All four cities represented in this week’s video did share some degree of similarity. All four of them were sites of research on how a family lived their lives out in a given area. The findings, as well as the methods of research, varied quite a bit for each subject city.
Ceren contained thatch-roofed buildings that were encased in volcanic ash, their contents remarkably well preserved. These buildings contained families that subsistence farmed to survive, as evidenced by tools and seeds found in the preserved buildings. Close to Ceren was another Mayan city, Copan. Copan families lived a little differently, with one family occupying two or more small houses close together and joined by a “patio”. Archaeological findings within these structures indicated that different buildings served different purposes. For instance, one building may be used as a kitchen, while another may be used for storage. A very similar living arrangement is still used by people in the area, which aided in the assessment of previous lifestyles.
These are more rural settlements though. In the past, as today, people lived in cities as well. Teotihuacan, also located in Central America, gives us a glimpse into city life of its residents. In Teotihuacan, many people lived in very large buildings. Up to 100 invidivuals could live in one! They were almost like modern day apartments. The real question was whether these people were strangers to each other, as in apartments, or if they were related. Luckily, while most civilizations separate their dead from their living, in these “apartments”, they were buried right under the floors, sometimes in the very rooms they lived in beforehand. As a result, studies can be done on the remains left behind. The human remains found here had similar markings when they came from the same building, suggesting that the remains belonged to the same families. An incredible discovery! So much raw information can be obtained from human remains that I believe them to be the most valuable resource for information when researching past civilizations. That said, they are not always available for ethical or other reasons, but when they are, they are certainly worth investigating.
Among the cities mentioned in the video, one exists where the remains are in incredible condition, where the human remains are so distinct and clear that they maintain their dying poses. Pompeii. Swept up by volcanic ash, the city was buried and forgotten. Under a layer of soot, everything was preserved in extreme detail, including their homes. With such things as wall decorations and knowledge of Roman living quarters, we can predict that, for Romans, work and home were almost synonymous. Many worked from their homes. Even the wealthy would hold court in their homes, which was fascinating to me. Working from home is becoming a more modern trend, but it’s nowhere near the first time!
The single most helpful type of analysis for situations like this that comes to mind for me is radiography. Taking a radiograph allows for the location of structures without digging up areas, allowing for a wide area to be scanned without expending as much time or effort. While I’m sure radiographs have been taken for the areas since the video came out, I think it would be most interesting to use that to look for structures that may have been missed. Who knows what else lurks beneath the soils?