In Ceren, the site was buried under volcanic ash and that left the structures and virtually everything in a remarkable state of preservation. The houses were of mud and thatch and the thatch was dated back 1400 years. There were many stores of different foods including beans, squash, corn and even cacao that were preserved perfectly. One find was where they would have placed a round bottom pot over 3 stones for cooking purposes. The wood would have been burned underneath the pot. They also found full stone rooms preserved. There was evidence that the family unit grew their own food and took care of their own needs together. They saw a rich existence and saw material goods as well. This evidence that their lives were fairly easily sustainable was not exactly in line with the previously thinking by archaeologists.
In Copan, the family households were divided in to separate spaces; for sleeping, cooking, and storing food, all surrounding a patio. In the kitchens there were obsidian pieces that had been used as knives. The archaeologists were questioning the possible relationship between four of these nuclear family households. They were able to visit modern Mayan families and were able to see many of the same ideals in place. The households were extended families coming together to share the work load of daily life. The families were self-sufficient and many of the tasks were gender specific.
A departure from the sites at Ceren and Copan, Teotihuacan was a very large city. It is believed that over 125,000 people resided there at one time. The farming was situated along the outskirts of town. The city center was mainly residences. What was seen was apartment like compounds housing from 30 to 100 people per compound. The question was if these apartments were linked by kinship or if they were like modern apartments and strangers lived with one another. It was found they were kin, lineages, possibly also linked by religion. There were marketplaces and it was noted that the lineages specialized in a specific good, such as pottery, and they traded for the rest of their needs.
In Pompeii, the site was buried under ash from Vesuvius, again providing a snapshot in time. There they were able to see homes from the poor to the wealthy. They found a grocer’s shop with their bins full of stores, the “empties” were out back of the store. They saw that the production and the home space were one in the same. They also saw a home of an extremely wealthy family. It was huge and included the quarters for the slaves as well. It gave quite a view of those ends of the spectrum. It did speak to the household growing by its slaves versus growing by its kinship relations.
I think it would be interesting to see what DNA testing would show about the kinship relations within these households. Especially in Copan, where it is surmised based on modern societies that they were extended families – the DNA would confirm those assumptions.