W4 Reflection Post

“The Hearth” is about discoveries made in four different areas: Rome, Copan, Teotehuacan, and Ceren. Interestingly, the focus of this video was on households, and how they varied and compared with each other.

The Ceren volcano preserved everything in the Mayan settlement that it erupted over so that present-day archaeologists could excavate everything from round bottomed pots to the actual corn cobs that were left behind. It was even possible to figure out how they cooked their food; an archaeologist discovered that there were three large stones that the pots could rest on over a fire. In the beginning, archaeologists were curious as to whether the Mayan common-people lived comfortably or if they were just scraping by, and the artifacts and ecofacts they found answered that question. Along with the pots and the corn, they were also able to find carbonized cacao seeds, squash, and beans. Besides foods, there were also intricately painted gourds and other rich possessions, indicating that the Mayans were actually living very comfortable lives. All the houses were made of separated rooms for sleeping, cooking, eating, and storage. The rooms were all arranged around an outdoor patio.

Slightly different, the houses of the Mayan farmers at Copan consisted of two patio groups of houses instead of on. They had two kitchens that were separated from the house and one large storage room. The groups that lived in these houses were larger than nuclear families, as was confirmed by studying modern Mayans that are living in the area today. So many people live together because there are so many jobs to do.

At it’s peak, Teotehuacan consisted of up to 125,000 people. The area they took up was 80% residential, with up to 2600 buildings. One thing unique to these people was that they buried their dead inside their homes; often under the floor of the very room they used to live in. There could be between 30 and 100 people in one household. From studies of the skeletons of these people, archaeologists concluded that the males of one household were all related, and the women were most likely married into the household. Also unique to this area were the once beautifully decorated altars at the center of courtyards that must have been places of worship. Archaeologists also concluded that, rather than producing all food and supplies like in Copan and Ceren, the people of Teotehuacan were a part of a massive web of trade. This conclusion was made due to the discovery that potters had a standardized production of pots; more pots than they alone would be using.

Lastly, Rome, where it was common to find small shops right next to large mansions. With a closer look, the small shops were also used as family housing, because there were traces of beans, chickpeas, lentils, and wine. This showed that work life and home life were tightly linked. This shows a similarity to the other households viewed, especially Ceren and Copan, because most of the work was done in homes. Also similar to other households, the wealthy homes boasted of decorated walls. In contrast, the wealthy Roman homes had many dining rooms, as many as 10, because dining was a festivity to them. Also unique to the Roman mansions were the slaves’ quarters, where there were many cramped living spaces. There could be up to 400 slaves serving one household. The ancient Roman “family” even included slaves, and often a family’s slaves would be buried in the family graveyard.

With these studies, I think that the most important thing to pay attention to are whether there are “rich goods” in the homes of the common people, to see whether their lives are comfortable. I’m also fascinated by the differences in where people were buried; In the case of the Romans there was a family gravesite, in the case of the Teotehucuan, they were buried in their own homes. I think it would be interesting to do an actual burial analysis to see if the common people were buried with any special items like jewelry or the painted gourds that were found in Ceren.

2 thoughts on “W4 Reflection Post

  1. I like that you acknowledged the research questions that the archaeologists were basing the excavations at Ceren on. I also like that you brought the people’s lives into your post instead of just focusing on the houses and the way they were arranged. The part about Teotihuacan was really interesting. I thought it was odd that they buried people under the bedrooms they used to live in while some people were buried under the courtyard and altar. I thought it was interesting that Roman “families” also included freed slaves and the family could become quite large through the addition of slaves.

  2. I found the fact of the site at Ceren and Pompeii being well-conserved due to volcano eruption really amazing. Seeing how some artifacts remained intact for centuries is really interesting. I found the households at Ceren and Copan very similar to each other. Using modern Maya families to understanding the Mayas who lived on these sites was a very interesting approach. The fact that the people in Teotehuacan buried their dead inside their homes was really surprising to me. Most of the modern societies that I know buried their dead at some distance from their homes and many people are afraid of graveyards today. I agree with you that looking at goods found in common households could tell a lot about how comfortable their lives were.

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