Archaeological Perspectives on the Materiality of Urban Space: Identity and Structure of Historic Built Environment

    • Presentation speakers
      • Monika Baumanova, University of Uppsala, Sweden / University of Basel, Switzerland


    Urban archaeology has long considered the development of built environment in cities as a component of their material cultural context, which has contributed to the continual construction of urban identities. The built environment is highly relevant reference point for understanding the interplay between cultural patterns and associations of social and spatial behaviour. Archaeological record in this context is an ultimate reference collection, on the basis of which we can establish how individual generations of urbanites over centuries chose to maintain or alter the material representations and structures present in the urban environment.This paper takes a long-term comparative perspective on historical urban settlements, which were largely managed as individual entities or even city-states, and highlights what aspects of the built environment were used to promote a sense of shared identity within a city. It takes into account historic cities from approximately the 13th century CE and considers the form and structural placement of architectural features which constitute spaces of public movement and activities, such as the presence or absence of walls, public buildings, street networks, open squares and cemeteries. Specifically it is analysed how their spatial placement played a crucial role in defining urban identities. Patterns observable from a comparative viewpoint are highlighted on case studies of European and African cities that were born of geographically distant cultural traditions, yet interlinked by increasingly important networks of trade and social contact.