A common but implicitly held idea in Mesopotamian archaeology is that once urbanism appeared, Mesopotamia was thereafter an urban civilization. Despite various ups and downs through the millennia, which saw individual settlements wax and wane, the city as a settlement form was the defining characteristic of its cultural tradition. It is understood that not all Mesopotamian cities were alike, but there exists an idea that there was a durable essence to its particular type of urbanism. This study will consider one urban place, Tell Brak in northeastern Syria, over a span of almost 3000 years. In particular, it will consider variation in urban form at Brak in its initial incarnation in the fourth millennium bc, its later third-millennium BC reincarnation as Nagar, and finally its mid second millennium BC form. Rather than being one city that experienced phases of expansion and contraction, the mound at Tell Brak holds the remains of three qualitatively different cities. The differences in urban form were not insignificant variations around an essential theme but were rather manifestations of evolving social and political structures and institutions. This study will describe the various spatial configurations at Brak, their sociopolitical implications, and their places in broader patterns of urbanism in Mesopotamia.
Submitted July 30 2008