Søren M. Sindbæk (Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet), Aarhus University), "Anomalocivitas: On urban evolutions"
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, 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, a 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 – ‘anomalocivitates’. With a point of departure in archaeological research history, this lecture 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.