, the interdependence of cities and their countrysides, and the information revealed through the spatial patterning of communities, went largely unrecognized. Today, as this useful collection makes clear, these interpretive insights are fundamental to all archaeologists who investigate the roles of complex polities in their landscapes.
Polities and Power features detailed studies from an intentionally disparate array of regions, including Mesoamerica, Andean South America, southwestern Asia, East Africa, and the Indian subcontinent. Each chapter or pair of chapters is followed by a critical commentary. In concert, these studies strive to infer social, political, and economic meaning from archaeologically discerned landscapes associated with societies that incorporate some expression of state authority. The contributions engage a variety of themes, including the significance of landscapes as they condition and reflect complex polities; the interplay of natural and cultural elements in defining landscapes of state; archaeological landscapes as ever-dynamic entities; and archaeological landscapes as recursive structures, reflected in palimpsests of human activity.
Individually, many of these contributions are provocative, even controversial. Taken together, they reveal the contours of landscape archaeology at this particular evolutionary moment.
In the second century A.D., Corinth was the largest city in Roman Greece. A center of learning, culture, and commerce, it served as the capital of the senatorial province of Achaea and was the focus of apostle Paul's missionary activity. Donald Engels's important revisionist study of this ancient urban area is at once a detailed history of the Roman colony and a provocative socioeconomic analysis. With Corinth as an exemplar, Engels challenges the widely held view that large classical cities were consumer cities, innocent of the market forces that shape modern economies. Instead, he presents an alternative model—the "service city."
Examining a wealth of archaelogical and literary evidence in light of central place theory, and using sound statistical techniques, Engels reconstructs the human geography of the Corinthia, including an estimate of the population. He shows that—given the amount of cultivatable land—rents and taxes levied onthe countryside could not have supported a highly populated city like Corinth. Neither could its inhabitants have supported themselves directly by farming.
Rather, the city constituted a thriving market for domestic, regional, and overseas raw materials, agricultural products, and manufactured goods, at the same time satisfying the needs of those who plied the various land and sea routes that converged there. Corinth provided key governmental and judicial services to the province of Achaea, and its religious festivals, temples, and monuments attracted numerous visitors from all corners of the Roman world. In accounting for the large portion of residents who participated in these various areas outside of the traditional consumer model, Engels reveals the depth and sophistication of the economics of ancient cities.
Roman Corinth is a much-needed critique of the currently dominant approach of ancient urbanism. It will be of crucial interest to scholars and students in classics, ancient history, and urban studies.
In the modern world, objects and buildings speak eloquently about their creators. Status, gender identity, and cultural affiliations are just a few characteristics we can often infer about such material culture. But can we make similar deductions about the inhabitants of the first millennium BCE Greek world? Theoretical Approaches to the Archaeology of Ancient Greece offers a series of case studies exploring how a theoretical approach to the archaeology of this area provides insight into aspects of ancient society.
An introductory section exploring the emergence and growth of theoretical approaches is followed by examinations of the potential insights these approaches provide. The authors probe some of the meanings attached to ancient objects, townscapes, and cemeteries, for those who created, and used, or inhabited them.
The range of contexts stretches from the early Greek communities during the eighth and seventh centuries BCE, through Athens between the eighth and fifth centuries BCE, and on into present day Turkey and the Levant during the third and second centuries BCE. The authors examine a range of practices, from the creation of individual items such as ceramic vessels and figurines, through to the construction of civic buildings, monuments, and cemeteries. At the same time they interrogate a range of spheres, from craft production, through civic and religious practices, to funerary ritual.
Recent publications on urbanism and the rural environment in Late Antiquity, most of which explore a single region or narrow chronological niche, have emphasized either textual or archeological evidence. None has attempted the more ambitious task of bringing together the full range of such evidence within a multiregional perspective and around common themes. Urban Centers and Rural Contexts seeks to redress this omission.
While ancient literature and the physical remains of cities attest to the power that urban values held over the lives of their inhabitants, the rural areas in which the majority of imperial citizens lived have not been well served by the historical record. Only recently have archeological excavations and integrated field surveys sufficiently enhanced our knowledge of the rural contexts to demonstrate the continuing interdependence of urban centers and rural communities in Late Antiquity. These new data call into question the conventional view that this interdependence progressively declined as a result of governmental crises, invasions, economic dislocation, and the success of Christianization.
The essays in this volume require us to abandon the search for a single model of urban and rural change; to reevaluate the cities and towns of the Empire as centers of habitation, rather than archeological museums; and to reconsider the evidence of continuous and pervasive cultural change across the countryside. Deploying a wide range of material as well as literary evidence, the authors provide access not only into the world of élites, but also to the scarcely known lives of those without a voice in the literature, those men and women who worked in the shops, labored in the fields, and humbled themselves before their gods. They bring us closer to the complexity of life in late ancient communities and, in consequence, closer to both urban and rural citizens.