Wednesday, 21. November 2018, 17:30 - 18:30

Households in the mist

A central concept of Old World Archaeology revisited

Kostas Kotsakis (Professor Emeritus, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)

Since its introduction in the early 1970s, the concept of the household gradually became the staple of Old World archaeology. Subsequent literature has consistently described households as one fundamental and self-evident element of the prehistoric social fabric, especially of those societies which lacked any signs of pronounced asymmetry or high elite visibility. Households and houses were widely stereotyped as the material expression of communal, non-hierarchical way of life.

Stereotyped pictures of the household are not the only problem; apart from the notorious difficulty to define households – which becomes even more confusing when assistance is sought in the anthropological understanding of the concept – one central issue remains the loss of its agency as a structuring agent of the prehistoric society of which it forms a part. Moreover, households are not ubiquitous; other forms too of social organisation leave traces in the archaeological record. Recent evidence from extensive excavations in Early Neolithic of Greece and Anatolia, offers the possibility to reconsider some of these central concepts and propose a more flexible and dynamic understanding of the historical trajectory of early prehistoric societies.