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
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

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

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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