Human Settlements: Definition & Functions

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  • 0:01 Settlements
  • 0:40 Types
  • 1:45 Functions
  • 4:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

People don't live in a vacuum. We live with other people. Watch this lesson to find out about human settlements, including the two major types, and some of the functions and benefits of living with others, instead of on your own.


Jerome lives on a farm near a small town. He has lots of space to himself; in fact, he can't see his neighbor's house from his! His friend Andy, though, lives in a big city. He's surrounded by people day and night, and he lives in a tiny apartment surrounded by others.

A human settlement is an organized grouping of human habitation. Settlements can involve lots of people, like the city Andy lives in, or just a few, like the area out in the country where Jerome lives. Let's look closer at human settlements, including the types and functions of settlements.


Jerome and Andy live in two very different places, but they are both considered settlements. There are many ways to define settlements, but one way is to discuss two major types of settlements: urban and rural.

Urban settlements have a lot of people. These include large cities and towns. Andy, who lives in the big city, enjoys life in an urban settlement.

Rural settlements, on the other hand, are more spaced out. Remember that Jerome lives out by himself and can't see his neighbors from his house. This is a rural settlement.

It's important to note that not everyone defines urban and rural the same. For example, Jerome's cousin lives in a tiny town. He can see his neighbors from his house, but there aren't very many of them. There are only a few hundred people in the village where he lives.

So, is that an urban or rural location? Not everyone will agree on the answer to that question. Still, urban and rural are good, general settlement types.


As we've seen, there are different types of settlements. But all settlements share some things in common. In particular, settlements are meant to offer several functions that help make people's lives easier. They include:

1. Protection

One of the main benefits of living near other people is protection from predators. Think about our caveman days, when we had to fight off predators, like lions. Living near many other people increased the chances of survival.

Whether it's Andy's place in the big city, which is surrounded by lots of other people, or Jerome's place out in the country that's more isolated, but still near enough that other people could get there in a few minutes, living near others offers a certain level of protection.

2. Pooled Economies

Jerome is very good at doing hard labor. He likes to build things and create things by hand. But he's not so good at cooking, first aid, or other things.

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Additional Activities

Prompts About Human Settlements:

Essay Prompt 1:

In an essay of several paragraphs, define human settlement, and then explain the characteristics of urban and rural settlements. Provide an example of each, and also be sure to explain the nuances behind how people define urban and rural areas differently.

Example: For an urban area, you could explain that it is a city that contains a large downtown shopping area that is always bustling with people.

Graphic Organizer Prompt 1:

Make a chart or other type of graphic organizer that lists and briefly describes the four functions of human settlements.

Example: You can use drawings in your chart to show examples. For instance, you could draw a power grid to depict shared electricity for Shared Natural Resources.

Letter Prompt 1:

Write a letter to a friend or relative that explains why your choice of human settlement fits your needs. Imagine that your letter's recipient lives in the opposite type of human settlement as you (i.e., if you're writing from a rural perspective, your friend or relative should live in an urban area).

Example: Make sure you describe all of the functions of your particular type of human settlement, providing details to show how they fit your specific needs in areas like protection, a pooled economy, shared natural resources, and socioemotional connections.

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