W4 Reflection Post

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.

5 thoughts on “W4 Reflection Post

  1. The site at Ceren was so well preserved that the local people thought it to a modern home. Only after archaeologists took samples and sent them for carbon dating did they learn just how old the site truly was. It is tragic and fascinating that because of an unforeseen natural disaster that we now have the ability to study the past in their natural element. Like you said, it is a snapshot in time. I also feel that it would be beneficial to do DNA testing of the residence to not only see kinship relation but also possibly link the DNA to present day people.

  2. It’s very fortunate that the site of Ceren was preserved so well. The volcanic explosion sure did wipe out a lot of stuff but also helped in the preservation of their culture. It’s amazing how a place can be saved for such a long period of time. I was surprised to find that the concept of apartment like housing goes back so much in time. One thing which intrigued me the most is, how popular pottery making was among all these different people. What was the reason behind it? Was it purely for economical purposes or did they use it as a way of preserving their culture?

  3. Something of note that I’m surprised you didn’t mention was how strikingly similar the methods of the Ceren were to the methods of the families living nearby. Though some of the tools are a little more modern, the buildings are so strikingly similar that the site was considered to be possibly a modern building. The method of cooking is also still very similar.

    I’d also be interested in running DNA tests. The possibility hadn’t occurred to me when I wrote my article, but they could certainly hold interesting results.

    • Since I can’t edit my reply and I realized I came up just short of the word count, I’ll add this:

      I’d also be interested to see a bit of discussion about how the preservation in Pompeii compares to that of Ceren. Did the variations in building methods and their artifacts result in different amounts of preservation or in different things being preserved?

  4. I think that DNA testing would be a really interesting way to gain more insight on the sites in Teotihuacan and in Pompeii as well. I would really like to see if the kinship and religious relationships really played hand in hand in Teotihuacan because it would be cool to see what families practiced what religion and what not. Also, I think that DNA testing would be perfect in Pompeii because they stated that slaves were able to gain their freedom and join the family. So, based off of the human remains and DNA testing, I think it would be interesting to see which households inherited more slaves into their families compared to others.

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