Saturday, February 12, 2011

The First Towns

The advent of agriculture led to dependable food supplies and the first permanent settlements. In the 3rd millennium BC, communities set aside areas for administration, craftwork, and worship, and the city took shape. The map below shows some of the most important early settlements

Cliff Palace: Long before the Spanish conquistadores arrived some Latin American communities were living in urban settlements known as pueblos. Cliff palace at Mesa Verde in Colorado is among the most remarkable, sheltered by a vast natural cavity in a cliff. The settlement – a complex of dwellings stacked together on a succession of terraces- flourished between AD 1150 and 1300. Scattered among the houses were several Kivas – circular buildings used for worship.

Nippur:  A cuneiform tablet dating back to the 13th century BC provides the world’s earliest known city map. From it, archaeologists have been able to identify parts of the great Sumerian metropolis of Nippur, founded in about 5000BC. On the left are the waters of the Euphrates. Inside a double line of ramparts is the Kirishauru, a garden which adjoined an enclosure. A canal ran through the city centre, and to the right of this was the E-kur, a shrine dedicated to Enlil, patron god of Nippur and head of the Sumerian pantheon. This association gave the city supreme religious status throughout Mesopotamia.

Jericho:   A spring attracted some of the world’s earliest farmers to settle at Jericho about 9000 BC. They built circular houses of mud brick (the earliest structures know in this building material), and by 8500BC Jericho may have housed as many as 1500 people. A massive stone wall surrounded the settlement a unique feature at the time of its construction, which was intended to provide defense aginst invaders, animals, or floods, or as a sign of prestige. Apart from occasional periods of abandonment, the site would remain a major settlement for a further 8000 years.

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