Friday, February 20, 2015

How do big cities differ from small cities (in the ancient past and today)?

Are big cities different from smaller cities mainly in their size? Or do they differ in other ways that go beyond simple population size? Recent research on urban scaling has answered this question definitively for contemporary cities. Large cities ARE different from smaller cities in ways that transcend their size. They aren't simply larger. Yet many of the changes that come with size turn out to be linked systematically to population size.

For example, large cities of course have more miles of roads and and electrical cables than smaller cities. But when we look at roads or cable per person (miles per capita), the quantities are smaller for the biggest cities. This makes sense: if you have twice as many people in a city, you don't need twice as many roads, since some of the new people can use existing roads. While this much is obvious, quantitative research in urban scaling reveals a surprising finding: the way that the miles of roads per person changes with city size is extremely regular. The same quantitative relationship holds if you are studying cities in the U.S., in Europe, or other parts of the world. There is a basic underlying regularity to the quantities of urban infrastructures that get built and used, in cities all over the world.

Other types of regularities have been found by the urban scaling researchers. First, big cities have denser populations than smaller cities. One way to view this is that the areal extent of cities grows more slowly than does the population. The result is an increasing population density in larger cities. But again, this patterns is extremely regular and predictable mathematically. Second, the most remarkable regularity identified by urban scaling has to do with socioeconomic outputs. Whether you measure income, wealth, innovation, crime, poverty, or the number of rock bands, these features all increase more rapidly than does the population size. Big cities not only have more rock bands than smaller cities, but they have more rock bands PER PERSON than smaller cities. Furthermore, the mathematics are predictable. The rates of rock bands--or poverty, or patents--per person follow a very regular quantitative pattern.

Why is this? The basic idea is that as city population grows, so too does the number of social interactions among the residents and visitors to the city. But the number of potential  social interactions can increase at an exponential rate. And these interactions generate information and change. One basic metaphor is to say that cities are social reactors. They magnify the benefits (and negative consequences) of social interactions.

So far, I have been describing urban scaling research on modern cities. See the works of Luis Bettencourt and his colleagues listed below for more information, or see my earlier post on this research. But what about cities and settlements before the modern era? A new paper, published today, provides new evidence that similar predictable quantitative patterns are found in ancient cities. That is, Precolumbian settlements in central Mexico exhibit the same quantitative regularities in population density and social outputs as modern cities. Of course the society, the economy, and the nature of cities were very different back then. But still, the same quantitative patterns are present. To me, this is a remarkable finding.  The paper is:

Ortman, Scott G., Andrew H.F. Cabaniss, Jennie O. Sturm, and Luís M. A. Bettencourt   2015    Settlement Scaling and Increasing Returns in an Ancient Society. Science Advances 1(1).

This is an update and extension of their prior paper:


Ortman, Scott G., Andrew H.F. Cabaniss, Jennie O. Sturm, and Luís M. A. Bettencourt   2014   The Pre-History of Urban Scaling. PLOS-one 9 (2): e87902

The authors analyze settlement size and other data from the Basin of Mexico Archaeological Survey Project  (Sanders et al, 1979), and find that the quantitative patterns match those predicted by models of urban scaling that were first worked out for contemporary cities (Bettencourt 2013). I find this line of research fascinating, to the extent that I have been measuring cities and the sizes of their central plazas to investigate the quantitative pattern. It turns out that the size of the central plaza relates to the overall city size in a quite regular pattern, but the form of the equation does not match any of the quantities measured for modern cities. Hmmmmmmmm. I'll write more on this later.

For now, the new paper by Ortman et al is important for several reasons:

  1. It provides new data on quantitative patterns in the ancient cities and settlements of the Basin of Mexico.
  2. The results compare rather precisely to the predictions of the models and to the data on modern cities.
  3. This work shows the value of archaeological data for answering interesting questions about cities and urbanism in the past and the present. This only works when the original fieldwork was done well, and when the data are published and made available to other scholars.
Here are some publicity and news items about today's new paper:

An article by Emily Conover in Science Online

An article by Megan Gannon in LiveScience. 

Press release from the Santa Fe Institute


Bettencourt, Luís M. A.
2013    The Origins of Scaling in Cities. Science 340: 1438-1441.

Bettencourt, Luís M. A., José Lobo, Dirk Helbing, Christian Kühnert, and Geoffrey B. West
2007    Growth, Innovation, Scaling, and the Pace of Life in Cities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104: 7301-7306.

Bettencourt, Luís M. A., José Lobo, Deborah Strumsky, and Geoffrey B. West
2010    Urban Scaling and its Deviations: Revealing the Structure of Wealth, Innovation and Crime Across Cities. PLoS One 5 (11): 1-9.

Sanders, William T., Jeffrey R. Parsons, and Robert S. Santley
1979    The Basin of Mexico: Ecological Processes in the Evolution of a Civilization. Academic Press, New York.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Three days in Teotihuacan

Big pyramid, little pyramid
I am posting from the Arizona State University archaeology facility in San Juan Teotihuacan, Mexico. I've just spent three days at the site of Teotihuacan, exploring the outer neighborhoods of the ancient city and learning about geophysical techniques applied to archaeology. I am considering using geophysics at Teotihuacan, so I came down to see Luis Barba and his team at work. Luis is collaborating with David Carballo, who has been working in the southern Teotihuacan neighborhood called Tlajinga, exposing apartment compounds by both excavation and geophysical prospecting. Check out his project website.

Geophysical prospecting is one of the "magical" tools available to archaeologists. We can see what lies beneath the ground surface without excavating.
Luis Barba with the gradiometer
Luis Barba (Instituto de Investigaciones Anthropológicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) is the leading archaoemetry specialist in Mexico (I can't get blogger to insert accents! Aaarghhh). He does geophysical research, archaeological chemistry of soils and artifacts, and other scientific studies. He and David spent the whole week doing geophysical work in the Tlajinga area, and I arrived Wednesday to see the fieldwork first-hand. Luis's team includes two members from his lab at UNAM: Jorge Blancas and Agustín Ortiz. Also, Meztli Hernandez Grajales of the Escuela Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, and Ashley Krauss of Yale University joined the crew for the week.The goal was to locate the outlines and some inner walls of apartment compounds in the Tlajinga area.

Me measuring electrical resistivity
Luis uses three main methods. The fastest method is magnetometry (see photo). They grid off a 20 by 20 meter square, and carry the instrument down the grid lines, taking four readings on the gradiometer per meter. This generates quantitative measurements of the magnetic properties of the subsoil, which is useful for archaeologists because the magnetic signatures of buried structures and features often contrast with the surrounding soil. The second method is electrical resistivity. Two probes are placed in the ground away from the sampling area, and then two metal probes are inserted into the ground at set intervals, again following the grid lines. Luis let me try this for a few passes (see photo). For these techniques, the data are uploaded, and maps can be generated very quickly to serve as guides to further steps.
Jorge Blancas & Ashley Krauss with the GPR unit

The most sophisticated and complicated geophysical technique is ground-penetrating radar ("GPR"). The device is dragged along the ground (the orange box in the photo), and a wheel records the distance traveled. The instrument sends radar waves into the ground, and registers the waves when they are reflected back up. GPR is far more sensitive and precise than the other methods, but it requires a large amount of processing and analysis after fieldwork is complete. While we could look at the day's magnetometry maps each evening, it takes much longer to make the GPR results available.

David, me, and Jorge with the GPS
The 20-meter survey blocks are aligned with the Teotihuacan grid, which means that they are aligned with the orientation of the ancient structures. The team uses a differential GPS unit to fix the precise location of the survey blocks. See the photo, with David and me standing around while Jorge works the unit.

I have always been fascinated by geophysical prospecting, but I haven't had the opportunity to use the methods in my research, and I didn't have up-close experience with the fieldwork. This was a great experience, and I am considering a possible fieldwork project with Luis and David, to expand their approach to other parts of Teotihuacan.
Street of the Dead in Tlajinga

Close-up showing the Moon pyramid
The Tlajinga neighborhood includes the central avenue at Teotihuacan, the Street of the Dead. In the main INAH archaeological zone, which is open to tourists, the street is paved, and lined with ceremonial structures. Down in Tlajinga it was evidently not paved, and was in fact a channel dug out of the underlying tepetate bedrock. This photo is looking north up the Street of the Dead from the Tlajinga area. You can just see the Moon Pyramid at the upper end of the street; I include a close-up from the center part of this photo with arrows pointing to the outline of the pyramid.

Reconstructed murals from Tetila

I also saw the excellent new museum,the Beatriz de la Fuente Museum of Teotihuacan Mural Paintings. In addition to having many of the actual wall paintings on display, several entire painted rooms are reconstructed at the museum. Also, the museum is integrated with a 3-temple group that was excavated a number of years ago (see the photo at the top of the post). These were probably neighborhood temples. The photo shows one of them, with the huge Pyramid of the Moon in the background.

I have been staying at the ASU archaeology facility in the town of San Juan Teotihuacan. This is a major storage facility, with many important artifact collections from Teotihuacan and nearby sites. There is space for artifact analysis, and living quarters for people using the lab or doing fieldwork.
Arizona State University lab facility at Teotihuacan

In the photo the two-story storage/analysis building is at the left. On the right are three small cabins with beds and bathrooms (I am staying in one of these). The doorway at the end of the driveway leads to the "Casa antigua," an old house that has bedrooms, a kitchen and common space, in addition to technical workspace and some storage. The tree behind the doorway is in the yard of the house.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Medieval walls in modern Paris

Notre Dame de Paris
I just returned from 10 days in Paris and Bonn. One of the things I find amazing about cities in Europe is the way that ancient walls and buildings--whether Roman, Iron Age, or Medieval--have become part of the modern urban fabric. There are three ways that ancient architecture is manifest in modern cities. First, whole buildings have survived, and they continue to be used. Notre Dame cathedral, first built in the 12th century, is still an active church today, in addition to being a tourist destination. My wife and I visited many of these in Paris five years ago: St. Michel, St. Severin, the Cluny Abbey, and others.

Crypte Archeologique
A second way ancient buildings remain today is in the form of preserved ruins. This is what I am used to in Mexico. You can see the Aztec Templo Mayor in the middle of Mexico City, nicely preserved and set off from the modern city. In Paris, the whole open area in front of the cathedral has a preserved excavation underneath, the Crypte Archeologique du Parvis Nortre Dame is an amazing site (and sight), one of the highlights of our prior visit to Paris. Remains from Roman and Medieval Paris have been excavated and restored, and they are well labeled and explained. You walk right through the ruins, an impressive experience.

City wall of King Philip II
But the third way ancient buildings are preserved in modern cities is, for me, the most fascinating. This is when walls and parts of buildings have become incorporated into the historical and modern fabric of the city. I spent some time in Paris exploring this phenomenon. I began with an internet document, "Medieval Paris: A walking tour of the Marais," by Eric Jager. This is based on the north bank (rive droite), just across from Ile Saint-Louis. The tour takes you past the longest extent of the early medieval city wall, built in the 12th century by Philip II. Today, it separates some apartment buildings from a park, where kids were playing soccer.

Medieval street, recent buildings
The tour follows some winding streets that have preserved the old Medieval plan, although the buildings are much more recent. This view of Paris is radically different from the expansive boulevards created by Hausmann in the 19th century (see my prior post on this). The Champs Elysees is great, but I really enjoy walking through the old winding Paris streets.

Medieval arch, National Archives
The tour passes the National Archives building, which just happens to have a medieval archway with towers built into one side of it. There are a number of these cases on the walking tour. You look up an apartment building, perhaps 100 years old, and notice that one wall is more than 500 years old. Amazing.

I highly recommend this walking tour. The only problem is that it does not come with a map! The directions are good, and it was not hard to follow. I just printed out a Google map of the area before I left for Paris.

Roman amphitheater
I also ran into these medieval vestiges while walking around the city. I went to see the Roman Amphitheater, which has been restored in the middle of a block, with apartment buildings all around. Very interesting. Evidently Victor Hugo was instrumental in getting this excavated and restored in the 19th century. The Roman town was called Lutetia. On the way, I noticed a plaque on a building and learned that Rene Descartes had lived there for a few years.
Section of the medieval city wall

But I also ran into another portion of the old medieval city wall, where just a small segment was preserved at the edge of the street. And then after visiting the Shakespeare and Company book store, I spotted an old wall segment in a small park next to a medieval church.

The official component of my Paris trip was successful (Marion Forest passed her dissertation defense with highest honors, and I interacted with a bunch of friends and colleagues from the Universite de Paris-1, Pantheon-Sorbonne). But I was just amazed at all these vestiges of Medieval Paris that have become part of the modern urban landscape. Oh, by the way, the food was great too!
An old wall, probably medieval, near the Shakespeare bookstore

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Living the good life in Teotihuacan

I have written two articles that contain new information about life in ancient Teotihuacan. These are scheduled to be published in November, but in the meantime I want to talk about some of the new findings and their implications. Teotihuacan had a unique form of urban life and society. I don't mean this in the sense that one can claim that every city is unique. What I mean is that Teotihuacan had several features that are VERY unusual for premodern cities. Here I will mention several of these features:

(1) Most residents lived in a form of housing that is unique among early cities of the world: the apartment compound. 
Apartment compounds.

Zacuala
There are over 2,000 apartment compounds at Teotihuacan. Although each one has a unique layout, most of them share features of their construction and layout. There is usually a single doorway in the stone outer wall. Entrances lead to a central open courtyard, which typically has some kind of temple or shrine or altar. Passages lead out from this to the individual apartments, which usually consist of a small open courtyard surrounded by rooms with porches.The courtyards are built at a lower level than the other rooms, and they are drained to the outside by pipes and channels under the floors. Floors and walls are covered with white lime plaster (technically, a form of concrete). The walls were usually painted with bright colors, with scenes of people, animals, and gods (see the image of Zacuala).
Oztoyahualco

My first article (Smith 2014) reviews the forms of urban housing used around the world before the Industrial Revolution. The various forms of housing are shown in the following typology:

Urban housing typology (Smith 2014)
Among all of the premodern cities of the world, the apartment building is the least common form of housing. Ancient Rome had apartment buildings (called insulae), as did some of the cities in the Ottoman Empire such as Cairo. But in those cases, apartments were small, cramped arrangements built to hold an overabundance of new urban immigrants. The Ottoman apartments often started out as large, spacious single-family houses that were subvided into many small apartments.

(2) Apartment compounds were luxurious and well-built.

The Teotihuacan apartment buildings are unusual (compared to Roman and Ottoman apartments) in
Aztec commoner houses
two ways. First, they are single-story structures. And second, each household had quite a bit of space, including a courtyard and several rooms with porches facing the courtyard. So these do not look like hasty buildings or conversions to accommodate an influx of new urbanites. They are spacious and open dwellings. When Laurette Sejourne excavated one of the first apartment compounds at Teotihuacan, she thought at first she had excavated a palace, and her name "Zacuala palace" is still used sometimes. In comparison with other ancient Mesoamerican patterns of housing, these structures do look like elite houses. Commoners, at other Mesoamerican cities, tended to live in small single-family houses.

In Aztec times, for example, there were a number of forms of commoner house (see the graphic, from the Florentine Codex by Sahagun), and I have excavated many of these structures. If I uncovered a Teotaihuacan-style apartment compound in an Aztec site I was excavating (and if it was indeed an Aztec structure, not an older pre-Aztec structure), I would call it an elite residence. The only Aztec houses this large, with this many rooms, and rooms this large, are elite residences. So while the overall form of a Teotihuacan apartment compound is not unique, it is very strange for a commoner house. Or was it an elite house? But you can't have most of the population as the elite? Or perhaps commoner and elite are not the best labels to use for the residents of Teotihuacan. This, again, is just plain bizarre for a Mesoamerican society. At just about all Mesoamerican urban sites, there are elite and commoner houses (typically at a ratio of ca. 50 commoner houses for every elite house), and it is rarely difficult to distinguish them.

(3) The apartment compounds appear to have been built in a single episode of urban renewal around A.D. 200.

Zacuala
Although we still have relatively few securely dated, excavated apartment compounds at Teotihuacan, it looks like most of them were constructed in a burst of activity around A.D. 200. In some of the excavated examples, there are irrigation canals below the floors, showing that the city expanded to cover former irrigated agricultural fields. We think that the houses before this episode were less regular, perhaps not conforming to the plans of apartment compounds. But in truth we know next to nothing about housing before this time. But why did the people or rulers of the city feel the need to obliterate older housing and agricultural fields to construct two thousand new apartment compounds?

(4) The level of social inequality was very low at Teotihuacan.


Tetitla
The second article that is now in press (Smith et al. 2014) is mainly about social inequality at Aztec sites. We illustrate the use of the Gini index to measure ancient social inequality, based on the sizes of houses. But while we were at it, we decided to try the method out on Teotihuacan. This required figuring out how the apartment compounds were divided into individual household dwellings. Student Rebecca Harkness took on this task, the the graphic shows her results for the Tetitla compound. We had to make some assumptions (e.g., that the excavated apartment compounds are representative of the unexcavated ones), and our result was very surprising.

The Gini index for Teotihuacan is 0.12, a very very low level for an urban settlement. This means that the level of inequality was quite low. All of the Aztec cities have higher values; the only site with a comparable value is a peasant village (Capilco). There are several reasons for such a low Gini index for Teotihuacan: (1) most houses were of a similar size; (2) there are a few smaller structures (probably adobe huts), and a few larger structures, but no huge royal palace. Yes, I know, some colleagues don't agree, and they have tried to identify a royal palace at Teotihuacan. But they can't agree with one another, and if you can't agree about the royal palace, then there probably wasn't one. No one has to scrounge around to find the royal palace at Maya or Aztec cities; they are quite obvious, huge structures that are many times larger than the typical house.

Atetelco
So, what does all this imply about life in ancient Teotihuacan? I think it is still too early to come to firm conclusions here. We need more excavations (several projects are ongoing at Teotihuacan right now, including work by by ASU colleague Saburo Sugiyama, and a project direct directed by David Carballo of Boston University). We need more studies of the already-excavated examples; ASU student Melissa Marklin is working on this now. I am not the first one to suggest that life and society at Teotihuacan were very different from other Mesoamerican societies, and from other cities around the world. Rene Millon and George Cowgill have talked about this, and Esther Pasztory has called Teotihuacan "an experiment in living."

Nevertheless, it seems clear that most people at Teotihuacan had large, spacious dwelling to live in. They had access to a wide range of household goods, for cooking, ritual, crafts, and other activities. There doesn't seem to have been a strong autocratic king ruling things, yet someone has enough clout to carry out a major urban renewal project. We can't find much evidence for a definite elite class. And people lived in a type of housing that was unique in the premodern world. What was going on at Teotihuacan? These facts remain disconnected and tantalizing, and we desperately need more research to figure things out. But I think we can conclude that people there were living the good life as part of the wide urban world.

Some links (ADDED Oct 24):

Prior post:  Teotihuacan: Ancient Mesoamerican Metropolis
Prior post:  Teotihuacan and the Origins of Market Economies

Project: Urbanism, Neighborhood Organization and Domestic Economy at the Tlajinga District, Teotihuacan. (current project by David Carballo, Luis Barba, and Kenneth Hirth)
  
The Teotihuacan Research Laboratory, Arizona State University

References


Carballo, David M.
2013    The Social Organization of Craft Production and Interregional Exchange at Teotihuacan. In Merchants, Markets, and Exchange in the Pre-Columbian World, edited by Kenneth G. Hirth and Joanne Pillsbury, pp. 113-140. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC.

Cowgill, George L.
1997    State and Society at Teotihuacan, Mexico. Annual Review of Anthropology 26: 129-161.

Cowgill, George L.
2008    An Update on Teotihuacan. Antiquity 82: 962-975.

Millon, René
1976    Social Relations in Ancient Teotihuacan. In The Valley of Mexico: Studies of Pre-Hispanic Ecology and Society, edited by Eric R. Wolf, pp. 205-248. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

Pasztory, Esther
1997    Teotihuacan: An Experiment in Living. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Smith, Michael E.
2014    Housing in Premodern Cities: Patterns of Social and Spatial Variation. International Journal of Architectural Research 8 (3): in press.

Smith, Michael E., Timothy Dennehy, April Kamp-Whittaker, Emily Colon, and Rebecca Harkness
2014    Quantitative Measures of Wealth Inequality in Ancient Central Mexican Communities. Advances in Archaeological Practice 2 (4): ___.

Sugiyama, Nawa, Saburo Sugiyama, and Alejandro Sarabia G.
2013    Inside the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan, Mexico: 2008-2011 Excavations and Preliminary Results. Latin American Antiquity 24 (4): 403-432.




Open Access week

This is open access week (Oct 20-24, 2014). For an interview I did on open access in publishing, CLICK HERE.

I will get back to posting on urban topics very shortly (sorry about the lapse).........


Monday, July 7, 2014

Jane Jacobs was wrong !!

Jane Jacobs in her community organizing mode
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was perhaps the most influential urban thinker of the 20th century. Her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) shook up the planning profession and urban studies, and her other books and papers have been highly influential for many decades. Numerous biographies, books, and articles have been written about Jacobs, her ideas, her life, and her influence on scholarship and policy.

I have no problem with most of the writings and ideas of Jane Jacobs. Her books are informative and enjoyable, and I have gotten lots of good insights from her work. But in one small part of one book (The Economy of Cities, 1969), Jacobs made an erroneous claim about the origins of cities in the distant past. Whereas archaeologists had shown clearly that agriculture developed long before the first cities--in all well-documented regions, from Mesopotamia to China to Mesoamerica--Jacobs made the outrageous claim that the archaeologists were wrong. Cities had in fact arisen first, she said, and then the innovations that led to agriculture and farming (the domestication of plants and animals) happened in those earliest cities. She called this the "cities first" argument. Nonsense!

I first read The Economy of Cities as an undergraduate, writing my senior honors thesis on Teotihuacan. I almost put the book down in disgust when I read this baloney. With just my training as an anthropology major, I recognized the silliness of Jacobs's idea. I'm glad I kept reading, however, because the rest of the book provided lots of good ideas about how Teotihuacan might have grown as a result of its craft industry in the production of obsidian tools.

For many decades I didn't worry much about the cities first error of Jane Jacobs. But a few years ago I started to run into Jacobs's erroneous argument about cities before agriculture in both scholarly and popular writing. The Wikipedia article on cities stated that cities preceded agriculture, citing Jacobs. This is simply not true. I guess if there are people believing that the earth is flat, or that evolution has not happened, there might be people believing that cities came before agriculture. But from the point of evidence and science, Jacobs was wrong. I went through a period when I was contributing to Wikipedia, so I corrected the Cities article. Within a couple of days, my corrections had been reversed, and replaced with the erroneous information. I changed it again, and a second time my corrections were undone. I complained to a Wikipedia editor, that was the end of my editing and contributing to Wikipedia. (I see that the error has now been corrected).

Wikipedia is one thing, but urban textbooks are another. It turns out that a number of textbooks on urban studies and urban geography promote the erroneous views of Jacobs. These books do not cite the relevant archaeological works, but they do cite Jacobs. She is such an influential thinker and there seems to be something of a cult devoted to her ideas and their preservation. It really steamed me that students were being given false information in textbooks. So I did some Google searches, and found that a number of geographers had promoted the erroneous views in scholarly journal articles and books, including Edward Soja and Peter Taylor. I worked out my frustration in a blog post, and let it go. But then in 2012 a major journal published an article by Peter Taylor that, again, promoted the faulty views of Jacobs that cities preceded agriculture (Taylor 2012).

Enough was enough! I rounded up a couple of colleagues--Jason Ur and Gary Feinman--and we wrote a response to Taylor's paper, and it's just been published (Smith et al. 2014). We show the historical context of Jacobs's ideas about early urbanism and how she was unable to support her argument about cities before agriculture. We show the subsequent adoption of her ideas by scholars, mostly urban geographers. And we outline the archaeological evidence (which is indisputable) for agriculture preceding the earliest cities. Her argument was wrong when it was first formulated, and the archaeological evidence against it was clear. By now that evidence has piled up to the point where her claim is the logical equivalent to flat-earth or creationist stories. We were hoping for a reply from Taylor, but that hasn't happened yet.

This one error says nothing about the accuracy or importance of the other ideas of Jane Jacobs. I remain a big fan of her work, except for this one point. But its perpetuation by scholars does speak eloquently about the decline in scholarly rigor today, and about the lack of respect for archaeology by some writers. People who ought to know better have been willing to accept interpretations about archaeology without consulting archaeologists or works, but solely on the authority of Jane Jacobs, who had no archaeological training or knowledge. If such an urban icon said cities preceded agriculture, then it must be so. Well, I'm afraid Jane Jacobs was just plain wrong about this one fact.

Smith, Michael E., Jason Ur, and Gary M. Feinman
2014    Jane Jacobs’s 'Cities-First' Model and Archaeological Reality. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38 (4): 1525-1535.

Taylor, Peter J.
2012    Extraordinary Cities: Early "City-ness" and the Origins of Agriculture and States. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 36 (3): 415-447.

Monday, May 26, 2014

"Neighborhood has always mattered"


This is the title of a column in today's Boston Globe by Carlo Rotella. The column talks about how and why neighborhoods are important in today's cities, based partly on the author's experience and partly on Robert Sampson's book, Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect. He also makes the point that neighborhoods are an urban universal, citing my work.

Neighborhoods clearly do matter, for many reasons. Whether you live in an idyllic tree-lined middle-class neighborhood in a U.S. city, or in a dirty and crowded shantytown slum in an African city, your neighborhood helps shape your experiences. It also contributes greatly to the nature and quality of your city.

Check out our current article,

Smith, Michael E., Ashley Engquist, Cinthia Carvajal, Katrina Johnston, Amanda Young, Monica Algara, Yui Kuznetsov and Bridgette Gilliland  (2014)  Neighborhood Formation in Semi-Urban Settlements. Journal of Urbanism 7 (published online).