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Settlement Patterns


Old City of Haroun El-Rashid, Baghdad, Iraq (ca 1920-1934)

Old City of Haroun El-Rashid, Baghdad, Iraq (ca 1920-1934)

Library of Congress, via pingnews

Settlement patterns are one of the core concepts in archaeology. Also called non-site archaeology, settlement pattern studies involve investigations which examine regions or areas, rather than focusing on individual sites. Settlement patterns are probably most associated with the understanding of how a particular society used the available resources in its region.

Settlement pattern archaeology was first extensively used by Gordon R. Willey in the Viru Valley of Peru, who based his studies on the ideas in the earlier works of Julian Steward and Lewis Henry Morgan. The next logical step (although separated by 30 years or so) is landscape archaeology.


Close, Angela 1999 Distance and decay: An uneasy relationship. Antiquity 73:24-32.

Crumley, Carole L. 1977 Towards a locational definition of state systems of settlement. American Anthropologist 78(1):59-73.

Fitting, James E. 1969 Settlement analysis in the Great Lakes region. Southwest Journal of Anthropology 25:360-377.

Willey, Gordon R. 1968 Settlement archaeology: An appraisal. In Settlement Patterns. Kwang-Chih Chang, ed. Pp. 208-226. Palo Alto: National Press Books.

Kowalewski, Stephen A. 2008 Regional Settlement Pattern Studies. Journal of Archaeological Research 16:225–285.

Willey, Gordon R. 1953. Prehistoric settlement patterns in the Virù Valley, Peru. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 155. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Also Known As: Non-site archaeology

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