W4 Reflection Post

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.

2 thoughts on “W4 Reflection Post

  1. It didn’t seem to me that the Roman household was self-sufficient as far as growing food or making tools and clothes, though that could’ve been one of the jobs that the slaves did. Your breakdown of each type of household and the number of people living in each was very easy to follow; it makes it much simpler to draw the comparisons. I agree that the artifacts left behind, especially food and tool remains, are the most useful evidence used to draw conclusions about how these people survived and thrived. I was actually surprised that these common people were living so comfortably! I guess I had assumed that since these cultures were so ancient, the people would struggle in their environments, but it is apparent that they had extensive knowledge about both their surroundings and, in some cases, other societies in their respective areas. I also think that your idea about using DNA tests on the people buried at these sites would provide even more valuable information on exactly what type of kinship relationships existed in the various households. It was given that, in the case of the Teotihuacan, the males in a household were all related and the women were married in, but I wonder about the relations of the women; what households they came from.

  2. I agree that in some way every household that was showed in the video were self-sufficient. The way that multiple families lived together and shared some parts of the house like the kitchen or a patio did not surprise me. In fact, in my home country (Angola) there are regions where people live in a similar way. I also agree that the artifacts found on those sites are the most important evidence, especially in the cases of Ceren and Pompeii were volcano eruptions preserved the sites. Using DNA testing to determine the relationships at each household seems to be a very astute idea.DNA testing probably evolved a lot from the time that the video was recorded to today, making it more accessible and easy to use in large scales.

Leave a Reply