Seasonal, Dispersed and Ephemeral

Author(s): Roland Fletcher

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.

By convention urban settlements have been described as densely inhabited, permanently sedentary, and usually protected by barriers. While the latter might be conceded the other two were, until early in the 21st century, assumed to be definitive and fundamental to the functions of urbanism. The definition was a pillar of stage theory. In reality, none of these categories is either necessary or sufficient and indeed a settlement can wholly lack these features and still unambiguously possess the operational functions associated with other conventionally recognised cities. Places like the moving capitals of the Ethiopian Empire in the 16th and the 19th century and the great imperial Mongol ordu of the 12th century operated seasonally on an unambiguous urban scale as imperial capitals with substantial military and merchantile associations. Recognition of these settlements further dissipates the urban category and removes the conventional material, urban classificatory pillar from Stage Theory – which as yet has not been replaced by a viable theoretical alternative. Without a new frame of reference the meaning of urbanism has diffused so far that its ephemeral shadow engulfs the fundamental topic which we urgently need to understand.

Cite this Record

Seasonal, Dispersed and Ephemeral. Roland Fletcher. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450703)


Mobile Other Urbanism

Geographic Keywords

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22946