May 03
114 Van Hise Hall
1220 Linden Drive

James Osborne

University of Chicago
Strange Loops: Texts and Urban Space in Iron Age Cities of the Syro-Anatolian Culture Complex

Few subjects have excited the imagination of archaeologists working in ancient societies as have monumentality and urban planning. Yet the two topics are rarely subjected to sustained integrated investigation within a single study, despite the fact that monumental architecture is often considered a primary basis for identifying the presence of planned cities. This lecture shows how both phenomena benefit from a more engaged consideration of one another, and that the symbolism of ancient cities, expressed most vividly in the content and the spatially charged locations of monumental inscriptions, needs to be considered as much as the formal aspect of monuments and urban layouts. The primary example will be a study of the Syro-Anatolian cities-states that were clustered around the northeast corner of the Mediterranean during the early first millennium BCE. The capital cities of these kingdoms were characterized by a program of monumental buildings and public inscriptions that brought royalty, city walls, gates, and sculpture into an unmistakable constellation of symbolic associations, one that was encountered at nearly every turn in the urban fabric, akin to the cyclical hierarchical structure that computer scientists refer to as a strange loop.

James Osborne is an archaeologist who works in the eastern Mediterranean and ancient Near East during the Early Bronze and Iron Ages. He focuses especially on Anatolia, a region that is today within the Republic of Turkey, during the late second and early first millennium BCE. Most of James’ publications have concentrated on the intersection of space and power, using analysis of Anatolian monumental buildings, cities, and settlement patterns during the Iron Age as his primary subject matter. Methodologically, he incorporates quantitative methods like GIS and space syntax with native historical and iconographic sources.

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