Temporary Aggregation Sites in the Past: Are They Really So Strange and Anomalous?

Author(s): Michael Smith

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Ephemeral Aggregated Settlements: Fluidity, Failure or Resilience?" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Recent research suggests that temporary aggregation sites were more common in the past than many traditional models would predict. Why have scholars failed to recognize these sites? Why do they seem so strange? Beyond the development of more refined methods of settlement analysis, a major reason is a pervasive conflation of urbanism and social complexity. While these two processes more often than not co-occurred in the deep past, each may exist without the other. A growing number of archaeologists (including Justin Jennings and David Wengrow) are now suggesting that urban settlements preceded states in the past. I present a sketch of a simple model that explores the drivers of aggregation and dispersion, for hunter-gatherers, village farmers, and complex polities. There are strong economic and social reasons to resist aggregation, and it may take serious threats of violence or conquest to overcome these forces. But, social complexity can thrive in the absence of permanent urban centers, as we know from Anglo-Saxon England and some of the case studies in this session. An appreciation of the nature and diversity of temporary aggregation sites can help us develop better explanations of settlements and urban dynamics in the past.

Cite this Record

Temporary Aggregation Sites in the Past: Are They Really So Strange and Anomalous?. Michael Smith. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450700)


Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22907