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Urbanization in the Ancient Near East is inseparably tied to the name of the city of Uruk in southern Mesopotamia. This chapter discusses the earlier developments, focusing on the communication technologies, which can count as forerunners of writing. Presumably, Uruk was surrounded with a city wall built over during subsequent phases of city growth. The appearance of writing in southern Mesopotamia is preceded by a long development of various means of information storage and processing, related to the evolution of a stratified social system and highly differentiated economy. Information on the time before 3300, including both the older part of the Late Uruk period, and the Early Uruk and Late Ubaid periods, is scarce. The best evidence comes from a deep sounding in Uruk itself, which reaches back into the fifth millennium BCE. Finally, it presents a picture of the interdependence between urbanization and the development of communication technologies.
Chinese urbanism has a history of more than 5,000 years, and ever since the invention of the Chinese writing system more than 3,000 years ago, the process of urbanization and the uninterrupted transmission of literacy have gone hand in hand. This chapter focuses on the second millennium BCE, the early Bronze Age, and also covers two consecutive episodes of that phase, such as the Huanbei period and the Yinxu period. The Anyang inscriptions are the first substantial corpus of Chinese writing, but they are display inscriptions; neither at Anyang nor at Zhengzhou does everyday writing survive. Unlike Huanbei, Yinxu had no city walls and no clearly demarcated perimeters other than those provided on the north and east by the riverbank. The royal precinct covers about 70 hectares, with over 100 building foundations found so far. It is in storage pits associated with some of the buildings that most of the inscribed divination bones have been found.
The city of Teotihuacan has long been viewed as a primate center, dominating surrounding settlements in the Basin of Mexico politically and economically, but its specific relationships with subordinate polities are not well understood. In this article I consider the diverse roles that two rural settlements played in the intraregional structure of the Teotihuacan state. Specifically, I investigate differences in architecture and ceramic assemblages at Axotlan, in the Cuauhtitlan region to the west, and Cerro Portezuelo, in the Texcoco region to the south. Results of this research demonstrate that Teotihuacan's relationships with smaller settlements in the Basin of Mexico differed considerably in intensity and changed through time. This variation reflects specific administrative and economic strategies crafted by the state as well as varying degrees of political and economic autonomy among rural settlements.
Archaeologists increasingly recognize a need to revise the scales at which we investigate identities such as gender, class and faction in ancient complex societies. In this article I present research on the expression of gender roles and ideologies in the performance of mortuary ritual in four distinctive residential areas of Classic Teotihuacan, including the urban compounds of La Ventilla 3, Tlajinga 33 and Tlailotlacan 6 and the hinterland settlement of Axotlan. Results indicate that gender was constructed and experienced differently across Teotihuacan society. This research demonstrates that multiscalar, comparative approaches to social identity make possible a fuller understanding of the significance of social heterogeneity in structuring early states.
Interaction between distant, culturally distinct, complex societies can significantly impact the sociopolitical development of the societies involved. In Classic period Mesoamerica, the urban center of Teotihuacan was a dominant force in the Valley of Mexico, and there is compelling evidence that its influence extended well beyond this region. The role of Teotihuacan in the political development of Maya cities has been debated for decades, though interaction may have also included exchange and the presence of Maya individuals at Teotihuacan. In this study I investigate interaction between Teotihuacan and several Maya polities through typological, spatial, and compositional analyses of Maya ceramics found at Teotihuacan. Data from instrumental neutron activation analysis are used to identify probable subregions from which Maya ceramics were imported to Teotihuacan. Results indicate that diverse Maya polities interacted with Teotihuacan over the course of five centuries, and that relationships involving polities in the central Petén region were particularly long-lived. This research has important implications for understanding the sociopolitical histories of Mesoamerican complex societies specifically, and interaction among complex societies in general.
In this paper we present the results of our analysis of the contents
and context of a Terminal Classic “problematical deposit” at
Blue Creek, in northwestern Belize, and consider the kinds of behaviors,
ritual and otherwise, that may have been responsible for it. We argue that
the deposit is secondary, and not the result of a termination ritual in
which whole vessels are smashed in situ on the front of a monumental
structure in the site center. Based on analysis of the ceramics found in
the deposit, specifically the number of whole pots and the forms of
vessels represented, as well as a careful consideration of the
stratigraphic evidence, we hypothesize that this problematical deposit may
represent the transported remains of feasting events that occurred
elsewhere at Blue Creek. The research that we present here has important
implications for understanding the behaviors and events that occurred
prior to the abandonment of Maya sites during the Terminal Classic period
(a.d. 830/850–1000). Furthermore, we offer a
methodology for the interpretation of problematical deposits that too
often go unanalyzed and demonstrate that detailed investigation of such
deposits contributes to a greater understanding of Maya ritual
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