Reading up on some of these Turkish archaeological sites. Göbekli Tepe is sometimes described as “the world’s oldest town,” but it may have been more like a ritual site that people went to sometimes, rather than lived in all the time. I’m not totally up on recent archaeological literature about the sites, but they seem to have been something more like seasonal or periodic gathering places. This was around 9,000 BCE.
Askili Höyük, similar deal.
People who were still hunter gatherers, or at least semi-nomadic, would gather seasonally or sometimes at these places, to build, do ceremonies maybe, and party.
The time frame is completely off, but I wonder if the concept of these sites can be applied to Chaco Canyon, in what’s now New Mexico, which was peaking in around 900 AD.
Steve Lekson, who wrote several books on Chaco and the ancient Southwest, suggests Chaco was more permanent, something like a Mesoamerican city state.
Jared Diamond, in Collapse, presents Chaco in “city” terms as well.
But what if it was more like the playa of Burning Man than like Chichen Itza or Teotihuacan?
If it wasn’t a city, but a ceremonial/festival/party location for people who were still semi-nomadic?
Or what if it were a city, but one like Las Vegas, with locals who ran the place but a big, shifting population of tourists?
What if there’s a stage between “primitive hunter gatherer bands” and “agricultural early cities” that’s like “semi agricultural nomads who occasionally meet to party”? Just musing!
Don’t get too excited by the headline over at Phys.org. What they really seem to have found is that people continued to live in the Cahokia region even after the big population center “collapsed” or sort of dwindled out.
I call your attention to this article because it highlights what I love about archaeology: the extremes of methodology. You read this and you’re like cool, new light on an ancient city. How did they find it out?
To collect the evidence, White and colleagues paddled out into Horseshoe Lake, which is adjacent to Cahokia Mounds State Historical Site, and dug up core samples of mud some 10 feet below the lakebed. By measuring concentrations of fecal stanols, they were able to gauge population changes from the Mississippian period through European contact.
These people are paddling out into a lake, dredging up mud, and testing it for human shit.
You know what? There are worse ways to spend an afternoon. There’s something so deeply funny and human about thinking that maybe in a thousand years or so some archaeologist will be studying your stool to find out what the hell you were up to.