Dawn of the City

Excavations prompt a revolution in thinking about the earliest cities

By Bruce Bower, 15:58 PM April 15, 2008

A massive earthen mound rises majestically and rather mysteriously above agricultural fields in northeastern Syria. From a distance, the more than 130-foot-tall protrusion looks like a jagged set of desolate hills. But up close, broken pottery from a time long past litters the mound's surface. The widespread debris vividly testifies to the large number of people, perhaps as many as 10,000, who once congregated on and around this raised ground.

Known as Tell Brak, the mound and its surrounding...

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