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Cities and the states and empires they are part of have been important components of human society for millennia. Archaeologists hold the keys to many exciting questions of the urban past, starting with the rise of the earliest cities and continuing through long trajectories of urban change in various parts of the world. The institutions of kingship, empires and political domination went along with the rise of urbanism, and archaeologists are making major contributions to understanding the origins of such patterns in the deep human past.
After a long history of excavating temples, tombs and pyramids, archaeologists have now turned their attention to the people who built and lived in ancient cities. This new approach focuses on residential zones, workshops, the actions and lives of individuals, households and neighborhoods. Innovative methods – from radar to GIS to the latest dating techniques – address these issues. Archaeologists document significant variation in the forms and organization of ancient cities and state societies; there was no single original form of these institutions. Cities ranged from dense highly planned imperial capitals to sprawling jungle towns; polities ranged from chiefdoms to city-states and empires; and ancient governments included both despotic kingdoms and more participatory societies.
ASU archaeologists are at the forefront of fieldwork on this topic, with excavations, mapping and innovative surface fieldwork at large and small sites. ASU has numerous strengths:
Key ASU Fieldwork Regions: Mesoamerica; Near East/Mediterranean; Andes; Europe
Archaeological research on ancient urbanism and its political context has direct ties to work in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, the School of Sustainability and the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. The transdisciplinary research project “Urban Organization through the Ages,” part of the Late Lessons from Early History program, is linked to these and other academic units on campus, and the Center for Bioarchaeological Research in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change promotes research on these topics.
Key school archaeology faculty:
Brenda Baker | Jane Buikstra| George Cowgill (emeritus) | Kelly Knudson | Ben A. Nelson | Charles Redman | Michael E. Smith | Barbara L. Stark | Christopher Stojanowski | Sander van der Leeuw