Contrary to the assumption that ancient cities
always grew outwards from a central point, the urban site of Nawar
(modern Tell Brak in north-eastern Syria) appears to have emerged as
several nearby settlements melded together, according to
researchers' analysis of archaeological evidence.
Experts say that the findings lend support to the
theory that early Mesopotamian cities developed as a result of
grassroots organisation, rather than a mandate from a central
The new study provides important details about Tell
Brak, helping to make it "the first early city of which we have a
picture about how it formed," comments Geoff Emberling at the
Oriental Institute Museum in Chicago, Illinois, US. While he was not
involved in this study, he has carried out archaeological work at Tell Brak.
Located in north-eastern Syria, Tell Brak lies
between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and can therefore be
considered an ancient Mesopotamian site. It is thought to have
been settled as early as 6000 BC, according to Harvard University
researcher Jason Ur.
Ur and his colleagues examined the distribution of
ancient pottery pieces around Tell Brak to determine a timeline of
urban development there. He says this is possible because certain
ceramic styles appeared within a specific time period.
For example, pottery that contains sand and bits of
fabric for structural reinforcement appeared sometime around 4200 to
3900 BC. Around 3900 to 3400 BC people switched to mixing in chaff
- the inedible husks of wheat plants - for the same purpose, and
created pots with grooves around the top, presumably to hold lids.
The archaeologists determined the presence of six
discrete settlements dating back to between 4200 and 3900 BC about
500 metres (yards) from the central site at Tell Brak. Ur says it is still
unclear whether these six settlements represented offshoots from the
central site, or migrants coming from faraway places to settle.