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The application of an entropy maximising model for understanding the rise of urbanism

Altaweel, M; (2013) The application of an entropy maximising model for understanding the rise of urbanism. In: Wilkinson, TJ and Gibson, M and Christiansen, J and Widell, M, (eds.) Models of Mesopotamian Landscapes: How Small-Scale Processes Contribute to the Growth of Early Civilizations. (pp. 239-255). Archaeopress: Oxford, UK. Green open access


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The chapter presents a spatial interaction entropy model that addresses the dynamics of urban growth using sites from the Late Uruk period in southern Mesopotamia as examples. The model addresses to what extent geography, transportation, and factors that make locations attractive for trade and settlement affect why some settlements grow while others stabilize or diminish in size through time. The results show that geographic and transport factors can enable some regions, such as the northern and central alluvium in southern Mesopotamia, to have some initially favourable advantages for urban growth. In contrast, greater attraction to specific centres and decreasing mobility of goods and people to many towns enable sites such as Uruk to rapidly grow through positive feedback effects without natural population increase. This growth also influences other settlements’ populations and use of the transport infrastructure, where aggregation of population to few centres leads to a large number of small sites or even near abandonment of sites. Other results demonstrate how external trade and contacts enable towns to prosper at the expense of other settlements as well as how settlements could become relatively resilient to changing conditions that diminish their populations by having effective links to sites and transport infrastructure. Overall, the results demonstrate a quantitative model that is useful in explaining periods of rapid urban growth and regional urban layout transformations without necessarily having full knowledge of the archaeological data.

Type: Book chapter
Title: The application of an entropy maximising model for understanding the rise of urbanism
ISBN-13: 9781407311739
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: © Archaeopress and the individual authors 2013
Keywords: Spatial interaction, Retail modelling, Entropy, Urbanisation, Uruk
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences
UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology
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URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1412092
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