Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Lauren Ristvet


This research focuses on the relationship between natural landscapes and the built environment in the Urartian Empire, which controlled parts of the South Caucasus, northwestern Iran and eastern Turkey from 800-600 BCE. In particular, this dissertation uses a combination of landscape phenomenology, a qualitative method, and Geographical Information Systems (GIS), a quantitative method, to study landscapes before and during the rise of Urartu. These analyses found that the Urartian Empire founded or reused sites that had a higher degree of visual and physical accessibility compared to what was typical for earlier cultures, suggesting a desire for greater engagement with subject populations. These differences can be observed both subjectively through in-person experiences at the site, and through GIS analysis of Viewsheds and Least Cost Paths. Urartian leaders faced the challenge of controlling a population of largely mobile pastoralists in a mountainous landscape. One way they could have done this would have been by bringing sites physically closer to these populations, and by making them more visually prominent and impressive. The results of this dissertation support previous research on the role of architecture, site location, and natural features in the construction of an Urartian imperial ideology that was based on bombastic displays of power. They also demonstrate the utility of combining qualitative and quantitative approaches for a more complete understanding of landscapes.

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