Empirical Urban Theory for Archaeologists

Research paper by Michael E. Smith

Indexed on: 16 Oct '10Published on: 16 Oct '10Published in: Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory


I review several bodies of empirical urban theory relevant to the archaeological analysis of ancient cities. Empirical theory is a type of “middle-range theory” (following Robert Merton): sets of concepts and methods that are less abstract, and have greater empirical content, than high-level social theory. The categories of theory reviewed here include environment-behavior theory, architectural communication theory, space syntax, urban morphology, reception theory, generative planning theory, normative theory, and city size theory. Most of these approaches originated in the fields of architecture, planning, and geography, and they directly link the urban-built environment to the actions of people within cities.