Comparing Near Eastern Neolithic Megasites and Soutwestern Pueblos: Population Size, Exceptionalism and Historical Trajectories
Sociology and Anthropology
Çatalhöyük and other Near Eastern Neolithic ‘megasites’ are commonly interpreted as exceptional because of their large size and early dates. In this paper, we question exceptional claims about the size and social organization of megasites like Çatalhöyük by comparing them to pueblos in the American Southwest. We argue that Çatalhöyük and other Near Eastern Neolithic megasites are better understood as large villages whose size, layout and social organization compare readily to many of the late prehispanic and historic-period pueblos in the American Southwest. We suggest that four factors contribute to disparate interpretations of structurally similar sites in the Near East and American Southwest: 1) surface architectural visibility; 2) different regional intellectual traditions that emphasize ‘micro’ versus ‘macro’ scale social organization; 3) a tendency toward overestimation in archaeological population estimates, especially when the ‘biggest’ or the ‘earliest’ sites are involved; and 4) perceptions of continuity with later time periods.
Cambridge Archaeological Journal
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