This manuscript was strengthened by critical comments from Benjamin Stanley, George Cowgill, Linda Nicholas, Barbara Stark, Abigail York, Benjamin Arbuckle and Ofer Bar-Yosef. We thank three anonymous IJURR reviewers for helping us refine our argument.
Debates and Developments
Jane Jacobs' ‘Cities First’ Model and Archaeological Reality
Article first published online: 16 APR 2014
© 2014 Urban Research Publications Limited
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research
Volume 38, Issue 4, pages 1525–1535, July 2014
How to Cite
Smith, M. E., Ur, J. and Feinman, G. M. (2014), Jane Jacobs' ‘Cities First’ Model and Archaeological Reality. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38: 1525–1535. doi: 10.1111/1468-2427.12138
- Issue published online: 11 JUN 2014
- Article first published online: 16 APR 2014
- Jane Jacobs;
- agricultural origins;
- earliest cities;
- urban revolution
In The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs conjectured that the world's first cities preceded the origins of agriculture, a proposition that was most recently revived by Peter Taylor in the pages of this journal. Jacobs' idea was out of line with extant archaeological findings when first advanced decades ago, and it remains firmly contradicted by a much fuller corpus of data today. After a review of how and why Jacobs formulated her ‘cities first’ model, we review current archaeological knowledge from the Near East, China and Mesoamerica to document the temporal precedence of agriculture before urbanism in each of these regions. Contrary to the opinions of Jacobs and Taylor, archaeological data are in fact sufficiently robust to reconstruct patterns of diet, settlement and social organization in the past, and to assign dates to the relevant sites. Our response illustrates how generations of archaeological discoveries have yielded solid empirical foundations for the evaluation of wider social scientific debates.