Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) is a groundbreaking archaeological research initiative exploring the evolution of urbanism and urban networks from the Hellenistic Period to the Middle Ages. The centre is based at Aarhus University, School of Culture and Society, and is funded as a Centre of Excellence by the Danish National Research Foundation. UrbNet was inaugurated 30 January 2015.
UrbNet aims to compare the archaeology of urbanism from medieval Northern Europe to the Ancient Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean World, and determine how – and to what extent – urban networks catalysed societal and environmental expansions and crises in the past. The centre is firmly rooted in the humanities but enjoys close, collaborative ties with natural sciences.
UrbNet aims to advance the understanding of the historical process of urban evolution, and this will be achieved by developing the ability of archaeology to characterise the scale and pace of events and processes. A series of recently developed scientific techniques afford unique potential for archaeology to refine the precision of dates, contexts and provenance ascribed to excavated materials. These will be integrated to form a new “High Definition” approach to the study of global and interregional dynamics. The provenance of materials is clarified through the application of chemical, isotopic and biomolecular analysis of organic and inorganic materials. The characterisation of contexts is augmented by the application of soil chemistry, analysis of ecofacts and micromorphology, and this is then used to reconstruct high-precision chronologies through increasingly sophisticated statistical modelling of radiocarbon dating and other fast-developing methods, such as optically-stimulated luminescence.
UrbNet’s work will comprise projects that intersect questions and problems concerning urban development and networks in the regions from Northern Europe over the Levant to the East Coast of Africa. It involves elaborate work on empirical material from a number of existing excavation projects, and the centre aims to make substantial contributions toward theoretical and methodological developments in the field. Individual projects may also arise from other bodies of data.
The centre is headed by Centre director Rubina Raja, professor of Classical Archaeology, and Deputy director Søren Sindbæk, professor MSO of Medieval Archaeology. Furthermore, the centre consists of a strong, interdisciplinary core group.