Accessibility statement

The Archaeology of Households


Module leader: Stephanie Wynne-Jones


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.


  • To explore archaeologies of the household from a range of time periods
  • To examine critically the household as an analytical unit in archaeological reconstructions
  • To encourage critical reading of the literature on archaeological households and the role of houses/homes in the human past

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this module students should:

  • Understand the key concepts in household archaeology
  • Have a good knowledge of particular case studies from various time periods and locations
  • Be able to evaluate critically the place of the household in models of ancient economies and societies
  • Be able to consider differing consumption patterns relating to different types of household, and ways of understanding discard practices
  • Have thought through the associations between space and particular social identities
  • Have a good understanding of the various techniques through which archaeologists have sought to reconstruct the full range of domestic activity
  • Be able to consider the utility of various symbolic approaches to domestic space
  • Have presented their research through seminar presentations