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Here there be Dragons: Trajectories and the Classification of Settlements

Author(s): Roland Fletcher

Year: 2017

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Urban as a label is a problem. This was recognised by Childe and Adams and is re-iterated in the 21st century. Varied definitions apply in different regions, some huge settlements are excluded - apparently arbitrarily, others go in and out of "urban" fashion. Concurrently, the term "urban" has huge cachet, providing social dignity, national respect and access to research funds. The news media rarely refer to "The Lost Village" with awe. The conundrum is that while western European languages generally use a tripartite size and status classification such as camp, village and town/city to organise all settlements, other languages use many other terms with different meanings and associations. Plainly the term - urban - is not inherently a true or natural classification. The persistent default on to "urban" would not matter if the phenomena being referred to did not matter – but they do. And if the term is inconsistently spread across divergent trajectories of settlement growth with different magnitudes, rates of growth and outcomes then while local analytic inquiry might be unaffected, the capacity to ask and answer the globally consistent questions which are implied by the label will require either new terms or careful differentiation of terms.

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Here there be Dragons: Trajectories and the Classification of Settlements. Roland Fletcher. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430832)


Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15619

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