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How Many Sumerians per Hectare? — Probing the Anatomy of an Early City

  • Nicholas Postgate (a1)


Excavations at the Early Dynastic site of Abu Salabikh in southern Iraq have aimed at recovering a rounded view of early urban life. One of the questions regularly and rightly asked about our results is ‘how large was the population?’, but we are still far from being able to provide an answer. This article is intended as a report from the field on where we stand at this one site, rather than a general exploration of the issues. Geomorphological and taphonomic issues relating to site size and use of space are exemplified from our own data. Progress beyond a blanket guess (based on comparative ethnography) for population density requires us to break the urban area down into individual houses and the houses into individual rooms. In this context the need for, and possible methods of, more accurate characterization of space use are described. Calculations based on high and low assumptions illustrate the wide range of estimates we still have to work with, but help to crystallize those areas where progress might be made.



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Cambridge Archaeological Journal
  • ISSN: 0959-7743
  • EISSN: 1474-0540
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