Archaeological studies of social communities use the term “community” in two ways, paralleling usage in other areas. The first is an informal definition of community as a place where people used to live. In this sense it is synonymous with the concept of an ancient settlement – whether a hamlet, village, town, or city. The second meaning resembles the usage of the term in other social sciences: a community is a group of people living near one another who interact socially.
Social interaction on a small scale can be difficult to identify with archaeological data. Most reconstructions of social communities by archaeologists rely on the principle that social interaction in the past was conditioned by physical distance. Therefore, a small village settlement likely constituted a social community and spatial subdivisions of cities and other large settlements may have formed communities.