Harvard Researchers Map the World's First Cities

Nate Berg reports on the new findings published by a team of Harvard researchers looking to uncover the genesis and shape of the world's first cities in "the Cradle of Civilization."
March 20, 2012, 7am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Archaeologist Jason Ur and Computer Scientist Bjoern Menz have just published their findings in this month's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Utilizing satellite imagery and a sophisticated program created to detect the remains of buildings and settlements through radiation, "[t]hey've mapped more than 14,000 settlement sites in a 23,000-square-kilometer region in northeastern Syria, and they suggest that their method can be used to map the entire region," writes Berg.

While UR and Menz found that, in general, those sites located in close proximity to water sources tended to be larger in size and had longer life-spans, they also found that, "not every early civilization made straightforward resource-based decisions about where to settle."

Perhaps it will be unsurprising for planners to learn, based on the last 10 years of intensive research on the origin of cities, that Ur concludes, "there's no one model for the city. There are any number of different approaches."

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Published on Monday, March 19, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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