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Karanis and Qara el-Hamra: spatial organization of settlements in the ancient Fayum, Egypt

Author(s): Bethany Simpson ; Emily Cole

Year: 2016

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Summary

The Fayum region of Egypt was transformed by extensive agricultural development in the second century BCE; irrigation projects increased arable land, and many new towns and villages were founded in order to accommodate a growing population. These settlements were originally designed according to the Greek tradition of orthogonal grid planning, creating orderly "blocks" of buildings between intersecting streets. However, over time, layers of both civic and private domestic construction began to obscure the original town layout, and large public streets gave way to more circuitous alleyways between buildings. Many adaptations, both civic and social, became necessary to negotiate problems of physical access within these settlements.

This presentation utilizes settlement archaeology, space syntax, and modern urban planning theory in order to explore two such Fayum settlements. The first, Karanis, was a large regional center, while the second site, Qara el-Hamra, was a much smaller village a few kilometers away. The comparison of the two sites reveals differing strategies in spatial organization, and considers variables including settlement and population size, demography, and length of habitation. The results show that instead of being reliant on official civic solutions, spatial organization often involved small-scale interactions and simple social agreements between neighbors.


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Karanis and Qara el-Hamra: spatial organization of settlements in the ancient Fayum, Egypt. Bethany Simpson, Emily Cole. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 405368)


Keywords


Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America