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Organised by Rubina Raja and Søren M. Sindbæk

Date28-30 June 2021

Moesgaard Museum, Moesgaard Allé 15, 8270 Højbjerg, Denmark
Auditorium (room 020)


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 (Aarhus University)
  • Feinman, Gary M. & Nicholas, Linda M. (Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago)
  • Fernández-Götz, Manuel (University of Edinburgh)
  • 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) - TBC
  • Moore, Tom (Durham University
  • Nicholas, Linda M. (Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago)
  • Ohlrau, René (Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel)
  • Parton, Philip (Australian National University)
  • Raja, Rubina (Aarhus University) - organiser
  • Sindbæk, Søren M. (Aarhus University) - organiser
  • Smith, Michael E. (Arizona State University)
  • Zuchtriegel, Gabriel (Parco Archeologico Paestum, Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali)

Practical information for keynote speakers


For keynote speakers, up to three nights of accommodation will be covered as well as travel expenses (economy class only). Please book your own travel to Aarhus, and we will reimburse you after your stay (please note that we are only allowed to reimburse tickets booked directly through an airline and not via Momondo or other search engines). We would appreciate it if you could book sooner rather than later, in order to get a reasonably priced flight.

As soon as you have organised your travel, please forward your itinerary to Christina Levisen, and we will organise accommodation for you.

To claim back your travel expenses, please

1. fill out this this reimbursement form (disregard the bottom part - it is for internal use). 

2. Forward the reimbursement form as an Excel file (no need to sign) along with scanned copies of your travel receipts to Christina Levisen.

Please note that it can take a couple of weeks for Aarhus University’s finance dept. to process your claim, especially when international transfers are involved.