Location & Function

The site of a settlement is the physical land on which a settlement is built.

There are many factors which influence choice of site, for example;

  • Water supply - all settlements need water but need to avoid flooding (places which are built near water are called wet point sites and places which are built to avoid water are called dry point sites
  • Aspect and shelter - In the northern hemisphere the south-facing slopes are warmer than the north facing slopes
  • Defence - settlements were often built high on hill sides or close to rivers in order to defend themselves against attack
  • Food supply - Early people needed to grow their own food so would need to locate on fertile soil
  • Communications - All settlements need to be ideally located near to roads, at gaps in a hill or a bridging point
  • Building materials and fuel supply - Early settlements were often sited near woodlands so that people had access to wood for building materials and a fuel supply

Settlement Hierarchy

A settlement hierarchy arranges settlements in size or importance.

A settlements place in the hierarchy depends on the size of the population, the range and number of services and the sphere of influence or area served by the settlement.

Functions of a settlement

The function of a settlement is its purpose - the main ‘work’ that it does e.g. religious, industrial, educational

Small settlements may have one specific types of employment which dominates, for example, mining towns.

However, large cities and towns often have several employment types and are therefore described as multifunctional.

Many settlements have changed their function over time.

In some cases the original functions, such as defence or farming, have disappeared altogether.

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