Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Urbanism in the Ancient Near East

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_2300


The Near East witnessed the earliest urbanization process on the globe as part of a broader cultural transformation that led to the emergence of large and complex societies. The historical significance of these developments is enormous and included elements such as the appearance of class societies and the advent of writing. Despite their historical importance, cities in Mesopotamia and the wider Near East remain relatively poorly understood, for reasons that are first, conceptual; second, methodological; and third, political. This entry will summarize the current situation in the archaeology of urbanism in the Near East and will discuss possible ways forward.


Defining urbanism is a complex issue. To the simple question: what is a city? diverse answers are possible (Smith 2003). First, in some cases “city” is a legal status defining a particular form of administration within a state. Second, cities can be political institutions, as, for example, in the Greek polis...

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Further Reading

  1. Mieroop, M. V. D. 1999. The ancient Mesopotamian city. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ArchaeologyLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands