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ToappearinTheSumerianWorld,editedbyHarrietCrawford.London:Routledge

URUKMESOPOTAMIA

GuillermoAlgaze
UniversityofCalifornia,SanDiego

INTRODUCTION

Ancient Mesopotamian civilization emerged in the alluvial lowlands of the Tigris


Euphrates rivers in what is today southern Iraq in the fourth millennium BC, and it
enduredinrecognizableformforwelloverthreemillenniauntilAlexandertheGreatand
hisarmiesbreachedthegatesofBabylonin331BC.Ofthismillennialonghistory,no
timespanismorefundamentalforourunderstandingofMesopotamiancivilizationthan
theUrukperiod,spanningthebetterpartofthefourthmillenniumBC. Thisisbyno
meansanewidea. Intheculturalrealm,forinstance,thearthistoriansH.Frankfort
(1958)andHeleneKantor(1984)manyyearsagoalreadynotedthemultiplewaysin
whichtheiconographicrepertoireofUruktimessettheconventionsthatwouldguide
artistic representation inMesopotamia untilthedemise oftheneoAssyrianandneo
BabylonianempiresinthefirstmillenniumBC.Similarly,MarioLiveranihasrecently
pointedoutthattheconventionsofscribaladministrationthatemergedattheendofthe
Uruk Period and are reflected in the socalled Archaic Texts, in effect, also set the
framework for how Mesopotamian urban scribes would continue to comprehend,

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categorize,andrecordtheirworlduntiltheendofthecuneiformtraditionmillennialater
saveforminorimprovementsandadjustments(LiveraniandHeimpel1995:134).
Asimilar argumentcanbemadeforurbanism,perhapsthemostfundamental
characteristicofMesopotamiancivilizationthroughtheages(Stone1997). Ithasbeen
argued many times that cities and citystates were the default spatial and political
configurations,respectively,ofMesopotamiainthethirdmillennium(e.g.,Gibson1976),
with periods of regional political consolidation and transregional imperial outreach
representing largely episodic albeit highly visible departures from the norm (Larsen
1979). If this broad characterization is correct, as I believe it is, cities can be
conceptualizedasboththecruciblewhereMesopotamiancivilizationwasfirstforgedand
thelocuswhereitsuniqueinstitutionsanddistinctiveweltsaanshaung(Frankfortetal.,
1951;Jacobsen1976)replicatedthemselves(withmodifications)overmillennia.Again,
thehistoricalurbantraditionoflaterMesopotamiansocietiesisfirmlyrootedinUruk
perioddevelopments,ashasbeenwidelyacknowledgedsinceatleastthefirsthalfofthe
20thcentury.
Whatisneworatleastmorerecentarethreeinterconnectedrealizationsthat
add significant nuance to our understanding of the context in which the various
continuitiesofMesopotamiancivilizationjustnotedfirstarose. Thefirstisthatofthe
substantialtemporaldepthoftheUrukperiod,whichnowappearstohavespannedmost
ofthefourthmillennium,asHenryWrightandEricRupley(2001)demonstratedjust
overadecadeago.ThesecondrealizationisthatforatleastthefirsthalfoftheUruk
Period, developments in southern Mesopotamia were by no means as unique as

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previouslythoughtformostofthe20th century. Rather,recentarchaeologicalworkat
TellBrakandKhirbatalFakhar,bothintheUpperKhaburbasinofSyria,leavesno
doubtthatparallelandquitecomparabletrajectoriestowardsurbanscalesocietiesexisted
in both southern and northern Mesopotamia for much of the first half of the fourth
millenniumBC(Uretal.,2007;Oatesetal.,2007;McMahon2009;McMahonandOates
2007;AlQuntaretal.2011;Copper,thisvolume).Thethirdrealizationfollowsfromthe
preceding and is that the parallel trajectories exhibited by the southern and northern
portionsofgreaterMesopotamiadivergedabruptlysometimeinthesecondhalfofthe
fourthmillenniumBC,whensouthernpolitiesstartedtodramaticallyoutpacecompetitors
elsewhereinsouthwestAsiaintermsofscale,populationdensity,andsocialcomplexity
a process that eventually culminated with the intrusion of variously configured
southernMesopotamiancoloniesintoselectedareasofnorthernMesopotamiaandIran
(below)duringtheMiddleandLatephasesoftheUrukperiod,roughlycorrespondingto
the500orsoyearsbetween3700/3600and3200/3100BC.
Inwhatfollows,IbrieflyoutlinewhatisknownabouttheUrukperiodinsouthern
Mesopotamia and speculate on some of the possible reasons underlying the dramatic
reversalofregionalfortunesjustnoted,whichledtotheemergenceoftheearliestiteration
(Sumerian)ofMesopotamiancivilizationasweknowit.Beforeproceeding,however,a
fewwordsareinorderaboutthegeographicalscopeofthisessayandtheevidentiary
sourcesitrelieson.

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GEOGRAPHYANDENVIRONMENT

Asmaybesurmisedbythepreceding,thetermMesopotamiaisusedherenotinits
expansive original Greekmeaning that includes all ofthe areas contained withinthe
TigrisandEuphratesriversandbetweentheAnatolianPlateauandthePersianGulf,but
morenarrowlytodenoteonlytherelativelyflatalluviallowlandsoftheTigrisEuphrates
fluvial system. This is the area that geographers refer to as Lower or Alluvial
Mesopotamia (Liverani 2007)and that inantiquity broadly correspondedto the self
consciousculturalentitiesofSumerandAkkad(orBabylonia).Thisarelativelyflatbut
bynomeanshomogenousplainthatextendsfromthevicinityofmodernBaghdad,where
theTigrisandEuphratesstarttomeanderanddeposittheiralluvialloadsinearnest,tothe
vicinity of modern Basra and the Shatt elArab marshlands (see also Pournelle, this
volume).
AsRobertMcCormickAdams(1966)andMichaelRowton(1973)notedmany
yearsagoalready,throughoutantiquity,thealluvialplainsofsouthernMesopotamiawere
comprised of a mosaic of complementary ecological zones or niches that fostered
considerableregionaleconomicspecializationandtrade.Thesezonesrangefromwell
wateredareasnearactiveriverchannels,wherecultivationofgardenandotherwater
intensivecropssuchasflaxwaspossible,tobroaderirrigableplainsjustbeyondnatural
river levees that are optimal for cereal cultivation, to more marginal areas ideal for
pastoralismattheedgesofcultivationandinfallowareasbetweenfields,and,finally,to
waterloggedmarshes,brackishlagoons,andestuariesattheconjuncturewheretheTigris
andEuphratesthecoastofthePersianGulf,wherereedsusableasanimalfodderand

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construction materials as well as abundant proteinrich fowl and fish were easily
obtained.
While a comparable mosaic of ecologic niches also characterized alluvial
Mesopotamia throughout the fourth millennium, recent geomorphological data do
indicatesomeimportantdifferencesatthattime,whichhavebeenthesubjectofmuch
recentanalysisanddiscussion.Withoutquestion,themostsignificantsuchdifferences
pertain to the nature of the TigrisEuphrates Rivers, which then formed a single
complexlyintertwinedfluvialsystem,andtothelocationoftheheadofthePersianGulf
atthetime,whichwaswellnorthofitspresentlocation,andsotoowereitsassociated
marshesandestuaries(Hole1994;Pournelle2003a,2003b,2007,thisvolume)
Atthesametime,recentpaleoclimaticdatasuggests,inturn,thattheclimateof
theMesopotamianalluviumthroughtheUrukPeriodwasalsosomewhatdifferentthan
wasthecaseinhistorictimes,and,further,thatitchangeddramaticallyduringthecourse
ofthefourthmillennium(BarMatthewsandAyalon2011;Brooks2006;Staubwasser
andWeiss2006).Twochangesappearmostsignificant.Thefirstpertainstotheinitial
phaseoftheUrukperiod,roughlydatedtofirsthalfofthefourthmillennium, when
available data indicates that the southern Mesopotamian alluvial plains would have
receivedagreateramountofrainfallthanwasthecaselater,and,further,thatsomeof
thatrainfallwouldhavefallenduringthesummer.Thiswouldhavebeencompounded
bytheequallybeneficialeffectsthatthemorenorthernlocationoftheheadofthePersian
GulfwouldhavehadontheTigrisEuphratesfluvialsystemofthetime.Theseincludea
higherwatertableacrossthesouthernMesopotamianalluviumandagreaterrateofriver

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meandering (because the shorter length of the rivers increased water momentum)
ensuringthatlargerportionsoftheMesopotamianalluvialplainsawayfromtheenlarged
marsheswouldhavebeenexploitablebymeansofrelativelysimplebasinflowirrigation
without the need to construct the sorts of larger, more capital and labor intensive,
irrigation channels that became necessary to efficiently exploit the southern
Mesopotamian landscape later on when the head of the Persian Gulf had receded
southwards, lengthening the courses of the rivers and shrinking the extent of the
interstitialmarshes.
The second change pertains to the final phase of the Uruk period, when the
conditionsthathadbeensouniquelyfavorabletotheinitialgrowthoflargescalehuman
settlementintheareastartedtodissipate.Recentlyobtainedpaleoclimaticdatasuggest
thatanintervalofdryerclimatelastingperhapsasmuchastwocenturiesaffectedthe
southernMesopotamianalluviumsometimeattheendofthethirdandthebeginningof
thefourthquartersofthe4thmillennium,markingashifttothesortsofhighlyseasonal
conditionsthatcametocharacterizethesouthernMesopotamianalluviumthroughthe
historicandmodernperiods(Brooks2006;StaubwasserandWeiss2006).Interestingly,
thoughwedonotyethaveclosechronologicalcorrelation, thisclimatic deterioration
seems to have taken at about the time when a longterm process of expansion that
broughtUrukpolitiesindirectcontactwithpeerandlessdevelopedsocietiesattheir
peripherywasreachingitspeak.Atleastinsomeareasofthatperiphery,thosecontacts
culminated in what may be characterized as the worlds earliest colonial intrusion
(below).

EVIDENTIARYSOURCES

AvailablesourcesofinformationforUrukperiodMesopotamiaareuneveninqualityand
detail. Ourbest andinmanywaysstillonlydatabearingonthedevelopmental
dynamics of the period as a whole are the pioneering surveys conducted by Robert
McCormickAdamsandhiscolleaguesacrosslargeportionsoftheancientalluvialplains
oftheTigrisandEuphratesrivers(Adams1965,1981;AdamsandNissen1972;Gibson
1972;H.Wright1981;forareworkingofthedata,seenowKouchoukosandWilkinson
2007;Pollock2001;andWilkinson2000).Fundamentalastheymaybe,thesesurveys
arebiasedinanumberofwaysthatmustbeacknowledgedevenasweusethem.First,
becauseofrestrictionsonworknearthemoderninternationalborderbetweenIraqand
Iran,coverageofareaswateredbytheancientEuphrateswasmuchmoreextensiveand
representativethancoverageofareaswateredbytheancientTigris.Second,becausethey
weredesignedtobeextensiveinnature,andbecausedepositional(alluviationrates)and
erosional(channelscouring,winddeflation)patternsinenvironmentssuchassouthern
Iraqsnecessarilyhindersitevisibility,existingsurveysofsouthernIraqarelikelyto
havemissedasubstantialnumberofsmall,shallow,andburiedsites(Wilkinson2000).
Notwithstandingtheseproblems,thereisgeneralagreementthatexistingdatacanstillbe
usedtodiscernspatialrelationshipsbetweensettlementcategoriesintheregionand,inso
doing,toinferthepoliticalandeconomicrelationshipsthatmayhaveexistedbetween
those categories. Additionally, and equally importantly, the surveys allow for a
diachronicreconstructionofgrosstrendsinthedemographichistoryofthelargeportions

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oftheMesopotamianalluvialplainsthatcouldnotbediscernedotherwiseandtheyallow
ustocomparedemographictrendsfortheUrukperiodagainstthoseoftheimmediately
precedingandsucceedingsettlementphases(seealsoUr,thisvolume).
Existingexcavationsarenolessusefulandnolessproblematic.Nowhereisthis
better illustrated than in the case of excavations that German teams conducted
intermittentlyovermuchofthe20th centuryat theancientcityofUruk(modernWarka,
nearNasiriyah)(Eichmann1989,2007).Theseeffortshaveshedmuchlightonthenature
ofthestructuresthatexistedattheverycoreofwhatwaswithoutadoubtoneofthemost
importantpolitiesinalluvialMesopotamiathroughouttheUrukperiod,onthescaleofthe
laborresourcesneededtoerectthosebuildings,andontheactivitiesconductedwithin
them at least insofar as those activities may be reconstructed on the basis of the
associated artifactual record. Alas, this key corpus of data, too, comes to us with
importantevidentiarybiases.
AsnotedbyHansNissen(1993,2001,2002)inaseriesofseminalarticles,the
most important of these biases are: (1) that the Warka excavations, though unusually
extensive,concentratedonlyonelitequartersofthecityandarethusnotrepresentativeof
thecityasawhole,muchlessofitshabitationandindustrialareas;and(2)thatsavefora
small number of limited soundings, the overwhelming portion of the materials and
buildingsuncoveredbytheUrukexcavatorsbelongtotheveryendoftheUrukperiod,by
whichtimeMesopotamiancivilizationwasalready,sotosay,fullyformed.Thismeans
thattheformativephasesofMesopotamiancivilizationdatedtotheearlierphasesofthe

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UrukperiodremainlargelyunexploredatWarkaorelsewhereintheMesopotamian
Alluviumforthatmatter,outsideofsurfacesurveys.
Afurtherproblemisthelackofsubstantialsystematicexplorationofsecondtier
Uruk period regional centers elsewhere in the Mesopotamian alluvium, save for
excavationsconductedinthe1940satthecoreofTellUqair(LloydandSafar1943)and
Eridu(Safar,Mustafa,andLloyd1981),whichmirrorthemoreextensivedatafromthe
coreofUrukandthusaddlittletoourunderstandingoftheperiod,orexcavationsinto
sitessuchasNippur(Hansen1965),Ur(Woolley1955),andTello(Parrot1948),which
sampledUrukperiodlevelsbutwereeithersolimitedinextentsoastoproducelittle
informationbeyondceramicchronologies(Nippur)orwereconductedinsuchahaphazard
fashionsoastobelargelyirrelevantforscholarlyuse(UrandTello).Evenmoregallingis
thefactthatafteracenturyorsoofsystematic exploration insouthernMesopotamia,
researchdesignsthatweremassivelybiasedfromthebeginningtowardstherecoveryof
elitearchitectureandartifactsmeanthatwestillhavealmostnosystematicexplorationsof
Urukperiodvillagesorhamletsawayfromthelargerregionalcenters.1
Afurtherbiasmuststillbediscussed.Becauseoftheshortcomingsjustnotedof
existingarchaeologicaldatafortheUrukperiod,Mesopotamianscholarsoftenputmuch
stockonavailabletextualdocumentationfortheperiodanditsimmediateaftermath,which
consistsofacorpusof5000plusArchaicTextsexcavatedinEannaIVIIIlevelsat
Warka(Englund1998)andofanundeterminednumberofpaleographicallycomparable
AnexceptionisasystematicsurfacesurveyofanEarlyUruksitenearNippurby
CharlesRedman(1971)aspartofhisdoctoraldissertation.Additionally,itshouldbe
notedthatlimitedsoundingsofatleasttwosmallruralUruksitesdoexistinSusiana
(Johnson1976).
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tabletsexcavatedor,morecommonly,plunderedfromothersouthernMesopotamiansites
(Englund2009:footnote11).However,thisdataisalsoproblematicinitsownway.To
beginwith,thetabletsdateonlytotheveryfinalphaseoftheUrukperiodandshedno
lightwhatsoeveronthebeginningsoftheurbanrevolutioninthearea,whichbeganmuch
earlier(below).Moreover,evenatWarka,onlyahandfulofthethousandsoftabletsand
tablet fragments recovered were found in primary contexts, so that it is difficult to
associateanyparticularinformationcontainedinthetextswithanyparticularinstitutionat
thatsite(Englund1994:1119).
MindfulthatourdataforreconstructingdevelopmentsinsouthernMesopotamiain
the Uruk Period are not always complementary and are hopelessly partial, we may
tentativelyforgeaheadwithanattemptnecessarilyimperfecttocreateanarrativeof
sortsabouttheoriginsofearlyMesopotamiancivilization.Bynecessity,thatnarrative
focusesonwhatwecansaywiththedatawedohave.

THEEVIDENCEFROMSURVEYS:

URUKPERIODSPATIALANDPOLITICALORGANIZATION

Available survey evidence suggests that the transition between the Uruk and the
immediately preceding Ubaid periods was rather abrupt throughout the Mesopotamian
alluvium(Nissen1988:66).Tobesure,thereisnowaytoknowforcertainwhetherthis
abruptness reflects an actual demographic pattern, whether, at least in part, it reflects
accidentsofdiscoveryduetochangesintherateandintensityofgeomorphologicalforces
thatobscuredsitevisibilityinthealluviumbetweenthetwoperiods,orboth.

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Perhapsbecauseofthiscaveat,inhisanalysisoflongtermsettlementtrendsinthe
southernMesopotamianalluviumRobertMcCormickAdams(1981:5460)wasunwilling
tocharacterizethenatureofpreUruksettlementintheMesopotamianalluviumindetail,
limitinghimselftonotingthatingeneralthedensityofpreUruksitesisverylightand
declinesnorthwardsfromtheheadofthegulf,thatmostpreUruksettlementsrepresented
butsmallhamletsorvillages,andthatlargersettlementswerenotattestedinthealluvium
untiltheendoftheUbaidPeriod(endofthefifthmillennium),whenahandfulofsites,
each about10hainextent, emerged. Theselargersites,heargued,providetheonly
indication we have for social differentiation and complexity in southern Mesopotamia
priortotheUrukperiod.
Though Adams chose not to quantify the extent of occupation in the alluvium
duringtheUbaidPeriod,whatdatawehave,imperfectasitis,showsastarkcontrast
betweentheUbaidandthesucceedingUrukPeriods.Whereastheearlierperiodevinceda
bimodal settlement structure with a handful of towns with monumental religious
architectureattheircoresurroundedbyrelativelyundifferentiatedvillages,thelaterperiod
sawthedevelopmentofamorecomplexmultimodalsettlementconfiguration,comprising
atleastthreeorfourtiersofsettlement.Thisisreflectedinaconsiderableincreaseinthe
totalnumberofsitesrecordedacrossthealluvium,inthegrowthofmultipleindividual
centers to urban proportions, and, most tellingly, in the thickening of the associated
settlementnetworksthatsurroundedthenewlyemergedurbancenters.
These differences matter. The bimodal settlement structure of Ubaid
Mesopotamia correlates wellwiththeexpected spatial configuration ofchiefdomlevel

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polities(Steponaitis1981;Wright1984;Nissen1988;butseeYoffee2005foracontrary
opinion),2whilethemultimodalsettlementstructurethatdevelopedintheareaduringthe
UrukPeriod,inturn,correlateswellwithformsofspatialorganizationtypicalforstate
levelpolities(Johnson1975;IsbellandSchreiber1978).Strikingly,theavailablesurvey
evidencesuggeststhatsuchpolitieswerealreadyinplaceacrossthesurveyedportionsof
thesouthernMesopotamianalluviumbythefirstquarterofthefourthmillennium,the
EarlyUrukperiod,whenUruk/Warka,situatedonamajorbranchofthefourthmillennium
Euphrates,isestimatedtohavebeenbetween70to100hectaresinextent.Atleastthree
othersitesacrossthealluviumatthispointwere40hectaresorlargerinsize(Eridu,Site
1237,andTellalHayyad[Site1306]). Multipleothersitesacrossthealluviumatthis
timewereintherangeof1525hectares(Adams1981;Wright1981;Algaze2008:fig.16
andappendix1).
Thesevariouscentersdidnotexistinisolation.Whentherelevantsurveydataare
tallied,itappearsthattheyanchoredcomplexsettlementgridsminimallycomprisingfour
tiersindepth(Johnson1980:249).Indeed,availabledataindicatethattheproportionof
thepopulationlivinginrelativelylargetownsized(ca.10+ha)orurbansized(ca.40+ha)
TheexistenceofUbaidianchiefdomshasbeenrejectedbyYoffee(2005)whonotesthe
almosttotallackofmaterialculturemarkersofpersonaldifferentiationinexcavated
cemeteriesoftheLateUbaidperiodwithinsouthernMesopotamia.However,thedearth
ofarchaeologicalevidenceforwealthaccumulationbyeliteindividualsinUbaidtimes
looksquitedifferentifonetakesintoaccountcontemporarydatafromthenearbyand
relatedSusianaPlainofsouthwesternIran,wheresignificantwealthintheformmetal
toolsandweaponsexistedintheSusaAPeriodcemeteryormassgraveatthebaseofthe
socalledMassifFuneraireatthesiteofSusa(Moorey1999:256).Moreover,andmost
importantly,evenifitwerereal,suchadearthisnotinandofitselfasufficientreasonto
rejecttheexistenceofUbaidianchiefoms,apointmadeindependentlybyStein(1994)
andFlannery(1999),whonotethatconspicuousconsumptioninlifeanddeathisonly
oneofthemanypotentialstrategiesusedbychiefstolegitimizethemselves.
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agglomerations in the alluvium in the Early Uruk period was just under 50 percent
accordingtoAdamss(1981:75,table4)originalcalculations. IfPollocks(2001:216,
table6.7)recentreassessmentofthesamedata,whichtriestotakeintoaccountthefact
that not all sites assigned to a discrete period are likely to have been strictly
contemporaneous,ispreferred,thatproportionrisestoanastonishing80percentorso.
Impressiveasthismaybe,developmentsinthesucceedingLateUrukPeriodare
even more striking. As in the earlier phase, the proportion of the population of the
Mesopotamian alluvium living in relatively large townsized or urbansized
agglomerationsremainedastonishinglyhigh(ca,70%fortheNippurAdabRegionandca,
60%fortheWarkaregion).3 Asintheprecedingperiod,multipletowns(ca.1015ha)
andsmall(ca.25ha:Nippur,Site1172,site125)andlarger(50ha:Site1306)cities
existedacrossthesurveyedportionsofthealluviumatthistime(Algaze2008:fig.17,
appendix 2) and further such cities also existed in areas not systematically surveyed,
minimallyincludingUmmaandTello(Algaze2008:112).WhatisnewintheLateUruk
period,however,istheextraordinarydevelopmentanddemographicgrowthofthecentral
portion of the alluvium surveyed by Adams, where Uruk/Warka attained the
unprecedentedsizeofupto250hectares,accordingtoadetailedsurfacesurveyofthesite
conductedbyaGermanexpeditionjustbeforetheonsetoftheFirstGulfWar(Finkbeiner
1991:fig.18).Althoughthereisnoconsensusonpreciselyhowtocorrelatesettlement
Adams(1981,75,table4)originallyestimatedthatupto70percentofthepopulationin
theNippurAdabregionwasurbanintheLateUrukperiodasopposedtoabout40
percentintheWarkaarea,butthelatternumbermustberevisedsharplyupwardstoabout
60percenttoaccountforthegreatlyincreasedestimateforthesizeofWarkaitselfatthe
time(250haasopposedtoAdamssinitialestimateof100ha).
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extent and population in ancient Mesopotamian cities, there is general agreement that
Nissens(2003)estimateofthepopulationofWarkaintheLateUrukperiodat40,000or
sopeopleprobablyrepresentsareasonableapproximation.4
Not surprisingly, the settlement grid that surrounded Warka at this time was
exceptionallycomplexintermsofitsdensityandhierarchy(fourormoretiersdepending
onhowthedataareanalyzed). Itincludednumerousdependentsmallandlargetowns,
villages,andhamletssituatedwithina15kilometerrangeofthecity,totalingaminimum
of280orsohectaresoffurtheroccupation(AdamsandNissen1972;Nissen2002:fig5).
Inotherwords,ataminimum,bythefinalphaseoftheUrukperiod,thegrowingregional
politycenteredatUruk/Warkahadapopulationthatcanbeconservativelyestimatedat
wellupwardsof80/90,000peopleandthisestimatenecessarilyexcludesthemanysmall
sites that were surely missed by the surveyors as well as associated, but inherently
difficulttotrace,transhumantandmarshdwellingpopulations.
Howandwhydidapolityofsuchunprecedentedscaleform?Thehowpartofthe
questionisapproachablewiththearchaeologicaltoolsatourdisposal.Whiletheoverall
density of population in the Mesopotamian alluvium remained essentially unchanged
betweentheearlierandlaterphasesoftheUrukPeriod,importantchangesdidtakeplace
inthedistributionofpopulationswithintheareabetweenthosephases(Adams1981:70
71).Inparticular,absolutepopulationlevelsappeartohavedeclinedinsomeareasofthe
Nissenarrivedatthisestimatebypresumingadensityof200personsperhectareof
surveyedoccupied areaandbypresumingthatthelightlyinhabitedpublicquarterof
Warkaamountedtoca.20%ofthe250haextentofthesite. Almostcertainly,this
underestimatestheactualpopulationdensityofWarkaintheLateUrukPeriodasmaybe
inferredfromPostgates(1994)studyofthedemographyofMesopotamiancitiesinthe
thirdandsecondmillenniaBC.
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alluviumintandemwithWarkasgrowth,suggestingthatthedramaticgrowthofthatcity
anditsimmediatehinterlandwasfueledinpartbyintraalluvialpopulationtransfers.A
caseinpointisofferedbytheNippurAdabregion,northofWarka,whereAdamss(1981)
surveysshowthat,whiletownandurbansizedsettlementsremainedstablethroughthe
Urukperiod,thenumberoftheirassociatedvillagesandhamletsdeclinedsignificantlyas
theperiodprogressed.Asimilardeclineinabsolutepopulationlevelsbetweentheearlier
andlaterUrukphasesisvisibleintheUrEriduregion,southofWarka,anareasurveyed
byHenryWright(1981).There,however,thelossofpopulationtookplacelargelyatthe
expense of Eridu, which had been one of the largest Early Uruk cities in the entire
alluvium.
Additionally,itislikelythattheexplosivegrowthoftheWarkaanditsimmediate
hinterlandintheLateUrukperiodalsodrewinpopulationsfromareaswelloutsidethe
Mesopotamianalluviumproper. Suggestedinthepastbyanumberofauthors(Adams
1981;Algaze1993;Wright andJohnson1975),this possibility nowfinds quantitative
supportinarecentcomparativereanalysisoftheavailablesurveydatafromsouthernand
northern Mesopotamia and southwestern Iran in the fourth millennium by Nicholas
KouchoukosandTonyWilkinson(2007).TheynotethatsettlementprocessesinGreater
MesopotamiathroughouttheUrukperiodappeartohavebeencausallyarticulatedover
vast regions and persuasively show that, when recalculated using a single standard,
demographic trends intheMesopotamian alluvium andimmediately neighboringareas
appeartobeinverselycorrelated:theexplosivegrowthofWarkaanditshinterlandtook
placenotonlyattheexpenseoftheNippurAdabandEriduUrareas,asarguedearlier,but

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seeminglyalsoattheexpenseofareaswelloutsidetheimmediateconfinesofalluvial
Mesopotamia, where a monotonical decline in settled population can be observed
throughoutthefourthmillennium.Minimally,thisisthecaseinareasasdisparateasthe
JazirahplainsnorthoftheJebelSinjarinnorthernIraq,theSusianaplainofsouthwestern
Iran,andFarsPlaininhighlandsouthwestIran(seeKouchoukosandWilkinson2007for
theJezirahandSusianaandSumner1986forFars).
Thewhypartofthequestionislessstraightforwardandrequiresustothinkin
termsofselfamplifyingiterativeprocesses. Elsewhere,combiningscrapsofavailable
datafromMesopotamiaitselfandhistoricalanalogies,Ihavearguedforgrowingintra
andinterregionaltradefunneledthroughUrukcities,andforimportsubstitutionprocesses
resultingfromthattrade,asprimaryforcesfuelingemploymentinthosecitiesandspurring
continuedimmigrationintothem(Algaze2008).Nodoubt,thiswascompounded,inturn,
bytwofurthermutuallyreinforcingprocesses:(1)escalatingconflictbetweenrivalcenters
thatbecameevermoreassertiveastheygrewinscale,increasingthedefensiveflightinto
thoseverysamecentersofruralpopulationscaughtinthemiddle,and(2)theideological
attractionsoflivingincenterswherethegodsthemselveswerethoughttoreside(Adams
1981),whichsurelyhelpeddrawfurtherpeopleintoalreadygrowingcities. Asbigger
poolsofconsumersforimportedandlocallymadecommoditiesandofexploitablelabor
werecreated,furtheriterationsofselfsustaininggrowthprocessesbecameincreasingly
likely.
Bethatasitmay,theunprecedentedgrowthofurbanisminsouthernMesopotamia
duringthelaterphaseoftheUrukPeriodcanalsobegaugedbythescaleofthebuilding

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programsthattookplaceintheburgeoningMesopotamiancitiesofthetime.Itistoan
examinationofthatevidencethatwenowturn.

EXCAVATIONS:ANARROWBUTREVEALINGLOOKATURUKURBANISM

OurknowledgeofthenatureofUrukurbanismhasincreasedexponentiallyinthelastfew
decadesasaresultofexcavationsintheTabqaDamareaofSyria,wherelargeportionsof
anUrukurbanenclavehavebeenuncoveredbythecombinedeffortsofGerman,Belgian,
andDutchexcavators(below).WithinalluvialMesopotamia,however,thebulkofwhat
detailedevidencewehaveforthenatureofUrukurbanismcomesfromtheeponymoussite
ofUruk/Warkaitself,whichwasintermittentlyexcavatedoverthelast100orsoyearsby
Germanteams.
WhileWarkaappearstohavebeenurbaninsizesincethebeginningoftheUruk
period (above), little can be said about how the settlement was organized at the time
becauseofthelimitednatureofpertinentexposures.Thatisnotthecase,howeverwith
thesucceedingLateUrukPeriodforwhichthesiteprovidesawealthofevidence. As
notedearlier,thesettlementsprawledoveranareaofabout250ha(2.5sq.km)atthetime.
OnthebasisofparallelswithUrukcolonialsettlementsinSyria,itislikelythatUrukwas
walled,5 andthatitwasdividedintoreligious/administrative,residential,andindustrial
quarters.However,Germanexcavatorsfocusedtheireffortsonlyontheverycoreofthe
city,wheretheyeventuallysucceededinexposinganareaofabout9ha(orjustunder4%
Thispossibilitystrengthenedbycontemporarycylindersealimpressionsdepicting
urbanfortifications,someofwhichcomefromWarkaitself(e.g.,Boehmer1999:fig.
26).
5

18
ofthesite;Nissen2001).Thissubstantialexposureyieldedaseriesofmonumentalelite
buildingsorganizedintotwoseparatearchitecturalclusterssituatedsome300mapartfrom
eachother,knownastheEannaandKullaba(Anu)Precincts.Inthelaterhistoricperiods,
these precints were devoted, respectively, to the gods Inanna and Enlil, and almost
certainlythiswasthecasealreadyintheUrukperiodaswell.Becausethetwoareaswere
clearly distinct and are situated at significantly different elevations, it is plausibly
hypothesizedthattheystartedasacropoleisfortwodistinctsettlementsthatwerelater
joinedatthetimeUrukfirstgrewtourbansize(Nissen2002).
Whilefarfromrepresentativeofthecityasawhole,theEannaandAnuexposures
arequiteinformativeaboutthenatureandscaleofeliteinstitutionsattheheartofthe
settlementintheLateUrukPeriod.Asthepertinentevidencehasrecentlybeentheobject
ofdefinitivestudiesbyRicardoEichmann(1989and2007)andofarecentreanalysisby
MarliesHeinz(2006),onlyabriefsummaryofsomeofthemostsalientdataisnecessary
here.
Themostcoherentoratleastbestunderstoodofthetwoexposedareaswasthe
AnuPrecinct,whereexcavatorsuncoveredamassivetripartitestructure(24x19m)of
Late Uruk date with a central cella and recessbuttressed walls known as the White
Templeonaccountofthecoloroftheplasterthatlineditswallswhenfirstexcavated.
Thosewallswerepreservedinplacestoaheightofover3metersandallowtheoverall
heightofthebuildingtobereconstructedwithsomeconfidenceatabout6meters(Nissen
andHeine2009:23).Becauseofitstripartiteplanfocusedaroundacentralhall(which
recallsthatofearlierUbaidtemples)andbecausethathallcontainedbothafreestanding

19
centralofferingtableandacornerpodium(wherethestatueofthegodwouldhavestood),
theWarkaexcavatorsplausiblyinterpretedthisstructureasatemple.
TheWhiteTemplewasclearlythelastofseveralsimilarbutsmallerstructures
erectedoveraseriesofsuccessivelyrebuiltmudbrickterracesintheAnuarea.Bythetime
thatthefinalversionofWhiteTemplewasbuilt,thoseterraceshadrisentoaheightof13
metersandthetemplecouldonlybeaccessedbymeansofanarrowstaircasecarvedinto
theterrace.Thesubstantialbulkandheightofterrace,addedtothealsosubstantialheight
ofthebuildingitself,meantthattheWhiteTempledominatedthevisuallandscapeofboth
thecityanditssurroundingregion.
ButtheWhiteTemplewashardlythemostmassivestructureintheAnuarea.Just
at the base of its terrace, the Warka excavators uncovered a roughly contemporary
structurethatwasevenlarger(25x30m)butwasbuiltlargelyunderground.Knownas
theSteingebaudebecauseofitswallsmadeofbitumenmortaredlimestone,thisbuilding
hadahighlyunusuallabyrinthineplansurroundingacentralspaceatitscore.Becauseof
the highly restricted nature of that space, the Steingebaude is generally interpreted as
servingaculticpurpose(Forest1999;Vertesaltji1989,193,note19).
The interpretation of the more numerous and sometimes more massive
contemporarystructuresuncoveredintheEannaareaislessstraightforward.Thisisdue
tothefactthattheexcavatorswerenotalwaysabletotracetherelativestratigraphyof
manyofthestructuresuncoveredinthatarea,whichhasprecludedaconsensusasto
exactlywhichbuildingswereinusecontemporaneously. Whatfollowsisbasedforthe
mostpartontheanalysisoftheevidencebyEichmann(1989)andHeinz(2006),whouse

20
the superimposition of particular buildings over others and extrapolations of general
alignmentsbetweenbuildingsasawaytodisentanglethearchitecturalsequence.
Bydesign,thebulkofexposuresintheEannaAreafocusedonLevelIVofthe
sequence(Nissen2002).Becauseexposuresofdeeperlevelswaslimited,onlytwoofthe
many Uruk structures exposed in Eanna predate Level IV: the socalled Stone Cone
MosaicTemple(ca.20x30m)andthemuchlargerLimestoneTemple(ca.27x80m),
theformerderivingitsnamefromitswalldecorationsandthelatterfromthematerialused
for its construction. Both structures have the tripartite architectural arrangement that
reflexively gets subsumed under the category of temple by Mesopotamian
archaeologists,buttheylackaltarsandofferingtablesacharacteristicthat,interestingly,
issharedbyallofthelatertripartiteUrukstructuresclearedinEanna.
Numerous buildings assignable to three superimposed but not always clearly
delineablebuildingphasesandpartsofatemenoswallseparatingthosestructuresfromthe
restofthesettlementwereclearedinLevelIV.Theearlieststructuresinthelevelwerea
seriesofthenowusualtripartitebuildings(TemplesA,B,F,G,andH),eachroughly
similarinscaletotheearlierStoneConeMosaicTemple.Whatwasnewandsignificantly
differentatthistime,however,wasaverylargesquarestructurewithrecessedcorners(ca.
57mperside)ofuniquedesignassignedtoEannaIVb. KnownasBuildingE,this
structurehasmultipleexternalentrancesleadingtotwosymmetricalrangesofroomsand
hallsoneachofitssideswhich,inturn,surroundalargecentralsquarecourtyard(ca.31m
perside)thatisalsoaccessiblethroughmultiplepointsofentry.6
ThisstructureisalsosometimesreferredtoasPalaceE(e.g.,Nissen1988)or,more
neutrally,astheBuildingwithFourHalls(Heinrich1982).Forarecentdiscussionof
thestructure,seeBrentschneider2007.
6

21
ThefinalbuildingphaseassignedtotheEannaIVsequenceintroducedsubstantial
changes in the spatial organization of the exposed area. Three such changes are
noteworthy.OnewasthedismantlingofBuildingEandtheerectionpartlyoveritofnew
tripartitestructure(BuildingD)oftraditionalarchitectural designbutmuchgranderin
scale(ca.80x50m).Anotherwasthebuildingofarowofnewstructuresperpendicular
to Building D, including two elaborately decorated halls (the Pillared Hall and the
GreatHall),which,liketheearlierBuildingE,couldbeenteredfromeverydirection.
Thethirdwasthebuildingofalarge(ca.60mperside)partlysunkenwalledcourt(the
Great Court)adjoiningthetemenos wall,whichis generally interpreted as agarden
becauseoftheabsenceofinteriorwallsandbecauseassociatedwaterchannelsdraininto
thecourt,ratherthanthereverse.
WhatcanwesayaboutUruksocietyonthebasisoftheexposedarchitectureatthe
heartofUruk/Warka? Itisimpossibletobegintoanswerthisquestionwithoutdelving
into the function of the exposed buildings, but such an inquiry is inherently difficult
becausetheoverwhelmingmajorityofthosebuildingswereonlypreservedatthelevelof
theirfoundations,havingbeenrazedandleveledinantiquity,andaccordinglytheyhad
fewdirectlyassociatedfinds.Moreover,asnotedearlier,evenwhensuchfindsexisted,
excavationmethodologiesandrecordingprioritiesinuseatthetimetheywereexcavated
meanthatfewofthefindscanbeputbackintothebuildingsinwhichtheywerefound
(Nissen2002).Inlightofthis,inferencesaboutthefunctionofparticularEannastructures
arealmostentirelybasedontheformoftheexposedbuildingsthemselvesandmustbe
consideredlittlemorethaninformedspeculation.

22
SeekingtoreconcilethetripartitefloorplanofmanyoftheEannabuildingswith
thewidespreadevidenceforcontemporaryadministrativeactivitiesfoundintheirgeneral
vicinity (below), many archaeologists refer to the Eanna structures simply as
religious/administrative in nature. This may certainly be correct but still begs the
questionoftheirexactfunction.Others,inturn,notingsimilaritiesintheproportionsof
thecentralhallsofmanyofthestructuresandmodernreedbuiltreceptionhutsusedby
traditionaltribalchiefsinsouthernIraq(Arabic: madhaif),suggestthattheyservedas
culticreceptionhallsormeetingplaces,anideatraceabletoWalterAndrae(1936).Be
thatasitmay,onefactimmediatelystrikestheeye:whileentrancetothestructuresinthe
AnuAreaappearstohavebeencarefullycontrolled,thiswasnotalwaysthecaseinthe
EannaArea,wheremanyofthebuildingshadmultipleentrancesandmusthaveserved
purposesrequiringtherelativelyfreecongregationoflargenumbersofpeople(feasting
asamodeofsocialmobilization?SeeDietlerandHerbich2001),ashasbeennotedbya
numberofscholars(e.g.,Crawford2004;Dittmann2007).
ButifattemptstogetatthefunctionofthestructuresexposedattheheartofUruk
yieldlittlebeyondbroadgeneralities,thereisstillmuchthatcanbesaidaboutUruk
society, and particularly about the ability of its elites to command both labor and
resources,bylookingattheenergeticsrequiredtoputthosestructurestogetherinthefirst
place.
MostMesopotamianscholarsarequitefamiliarwithearlycalculationsmadeby
theexcavatorsoftheWhiteTemplecomplex,whoestimatedthatitwouldhavetaken
1,500laborersworkingonaverage10hoursperdayforabout5years(Heinrich1939:24,

23
note2)tobuildthelastmajorrevetmentofitsmassiveunderlyingterrace(43x60mat
itsbaseand13minheight=33,540m3, ofwhichtherevetmentoccupiedca.80%by
volume=26,832m3).7Usingthesamelaborestimatesforcomparativepurposes,wecan
calculatetheamountoflaborrequiredtobuildsomeofthecontemporarystructuresinthe
EannaPrecinct.Lackofspacepreventsathoroughanalysishere,butafewbackofthe
envelopecalculationsforsomeofthelargersuccessivebuildingserectedinEannawill
servetoillustrate thepoint: theLimestone Temple assignedtoEanna V,BuildingE
assignedtoIVb,andTempleDassignedtoIVa.Ifwedisregarddoorways,presumethat
eachofthethreestructureswasastallastheWhiteTemple,andtreattheLimestone
Templeasifithadbeenbuiltusing(lesslaborintensive)mudbricks,thenthecombined
volumeoftheinternalandexternalwallsofthesebuildingswouldhaveamountedto
some25,054m3.8 By constructionstandardsofthefinalWhiteTemplerevetment,this
volumeofmudbrickwouldhaverequiredthelaborofabout1,400workersforfiveyears.
TherevetmentinquestionwaslabeledA12byHeinrichandisrelabeledZ67in
Eichmanns(2007:517,note770)reconstruction.Theestimateoftherelativeproportion
ofthetotalvolumeoftheWhiteTempleTerraceoccupiedbyitslastrevetmentprovided
hereisderivedfromaschematicprofileoftheterracepublishedbyitsexcavator,E.
Heinrich(1938:19,fig2).
7

AllcalculationsarebasedondimensionsextractedfromplansinEichmann2007.
LimestoneTemple:Externalwalls:2x(2.6m[thickness]x30m[length]x6m
[height]);2x(2.6mx75mx6m).Internalwalls:1x(3mx30mx6);2x(2.6mx60
mx6m).Crosswalls:8x(2mx5mx6m);2x(2mx7mx6m);2x(2mx10mx6
m).Totalvolume:6,576m3.
BuildingE:Externalwalls:4x(2m[thickness]x47m[length]x6m[height).Internal
walls:4x(2mx57mx6m);4x(2mx20mx6m);Crosswalls:16x(2mx10mx6
m).Totalvolume:6,912m3.
TempleD:Externalwalls:4x(3m[thickness]x80m[length]x6m[height];2x(3mx
50mx6m).Internalwalls:2x(3mx31mx6m);2x(3x55mx6m);Crosswalls:4
x(3mx7mx6m);8x(1.3mx7mx6m).Totalvolume:11,566m3.
8

24
It does nottake much imagination to see that preliminary calculations such as these
wouldamounttoastaggeringamountoflaboratthedisposaloftherulersofUrukcities
if one includes all pertinent architectural evidence as well as associated architectural
levelingeffortspriortobuilding,andparticularlysoifNissen(2003:12)iscorrectin
presumingthattheadministrativequarterofUruk/Warkaprobablyoccupiedca20%of
thetotalextentofthecity(i.e.,about50ha).
Impressive this may be, the energetic requirements of the massive building
programs at the core of Uruk required more than just labor. Substantial access to
resources, many of them imported, was also needed. Take, for instance, the timber
requirementsofthesamethreesuccessivebuildingsinEannadiscussedearlier. Given
thewidespanofmostoftheroomsandhallsthattheycontained,thesestructurescould
onlyberoofedusingwoodnotthenlocallyavailableintheMesopotamianAlluvium,
almostcertainlypinescutfromthehighlandsofeithertheTaurusorZagrosMountainsof
TurkeyandIran,respectively.9CalculationsbyJeanClaudeMargueron(1992)allowus
toinferwhatthoserequirementswouldhavebeen.Heestimatesthatsomewherebetween
3,000and6,000linearmetersoftimberwouldhavebeennecessarytorooftheLimestone
Temple,dependingon,amongotherthings,whetheritscourtyardwasroofed,numberof
stories, and roofing beam placement interval. Extrapolating from these figures and
presuming similar construction parameters und uncertainties per unit of built space,
Building E would have required between 4,330 and 8,660 linear meters of imported
roofingtimberandTempleD,inturn,wouldhaveconsumedsomewherebetween5,580
CarbonizedpinehasinfactbeenrecoveredinLateUrukLevelsatWarka(Engeland
Krshner1993).
9

25
and 11,160 linear meters, fora combined total of between 12,910and 25,820 linear
metersforthethreebuildings.Again,wehavetoassumethatthisrepresentsbutasmall
fractionofthefulltimberrequirementsofLateUrukWarka.
WecouldcontinuewithcalculationsoftheenergeticsofLateUrukurbanism,but
by now the point should be abundantly clear. The scale of the Late Uruk building
programatthecenterofUruk/Warkaleaveslittledoubtastothesubstantialabilityofthat
cityselitesandinstitutionstoacquireanddeploystaggeringamountsofbothlaborand
resources.Wehavetopresumethatelitesandinstitutionsatothercontemporaryurban
siteselsewhereintheMesopotamianAlluviumwouldhavehadcomparableneedsand
comparable abilities to satisfy those needs, as shown, for instance, by the massive
bitumen mortared, mudbrick and limestone revetted platforms of Late Uruk Temples
(LevelsIII)atEridu(Safar,Mustapha,andLloyd1981). Whothoseeliteswereand
what labor resources they were able to command are subjects addressed in the
discussionsthatfollow.

LATEURUKELITESANDTHEIRINSTITUTIONS

ApictureofthetoprungofMesopotamiansocietiesisnotpossiblepriortotheMiddle
and Late Phases of the Uruk Period, when iconographic and textual evidence,
respectively,becomeavailable.Withoutquestiononeofthemostimportantsourceswe
havebearingonthenatureofUrukinstitutionsisrepresentedbyfragmentsofascribal
exerciseconventionallyreferredastheTitlesandProfessionsList,whichdatetofinal
phase of the Uruk Period (Uruk IV script). In its complete version dating to the

26
succeedingEarlyDynasticPeriod,thedocumentlistsover120categoriesofspecialized
administrative and priestly personnel in some sort of hierarchical order. While the
earliestUrukIVscriptfragmentsofthislistarenotcomplete,whatportionswedohave
closely match later versions, strongly suggesting that those later versions are in fact
scribalcopiesofdocumentsalreadyincirculationbyLateUruktimes.Therankedlist
starts withanentrythatonthebasis oflater parallels maybeinterpreted as king.
Subsequententriesarenotallclearlyunderstoodbutincludethetitlesofadministrators
andlesserofficialsinchargeofvariousstateinstitutionsincludingindividualsincharge
oftheadministrationofjustice,thecityassembly,plowing,sowingandotheragricultural
activities,temples,etc.(Nissen,Damerow,andEnglund1993:11015).
Further details of Uruk institutions and the individuals that created them are
providedbyiconographyofMiddleandLateUrukdate.MuchofUrukart,forinstance,
dealswiththeideologicallychargedactivitiesofalargerthanlifebeardedmalefigure,
whowearshishairinachignonandsportsanetlikeskirt.Typicallydepictedasahunter
ofwildanimalsandmen,asaleaderinbattle,asafountainofagriculturalwealth,in
directassociationwithnichedbuildingsofpresumablyculticsignificance,andasthe
main officiator invarious religious rituals (Bahrani 2002;Boehmer 1999;Schmandt
Besserat1993;Winter2007),thisindividualisgenerallythoughttorepresentapriest
kingorcityruler,attributionslargelybasedonthecloseparallelsbetweenthemanner
inwhichheisdepictedinUrukartandthewayhistoricMesopotamiankingswerelater
portrayed.

27
When not focusing on heroic warlike rulers, Uruk iconography often depicts
various types of economic activities, such as agricultural labor and the storage of
agriculturalproducts,thetransportofcommodities,theherdingofcapridsandbovines,
andtheprocessingofwoolanddairyproducts. Theseimages,too,provideimportant
inferentialinformationaboutUrukinstitutions.AsnotedbyReneDittmann(1986)inhis
pathbreaking review of Uruk glyptic from Susa, at that site, most scenes depicting
economicactivitiesareassociatedwithimagesofbuildingswithnichedfaades.Ifwe
presume that the glyptic containing these images represented bureaucratic records of
economic activities at the site, and that the niched structures depicted in the Susian
glypticarerepresentationsofsimilarlybuiltstructuresexcavatedinUrukcities,suchas
Warka,forinstance,thenthephysicalcentralityofthenichedstructuresinthosecities
maybetakenasanindicationoftheeconomiccentralityoftheinstitutionsthatthey
housed.

LABORINURUKMESOPOTAMIA

TheearliesttabletsthatemergedinMesopotamiaattheveryendoftheUrukperiodafter
many generations of urban life had already elapsed are not always entirely
understandabletous.Nonetheless,thosetabletsarestillenormouslyinformative.Ofthe
many aspects of Uruk Mesopotamian societies that they illuminate, few are more
importantthanhowinstitutionallaborwasorganizedinLateUrukcities.
Theoverwhelmingmajorityofthetabletsweresimpleaccountsdocumentingflows
ofcommodities. Manyrecord thedisbursement oftextiles, grain, ordairy products to

28
individuals. Whilegenerallytheydonotrecorddetailsoftheinstitutionorinstitutions
makingthesedisbursementsandonlyrarelyrecordthestatusoftheindividualsreceiving
them, parallels to later cuneiform documentation suggest that many such accounts
represent summaries of allotments to administrators for later distribution to fully or
partiallydependentworkersundertheircommand(Nissen,DamerowandEnglund1993;
Englund1998).
Thatsuchworkersexistedisbothdirectlydocumentedinthetabletsandindirectly
inferable from them. Direct corroboration, for instance, is provided by a recently
publishedArchaicTextfragment(UrukIVscript)summarizinggroupsofmaleandfemale
captivesusedaslaborers,totaling211individuals(Englund1998:17879,fig.66).While
it is difficult to ascertain how representative this tablet really is, the frequency of
references to captive individuals in the Archaic Texts is quite high. Robert Englund
(1998)notesthatifoneexcludesnonnumericalsignsthesecondmostcommonsignin
thosetextsisthatdenotingfemaleslavesofforeignorigin.Signsforcaptivemales,while
lesscommon,arealsoquitefrequent.
InferentialevidencefortheimportanceofencumberedlabortoUrukinstitutionsis
alsonothardtofind.Suchevidencetakesseveralforms.Onehasemergedonlyrecently
asscholarswerefinallyabletoperusethenumerousplunderedArchaicTexts(UrukIV
andIIIscript)intheSchoyenCollection,whichexponentiallyexpandedtherepertoireof
personalnamesknownfromsuchtexts(from38to440!). Inarecentstudyofthose
names,Englund(2009)convincinglyshowsthattheoverwhelmingmajorityofthemare
composedwithsignsthatspecificallydenotethestatusoftheindividualsbearingthemas

29
eitheroutrightchattelorasfetteredinsomeway,afacthepresumesisexplainedbyUruk
overlords renaming foreign captives in terms comprehensible to themselves. Equally
tellingisafinalinferentiallineofevidence:scribalsummariesintheArchaicTextsthat
detailthecompositionofgroupsofforeignandnativelaborersconsistentlydescribethem
withdetailedageandsexcategoriesidenticaltothoseusedtodescribeherdedanimals
(Englund1998:17681,2009). Itwouldappear,therefore,thatintheminds ofUruk
scribes,andintheeyesoftheinstitutionsthatemployedthem,suchlaborerswerethought
ofasdomesticatedhumansequivalentinstatustodomesticanimals.
Tobesure,theevidencejustoutlinedistoopartialforareliablepictureoftheUruk
economytoemerge asthetablets thatprovidemostofourinformation, bydefinition,
excludeallactivitiesbeyondtheimmediatepurviewoftheurbanscribesthatproduced
themandoftheinstitutionstheyworkedfor.Accordingly,thedataoutlinedearlierdoes
notnecessarilymeanthatcaptiveswereasignificantcomponentoftheUruklaborforceas
awhole,justthattheyweretheprimarycomponentoftheinstitutionallaborforceatthe
commandofLateUrukurbanelites(Englund2009).Laterhistoricalparallelsallowusto
easily imagine the deployment captives as part of the workforce used to build the
monumentalstructuresthatstoodasatestamenttopowerattheverycenterofUrukcities.
Urukiconographydepictingsiegescenesandboundprisoners(e.g.,Boehmer1999:pls.
1127),whileamenabletovaryinginterpretations,provideuswithmultiplerepresentations
thatcanalsobereasonablyinterpretedasdepictingthetakingofcaptivesthatwouldlater
swelltheranksoflaborerstrackedbyUrukscribes.Tounderstandhowandwheremany

30
ofthoseindividualsmayhavebeenacquired,wemustnowturntoanexaminationofthe
socalledUrukExpansion.

THEURUKEXPANSION:THEWORLDSFIRSTCOLONIALINTRUSION

No aspect pertaining to the origins of Mesopotamian civilization has garnered more


attentioninthepastfewdecadesthantheexpansionofUrukpolitiesintoavarietyof
geographical and cultural areas across the periphery of alluvial Mesopotamia. This
expansiontookavarietyofformsindifferentareas,dependingnodoubtondistance
awayfromthealluvium,easeoftransport,andthevaryingnatureofpreexistingsocieties
intheintrudedareas.Thoughithasbeenthesubjectofconsiderablerecentdiscussion
(Algaze1993,2001ab,2005:128155;Postgate[ed.]2002;Potts2004;Rothman[ed.]
2001;Stein1999,2005;SeealsotheessaysbyCooperandLambergKarlovskyinthis
volume),itisstillnecessarytoaddressherethebroadoutlinesoftheUrukExpansion
because of what they reveal about the nature of Uruk societies and their evolving
capabilitiesthroughtheUrukPeriod.
Vastlyoversimplifying,theUrukExpansioncanbeheuristicallydividedintotwo
components,whichmayhavebeenpartlyoverlapping,bothchronologicallyandcausally.
ThefirstandpossiblyearliestphaseoftheexpansiontookplaceasUrukpopulations
colonized the neighboring Susiana plain of Khuzestan, in southwestern Iran, where
indigenouspopulations(TerminalSusaA)hadpreviouslybeenindecline(Wrightand
Johnson 1975). This expansion may be discerned in the introduction of a full
complementofUrukmaterialandideologicalcultureacrosstheSusianaPlain(Algaze

31
1993:fig.3),whereitisfoundinsitesbothlargeandsmallsuggestingthatthewhole
region was taken over by the intruding populations. 10 Given existing gaps in our
understandingoftheearlierpartoftheUrukPeriod,littlecanbesaidaboutwhenexactly
thiscolonialintrusiongotunderway,howlongittook,orhowmanyalluvialpolities
participatedintheinitialpush.WhatisclearisthatceramicsandglypticofMiddleUruk
type,datedsometimebetween3700/3600and3500/3400BC,providea terminusante
quemforthestartoftheintrusionandthatitsendresultwasthedivisionoftheSusiana
intotwocompetingUrukpolities(WrightandJohnson1975;Johnson1987),centered
respectively at Susa and Chogha Mish. Culturally, though probably not politically,
Susianahadbecome,ineffect,partandparcelofUrukMesopotamia.

AtaboutthesametimethatthiswastakingplaceinSusiana,someUrukpolities,

possiblyinreactiontoeventsinSusiana,appeartohaveinitiatedsystematiccontactswith
societies situated at their north and northeastern periphery. These contacts were
particularlyintenseinthehighrollingplainsofUpperMesopotamiastretchingbetween
theTigrisandEuphratesriversanareathatintheearlierhalfofthefourthmillennium
waswellunderwaytodevelopingitsowntraditionsofurbanismandsocialcomplexity
(below)andledtoestablishmentofanumberofsouthernMesopotamianoutpostsof
varyingtype.
On the basis of existing C14 dates from Uruk sites in Upper Mesopotamia
(WrifghtandRupley2001)andpertinentparallelsinceramics,glypticiconography,and
Butforacontraryopinion,seeWright(1998),whointerpretstheconvergenceof
materialandideologicalcultureinSusianaandtheMesopotamianalluviumasacaseof
acculturation.
10

32
accountingprocedures,thoseoutpostswereestablishedintheMiddleUrukPeriodand
theearlierpartoftheLateUrukPhase. Forreasonsthatwecanonlyspeculateabout
(below),theoutpostswerewithdrawnorabandonedjustbeforetheveryendoftheLate
UrukPeriod(Nissen2001;Rothman[ed.]2001;Surenhagen1986). Asagroup,these
outpostsrepresentasecondcomponent oftheUrukExpansion,onethatevolvedand
grewinscaleandgeographicscopeovertimebutthatwasclearlydistinctfromtheUruk
takeover of the Susiana in that it did not include the colonization of whole regions.
Rather, the northwards component of the Uruk Expansion appears limited to the
implantationofindividualsitesatstrategiclocationsofsignificancefortransportacross
theMesopotamianperiphery,principally,butnotsolely,attheintersectionofthenorth
tosouthflowingriversandtheprincipaleastwestoverlandroutesacrossthehighplains
ofnorthernMesopotamia.
TheintrusiveUruksettlementsacrossthenorthernandnortheasternperipheryof
Alluvial Mesopotamiacanbelumpedintothreetypes. Thefirst(andearliest)typeis
representedbysmalltradingdiasporas.Theseappeartohaveconsistedofsmallgroupsof
UrukcolonistslivingeitherinthemidstofpreexistingindigenousLateChalcolithicsites
alreadyexploitingcovetedresourcesorcontrollingaccesstothoseresourcesorlivingin
morediscretesmallsettlementsplacedintheimmediatevicinityofsomeofthelargerLate
Chalcolithic centers ofUpperMesopotamia, commonly notmuchmorethanastones
throwaway. ExamplesofthefirsttypeofdiasporasettlementincludeHacnebiTepe
(Stein1999),locatedjustnorthofmodernBirecikinTurkey,astrideoneofthefewnatural
fordingareasoftheUpperEuphratesinantiquity,andGodinTepe(GopnickandRothman

33
2011),situatedintheKangavarValley,astrategicnodecontrollingthehistoricaleastwest
overlandroutefromsouthernMesopotamiaintotheIranianplateau(theKhorasanRoad).
Examplesofspatiallydiscretediasporasettlementsnearlargerpreexistingcentershave
beenhypothesizedtorepresentOldAssyrianKltepeKarumlikeemplacements(Algaze
1993:4850;Ur2010;Uretal.2011)andhavethusfaronlybeenidentifiedinsurveys.
TheyandhavebeenrecognizedalongtheUpperEuphratesnearSamsat,alongtheBalikh
nearHammametTurkman,andalongtheUpperKhaburnearBrakandHamoukar.
In many areas of the north and northeastern Mesopotamian periphery, Uruk
penetrationneverproceededbeyondthediasporatypeoutpostsjustdescribed. Insome
areas,however,asecondstageandadifferenttypeofoutpostfollowedfromthepreceding
in which important preexisting centers of substantial size, which by their very nature
alreadyservedasnodesforinterregionaltrade,weretakenoverbyUrukcolonists,almost
certainlybycoercivemeans(Emberling2011).Insofaraswehaveevidence,suchsecond
stagetakeoversonlytookplaceinthelaterphases(LateUruk)oftheUrukExpansion.
Evidenceforsuchtakeoversis,tobesure,somewhatambiguous.Myearliersuggestion
(Algaze1993)thatCarchemishontheEuphratesandNinevehontheTigrismayrepresent
preexistingregionalcenterstakenoverbyUrukcolonistsremainsimpossibletoevaluate,
asnonewworkhastakenplaceateitherofthetwolocations,althoughthisisaboutto
changeatCarchemish,whereanewmultinationalexcavationprojectissettostartin2011.
More promising, however, is new work in the Upper Khabur basin of Syria.
Excavations at Tell Hamoukar, a townsized (ca. 12 ha) Late Chalcolithic settlement
situatedineasternSyriaalongahistoriceastwestrouteconnectingtheUpperKhaburand

34
UpperTigrisareas,forinstance,haveshownthattheintroductionofLateUrukmaterial
cultureatthatsitewasprecededbyaviolentconflagrationthatdestroyedthepreexisting
indigenous center (Reichel 2002 and personal communication 2009). A similar case
appearstohaveobtainedatTellBrakonthemorecentralJaghJaghbranchoftheUpper
Khabur,whichwasclearlythelargestandmostimportantindigenousLateChalcolithic
centerinUpperMesopotamiaduringthefirsthalfofthefourthmillennium(Oatesetal.,
2007;Uretal.,2007;Ur2010).ExcavationsinAreaTWoftheBrakHighMoundleave
little doubt that some sort of an intrusive Uruk colony was established at the site.
EvidenceisprovidedbyafullrepertoireoftypicallysouthernmaterialcultureofLate
Uruktype(TW1112;Oates2002),whichcapsalongandimpressivesequenceofearlier
indigenousLateChalcolithicremains(EmberlingandMcDonald2001;OatesandOates
1997;McMahonandOates2007;McMahon2009).
Whatisnotimmediatelyclear,however,iswhetherthatcolonywasanisolated
diasporatypepresencesimilartothatatHacinebiorGodinorwhetherthewholesitewas
in effect taken over by southern intruders at the time. In considering precisely this
question,GeoffEmberling(2002,2011)argues,plausiblyinmyopinion,forthelatter
explanation.Therearetwopartstohislineofreasoning.First,Emberlingnotesthat,as
was the case at Hamoukar, an intervening destruction layer separates the final Late
ChalcolithicarchitecturallevelatBrak(TW16)andtheearliestsuperimposedLateUruk
architecture(TW12). Second,Emberlingsurmisesthatonaccountofthecommanding
positionthatthelastrebuildingoftheEyeTemple(excavatedbyMaxMallowaninthe
1930s)occupiedatthesite,itsbuildersmusthavecontrolledthesiteasawhole.Who

35
those builders were, in turn, he infers from the pervasive southern Mesopotamian
affiliationofthetemplesplanandarchitecturaldecorations,whichheseesasevidencefor
theimpositionatBrakofareligiousagendaofsouthernMesopotamianorigin.
Thethirdtypeofintrusivesettlementisfoundinareasinwhichnosignificant
preexistingoccupationhadtobereckonedwith.Inthoseareas,fromtheverybeginning,
UrukpenetrationwasaprocessofurbanimplantationwherebyMesopotamiansocialand
urban forms were reproduced in essentially virgin landscapes. This type of intrusive
strategy appears restricted to the immediate vicinity of river fords along the Upper
EuphratesandisparticularlyclearinthelowercorneroftheGreatBendoftherivernear
themoderntownofMeskene.There,builtfromscratchintrusiveUruksettlementshavea
longhistorythatgoesbacktothefoundingofthesmallsiteofTellSheikhHassanonthe
leftbankoftheriverduringtheMiddleUrukPeriodandcontinuedintotheearlierpartof
theLateUrukperiodwhenamuchlargerurbanenclave(ca2040ha)inextentcomprised
byHabubaKabirasd,TellQannas,andJebelArudawasfoundedontheoppositebankof
the river (Strommenger 1980; Vallet 1996, 1998).11 Because these latter sites were
abandonedbytheendoftheUrukperiodandwerenotreoccupiedinlatertimes,the
relativewideexposuresthatwerepossiblewithinthemyieldasnapshotofwhattheUruk
colonialenterpriseinvirginareaslookedlike:Themassivesurroundingfortificationwalls,
TheactualextentoftheHabuba/Qannas/Arudaenclavedependsonestimatesofhow
muchofanextramuraloccupationsurroundedthemainwalledsettlement.Foradetailed
discussion,seeAlgaze1993:2529.
11

36
carefully laidout streets and welldelineated residential, industrial, and administrative
quartersoftheHabuba/Qannassettlementarepartofavastand,beforethen,unimaginably
coherenturbanplanningeffort.
WhatdothesevarioustypesofUrukoutpoststellusaboutUruksocieties and
abouttheirstrategiesofcontactwithfarawayperipheralareas?Ofthemanypointsthat
couldbemadeinanswertothesequestions,Iwillhighlightbutfour.Thefirstisthatthe
carefullychosenlocationsoftheoutpostsatriverfordingareasoratlocalsitesattheapex
ofpreexistingregionalhierarchiesalongeastwestroutessuggestthatcontroloftradeand
transport were the primary (thoughsurely not the sole) motivations forthe expansion
northwards. However, because there was no obvious attempt to control the vast
hinterlandsawayfromthosechosenlocations,wearedealingwithaverydifferenttypeof
colonialstrategythanthateffectedinSusiana.
ThesecondpointisthatprocessesofexpansionofUruksocietiesevolvedoverthe
centurieslonglifetimeoftheprocess. Whilewetendtothinkoftheestablishmentof
coloniesasaprocessuniquetostatelevelpolitieswhoseektoacquireandexploitnon
contiguousterritoriesandresources,thereisinfactaconsiderablebodyofethnographic
and historic literature (Curtin 1984) showing that nonstate actors can and have
repeatedly established andmaintained distant diasporastylecolonies infarawayareas
and,conversely,thatterritorialannexationbystatesisoftenonlytheendresultoflong
termprocessesofcolonizationthatbeganmuchmoremodestlywithstrategicallysituated
isolatedoutpostsseekingresourcesfromnativepopulationswillingtotrade(Gallagherand
Robinson1954),aprocessfittinglyencapsulatedbytheexpressionTheFlagFollowsthe

37
Trade.Againstthislight,asStein(2005)hasnoted,therelativelysmallscaleofMiddle
UrukoutpoststhusfardocumentedalongtheUpperEuphrateswouldnotbeinconsistent
withanOldAssyriantypefamiliarenterpriseseekingtoplugintopreexistingnetworksof
tradeandredirectsomeofthattradefortheirbenefit. Thesamecouldbesaid,forthat
matter,forthesmallsiteswithUrukmaterialsnearlargeLateChalcolithiccenters,noted
earlier,alongtheBalikhandUpperKhaburbasins.Additionally,Iwouldargue,someof
thosesameoutpostswouldnotbeinconsistentwithsmallgroupsofspecializedmerchants
sent out by specific Uruk urban institutions to acquire a particular suite of coveted
commoditiespossiblynotunlikethedamgar/tamkarumwhoprocuredforeigngoodsfor
someMesopotamiantempleadministratorsintheEarlyDynasticPeriod(Postgate2003)or
thosesentbythecityofUmmatoSusaduringtheAkkadianperiod(Foster1993). In
eithercase,suchoutpostswouldrepresentacaseof colonieswithoutcolonialism,to
borrowGilSteins(2005)aptphrase.
ThethirdpointisthatwhatevertheinitialnatureandimpetusfortheMiddleUruk
expansion into Upper Mesopotamia, the sorts of massive, quickly erected and well
plannedenclavesthatweencounterinthesucceedingLateUrukphasecouldonlyhave
beenbuiltbystateinstitutionscapableoflevying,commanding,anddeployingsubstantial
resourcesandlabor. Similarly, thescaleofsomeoftheindigenousLateChalcolithic
politiesthatappeartohavebeenvanquishedandtakenoverbysouthernintrudersinthe
Khabur area in the Late Uruk period also leaves little doubt that by then the Uruk
Expansionhadbecomeastatesupportedenterpriserequiringtheabilitytoorganize,equip,
feed,andfieldarmiescapableofoperatingfarawayfromtheirbase(s).

38
Thefinalpointmayappearcounterintuitiveinlightoftheprecedingremarks,butis
not. ThereislittleneedtoconceiveoftheUrukExpansionassomesortofacentrally
plannedunitaryphenomenonthattookdifferentformsindifferentareas.Rather,because
available survey evidence from alluvial Mesopotamia (above) is consistent with an
interpretation of multiple politically balkanized but culturally homogeneous polities
throughouteveryphaseoftheUrukperiod,theexpansionisperhapsbestconceivedasa
organic process of action and counteraction, wherein individual Uruk (city) states
scrambled to colonize specific areas of their periphery, or to found specific strategic
outpoststailoredtolocalconditionswithinthatperiphery,inordertosecureaccesstothe
critical lines ofcommunication through which coveted resources were obtainable and,
equallyimportant,todenytheirlocalsouthernrivalssuchaccess.

CONCLUSIONS:SMITHIANGROWTH
Working with assumptions ultimately derived from Marxian conceptions of history,
economic historians generally contrast ancient and modern modes of economic
growthasinherentlydifferent;withtheformercharacterizedbytheselflimitinggrowth
of largely agricultural regimes with stable or, more commonly, declining output per
capita as they expand, Malthusian constraints on population density, and a slow or
stagnantrateofoveralltechnologicaladvance,andthelatter characterizedinsteadby
selfsustaininggrowthbasedonincreases inbothincomepercapitaandtotaloutput,
everrecedingMalthusianconstraints,andeveracceleratingtechnologicalprogress(Clark
2007).

39
Whileroughlycorrectinits generaloutlines,thisbroadbrushcharacterization
ignoresoneimportantpremodernexceptionthatisquiterelevanttotheunderstandingof
whatDanielPotts(2004)aptlyreferredtoasTheUrukExplosion.Thisexceptionis
what the historian Jack Goldstone (2002) terms Smithian Growth. As Goldstone
(2002:324)explainsit,SmithianGrowthissimilartomodernprocessesofgrowthinthat
gainsfromspecializationproducehigherproductivityandhencehigherincomesper
capitaaswellastotalgrowth.Thesegainscancomefromspecializationacrossdifferent
societies that accompany increased long distance trade, from regional or urban/rural
specialization accompanying increased domestic trade and urbanization, or from
increased occupational specialization accompanying increased population density and
localcirculationofgoodsandservices. However,GoldstonewarnsusthatSmithian
Growth,unlikeModernGrowth,wasnotselfsustaininginthelongrun,andultimately
amountedonlytoseriesofbrightbuttemporaryefflorescences.Thisisexplained,he
argues, by the fact that Smithian Growth was not commonly accompanied by major
productivityenhancing technological advances and therefore ceased when trade was
interruptedor,eventually,wheninitialgainsfromtraderelatedspecializationreacheda
plateau,reestablishing(thoughatahigherlevel)growthlimitingMalthusianconstraints.
In Goldstones view, then, in the aggregate, premodern growth is sharply
punctuated:shortphasesoffastgrowthfollowcloselyintheheelsofepisodicandlocally
notable increases intrade,specialization, andpopulation agglomeration butgiveway
eventuallytolongerandmoretypicalperiodsofmuchslowergrowthorevenstagnation.
These transitions, he notes, are not without consequences. Historically, significant

40
decreasesinincomepercapitacanleadtoalossofpoliticallegitimacy,rebellion,therise
ofalternatereligionsorideologies,andanintensificationofallmannerofconflictasself
definedfactionswithinadecliningsocietycompeteoveritswaningresources(Goldstone
2002:325).
UrukMesopotamiacan,inmyopinion,befittinglycharacterizedasacaseof
SmithianGrowthasdefinedbyGoldstone.Whilecorrelationisnotcausation,available
datasuggeststhattheexplosivegrowthofbothpopulationandspecializationinsouthern
Mesopotamiansocietiesofthesecondhalfofthefourthmillenniumtookplaceatatime
when substantial crosscultural trade and transregional resource flows were the norm.
Thisisinferable,indirectly,fromthelocationalcircumstancesofUrukoutpostsacross
theMesopotamianperiphery,which,irrespectiveofwhethernewlyfoundedorimplanted
withinpreexistingLateChalcolithiccenters,wereinvariablysituatedatcrucialnodesof
transportationacrossthearea(Algaze1993,2008). Itisalsoinferable,moredirectly,
fromthedramatic (ifstillunquantifiable)increaseinboththeamountandvarietyof
utilitarianandexoticresourcesimportedintosouthernMesopotamiaintheMiddleand
LateUrukPeriodsascomparedtoLateUbaidtimes. Flowsofresourcesofthesorts
presumed here, to be sure, would have had important ramifications in all societies
involvedinthem,includingthosefromwhichtheresourceswereextracted,butthose
ramificationswouldhaveparticularlymarkedinthecaseofUrukpolitiesbecauseoffour
compoundingfactorsthatdifferentiallyfueledthegrowthofspecialization,employment,
andpopulationinsouthernMesopotamiaasopposedtoelsewhere.

41
Thefirstfactorappliesirrespectiveofwhetherresourceswereacquiredviatrade
orplunderandisthatthemajorityofthecommoditiesflowingsouthwardswererawor
only partially processed goods, such as timber, metals, and stones, that required
significantprocessingbeforetheycouldbeincorporatedintotheeconomy.Thesecond
factorpertainstoimportsacquiredbytrade.Historically,intheMesopotamiancase,this
requiredtheexportoffinishedtextilesaspecialized,laborintensiveindustrythatunder
Mesopotamianconditionshadmultipleemploymentramificationsthatwentwellbeyond
theproductionandprocessingofwoolitself(Algaze2008). Thethirdfactorisscale
dependentandfollowsfromtheincreaseinthescaleoftheeconomythattheneedto
processbothimportsandexportswouldhavegeneratedinalluvialMesopotamia.Under
suchconditions,itoftenbecomesbothpossibleandprofitabletostartreplacingimported
commoditiessubjecttoscaleeconomieswithlocalproduction(importsubstitution),
fuelingfurtherspecializationdriveniterativedevelopmentcyclesthatconcentratenew
growthinregionsthatarealreadyexpanding(Krugman1995).Thefourthcompounding
factorisonethatfullycomplementstheprecedingthreeandpertainstotheinterrelated
factsthatcaptives,includingnodoubtbothunskilledandskilledindividuals,wereamong
theresourcesflowingsouthwardsintheUrukperiodandthattheywereaprimarysource
oftheworkersatthedisposalofUrukstateadministrators.Theeconomicimportanceof
suchindividualsprobablyfaroutweighedtheirnumbers.Suchcaptiveotherscouldbe
madetoworkmorethannativelaborand,moreimportantly,couldalsobemoreeasily
coercedthannativesintoworkinginnontraditionalwayssoastotakeadvantageofgains
fromlaborspecializationandeconomiesofscale.

42
Itdoesnottakemuchimaginationtoseehowtheconjunctureofthesemutually
reinforcingforceswouldhavesetintomotionaspecializationdrivenburstofSmithian
GrowthinUrukMesopotamia.AswithallcasesofSmithianGrowthpriortotheadvent
oftheModernAge,however,theresultingefflorescencecouldnotlast,asitdependedon
anuninterruptedflowofforeignresourcesthatcouldnotbemaintainedoverthelongrun.
Three principal reasons account for this: (1) the flow would have altered the socio
politicallandscapeofresourcerichareasinwaysthatwouldhavebeendifficultforcore
societies to predict and much less control, (2) inherent inefficiencies of premodern
transportationaltechnologiesmadeinterruptionsintheflowoftradebetweenfaraway
areaslikely,and(3)thosesameinefficienciesguaranteedthatcoreattemptstoreestablish
accesstoperipheralresourcesbyforce,whennecessary,wouldnotalwayshavebeen
timelyorsuccessful.
IntheMesopotamiancase,thebeginningoftheendoftheUrukefflorescenceis
perhapsalreadyreflectedinthecollapseofthenetworkofUrukoutpostsacrossUpper
Mesopotamia,whichtookplaceinalatebutnotfinalphaseoftheUrukperiod(predating
EannaIVonthebasisofaccountingtechnologies). Howeveritwasnotuntilthestill
littleunderstoodJemdetNasrinterlude,conventionallydatedtothetransitionfromthe
fourthtothethirdmillennia,whenthebreakdownbecamefullyvisible.Thisisreflected
insubstantialchangesinsettlementpatternswithintheMesopotamianalluvium(Postgate
1986)and,moredramatically,intheuseofspaceattheverycoreofUruk/Warka,where
the earlier building program of the Uruk Period was entirely demolished (Eichmann
2007).

43
TheMesopotamiancaseisparticularlyinteresting,however,inthattheintervals
betweenitsphasesofefflorescenceandstagnationdepartfromtheexpectedtrajectoryof
ancient economies in several notable ways. These departures become clear when
viewedincomparativeperspective.Thefirstdeparturepertainstothelengthoftheinitial
Smithiangrowthphase,whichlastedforthebetterpartofthefourthmillenniuminthe
southern Mesopotamian case but was much shorter in other areas of southwest Asia
where early exchangebased specialization and urbanism also flourished, such as the
UpperKhabur.Theseconddeparturepertainstowhathappenedaftertheinitialgrowth
spurtcametoahalt.IntheUpperKhabur,aspredictedbyconventionalcharacterizations
of ancient economies, the initial efflorescence eventually led to a long period of
stagnationmarkedbythedisintegrationoftheindigenousurbantraditionoftheareafora
millenniumorso. ThiswasnotthecaseatallinsouthernMesopotamia,wherethe
JemdetNasrretrenchment gavewaytoanotherfastpacedphaseofSmithian Growth
barelytwocenturiesorsoaftertheendoftheUrukefflorescence.Thismaybeinferred
fromtheexpansionofUrukandAlHiba(Lagash)toencompassanareaof600ha(6sq.
km) by the first quarter of the third millennium (Nissen 2001 and Carter 1985,
respectively),bythecontemporaryemergenceofmultiplenewsmallerurbansitesacross
thealluvium(Adams1981),andbythevigorousresumptionoftheflowoftradeand
growthofspecializationthatareimpliedbythemanyhighlycraftedsumptuarygoods
interredinEarlyDynasticgraves.
WhatmadetheearlysouthernMesopotamianeconomysoresilient,soatypically
able to bounce back relatively quickly from the inevitable crises and stagnation that

44
alwaysfollowaperiodofpremodernSmithianefflorescenceis,however,asubjectfor
anotherday.

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