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Early Mesopotamian urbanism: a new view from the north

  • Joan Oates (a1), Augusta McMahon (a2), Philip Karsgaard (a3), Salam Al Quntar (a4) and Jason Ur (a5)...
Extract

For many years, the southern Mesopotamia of Ur and Uruk, ancient Sumer, has been seen as the origin centre of civilisation and cities: ‘The urban implosion of late-fourth- and early-third-millennium Mesopotamia resulted in a massive population shift into large sites’ said Nissen in 1988. ‘These new city-states set the pattern for Mesopotamia as the heartland of cities’ (Adams 1981; Yoffee 1998). And for Stone & Zimansky (2005) ‘Remains of the world's first cities are the most noteworthy feature of the landscape in southern Iraq’. But at Tell Brak Joan Oates and her team are turning this model upside down. A long campaign of study, culminating in the new discoveries from 2006 reported here, show that northern Mesopotamia was far along the road to urbanism, as seen in monumentality, industrialisation and prestige goods, by the late fifth millennium BC. The ‘world's earliest cities’ are as likely to have been in north-eastern Syria as southern Iraq, and the model of a core from the south developing a periphery in the north is now ripe for revision.

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Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
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