Conceiving the city: Streets and incipient urbanism at Early Bronze Age Bet Yerah

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Early Bronze Age urbanization and urbanism in the Levant have long been important themes in scholarly discussion, with both the nature of the process and its results being the subject of lively debate. We view Early Bronze II (EB II) south Levantine urbanism as a novel ideological construct grounded in heterarchical modes of social organization, rather than a direct development from earlier village-based lifestyles. In the current study we employ a phenomenological approach that enables us to identify an urban habitus and to discuss cognitive aspects of town life, rather than constraining the discussion to urban morphology. Tel Bet Yerah in northern Israel is a good place to approach these issues, as it presents a continuous, extensively excavated Early Bronze Age sequence. One of the most prominent elements of the EB II fortified city is a system of paved streets that constructed space in a clear geometric pattern. The investment in street planning and engineering, alongside other aspects of planning, no doubt played a key role in the inculcation of urban concepts at the site. As shared public spaces, the streets were experienced and modified through the everyday practices of the town’s inhabitants and visitors. It is the negotiation between planning, ideology and practice that makes the streets of Bet Yerah an exemplary case of the role of architecture in promoting and sustaining a new social order.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-233
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Mediterranean Archaeology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016


  • Early Bronze Age
  • Planning
  • Streets
  • Tel Bet Yerah
  • Urbanization


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