Ancient Mesopotamian Urbanism and Blurred Disciplinary Boundaries

Posted: 8 Oct 2012

See all articles by Robert McC. Adams

Robert McC. Adams

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Date Written: October 2012


Most would agree that anthropology needs a degree of consensus and structure and, arguably, of “identity” as well. But as a discipline, its boundaries are blurred, with ongoing negotiations along its changing peripheries. Frontiers with history and the humanities are examples. Other examples are in the biological sciences, other social sciences, and public and academic policy. This article follows the form of a 65-year contextualized semiautobiography juxtaposing difficulties and ambiguities that have long characterized archaeological preoccupation with building models out of recoverable, material evidence alongside philological fidelity to the testimony of early literate records. My substantive field is ancient southern Mesopotamia, where the earliest beginnings of both urbanism and literacy can be traced. The challenge is to move beyond little more than mere coexistence toward better articulating “text” and “context” to form a more truly interdisciplinary dialogue. This approach touches on other individualized choice and behavioral boundaries as well.

Suggested Citation

Adams, Robert McC., Ancient Mesopotamian Urbanism and Blurred Disciplinary Boundaries (October 2012). Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 41, pp. 1-20, 2012, Available at SSRN: or

Robert McC. Adams (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

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La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

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