The video The Hearth discussed the households from four different locations: Ceren, Copan, Teotihuacan, and Pompeii. The household structure in each place had certain differences. The two Mayan sites, Ceren and Copan, had some similarities as well as differences. The two sites had similar home layouts, a central patio surrounded by three or more buildings. The Copan site is much larger than Ceren. The archaeologists studying both sites have looked to modern Maya peoples for evidence of household structure. What they have found is that the basic household consists of a nuclear or extended family. The buildings that surrounded the patio served separate functions, one was for cooking, one for storage and the other(s) for sleeping. As the family grew, more buildings would be added for sleeping. These large family units were necessary for the division of labor. Each family member would have specific duties to preform and the more people available, the easier the work would be.
At Teotihuacan, the housing was much larger. Family units tended to be lineages, with more members living together, not nuclear families. These households could contain between thirty and one hundred people with a core of twenty to thirty male relatives. These large families also tended to have a distinct religious element, centered around ancestor worship. Burials were often done within the compound, in the bedrooms or under the central patio and altar. These families tended to be large for economic reasons, each family would have a specialized trade and the members would participate in the production of goods based on age. The evidence of this comes from the size of the ruins and the burials within the compounds. They also looked at descendants who still lived and worked in the area, and their practices.
The Romans in Pompeii were very different from the sites in Mexico and Central America. Roman houses in Pompeii often had shops attached to them where the family would earn its money. The homes of the elite tended to be larger and more elaborately decorated, with multiple dining rooms for entertaining guests. Families tended to be less connected and would often include former slaves that had been freed. Roman families did not need to be as large or concentrated as those in the New World because the Romans used slaves for much of their labor. The evidence for Roman life comes from the preserved ruins at Pompeii. The city was buried under volcanic ash and almost perfectly preserved in 79 CE.
It would have been interesting if the archaeologists had examined the pyramids at Teotihuacan and the temples or other public works at Pompeii to see what they could teach us about the organization of society in those cultures.