In the video, ‘the Hearth,’ the household, which serves as the basic unit of the society, was discussed in four different fields and cultures: Ceren, Copan, Teotihuacan, and Rome.
The video starts with a Mayan civilization which was buried by a sudden eruption of Ceren volcano and was preserved perfectly by the volcanic ash. In that case, nothing about daily lives was abandoned and was left exactly where the Mayans had placed them, and many uncommon artifacts was able to be preserved. Three large stones were discovered and indicated how those people cook at that time. Along with the intact pottery, archaeologists found corn, coco seeds. Beans, and other abundant food. Painted gourds and ax blades was also discovered. All these evidences suggested that Mayans there were actually living rich and comfortable lives.
Another Mayan civilization in Copan was mentioned later in the video. The structure of house in Copan was different from Ceren. They have separated rooms for living, cooking, and storing. And their household size was obviously larger than those who in Ceren. By living in multiple-family household like this, Mayans could divide up the labor into different daily works and live lives easier. And this habit is still remaining in some groups of Mayans in Mesoamerica.
Different from the two rural Mayan civilizations above, Teotihuacan and Rome are urban society with much more population. Although the Teotihuacan is covered in cactus and corn fields nowadays, the surface of the ground is littered with artifacts everywhere and make it a real city. An urban grid as deliberate as the streets of Manhattan was revealed in Teotihuacan. 125,000 people had once lived in this city at the peak, with up to 2,600 buildings and 80 percent of them was residential. The household in Teotihuacan was even larger than Copan, likely to be between 30 and 100 people in one household. And evidence also suggests the Teotihuacan to be a patriarchal society. Artifacts for worship and ritual were also discovered, as well as behaviors associated with market and trade.
Finally, it is about Pompeii in Rome. Similar with Mayans in Ceren, Pompeii lay buried for 1,500 years by ash, and the snapshot of daily lives of ancient Romans was preserved, from rich to poor. In Pompeii, many tiny shops were found right next door to enormous mansions. Archaeologists found beans, chick peas, lentils, and etc. in the bins. The empties in the backyard indicated the trace of wine and oil. All these evidences suggested that these wealthy families were much beyond basic material needs. Another unique phenomenon in Pompeii is the slaves’ quarters, which were many cramped living spaces, but also as an important part of Roman household.
I think the most interesting things is the habits which people in the past had might remain till nowadays more or less: multiple-family household, urban organization, business. They might not be exactly the same, but would enable us to understand the way they lived much better.