The role of peripheries and satellite settlements around ancient cities is a critical issue in understanding past urban phenomena. The relations between core urban centres and other settlements have often been considered using centre-periphery models. The limitations of such approaches are now emerging as new evidence for interdependency, fluidity, and changeability between cities and their surroundings increases in quality and complexity. This paper reviews the relations between ancient capital centres in Africa and their peripheries, using Aksum and Great Zimbabwe as case studies. It attempts at reconciling indicators of interdependency between these sites and core urban areas that current narratives of urban settlement struggle to accommodate. The exercise opens new avenues to reconfigure spatial representations and understandings of centre-periphery relations at specific sites and begin to think about urban regions and textured landscapes.