Settlement Scaling Theory: Bridging the Study of Ancient and Contemporary Urban Systems
29 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2019 Last revised: 10 Jun 2020
Date Written: May 26, 2019
A good general theory of urbanization should account for empirical regularities that are shared among contemporary urban systems and ancient settlement systems known through archaeology and history. The identification of such shared properties has been facilitated by research traditions in each field that define cities and settlements as areas that capture networks of social interaction embedded in space. Using Settlement Scaling Theory (SST)—a set of hypotheses and mathematical relationships that together generate predictions for how measurable quantitative attributes of settlements are related to their population size—we show that, using these definitions, aggregate properties of ancient settlement systems and contemporary metropolitan systems scale up in similar ways across time, geography and culture. Settlement scaling theory thus provides a unified framework for understanding and predicting these regularities across time and space.
Keywords: cities, premodern cities, data, comparative urbanism, settlement scaling
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