From town to city: urban planning in the Early Bronze Age of Northern Mesopotamia at Tell es-Sweyhat, Syria
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In this dissertation, I study a critical transition in the urban development of Tell es-Sweyhat, a large site in Syria occupied from c. 3000-1900 BCE. In the middle of the third millennium, Sweyhat was an open town centered on a fortress. It was ringed with cemeteries and had a ceremonial public building in its outskirts (Sweyhat Period 3). Around 2150 BCE, the settlement experienced a sudden expansion from 15HA to 35-40HA. Sweyhat became a fortified city with a high central ceremonial platform and no formal cemetery (Sweyhat Period 4). The new fortifications combined with increased population density signifies Sweyhat's transition from a town to a regional urban center. In this dissertation, I identify the changes in land use during this transition and examine the accompanying social changes. I focus on several domestic structures excavated along the edge of the Sweyhat 4 Inner City wall, along with the associated artifact inventories, including spinning and weaving equipment, grinding and cooking equipment, and whole ceramic vessels. One adult burial and several infant burials were also uncovered here. Additional soundings reached down into the Sweyhat 3 layers of this neighborhood. I synthesize the data from these excavations alongside architectural remains and artifact assemblages from other excavated areas of the site, to create a narrative of the changes in the site's occupational history and the possible meanings inherent in those changes. The results reveal that the character and location of certain daily and special activities changed, including mourning the dead, grain storage, grinding and cooking activities, and ceremonial activities. The outer town cemeteries were abandoned, possibly in favor of individual household burials. Grain storage, grinding, and cooking activities that had been located in the central storage area moved to the home. The locus of ceremonial activities shifted from the public building in the outer town to a new structure located in the city center. Access to this new structure was limited: it sat atop a high terrace that was accessible only by particular ramps or stairways, in a district at the center of the city's two fortifications. These shifts suggest increased control of formerly accessible public activities and greater attention to individual privacy. These changes were an integral part of Tell es-Sweyhat's transition from open town to walled city.