Biweekly Colloquium: “Persistence, Land Use and Sustainability: Exploring Long-term Trends in Urban Duration in the Fertile Crescent”

Nov 22, 2021 from 04:15 PM to 05:45 PM

Virtual Meeting

Prof. Dr. Dan Lawrence  •  Department of Archaeology, Durham University

Persistence, Land Use and Sustainability: Exploring Long-term Trends in Urban Duration in the Fertile Crescent

The Fertile Crescent, encompassing present-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and southeast Turkey, saw the emergence of the world’s first indigenous urban communities ca. 6,000 years ago, with cities a feature of the region ever since. These developed in diverse environmental settings, including the dry-farming plains of Northern Mesopotamia, the irrigated alluvium of Southern Mesopotamia and the more variegated landscapes of the Levant. The emergence of cities also coincides with a decoupling of settlement and climate trends, suggesting urbanism may have enhanced the adaptive capacity of societies to withstand changing climatic conditions. Urban forms followed a variety of different trajectories, with a much more sporadic and episodic history in the dry farming plains of the North and West of the study region compared to the stable build up in the irrigated South. In this paper we use a dataset of several thousand urban sites spanning the entire region and dating from the earliest urban forms to later territorial empires, to examine trends in urban sustainability through time. We use duration of occupation as a proxy for sustainability and compare urban trajectories at a variety of scales. Such an approach allows us to examine the relationships between city size, environmental conditions, infrastructural investment and urban sustainability. Our results show that the millennial timescales available through archaeology can allow us to identify the sorts of political, social, and ecological conditions required for urban sites to persist through time.

Add to your iCal calendar



Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions