Magazine article Science News

Urban Planning in Ancient near East

Magazine article Science News

Urban Planning in Ancient near East

Article excerpt

Welcome to the spacious, not to mention airy, abodes of Titris Hoyuk, a planned community ahead of its time. Sorry, these dwellings in southeastern Turkey don't feature running water or any other newfangled amenities. Titris Hoyuk last bustled with activity more than 4,000 years ago. But its remains provide a rare glimpse of the thoroughly modern city design envisioned by early architects of urban life, according to an archaeological team excavating the 125-acre walled site.

"Evidently, the conception of what was urban in 2500 to 2200 B.C. was not all that different from what is considered urban today," says project director Guillermo Algaze of the University of California, San Diego.

The first large-scale civilization arose in southern Iraq more than 5,000 years ago (SN: 3/3/90, p. 136). City building expanded northward around 2500 B.C. However, little is known about the organization of those early urban centers and the manner in which their rank-and-file citizens lived.

Most ancient Near Eastern cities were inhabited for thousands of years--some still are. The original structures of these urban success stories are difficult to excavate because they lie under many later layers of occupation. Moreover, investigators who unearth a city's roots usually focus on palaces and other hangouts of society's upper crust.

Consider, however, Titris Hoyuk. This city's rapid rise and fall over a 300-year span, defined by a series of radiocarbon datings, left the initial buildings relatively unobscured. …

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