The Birth of Cities in Ancient West Asia

  • Jason Ur


In what amounts to the blink of an eye in the history of humanity, we have become city dwellers. At the start of human existence, everyone moved; all human groups were hunters and foragers who moved seasonally, following the annual cycles of plants and animals. This pattern prevailed for millions of years. In West Asia, groups began staying in one place for some or all of the year only about 15,000 years ago. By 5000 years ago, cities had appeared. Today, the majority of humans on earth live in urban settlements. It was the most dramatic and rapid transition in human history. Where did it start, and how did it happen?


Satellite Imagery Archaeological Survey Ancient City Aster Image Early City 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am indebted to the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Damascus for permission to carry out research and Brak and Khirbat al-Fakhar/Hamoukar. The Tell Brak Suburban Survey was co-directed by Philip Karsgaard, with survey assistants Fahid Juma’a and Shilan Ramadan, and benefited from the advice and support of Joan and David Oates, Geoff Emberling, Henry Wright, Eric Rupley and Carlo Colantoni. Funding for the Suburban Survey was provided by the British Academy, the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research (University of Cambridge), the University of Michigan and Harvard University. CORONA imagery is reproduced courtesy of the United States Geological Survey.

Further Reading

There are few works on urban origins intended for the general reader. Recent reviews of the transition to urbanism in ancient West Asia include Algaze (2008, 2013), Pollock (1999), and Ur (2012).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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