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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Dr Tom Moore

Moore, T. (2017). Alternatives to urbanism? Reconsidering oppida and the urban question in Late Iron Age Europe. Journal of World Prehistory 30(3): 281-300.

Author(s) from Durham


The mega-sites of Late Iron Age Europe (traditionally known as ‘oppida’) provide an important dataset for exploring how complex social systems can articulate power in novel ways. The question of whether these can be described as ‘urban’ has overshadowed a deeper understanding of the development and role of such sites with many studies examining this issue almost wholly against peculiarly classical concepts of urbanism, isolating Iron Age studies from wider debate. Rather than seek to redefine our definition of ‘towns’, this paper explores how and why oppida diverge from traditional concepts of urbanism arguing that the form of oppida reflects their focus on particular aspects: assembly, theatricality, and the household, which reflect the nature of Late Iron Age societies. It will be suggested that oppida are comparable to a range of mega-sites and low-density settlements recognised throughout the world that represent alternative solutions to the social complications urbanism seeks to address.