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Urbanism in the Archaeological Record
An undergraduate/graduate seminar ~ Fall 2007
Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World
Meets Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:30-11:50 pm (the so-called I-hour) in Wilson Hall 205
With: Ömür Harmansah Assistant Professor of Archaeology and Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies
Office Hours: Wednesday 10-12 am. (and by appointment-please email Ömür)
Office: Joukowsky Institute (70 Waterman St.) Room 202
E-mail: Omur_Harmansah@brown.edu Tel: 401-863-6411
"With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives are deceiptful, and everything conceals something else."
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (1974) p. 44.
If the material form of a city changes with the beat of a heart as Baudelaire claims, how does one deal with the immense complexity of urban histories, city cultures, the drama of the city’s everyday life, the poetics of its lively existence? How do archaeologists and urban historians account for this world of movement, activity and chaos, attempting to record its material culture? Cities are layered topographies of cultural histories, enchanted places of our social lives, messy landscapes of our everyday performances. Ancient cities were no less complex spaces in their liveliness. What did ancient cities look like and how were they shaped, in architectural form and in the imagination of its citizens? How do social events, festivals, cult practices, public spectacles shape the layout of a city?
This course investigates ancient cities and the formation of urban space in the comparative context of several archaeological regions of the pre-industrial world. Considering a variety of contemporary approaches to urban space drawn from different disciplines, we will explore urban landscapes from primarily the ancient Near East, Egypt, and the Aegean world with comparative examples drawn from pre-hispanic Mexico and China. We will be especially concerned with archaeological methodologies and approaches in studying cities. We will further explore the spatial organization and the socio-economic structuring of cities in relation to their festivals, state spectacles, monumental building projects, and other material practices. Using an archaeological approach to cities, we will investigate the layered topographies of urban spaces, saturated with collective pasts.
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