Urban Success and Urban Adaptation over the Long Run

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1 Scopus citations


One of archaeology's principal contributions to knowledge is its ability to track human actions and social conditions over long periods of time. I describe an approach to operationalizing this insight for the rise and fall of cities and other settlement over time. Cities that survive and thrive are considered successful, and urban success can be measured along three dimensions: persistence, population, and prosperity. Successful cities were those whose leaders, residents, and institutions found ways to adapt to a range of shocks and conditions, including the environment, local institutions, and regional political and economic forces. Urban success is therefore due to processes of urban adaptation that operated over long periods of time. I outline a conceptual and methodological approach to urban success and position the concept with respect to notions of adaptation and time scales in sustainability science and the social and historical sciences more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20220285
JournalOpen Archaeology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • cities
  • persistence
  • prosperity
  • success
  • urban adaptation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Conservation
  • Archaeology
  • Education


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