Sunday, October 25, 2009
Looking for a particular type of ancient hillside city
I am looking for comparative examples of ancient cities with these characteristics:
(1) Most or all of the residential settlement is on hillsides or mountainsides, and,
(2) Most or all of the civic architecture is at the BOTTOM of the hill.
At the Aztec site I'm working on, Calixtlahuaca, the housing was built on terraces and covered the sides of a small mountain (2-3 sq km total). The heaviest occupation was on the north face (the right slope in the above photo). The royal palace was built on the plain at the base of the hill, and the main temples were built on huge terraces near the base of the hill. There were also some (now destroyed) temples on top of the hill. The second photo, looking down from about 2/3 of the way up the hill, shows one of the large temples, and the palace is barely visible at the base of the hill (yellow ellipse).
Most Mesoamerican cities whose housing covered hillsides had their civic architecture on top of the hill (Monte Alban, Xochicalco, many more examples), and defense was a major consideration. At Calixtlahuaca, they put a lot of effort into living on terraced slopes and building big terraces for their temples, yet there are no defensive features (walls, ditches, caches of weapons, etc.) and the royal palace was the most exposed building in the city.
I'd appreciate hearing about comparative examples that might help me understand this strange urban layout. Someone suggested Ephesus, which seems to fit, although I can find no information about the hillside housing. The excavated "slope houses" or "terrace houses" at the site are in the civic center, not up on the hillsides. Are there other examples of ancient cities with these traits? And can they help interpret Calixtlahuaca, or do the idiosyncratic factors of each site dominate, making comparisons like this superficial and not informative?
Suggestions are welcome!