Prehistory to City States

We'll begin with a review of the rise of ancient cities.

Prehistory is regarded as the period preceding written texts.  For these periods we need to make use of archaeological and linguistic evidence.

For the Neolithic (Stone Age) period (9500-3501 BCE) we'll rely on archaeology and our text by Charles Gates, Ancient Cities.  Go to the publisher's website.
Alternatively you may use the Global Heritage Network website to examine these sites in detail.
In Gates' text we'll examine the rise of two prominent neolithic hill towns:  Jericho (8500-6000 BCE) and Çatalhöyük, Turkey (6500-5500 BCE).  Gates describes Jericho as an example of a proto-urban system that prevailed throughout the Southern Levant that was pre-pottery Neolithic.  The rise of high defensive walls and remnants of cult sites suggest a new social organization was arising (Gates, 17).   The more elaborate structures at Çatalhöyük with their richer archaeological evidence of trade and production reflect technological and social developments accompanied by an expanded ideology with individual cult shrines.  Despite these innovations, both Jericho and Çatalhöyük were reduced or replaced in favor of newer urban systems and larger civilizations developing in the Mesopotamian basin.

In Mesopotamia, the earliest Sumerian cities of the Ubaid period (5000-3500 BCE) provide a transitional link of the later Neolithic period. These cities provide evidence of more elaborate institutions and political power based on the city-state.  The expansion of agriculture into this basin allowed for a reciprocal system and relation between the local countryside and the city.

For the Bronze Age (3501-1201 BCE) we'll examine the following Near Eastern cities:  Uruk, Ur, Hattusa, Troy, and Babylon.  The maturation of these city-states is seen at Uruk (Warak in Arabic) where after 3000 CE extensive evidence of monumental temples and artisanal workshops attest to the process of accumulation and emerging social structures (Gates, 32-38).  Advances in the potter's wheel and in writing systems allow for specializations in function and exchanges of goods. In the Mediterranean we'll examine Knossos on Crete and Mycenae in Southern Greece.  In Egypt we'll examine the palace complexes and surrounding complex of urban structures. For India we'll compare the rise of  Mohenjo Daro in the Indus valley as one of the Harappan cities.

In Tignor et al, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, (Chapter One) the authors compare the material transformations created by the development of agriculture in Southwest Asia (Near East), East Asia, and South Asia and Mesoamerica.  During this long period of agricultural development between 9000 BCE and 3000 BCE, we find the rise of hill towns with mixed agriculture and pastoralism.  The success of farmers and herders, who replaced the earlier form of hunters and gatherers allowed for a primitive accumulation of surplus.  This surplus allowed for towns to create specialists in crafts, pottery and and art. We also find in a number of these societies a stratification of society and divisions of labor between men and women and a resulting patriarchy that privileged senior males. For an alternative view on the relation of women to patriarchal structures, see Zainab Bahrani, Women of Babylon:  Gender and Representation in Mesopotamia (2001).

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