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Urban planning in ancient Near East.

Welcome to the spacious, not to mention airy, abodes of Titris Hoyuk, a planned community ahead of its time. Sorry, these dwellings in southeastern Turkey don't feature running water or any other newfangled amenities. Titris Hoyuk last bustled with activity more than 4,000 years ago. But its remains provide a rare glimpse of the thoroughly modern city design envisioned by early architects of urban life, according to an archaeological team excavating the 125-acre walled site.

"Evidently, the conception of what was urban in 2500 to 2200 B.C. was not all that different from what is considered urban today," says project director Guillermo Algaze of the University of California, San Diego.

The first large-scale civilization arose in southern Iraq more than 5,000 years ago (SN: 3/3/90, p. 136). City building expanded northward around 2500 B.C. However, little is known about the organization of those early urban centers and the manner in which their rank-and-file citizens lived.

Most ancient Near Eastern cities were inhabited for thousands of years--some still are. The original structures of these urban success stories are difficult to excavate because they lie under many later layers of occupation. Moreover, investigators who unearth a city's roots usually focus on palaces and other hangouts of society's upper crust.

Consider, however, Titris Hoyuk. This city's rapid rise and fall over a 300-year span, defined by a series of radiocarbon datings, left the initial buildings relatively unobscured. Field-workers led by Timothy Matney of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., dug only about 2 1/2 feet to reach the third millennium B.C. remains.

Work at Titris Hoyuk began in 1991 but intensified in 1993 with the decision to map underground remnants of the city using a hand-held magnetometer. This device records deviations in Earth's magnetic field triggered by buried objects.

Armed with magnetometry maps, which now cover more than half the site, and clues from pilot excavations, the investigators have uncovered clusters of houses in two neighborhoods situated within a larger community. Rock-paved streets were built first, followed by identical residences constructed according to standardized plans, Algaze contends. One neighborhood contained slightly larger, ritzier dwellings, he notes.

Extended families probably lived in the houses, each of which contained several cooking areas, according to Algaze. All nine houses excavated so far include stone crypts, intended for deceased family members. The tops of these chambers jut above the floors of central courtyards or rooms. Each tomb contains from seven to nine people, as well as weapons, food, and other burial items.

Titris Hoyuk's founding residents buried their ancestors at home to maintain a close spiritual bond among all family members, living and dead, Algaze theorizes.
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Title Annotation:excavation of ancient city of Titris Hoyuk in Turkey
Author:Bowers, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:May 17, 1997
Words:447
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