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Cities and Civilization The Domestication of the Human Species.

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Presentation on theme: "Cities and Civilization The Domestication of the Human Species."— Presentation transcript:

1 Cities and Civilization The Domestication of the Human Species

2 Sources Lewis Mumford The City in History V. Gordon Childe, “The Urban Revolution” Lewis Mumford, “What is a City?”

3 Diffusion of urbanism By urbanism we mean a way of life, a set of institutions, a kind of social organization Invented various times and places Diffused from each of these places to other places



6 Earliest urban “hearths” Turkey Mesopotamia Egypt Indus Valley Yellow River valley, China Mesoamerica Andean America E. and S. Africa

7 What’s in a word? Civic, civilization, civilize, city, civility What’s the common thread? These English words reflect the long association between the idea of urban life and the idea of some kind of refinement of thought or behavior All of these words derive from Latin The association is as old as the Roman empire: the Romans saw city building as the way to spread civilization

8 Civil-izing viewed in retrospect Does urban life uplift the human spirit? Is the city a way to escape from the grim struggle of nature with predators & prey? As we adapt to “second nature” what happens to our relationship with “first nature”? Is urban culture a step above folk dances, folk songs, traditional handicrafts and the rest of rural culture? What is the point of overcoming the instincts bred in people over millions of years living in non-urban environments… is it worth the struggle?

9 Who invented the city? The city was invented not once but many times in different Neolithic cultures. Ingredients: Concentrated population Social hierarchy & formal institutions Defense against outsiders (wall) Monumental architecture (temples, palaces) Management of resources Creation of irrigation systems, granaries, etc. Collection of taxes/tribute Distribution to members of the court Distribution to subjects in times of famine

10 Characteristics of Early Cities “Early” cities emerge at different times in different places Populations ranging from a few thousand to more than 100,000 Often have city wall indicating need for defense Have a Citadel indicating an aristocratic/priestly ruling class and more generally a social hierarchy Most have record-keeping technologies (like counting devices or primitive forms of written notation) indicating that urban life requires record keeping

11 Why is the wall integral to the earliest cities? Earliest urban communities were surrounded by nomadic people coming and going Wild animals were common during early urbanization in most places Cities were known to have food and water, so in times of scarcity nomadic people often tried to raid cities As more cities developed, their kings began to lead raids on other cities for plunder, slaves, and territory Walls might have helped control slaves and other urban residents who were less than willing to cooperate with the king and his forces

12 Mesa Verde, Colorado Early city or fortified village? Largest cliff dwelling (Cliff Palace) had room for only 100-120 people Essentially a village

13 Urban Site Issues

14 “Pueblo Bonito” Chaco Canyon, NM, “Anasazi” people Large village or small city built in stages beginning around 919 AD 1000-2000 occupants, up to 600 rooms in use, 5 stories in height along back wall Access to rooms through central courtyard, which contained two great kivas and was lined by over 35 smaller kivas

15 “Teotihuacan” (near Mexico city) Emerged as urban center around 0 AD and lasted for more than 600 years 60-80,000 inhabitants! Boston didn’t reach this population until the 1830s Apartment buildings, wide avenues, huge pyramids, districts with specialized functions

16 “Avenue of the Dead,” Teotihuacan

17 Architectural Detail, Teotihuacan

18 What does this sculpture “tell” us? Found in excavation of Teotihuacan Says two things about the division of labor Says something about cultural development Social specialization Sculptor Acrobat Acrobat’s audience Sculptor’s “audience”/patrons

19 What does this sculpture tell us? Found in a Mayan archaeological site Demonstrates both the role of the artist in serving and glorifying power, and the supreme power of the king

20 What do these artifacts tell us? Found in a Mayan archaeological site Prisoner and sacrificial victim demonstrate the link between urban culture and organized violence/warfare Organized violence is not necessarily “uncivilized” (since it comes with civilization) although it is horrific

21 Çatal Hüyük In what is today Turkey Population of between 5,000 and 6,000 people Inhabited around 6800-5400 B.C. Houses packed together Each house was entered through a hole in the roof (defense?)

22 Urbillum, Irbil, Erbil, Arbela, Arabilu Oldest city that is presently occupied Has been a city for 4,300 years, creating an enormous “tell” that has not yet been excavated Walled city on hill created classic urban form Under control of Sumerians, Persians, Macedonians, Ottoman Empire, Kurds & Iraq

23 “Mohenjo-Daro” (mound of the dead) Harappan culture (Indus valley, in what is now Pakistan) Peak around 2000 BC About 35,000 residents Assembly halls, giant granary, towers, and cistern (bath?) in the citadel Axial layout Centrally planned (similar to other Harappan cities) Covered sewers!

24 Harappan cities (artist’s conception) Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, University of Wisconsin - Madison

25 Ziggurats Ziggurats (Mesopotamian temples)

26 Assyrian conquest, 9 th c. BC Women and children celebrate outside their walled-city as the dead float by City has always required defending Mumford suggests that people were not psychologically and culturally prepared for the regimentation and social stress of urban life so they took out their tension and aggression on other groups

27 Assyrians taking captives from a 9 th c. BC engraving (source: Society of Ancients:

28 The “Citadel” Found in many early cities Takes various forms A compound of grandiose structures, often walled off from rest of city Functioned as: place of ceremony home for semi-divine leaders and their “court” place to store (and guard) the food reserves

29 “Mohenjo-Daro” (mound of the dead)

30 Social Hierarchy Large population concentrations both facilitated and necessitated specialization of social roles Ruler (usually thought to have god-like powers) Priests (doubled as administrators) Technicians (e.g. surveyors, engineers) Artisans & performers Merchants Subjects (mostly farmers) Conquered peoples Slaves

31 Cosmo-Magical Order Regular “grid-iron” layout was not originally designed for practical purposes Cities like Teotihuacan, Roman colonies, and China’s Forbidden City were aligned with the cardinal directions (axially) in an attempt to make them eternal and powerful The city, especially the citadel, was believed to be the center of the universe; its axiality demonstrated that idea visually Early cities show extensive evidence of sacred places in the form of shrines, temples, etc.


33 Tokens Used from 8,000 BC throughout the Middle East into Indus Valley Represented goods that were traded or collected as tithes (taxes of produce) Grain Oil container Wool fleece Garment Etc.

34 Early writing systems Mayan hieroglyphs Egyptian hieroglyphs Cuneiform (Sumerian)

35 Role of Record Keeping Early urbanism is associated with record keeping of various kinds This permitted the extension of control through space and time Conquest & empire Long-distance administration and military coordination Dynasties & legal codes Solidification of trade agreements

36 Urban Cultural Achievements Primitive forms of notation Nutritional security Refinement of handicrafts Art Astronomy Mathematics Warfare (achievement?) Religious elaboration and regimentation (achievement?)

37 Websites that were helpful Catal Huyuk: Huyuk.html Teotihuacan: Cahokia: Tikal: Mohenjo-Daro: ohenjo_daro.html

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