IAS Fellow's Seminar - Settlement Scaling Theory and Pre-Roman Central Italy: quantitative and comparative approaches to ancient urbanism
From the seminal work of Fustel de Coulanges to the recent monumental study conducted by the Copenhagen Polis centre, the question of how to define the ancient city is a lively and long-running topic of debate.
While there are significant cultural, regional and chronological variations in the forms of both ancient and modern cities, there are also some recurring patterns in their size, density, relations with surrounding rural territories, and connectivity to other cities. These point to structural similarities in political, social, economic, military and religious organization.
To date, these common traits, especially for ancient cities, have been observed and discussed principally on an anecdotal or qualitative level. Recently, however, research projects have collated large archives of data and advances in technology now permit the quantification and measurement of these traits in order to construct long-term narratives and comparative perspectives.
In this paper Dr Francesca Fulminante applies settlement scaling theory—commonly used in modern economic and urbanization studies, and only recently applied to ancient societies—to examine early urban polities in central Italy. In particular, I measure the growth of variability in the archaeological evidence for funerary activity and site connectivity in relation to settlement growth.
The results are discussed in the framework of recent comparative studies on settlement scaling and urbanism which suggest that the intensification of human social connectivity and material flow – as measured through settlement size distributions – can be sufficient to raise living standards even in the absence of ‘modern’ markets.
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