The origins of the city. From social theory to archaeological description

Barceló, J.A. and Pelfer, G. and Mandolesi, A. (2002) The origins of the city. From social theory to archaeological description. Archeologia e Calcolatori, 13. pp. 41-63. ISSN 1120-6861


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This paper will focus on the origins of the city. This subject has been studied in sociology, anthropology, history and geography, but there is not a unified approach. Our paper deals with the specific way social theory can be used in archaeology. We consider that a “city” is a specific form of social space “produced” by a series of social actions. However, this “production process” cannot be described easily in archaeological terms. As a result, there is a deep gap between social theory concepts and archaeologically observable evidence. Today it is fashionable to speak about the unscientific nature of Archaeology and Social Science. This paper deals with this discussion, trying to create an observational theory to understand the process of city formation. We reject traditional positivist approaches of concept and reference, because of its simplicity. However, this fact does not mean that the analysis is impossible in scientific terms. We show how to use spatial statistics, probabilistic modelling and visualization technology in order to obtain a simulation of the spatial process, and then use the resulting model to build a representation of social theory in archaeological terms. In the paper we use the Italian city of Tarquinia as a case study. It is suggested that the origin of the city can be represented as a spatial process beginning with preliminary scattered villages, which join together forming bigger spatial units, which become attractive for the better geographical and geomorphologic conditions. The gradual consolidation of the main settlement in the best location is determined by the population growth, and the development of a new productive system and new social relationships.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Djindjian F., Moscati P. (eds.), XIV UISPP Congress (Liège - Belgium 2001). Proceedings of Commission IV Symposia. Data Management and Mathematical Methods in Archaeology
Uncontrolled Keywords: History of applications and research projects; theoretical and methodological problems
Subjects: 900 Storia, Geografia e discipline ausiliarie > 930 Storia dei mondo antico fino al 499 ca. > 930.1 Archeologia (Classificare qui la Storia fino al 4000 a.C., l'Archeologia preistorica, le opere interdisciplinari sull'Archeologia) > 930.102 Archeologia - Opere miscellanee > 930.1028 Archeologia – Tecniche, metodologie, apparecchi e strumenti (comprende: Archeometria) > 930.10285 Archeologia – Applicazioni informatiche (comprende: tecniche di datazione)
Depositing User: Dott.ssa Paola Moscati
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2009
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2017 10:02

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