EXCAVATIONS at a 6000-year-old archaeological mound in north-eastern Syria called Tell Brak are providing an alternative explanation for how the first cities may have grown.
Archaeologists have thought that many cities began in a single area and grew outward, but evidence at Tell Brak indicates that it was originally a ring of villages that grew inward as it became a city — the opposite of the conventional viewpoint.
The finds provide new insight into political development in the region.
"Urbanism does not appear to have originated with a single, powerful ruler or political entity," said archaeologist Jason Ur of Harvard University, who led the research reported in the journal Science. "Instead, it was the organic outgrowth of many groups coming together."
The city, whose name is unknown, was located in the ancient empire of Mesopotamia, which encompassed what is now southern Iraq and northern Syria.
The nearby city of Uruk in Iraq was thought to have been the oldest city in the world, but discoveries at Tell Brak suggest that it may have developed contemporaneously with Uruk.
Studying potsherds, bones and other artefacts at Tell Brak, Mr Ur and his colleagues concluded that sometime about 4200 BC to 3900 BC, habitation consisted of six distinct clusters. The finds, the researchers wrote, suggest that the study of early urban areas "must accommodate multiple models for the origins of cities".
LOS ANGELES TIMES
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