In the video “The Hearth,” we learned a lot about archaeologists’ studies of four different kinds of households; households in Ceren, Copan, Teotihuacan, and Rome. As households are the basic units of society, these households inherently have a number of similarities. One such similarity was that households in each of the sites were self sufficient. However, even though these households had some similarities, they are very different from each other in some aspects.
In Ceren, households consisted of one family. Each household was self-sufficient; every household grew their own food and made their own tools, pottery, and clothes. Citizens of Ceren also lived very comfortably. The land that Ceren occupied was extremely fertile, which lead to citizens living very comfortably. Like in Ceren, in Copan households were also self-sufficient. However, in contrast to Ceren’s single-family households multiple families lived in the houses of Copan. These households consisted of a number of separate buildings that each served a different purpose (cooking, sleeping, storing food), which were built around an open patio area. In Teotihuacan, households hardly reflect what we think of as a modern-day household. Households in Teotihuacan were compounds. Between 30 and 100 people lived in these compounds. The males of the households were usually related to one another while the females were married in from elsewhere. These households provided goods not only for themselves, but also for the common marketplaces. Roman households, like the households in Teotihuacan, housed a lot of people. Rather than housing blood-related families, however, Roman families consisted of one family and all of their slaves. Each household held private residences as well as public storefronts, and specialized in providing a specific good/service.
Archaeologists did not simply pull these conclusions about the structure of ancient societies out of thin air; they relied on evidence which helped them piece together these societies. For the most part, archaeologists were able to determine what these households were like based on artifacts left behind in the rooms. For instance, in kitchens, they tended to find hearths and pots used for cooking and in storage rooms they tended to find containers with preserved food. I believe that these artifacts are the most important evidence in this kind of study. They allow us to determine not only what each area was used for, but also exactly how the citizens in these ancient cultures survived/thrived. I think it would be especially interesting to put some of the advancements in the field of archaeology to work at these sites. For instance, archaeologists could use DNA testing to determine the familial relationships at each household.