From Prehistoric Villages to Cities

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From Prehistoric Villages to Cities

Routledge Studies in Archaeology

Settlement Aggregation and Community Transformation 1 An Archaeology of Materials Substantial Transformations in Early Prehistoric Europe Chantal Conneller

2 Roman Urban Street Networks Streets and the Organization of Space in Four Cities Alan Kaiser

3 Tracing Prehistoric Social Networks through Technology A Diachronic Perspective on the Aegean Edited by Ann Brysbaert

4 Hadrian's Wall and the End of Empire The Roman Frontier in the 4th and 5th Centuries Rob Collins

5 U.S. Cultural Diplomacy and Archaeology Soft Power, Hard Heritage Christina Luke and Morag M. Kersel

6 The Prehistory of Iberia Debating Early Social Stratification and the State Edited by Maria Cruz Berrocal, Leonardo Garcia Sanjuim, and Antonio Gilman

Edited by Jennifer Birch

7 Materiality and Consumption in the Bronze Age Mediterranean Louise Steel 8 Archaeology in Environment and Technology Intersections and Transformations Edited by David Frankel, Jennifer M Webb and Susan Lawrence

9 An Archaeology of Land Ownership Edited by Maria Relaki and Despina Catapoti 10 From Prehistoric Villages to Cities Settlement Aggregation and Community Transformation Edited by Jennifer Birch

~~ ~~o~~~~n~~~up NEW YORK AND LONDON



The chapters are presented in chronological order. This arrangement resulted in a geographic flow that begins in Asia Minor and then moves to Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. We then head across the Atlantic to Bolivia, in South America, before sweeping north to two locations in the American Southwest and on to eastern North America, with examples from the Southern Appalachians and the Lower Great Lakes. In the final chapter, Stephen Kowalewski provides a thoughtful conclusion, drawing from cross-cultural examples that reflect the social and physical work involved in making community. In every case examined, aggregation, whether physical or symbolic, led to a new kind (and scale) of human social community. Issues of social ordering and integration were met with new institutions, rituals, political systems, and cultural practices. Public buildings and communal spaces were constructed, facilitating and manifesting the new social relations that went on in and around them. My part in bringing this volume together was facilitated by a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Georgia, supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Thanks to Stephen Kowalewski for his advisement during that time. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to each of the contributors for their thoughtful exploration of what transpires when we come together and endeavor to create something new.


Between Villages and Cities Settlement Aggregation in Cross-Cultural Perspective Jennifer Birch

Archaeologists have focused a great deal of attention on explaining the origins of village societies and the transition to a Neolithic way of life. Considerable interest has also concentrated on urba nism and tbe rise of the earliest cities and states. Between these two revolutions in human cultural development lie a number of orga ni zational forms that represent less well-known phases in human social evolution. In this volume we attempt to arrive at a more thoro ugh understanding of one such intermediate social formation: aggregated settlements. Throughout the world, at various points in time, people living in small, dispersed village communities came together into larger and more complex social forma tions. Some o.f the better-known cases of settlement aggregation come from prehist{)ric southwestern North America . In the Mogollon, Hohokam and Anasazi areas after AD 1000 there was a shift in settlement whereby p opulations nucleated, resulting in the abandonment of large tracts of land. People who had been living in small villages wi-th a ~undred or so inhabitants came together into large, aggregated pueblos With populations of up to 1,000 or more (cf. Adler 1996ยท Cordell 1994; Heg:non eta_!. 1998; Hill et al. 2004; Rauonan 2000, this vo lume) . In Neohthtc Eurasia the best known example of serrlemem aggregation may be t he site of (:atalhoyii k. Inhabited 9,000 years ago by as many as 8,000 people (:ara lhoyiik is famous for i.ts huge size dense occupation , and art rife with religious symbolism (D ur ing, this volwne; Hodder 2010a, 2010b) . Many ocher examples of aggregation that resulted in the formation of larg~, dens~ly p_op ul~ted settlements have also been identified archaeologically m prehistonc Afr1ca, Europe, Mesoamerica, the Near East, and North America (e.g., Erhrid_ge and Hudson 2002; Gerritsen 2004; Kowalewski 2006; Kui.jt 2000; Parkmson 2002) and ethnographically documented in Amazonia and New Guinea (e.g., Gross 1979; Tuzin 2001), to name but a selection. Wh ile these communities differ in size and historical context, what they have in common is chat rhey are all essentially middle range-siruared between prehistoric villages and emergent chiefdoms and s:ates. The ~ im of this vo lume is co explore the socia l processes in volved m the creatiOn a nd maintenance of aggregated settlements and how they breught about

2 Jennifer Birch transformations that affected virtually every aspect of a society and its culture. Our goal here is to draw out some of the similarities and differences in the cultural mechanisms people developed to deal with the challenges of living in larger, more complex social formations. A number of common themes emerge in the chapters contained herein, including the role of the built environment in mediating social relations, the construction of public spaces and structures, the importance and integrative potential of religion, ritual and mortuary behavior, changes in the social means of production and consumption, and oscillations in interregional interaction that accompanied the reconfiguration of geopolitical landscapes. Because many studies of aggregation have focused on settlement patterns at the regional scale, one of our aims is to explore how processes of coalescence played out at the community level, in the diverse and historically contingent settings of everyday life.

THE PROBLEM WITH TYPES Aggregated settlements do not fit neatly into commonly utilized taxonomies for describing societal or settlement types. The most common sociocultural typologies identify and differentiate between mobile hunting and gathering bands, farmers living in tribal or segmentary societies, chiefdoms, and states with urban centers and complex political and economic systems (e.g., Morgan 1877; Service 1962, 1975). Common classification schemes for types of settlements follow a similarly evolutionary structure, progressing from isolated hamlets or farmsteads to villages and towns, the latter two sometimes belonging to a settlement hierarchy that included regional centers or cities. On the one hand, these typologies are useful because they provide conceptual frameworks for cross-cultural comparison that help us organize our thoughts about different kinds of human societies (Renfrew and Bahn 2004: 181) and settlements (Flannery 1976). However, they also have the potential to mask diversity in the archaeological and ethnographic records and can lead to a disproportionate concern with issues of classification. Take, for example, arguments about whether Cahokia was a large chiefdom or an inchoate state (Anderson 1997: 260; O'Brien 1992; Peregrine 1992, 1996). In many ways, the societies discussed in this volume fall outside these typological schemes and can only be placed in them with a degree of awkwardness. Some give the impression of being too large to be classified as villages but retain many aspects of social organization associated with segmentary village societies. Others developed a degree of social and economic complexity that implies a protourban classification, but lack evidence for hierarchical leadership and social stratification associated with early cities and states. In regions where large-scale processes of aggregation resulted in the concentration of population into fewer large sites, they may also have functioned as regional centers. Given this range of variability, it would seem

Between Villages and Cities


that aggregated settlements represent processes of social evolution that demonstrate precisely why anthropologists should abandon sociocultural types or at least be critical of their explanatory utility (cf. Feinman and Neitzel 1984; Pauketat 2007; Yoffee 1993). Typologies work as tools for describing and classifying diverse phenomena, but they are far less successful in explaining how sociocultural and sociopolitical forms changed over time. To understand the significant degrees of similarity and variation in aggregated settlements we need to identify common patterns in how processes of aggregation were accomplished. Thus, to explain cultural change we need to identify the mechanisms through which cultural modification occurred and the conditions under which those processes developed. However, before we can identify these mechanisms, we need to more carefully consider exactly what we mean by aggregated settlement.

WHAT KINDS OF SITES ARE WE TALKING ABOUT? The societies and communities discussed here were not a product of internal population growth. Rather, most formed through processes of aggregation that, by and large, involved people abandoning a regional pattern of small, dispersed settlements in favor of aggregation into larger, more nucleated settlements. These communities were permanent and occupied year-round, which differentiates them from seasonal aggregations of mobile bands. While not a universal feature of hunter-gatherer societies, patterns of seasonal nucleation and dispersal served both economic and social needs, bringing people together to find mates, share information, and renew social ties. The importance of aggregations of macrobands extended beyond subsistence needs and included important social and ritual practices. The cave paintings of Altamira (Conkey 1980) and the monumental megalithic enclosures at Gobekli Tepe (Schmidt 2011), both sites of hunter-gatherer aggregations, attest to the cultural importance of and investment into such places. The fact that sites of seasonal nucleation have been identified around the world throughout human history speaks to the antiquity of aggregation as a mechanism for the transmission and reproduction of social practices and the creation and affirmation of cultural identities. More permanent forms of large, coresidential settlements appear in the archaeological record relatively soon after the shift to sedentism, suggesting that aggregation remained a deeply rooted adaptive mechanism in human societies. This pattern has been referred to by different terms in the archaeological literature, including agglomeration (Hodder and Cessford 2004), aggregation (Kuijt 2000; Rautman 2000), convergence (Tuck 1971), fusion (Bandy 2004), nucleation (Gerritsen 2004), or coalescence (Ethridge and Hudson 2002; Kowalewski 2006). In each case, these changes in settlement brought about the reconfiguration of existing social relations to accommodate larger groups and manage tensions that might arise in the resulting societal

4 Jennifer Birch formations, resulting in dramatic, and sometimes rapid, transformations in social organization and culture; changes that were every bit as profound as those that accompanied the transition to village life or the rise of cities and civilizations. By and large, rapid settlement aggregation did not favor the emergence of centralized, hierarchical political organization. Instead,. corporate or collective decision-making structures developed (Kowalewski 2006: 117). As such, these social formations do not fit traditional understandings of complex societies. However, there is no doubt that the processes and relationships that they encompassed were complicated. In this way this volume represents part of the ongoing effort to broaden archaeology's focus beyond preoccupation with the development of vertically controlled and integrated societies to include more horizontal structures of organizational complexity (cf. Blanton et al. 1996; Crumley 1995;Johnson 1978; Mcintosh 1999; Spielmann 1994) and how these sociopolitical configurations come into being. The sites discussed in this volume span more than 10,000 years of human history and are spread across four continents (Figure 1.1 ). I believe it would be counterproductive to attempt to find a common settlement type that defines them. It is, however, useful to review the terms that the authors use. Diiring discusses "community organization" at