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by Archaeology Newsroom

Cities and social sciences

The present article starts by defining what a settlement is, arguing that morphological definitions are misleading compared to sociological ones. The settlement is seen as a social phenomenon with certain geographical features. There follows a discussion concerning the delimitation of the city. Different aspects of cities are presented in brief such as human ecology, economics of the city, human geography, social anthropology, sociology, and cities’ archaeology . On this basis, the main characteristics of any city are formulated and the concept of the city is integrated with that of a group of settlements . Related to the above are the factors to which the city owes its emergence, otherwise called urbanization factors. Theoretical approaches to this question are divided into two opposite categories. Ths first “objective” category of thought includes economic and (in this context) Marxist, sociological and military approaches, ascribing the appearance of the city to material processes. The second category, the “subjective one, refers to subjective representations and ideology, i.e. the semiotic factor; thus, the religious theory relates the appearance of the city to sacred places administered by a priesthood which offers metaphysical protection. The same epistemological polarization is observed in those scientific fields concerned with the study of space, such fields of study and their polarization being the subject of the last part of the article. It is observed that postmodernism represents the latest form of subjectivism and limits the study of space only to spatial meaning, denying the existence of any material or other reality outside of it. It is finally argued that we should go beyond the fragmentation created by the objective and subjective schools of thought and consider the combined approach, the synthesis which Marxism offers.