Lecture 4. Early Urban Settlements and City Building

While small villages comprised the earliest settlements, we can also identify the beginnings of early urban settlements if we define urban as a center of population, commerce, and culture - a town of significant size and importance. We can recognize these settlements as constituting a series of networks, from social networks and governmental systems to modes or systems of commerce, trade, and production. A city is the result of urbanization, which can be thought of as a process of making a permanent settlement. An aspect of the city that is important to us in this course is the system of infrastructure- the roads, the places for markets, the trade networks, and the control of water. This lecture will introduce vocabulary of settlements and urbanization as a part of the history of built environments. It will also explore selected comparisons of places and cities as a means to develop our ability to read the urban landscape, for its differences and for its similarities. If we begin to compare such patterns and infrastructures we can identify five primary morphological components common to emerging cities, both in Mesopotamia and in the Indus Valley: wall, citadel, temple(s), granary/food storage, and residential structures. We will briefly apply these same ideas to a city in China, as a means to understand how cities are shaped by place and by culture. By focusing on these built structures we can then understand more fully the relationship between the built, the environment, and the culture, the essence of the city. This is the first of a series of lectures that introduce sites of the world's earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, the Aegean, and China. The Sumerians (ca.4000-2300 BCE) and Assyrians (ca.2500-650 BCE) of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) developed the first cities but were also highly warring cultures, resulting in a series of successive rulers within the region. To the west in the Aegean (modern Greece), the two interrelated civilizations of the Minoans (ca.1600-1400 BCE) and Myceneans (ca.1600-1200 BCE, developed at a later period and established architectural forms important for subsequent developments in ancient Greece.

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