Living spaces: Urbanism as a social process at Seyitömer Höyük in early Bronze Age Western Anatolia
Harrison, Laura Kathryn
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The rise of urbanism in third millennium BCE Western Anatolia involves the widespread emergence of a new type of settlement organization, characterized by neatly packed megaron rowhouses, which open onto a central open space, and are located inside a circuit wall. While previous studies have successfully documented the distribution of these settlements in time and space, and established typologies that highlight key formal and stylistic attributes of their architecture, they fail to address the social significance of this change in settlement pattern. Consequently, little is known about the novel ways in which the shift from village to city life impacted individuals, communities, and systems of authority, in the Early Bronze Age. In this study, I approach urbanism at the Early Bronze Age Phase B settlement of Seyitömer Höyük from an interdisciplinary perspective that investigates how the fixed features and spatial arrangement of the urban built environment shape movement and interaction, which in turn impacts social production, community formation, and power relations. This perspective emphasizes the built environment as an active participant in the recursive relationship between actors and the built environment. In order to address these issues, I analyze the Phase B settlement, using an integrative approach to architecture and social organization. This approach is modified from Fisher (2009), and combines insights from nonverbal communication (Rapoport 1990), space syntax analysis (Hillier and Hanson 1984), and architectural communication theory (Blanton 1982). The integrative approach stresses that the built environment is a context for social interaction, and offers an empirical means by which to link archaeological remains, such as streets, walls, and features with messages of identity, status, and ideology. There are four groups of buildings (“analytical sections”) identified in Phase B. As a result of an investigation of the architecture, fixed and semi-fixed features of each space in the settlement, the Rowhouses West and Rowhouses East are characterized as non-elite residences and pottery workshops; the Administrative Complex is characterized as a seat of local administrative authority, with evidence for economic specialization and social inequality; and the Central Megaron Complex is characterized as a distinctive building, important in the symbolic/ritual life of Phase B inhabitants. These insights, when integrated with quantitative spatial analysis, reveal that the three busiest routes of pedestrian movement in Phase B terminate at the entrance to spaces for public/inclusive occasions; that rooms used for private/exclusive are always accessed via offset entrances that increase the perception of physical and social distance; and that megaron style buildings used in non-elite residences are a solution for privacy in a densely populated settlement. This demonstrates that the built environment embodies individual agency through personalization; community identities with the standard treatment of physical elements; and power relations through control over movement and the structuring of public/private relations. As a result, this study enlivens our understanding of urbanism as a social process.