Ephemeral Aggregated Settlements: Fluidity, Failure or Resilience?

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 84th Annual Meeting, Albuquerque, NM (2019)

This collection contains the abstracts of the papers presented in the session entitled "Ephemeral Aggregated Settlements: Fluidity, Failure or Resilience?," at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

In many parts of the world, the earliest large aggregated settlements existed for only a short time. Large temporary aggregations are found among some hunter-gatherer societies, lasting from days to weeks to months. When large settlements acquired a more permanent character, some retained a rather ephemeral character and only existed for a few generations or less. This symposium explores two aspects of the social dynamics of such settlements: the forces and processes that led people to aggregate; and the forces and processes that led to the break-up of such settlements. We include both case studies of ancient settlements, and theoretical/comparative papers. The session invites contributions to these debates, focusing particularly on the following: (1) What was the relative role of ritual, economic, political forces, or defense, in creating and dissolving short-lived aggregations? (2) Were they a regular part of the rhythms of certain ancient settlement systems, as suggested by Graeber and Wengrow, or were they a rarer or more sporadic phenomenon? (3) Should ephemeral urban settlements be considered as evidence of failure and collapse, or rather of flexibility and adaptation? (4) What can such episodes of short-lived aggregation teach us about processes of urbanization in the past and present?