Households are crucial analytical units for archaeologists, regardless of chronological or geographical focus. This module aims to provide an overview of the ways that ancient households have been approached and understood, through a treatment of the growing subfield of household archaeology. This approach treats the domestic sphere as a key locus of social activity, and the arena in which identities – including those relating to gender and to social status - were created and enacted. Household archaeology is a loosely defined analytical perspective that provides insights into daily life, gender roles, belief systems, kinship, and other social and economic structures, as well as providing ideal points of comparison between different kinds and scales of settlements in an ancient landscape. Within this broad disciplinary area, however, there is great variation, with researchers adopting different anthropological viewpoints, techniques and scales of analysis.
This module will bring together these different methodological and theoretical approaches to the household, to provide an understanding of the household across different times and places. As such, household archaeology provides a bridge between large-scale concepts like the operation of ancient states or agricultural complexes, and the individual experiences of past actors. A focus at the level of the household allows us to explore the ways that these scales were played out in daily life, and through associated spaces and objects. We will also explore the very concept of the household, and the ways that notions of permanence, and patterns in the structuring of architecture, would in turn have structured the ways that people thought about the world in which they lived.
Upon completion of this module students should: