What Are Types of Human Settlements?

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Different types of human settlements include hamlets, villages, small towns, large towns, isolated places, cities and conurbations. In some systems, types of human settlements are broken up into urban, suburban and rural; for example, the U.S. Census Bureau divides settlements into urban or rural categories based on precise definitions.

Small settlements, such as hamlets and villages, have low populations and restricted access to services. Larger types of settlements, such as cities, have higher populations, higher densities and greater access to services. For example, a village may have only one or two general stores, while a large metropolis may have many specialized stores and chain stores. These differences are known as low-order service settlements and high-order service settlements. Larger settlements also have a sphere of influence affecting surrounding settlements.

Settlements may also be divided by the site chosen, such as sites selected based on resources, trading points, defensive sites, shelter and relationship to water resources. The functions of human settlements also differ, as settlements may be established as ports, market towns and resorts. Types of rural settlements may also be classified by function, such as proximity to farming, fishing and mining. Settlements that focus on one economic activity are called single functional settlements.

Human settlements may be permanent or temporary. For example, a refugee camp is a temporary settlement, while a city is a permanent settlement.