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Organised by Rubina Raja and Søren M. Sindbæk

Date28-29 June 2021

Virtual conference


The archaeology of urbanism has developed with reference to particular emblematic examples: cities of the Bronze-age Near East, the Mediterranean of the classical period, Mesoamerican highland cities and the Northern Europe high-medieval cities are key points of reference. Urbanism, in this light, has been regarded as nearly synonymous with social complexity and with civilisation.

In recent years, more globally oriented historical and archaeological research has exposed urbanity as a phenomenon that varies widely across time and space, sometimes in surprising ways. Like the palaeontological record abounds in creatures which defy evolutionary hindsight – such as the famous Cambrian arthropod Anomalocaris – the past is full of extraordinary and surprising urban societies: anomalocivitas.

Examples of atypical urban-like developments, which have been intensely discussed in recent research, include the mega-sites of Neolithic Eastern Europe, low-density agrarian urbanism in the Tropics, late Antique urban encroachment in the Mediterranean East, classical and medieval trading ports, seasonal assemblies and nomadic camps as well as palace societies such as the Bronze-age agglomerations.

With a point of departure in archaeological research history and examples, this conference asks how an increasing body of archaeological evidence can be used to inform more appropriate models. It outlines a vision of urbanism guided by the theory of complex systems – as a cultural attractor through which the practices and routines in different societal trajectories converge on homologous patterns.

Commemorating the 20-year anniversary of the Copenhagen Polis Centre’s seminal publication ”A Comparative Study of Thirty City-State Cultures”, this conference gathers contributions which explore the making of urban societies as a non-linear and underdetermined process, accepting that urbanity can be characterised as a recognisable pattern.

The intention is to publish selected contributions in the newly founded Journal of Urban Archaeology.


  • Cabaniss, Andrew (University of Michigan)
  • Deckers, Pieterjan (Vrije Universiteit Brussels)
  • Feinman, Gary M. (Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago), Blanton, Richard E. (Purdue University) Blanton, Nicholas, Linda M. (Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago) & Kowalewski, Stephen A. (University of Georgia)
  • Fernández-Götz, Manuel (University of Edinburgh) & Moore, Tom (Durham University)
  • Fletcher, Roland (University of Sydney)
  • Haase, Kirstine (Odense City Museums)
  • Hanson, John (University of Reading)
  • Lee, Kevin S. (University of Texas at Austin / The American School of Classical Studies in Athens)
  • Ohlrau, René (Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel)
  • Parton, Philip (Australian National University)
  • Raja, Rubina (Aarhus University) - organiser
  • Seland, Eivind Heldaas (University of Bergen)
  • Sindbæk, Søren M. (Aarhus University) - organiser
  • Smith, Michael E. (Arizona State University)
  • Zuchtriegel, Gabriel (Parco Archeologico Paestum, Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali)