School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University


House, Settlement and Society in the Aegean and Beyond



Richard Alston
Department of Classics, Royal Holloway

Antique Houses in Late Antique Egypt

The recent upsurge of interest in domestic architecture owes much to theoretical developments that have interrelated spatial and social formations and, in so doing, have offered archaeologists a possible new avenue of investigation into past societies. Although the theory is well established, the practicalities of establishing spatial usage of and the ideological background to particular archaeological or architectural units is fraught with difficulty. This paper brings out some of these difficulties by looking at diverse housing types from seventh century AD Egypt and comparing them with much earlier house-types. I argue that although spatial analysis is valuable in determining social patterns, houses (and indeed other spaces) must be seen in a spatial and political context, and, far from offering a straightforward window into the past, houses are carefully constructed rhetorical statements about the social relations of their inhabitants with the rest of the community. Instead of the evolutionary models favoured by some theorists, I suggest that we should draw more on modern architectural interpretations as pioneered in human geography to understand domestic architecture.

Stelios Andreou
Department of Archaeology, University of Thessaloniki

Constructing Mounds: Stability and Change in the Communities of Late Bronze and Early Iron Age Central Macedonia, Greece

Variability, change and continuity in the habitation patterns inside and among settlements in Central Macedonia, Greece, is examined in order to investigate social and political structures during the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age.

In the earlier period occupation is limited to steep settlement mounds. Excavated evidence indicates diversities in the organisation of settlement space between communities or between successive phases of the same settlement. The dominant tendency was for extended residential units occupying multi-room structures often equipped with storage facilities of some scale. It is argued that several practices connected to the layout of the settlement (e.g. building and street layout, construction of ramparts, etc.) communicated a notion of the eternalness of the mound community and entrenched everyday practices to the intransience of tradition. Through the symbolism of these practices inequalities among communities were stressed and the exercise of power on the regional level was negotiated. At the same time, however, the expression of intra-communal differences was discouraged.

During the Early Iron Age a disruption of the older regime is evidenced. While occupation continued on several of the Late Bronze Age mounds, several of the previously dominant features in the layout of settlements were significantly altered. Besides, a landscape previously inhabited exclusively by mounds became populated more densely, by a greater variety of sites. It is suggested that a gradual transformation of the symbolic and socio-political aspects of settlement had probably started during the Late Bronze Age and the content of this change is investigated.

Bradley A. Ault
Department of Classics, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

Oikos and Oikonomia: Greek Houses, Households and the Domestic Economy

Taking at the outset the literal meaning of ‘economy’ as household management, this paper seeks to explore the roots of the Greek macro- or regional economy of antiquity in the domestic microeconomy. The degree to which subsistence activities engaged in by the ancient household actually constituted anything approximating a contemporary understanding of ‘economic’ has been questioned (most notably by M.I. Finley), and the debate is ongoing. It is asserted here that in even the most humble circumstances from the Archaic through Classical periods, households engaged in a range of activities from textile and other craftwork, to agricultural production and processing, which had the potential for going beyond mere self-sufficiency. Ultimately our notions of domestic self-sufficiency are in need of revision, if not being recognised as a myth and discarded altogether. Rather, the orientation of the household would tend, in both the extremes of stressed and favourable circumstances, towards market exchange and hence, local and regional economic involvement. The stigma against non-agrarian mercantile involvement, so often cited, similarly needs to be dismissed as moralising in tone rather than being reflective of reality. In short, the ancient Greek domestic economy was to a large extent coterminous with the macroeconomy.

Samantha Burke
School of Archaeological Studies, University of Leicester

Delos: Architectural Enlightenment

Simple computer models used to re-elevate as opposed to invent ancient buildings are valuable analytical tools. Walls ‘rebuilt’ to known and measured heights in combination with additional elevation data provide a structural framework with which interior space can be analysed. Resulting models can also provide insight into the impact of decoration and lighting within the house.

The remarkable houses on Delos (Cyclades) dating to the second and third centuries BC provide outstanding material for this. Combining site, publication and reconstruction data for their interpretation enables more in-depth study of their standing remains. Research reveals the extent to which architecture was used to focus observation into and within the house, and out from it to adjacent thoroughfares and properties.

The reconstruction methodology used to analyse the Delian houses can also be applied to sites where architectural remains are less well preserved. The approach taken aims to make the most of what survives, and move the modern ‘viewer’ towards a more experiential approach to the study of the ancient Greek house.

Bryan E. Burns
Classics Department, University of Southern California

Life Outside a Mycenaean Palace: Elite Houses on the Periphery of Citadel Sites

The houses on the periphery of Mycenaean citadels serve as the basis for an exploration of the ideological connections between structure and society, between the physical reality of the built environment and the social reality it helped to construct. Many elite domestic structures also housed significant economic activities - acts which were ideologically symbolic and through which the palace administrations maintained their position. I argue that the residents of these houses were essentially factions seeking to secure power, to the detriment of palatial authority.

The West House group (or ‘Ivory Houses’) at Mycenae serves as the main example, since it preserves the best picture of such activities and people, based on the buildings’ location, form, and unusually varied contents - ranging from cooking pots and transport vessels to luxury imports and Linear B tablets. These considerations are carried further through comparison with other structures located within and immediately around other citadel sites of the Peloponnese.

The inhabitants of these buildings occupied an intermediary social position between the extreme alternatives of ‘palatially controlled’ and ‘independent’. Even if associated with the central administration, the occupants garnered their own status, and the physical structures were part of the attempt to enhance their standing in a palatial context.

Valeria Bylkova
Kherson University, Ukraine

Settlements in Scythia and Olbia (Northern Black Sea Littoral)

Coexistence of Greek and barbarian settlements is a common characteristic of different parts of oicumena. A distinctive feature of particular areas on the northern Black Sea coast is an absence of settled population in the period of colonisation. Nevertheless, one cannot explain a process of sedentarization as a result of Greek influence. After recent field investigations, a spread of Olbian archaeological culture is ascertained, and one can match this area with the territory of the Olbian polis (city, after R. Osborne). A comparison between the Olbian and the Scythian settlements in the Lower Dnieper region shows the principal differences in ‘the building of environment’ by populations of different cultural traditions. That found expression in the choice of natural resources, in the topography of settlements, in their planning and building, etc.

The density of settlements is larger nearer to Olbia-town, but the settlements in the borders of the city are the same in their main archaeological characteristics, in the economic activity of the population, in cult practice, in their ‘prosperity’. The population of Olbian settlements was self-sufficient with their agriculture, fishing, hunting and trade.

As for the Scyths, their settlements corresponded to a semi-nomadic type of culture.

Alexandra Coucouzeli
Faculty of Classics, Cambridge University

From Megaron to Oikos: The Last Days of Aristocracy at Zagora

This paper focuses on one of the most important Geometric settlements in the Greek world, that of Zagora on Andros. It puts forward the view that around the mid-eighth century BC there existed at Zagora a rigid distinction between aristocracy and commoners, occupying respectively the plateau and the slopes of the site. This view is based not only on the notable architectural differences between the two areas, but also and above all on the discovery of a grid plan underlying the organisation of the settlement on the plateau. The houses of this period were large and single-roomed, of the megaron type, likely to have housed each an extended family or a lineage. However, towards the end of the eighth century BC a major reorganisation of the housing both on the plateau and on the slopes brought about the appearance of the earliest-known Greek courtyard houses. The new house design was less easily adapted to the structures that formed part of the nearly-sacred grid plan, but it was allowed to develop freely on the slopes, where the houses were apparently built afresh. The striking similarities of the houses on the slopes, in particular, with specific examples of Classical Greek courtyard houses suggest that the recently advanced view that the concept of the oikos as an architectural and social unit originated in the late fifth century BC will have to be reviewed. The paper gives support, rather, to the other recent view that the courtyard-centred oikos-type of house took shape in the late eighth century in a period of great socio-cultural upheavals connected with the rise of a more egalitarian ideology in the framework of the early polis, while at the same time arguing that at Zagora this occurred against an aristocratic background. Thus, around 700 BC Zagora would have witnessed the last days of aristocracy, which would have led to its final abandonment.

Massimo Cultraro
Department of Historical-Artistic Studies, University of Perugia

The Secret Charm of Everyday Life: Domestic Architecture and Social Changes at EBA Poliochni, Lemnos

The exceptional preservation of structural details at the Early Bronze Age site of Poliochni (Lemnos) allows analysis of architectural models, and of sequences of construction and modification of houses.

The circular huts of the Black Period (Late Neolithic) were succeeded by the apsidal houses of the early Blue Period (EBA I), while during the later phases of the same period, the fortification walls and two important public structures (‘Granary’ and ‘Bouleuterion’) were built. Rectangular mansions, megara, proliferated during the Red and Yellow Periods (EBA II), when there was a clear separation of living space from work space in the house interiors. Two public open squares and a complex drainage system complete the architectural picture.

The aim of this paper is to show that domestic architecture is not a static construction feature, but is dynamic and subject to constant change. Analysis of those changes provides important data concerning the development of the community’s economy and more complex political system.

Tim Cunningham
Département d’Archéologie, University of Louvain

In the Shadows of Kastri: An Examination of Domestic and Civic Space at Palaikastro (Crete)

The remains of the Late Minoan town of Roussolakkos at Palaikastro, Crete, provide an as yet unparalleled glimpse into Minoan town planning and domestic spatial patterning. While much of the architectural elements are familiar and known from sites across the island, there is also strong evidence of idiosyncratic local developments and innovations. And while indications of elite status are widespread throughout the site, there is as yet no solid evidence for the seat of authority or administration needed to build and operate such a sizeable settlement. This paper will explore the ‘urban’ landscape in an effort to reconstruct social conditions and behaviour. From a material behavioralist perspective we will see not only what conditions may have resulted in the creation of the built environment (i.e. ‘reading’ the architecture) but how, once created, the built environment itself might have acted on its inhabitants, singly and as a group. Comparisons will be made with nearby centres, particularly Zakros but also Petras. Significant variation in domestic spatial organisation between these sites suggests differences in both the socio-political organisation as well as in the social matrix itself. This paper represents a first step towards using the preserved remains of the built environment and modern analytical techniques in a preliminary attempt to reconstruct social and political structures.

Dorothy Dvorsky-Rohner
Department of Classics, University of North Carolina at Asheville

A Comparative Analysis and Interpretive Discussion of Cultural Expression in Domestic Space: The EH II Sites of Lithares, Boeotia, and Manika, Euboea

Lithares, Boeotia (Hara Tzavella-Evjen), and Manika, Euboea (Adamantios Sampson) express a prototype grid urban plan at EH II. Lithares, EH II phase, is contemporary with Manika’s mature phase EH II a, b. Lithares and Manika share geographic proximity as well. Lithares is located 12 km north of Thebes and approximately 25 km from Manika, which is located in modern Chalkis on the Euboean coast. Material evidence in Lithares attests to access of Euboean trade centres.

A radical change occurs in each settlement during the early phase of EH II as socio-economic and/or political factors pressured the populations into reorganisation of architectural space. Each constructed domestic areas according to their cultural needs within the planned community.

The site plans show marked differences in the arrangement of domestic space; accessibility from public to private; internal spatial relationships and architectural module placements. This data provides the basis for a comparative study and interpretive analysis of EH II domestic space as cultural expression.

Building on Tringham, Yellen, Kent, Rapoport, Abu Ghazzeh and others, a predicative model diagrams spatial relationships, internal/internal, private/public; rates line of sight accessibility values; charts traffic patterns; graphs interior square footage and architectural module placement of the two sites. The sites are further compared following the Alpha model of Hillier and Hanson, Determinants of Sanders, and a CAD model (E. Yi-Luen do, M. Gross).

The comparative study concludes with an interpretive discussion that poses the question: Are two different ethnic groups represented here?

Nikos Efstratiou
Department of Archaeology, University of Thessaloniki

Neolithic Households in Aegean Thrace, Greece: The Contribution of Ethnoarchaeology

The study of Neolithic social organisation constitutes a field of intense and interesting debate, with household studies playing a key role. Recent archaeological and ethnoarchaeological research in Aegean Thrace, north-east Greece, has been the cause for re-addressing certain aspects regarding the formation and function of Neolithic ‘households’ in this part of the Balkans.

More specifically, systematic excavations at the Neolithic settlement of Makri and the Ethnoarchaeological Project of Upland Rhodope have provided invaluable insights into the ways local agropastoral households are formed and the difficulties archaeologists are facing in their attempt to define in theory as well as archaeologically their basic characteristics.

This paper is an attempt to discuss critically some of these issues in relation to present day archaeological arguments.

Lin Foxhall
School of Archaeological Studies, University of Leicester

House Clearance: Unpacking Domestic Assemblages

The term ‘domestic assemblage’ generally calls to mind a jumble of scruffy artefacts, normally from a settlement context. In this paper I argue that the concept of ‘domestic’ as manifest in the archaeological record is more complex than previous working definitions.

Frequently the taphonomy of ‘domestic assemblages’ is intricate. Not everything found in a structure/house necessarily belongs to its working life. Can we distinguish what is post-occupation debris from the occupational clutter? Also, life is lived beyond the house: in what ways can we associate artefacts and features found in the landscape with households?

Contextualised micro-level analysis of ‘domestic’ assemblages from survey and excavation contexts offers scope for distinguishing a range of different kinds of households. Individual households engaged in different activities and consumption habits, and these changed and varied over a very short time scale. A range of Greek assemblages will be examined in order to track such variations.

David Gill & Patricia Flecks
Department of Classics & Ancient History, University of Wales Swansea

Changing Domestic Space at Euesperides, Cyrenaica

The Greek settlement at Euesperides near the modern Benghazi appears to have been founded in the earliest phase of the colonisation of Cyrenaica. British excavations in the early 1950s, late 1960s and 1990s have revealed evidence for the earliest phase of occupation through to the abandonment of the site during the third century BC. Euesperides was laid out in a strict grid pattern, though several different phases can be identified, each with a slightly different orientation. One of the deep sections on the Sidi Abeid has revealed a house from one of the earliest layers. The house form suggests possible influence from Crete. Further houses from the fourth-century extension to the city, built over the receding salt marsh, were equipped with tessellated floors.

Euesperides website

Kevin Glowacki
Department of Classical Studies, Indiana University

House, Household, and Community at LM IIIC Vronda, Kavousi

This paper explores how the study of houses and households can provide important insights into the social organisation of the community. Excavation of the Late Minoan IIIC settlement at Vronda, Kavousi, has revealed evidence for several well-preserved household complexes whose architectural expansion may reflect the growth of nuclear families into larger kinship groups. Three levels of analysis are discussed: First, the identification of individual residences within larger, agglomerative architectural complexes. Second, the interpretation of household activities and functional areas through a consideration of fixed architectural features and artefact distribution. Third, the relationship of household units to the spatial and social organisation of the site as a whole. This analysis highlights the contrast between the household complexes and other classes of architecture at the site, such as Building A-B (the ‘Big House’) and Building G (the communal shrine), as distinguished by form, content, and function. The household, therefore, can be studied as one of the most basic organisational units of the LM IIIC Vronda community and can serve as the foundation for both intra- and inter-site comparison, complementing the diachronic focus of regional analysis.

Margriet J. Haagsma
Netherlands Institute in Athens

Isonomia, City Planning, and Housing in Classical and Hellenistic Greece

One of the major socio-political concepts of Classical Greece was that of isonomia, or ‘equal distribution’, of both goods and power. This concept was not specifically Athenian, nor was it limited to democracies; there are clear indications that it exerted its influence across a broad spectrum of Classical poleis. One can study the extent to which the so powerful ideal of isonomia exerted its influence in the realm of town- and house-planning in these poleis, and it has often been suggested that the revolutionary changes in town planning discernible in the early fifth century BC are connected with the rise of this ideology. In this paper, I will use four case studies, Miletus, Piraeus, Olynthus, and the newly excavated houses at Halos in Thessaly, to examine the role of isonomia. I will assess the relationship between isonomia and the archaeological record at two levels: at that of the polis, responsible for the necessary central planning, and at that of the oikos or individual household and I will argue that the discoveries at Halos shed important new light on both.

Shelley Hales
Department of Classics & Ancient History, Bristol University

Dionysos in Greek and Roman Domestic Space

This paper is concerned with interpreting the legacy that Greek domestic patterns left to the Roman house. The paper hopes to explore how Greek traditions of domestic art and architecture were transformed by their adoption into the domus. Roman houses are generally understood to have been much influenced by their Hellenistic Greek counterparts whether in terms of architecture (the peristyle), decorational techniques (mosaics), or specific iconographies. However, the more precise mechanics of acculturation are rarely investigated. This paper intends to examine the relationship between the Greek and the Roman house by comparing the manner and context in which both house types make use of the iconography of Dionysos. Dionysos, along with his entourage, was one of the most popular themes for domestic decoration in both Hellenistic Greek and Roman homes, the Romans borrowing heavily from Greek traditions. This paper will explore the motivation for the Roman adoption of Dionysos and the ways in which he is portrayed. What can the different settings in which images of Dionysos appear tell us about the homeowner’s concept of domestic space and boundaries? It is hoped that by using Dionysos as a means to explore wider issues concerning domestic space, it will be possible to illuminate some important differences between Greek and Roman housing traditions and to elucidate how Romans manipulated Greek traditions for their own needs.

Louise A. Hitchcock
Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles

Naturalising the Cultural: Architectonicized Landscape as Ideology in Minoan Crete

The following sample indicates that a wide range of features in the Minoan ‘Palaces’ make symbolic references to the landscape. Central courts are regularly aligned on ‘Peak Sanctuaries’. Small, dark rooms with stone pillars performing a non-load bearing function and termed ‘Pillar Crypts’ are regarded as architectural representations of the stalactites and stalagmites worshipped by the populace in sacred caves. Sunken chambers placed in a semi-public context enabled visitors to make a symbolic descent into the earth. Built pools at Kato Zakro served as artificial ponds combining sacred and practical functions while the bovine imagery prevalent at Knossos may have symbolised a taming of the wild. Finally, evidence for sacred groves within the ‘Palace’ precinct indicate the creation of an artificial landscape for religious ritual.

Treated individually, these features have been interpreted as religious while the culture that produced them has been idealised as peaceful and bucolic. It can be argued, however, that taken in their totality, these features show a programmatic tendency toward reproducing natural features within a refined and artificial environment of a central authority. From this perspective, I examine them as monumentalised appropriations of the landscape for ideological purposes such as maintaining power, status, and social control.

John Ellis Jones
School of English & Linguistics, University of Wales Bangor

'Living above the Shop': Domestic Aspects of the Ancient Industrial Workshops of the Laurion Area of Attica

In the Laureotike, the south-eastern part of Attica, excavations and surveys have revealed many workshops (ergasteria) connected with the silver-mining industry of the Classical period, some in the industrial area of Thorikos, others scattered around the fringes of the Thorikos plain, and many more in the hills of the interior - some of the latter linked in ‘chains’ almost filling the valley-bottoms, others forming well-defined compounds (such as Soureza and Agrileza). Generally it is easy to pick out the definitely industrial features - the water-storage systems (rain-water channels, trap-cisterns, main reservoirs), the ore-washeries (with their own tanks, cemented floors, sedimentation channels and basins) and the ore-grinding rooms. There are however other rooms which had a ‘domestic’ purpose, being quarters for the ‘living-in’ staff (mostly slaves, no doubt): apart from several ‘empty’ rooms with no industrial installations, there are, here and there at different sites, clear pointers, such as a dining-room (andron, for senior staff no doubt), bath-tubs (some still embedded in situ), and bottle-shaped cisterns (of the sort found in town houses), quite separate from the ‘industrial’ water-systems. Small finds and pottery provide further information (though little has been published to date). Literary references show that workshops could be leased complete with the slave-crew (andrapoda) which suggest close association of buildings and ‘hands’. All this evidence will be reviewed (with slides of sites, plans, figures, pottery profile-drawings, etc.) and some tentative conclusions suggested.

Katerina Koltsida
School of Archaeology, Classics & Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool

Domestic Space and Gender Roles in Ancient Egyptian Village Households: A View from Amarna Workmen's Village and Deir el-Medina

The main point of this paper will be the interpretation of the relationship between gender and space within ancient Egyptian village houses. Although it had been more or less generally accepted that there were male and female areas in ancient Egyptian houses, a thorough study of the textual, artistic and mainly architectural records reveal that this assumption should be at least reconsidered.

The woman, mistress of the house, was not to be controlled by her husband in it, as New Kingdom texts inform us. Moreover, women played an important role in the society, holding structural household activities with economic significance, such as weaving, cloth making or animal raising, while a number of artistic representations illustrate women undertaking a number of domestic activities in several house areas. Furthermore, the spatial analysis and space use of houses shows positively that females had activities and thus access to all house areas.

In addition, a comparison with the early modern and contemporary Egyptian situation indicates that seclusion of women from certain house sectors was and still is principally a matter of class or family decision and viewpoint.

Franziska Lang
Institut für Altertumswissenschaft, University of Rostock

Housing and Settlement in Archaic Greece

From the Late Geometric period onwards, changes can be observed in the layout of settlements in Greece which affect town-planning and the ground-plan of the houses. It is not until the end of the sixth century BC that fortification walls become a common feature of cities. In the early Archaic period, the layout of settlements is no different to that from Geometric times. However, during the later course of the Archaic period there develops an obvious tendency to construct bigger and more regularly planned cities. Public and private space becomes clearly differentiated and appears to have a new arrangement. Temples evolve new characteristics; changes in ground-plan, as well as a new and more sophisticated architectural decoration distinguishes them as the most important buildings in the town. The erection of fortification walls, the division of space in important quarters (private, public and sacred) and function-specific building-types can be explained by changes in the structure of the community. These transformations are reflected in domestic house architecture. Houses with a ground-plan that can be distinguished by function replace the Geometric houses with multi-functional rooms, although regional-specific differentiation can be discerned within these developments in Archaic Greece.

Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones
Department of Classical Studies, Open University

Aphrodite’s Tortoise: The House/Veil Analogy in Ancient Greece

According to two ancient texts a renowned statue of Aphrodite stood with her foot upon a tortoise, a phenomenon explained by reference to a woman’s expected lifestyle: ideally, the sources state, women should be as quiet as the tortoise and should never leave the seclusion of the house/shell. In this representation we have a glimpse of the concept that if it is necessary for a woman to leave the confines of her house, then like the tortoise she should symbolically take that domestic space with her.

That idea can be substantiated by the female use of the veil in Greek society, and this paper sets out to explore how the veil/house analogy works by examining:

  1. The ideology that women should be covered.
  2. The etymology of Greek veil-words and those for corresponding areas of the house.
  3. How the private world of women can be expanded into the public world of men by the use of the veil.
  4. How the development of house styles is echoed by the development of veiling styles.

Kathleen Lynch
Department of Art and Art History, University of Missouri-St Louis

More Thoughts on the Space of the Symposium

Off-centre doors, raised klinai platforms, or pi-shaped floor decorations indicate to archaeologists that a particular room in a house is the andron, the male space specifically designated for the symposium. But not all houses have a distinct room with these special features. Did these houses without andrones simply not host communal drinking parties?

Images from Attic vase-painting prompt us to reconsider the assumption that the andron is the only possible sympotic space in a house. Vase images show drinkers reclining on mattresses directly on the ground, sometimes, but not always, outdoors. It is possible that a non-architecturally specific, multifunctional room fitted out with temporary furniture might have served as sympotic space. The courtyard may also have functioned as an imitation of more rural, al fresco drinking.

The architectural details that signal a single, sympotic-use andron are not necessary for a successful drinking party. When these details do appear they are status indicators: the host’s way of distinguishing his position within the ostensibly isonomic environment of the symposium. These architectural demonstrations of status may have been, in part, a reaction to increasingly inclusive drinking parties in the wake of democratic reforms.

Caroline Malone, Simon Stoddart & Fraser Sturt
Department of Archaeology, Cambridge University

Extracting the Domestic from Indigenous Sicily

Recent field work has recovered a remarkably well preserved domestic structure of the fourth millennium BC from Casa Solima (Troina) in upland Sicily. The paper will address the question of extracting the domestic from the foundations of this structure, employing digital reconstructions, and pointing to comparisons with evidence from survey (surface, microtopographical and geophysical) undertaken by other members of the Troina project in the same upland area.

The combination of daub and plan analysis within CAD and rendering software will be employed to give an overview of the available data and thus present alternative reconstructions within a rigorous framework of architectural and engineering practicality. The implications of this work will be discussed in relation to other forms of Late Neolithic, Copper and Bronze Age structures from the central Mediterranean area which scholars have reconstructed in the past.

This paper will show that the application of such computerised technology has ramifications for our comprehension not only of what the structure and rooms within it might have looked like, but also concerning the functional aspects of the house and the roles that different areas may have played.

Alexander Mazarakis Ainian
Department of History - Archaeology - Social Anthropology, University of Thessaly

Public and Private Space in Early Iron Age Greece

The subject of the paper is not innovative in the sense that much has been written in the past years on this topic. The point of departure is the ongoing excavation at Oropos in northern Attica, opposite Eretria, where an extensive architectural complex of the Early Iron Age (eighth and seventh centuries BC) is being unearthed. Numerous questions regarding the exact function of areas and buildings and the relation between public and private space have been posed. There is evidence for houses, workshops, shrines and public structures of various kinds, as well as tombs, but the data which will allow to understand the exact function of each building and the general character of the site are still being assessed. However, the evidence recovered so far points towards the coexistence within the same spaces or areas of several well-defined functions.

Since the study of the finds in relation to their context is the safest way to proceed towards understanding the function of buildings and the use of space in the Early Iron Age, it is hoped that the understanding of the complex data from Oropos will prove useful in deconstructing certain stereotypes and reassessing the evidence from other controversial cases of the same period, especially within the Euboean koine. This approach is justified by the fact that Oropos in the Geometric and Early Archaic periods was closely associated with Euboea and perhaps controlled or even partly populated by Eretrians.

Chris Mee & Bill Cavanagh
Department of Classics & Ancient History, University of Liverpool
Department of Archaeology, University of Nottingham

Functional Analysis of Survey Sites

This paper considers whether it is possible to detect different functional areas within sites by surface survey alone. This was one of the aims of the Laconia Rural Sites Project. Twenty small-medium sized sites were selected from the 400 recorded by the Laconia Survey. The sites were single period and ranged in date from Early Bronze Age to Turkish. Each was gridded and then all of the artefacts were collected, a geophysical survey was undertaken, and soil samples were collected for chemical and mineral magnetic analysis from each of the squares. It is through the integration of these techniques that we hope to extract as much information as possible about the sites and thereby determine their function. But should we expect to find variations within the sites and will these be significant or spurious? We need to assess what impact post-depositional processes will have had. To what extent have the artefacts been displaced by erosion and cultivation? Has the soil chemistry been altered? It is our belief that the patterns which we see on the Archaic-Roman sites do allow us to identify functional differences at both the intra- and inter-site level.

Robin Osborne
Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Did Democracy Transform Athenian Space?

Recent years have seen a great revival of interest in Athenian topography, particularly in connection with the great debate about the position of the Archaic Agora and the status of the Classical Agora in the Archaic period. This paper endeavours to put that debate into a wider context by looking at the ways in which democracy changed the use of space in Athens. Institutions invented or promoted by democracy (the assembly, the popular courts, the Council of 500, the prytaneis) acquired more or less fixed physical locations and these transformed the way in which Athenian citizens moved around the civic space of Athens, in the process creating a new context within which established uses of space (including the rituals of the Panathenaia and Dionysia) took place. It argues that the new rituals of democracy radically altered the relations between private and public and between sacred and secular at Athens, zoning the city in new ways that had significant social consequences.

Maria Papaioannou
Department of Classical, Near Eastern & Religious Studies, University of British Columbia

The Roman Domus in the Greek World

The Roman conquest of the Greek East fostered an intermingling of eastern and western cultures. Roman officials, businessmen and colonists seeking their fortunes in the Eastern Mediterranean conveyed with them new customs that were to have a profound effect not only on the sociopolitical climate of the Greek polis but also on the architectural and decorative evolution of domestic space.

The focus of this paper is to present the Roman influences in the plan, construction techniques, and ornamentation of the domestic unit from a select number of Greek poleis of the early Roman period; the starting point of this development varies from city to city, while the end is defined by the Herulian invasion of AD 267. Similarities or divergences of house plans between cities, or within a city itself, are analysed. The commencement, extent, and type of Roman intervention into Greek affairs, the origins of a city's inhabitants, and the historical significance and status of the individual polis were determining factors that influenced the appearance of the Hellenic abode. In the Roman colonies of Patras and Corinth, for example, western influences are more evident than in the 'free' city of Athens. A consequence of this process was that the prevailing Greek courtyard house (with or without peristyle) of the Hellenistic period was threatened in some cities by the intrusion of the Italian domus - the atrium/impluvium house. This ironically occurs at a time when the west had lost interest in the traditional domus, in favour of the peristyle and insula units.

Eva Parisinou
School of Archaeological Studies, University of Leicester

Lighting Dark Rooms: Further Evidence for Social Interaction and Activity in the Greek House

This study considers the full range of devices used for the provision of natural and artificial light in domestic space in Greek lands. It is set within a wide chronological framework ranging from prehistoric to historical times and focusing on a comparative approach of domestic contexts which exhibit this type of technological sophistication. Following a review and classification of the chronological and regional variation of domestic lighting devices (both natural and artificial), I shall attempt reconstruction of the types of domestic activity that required illumination. This will involve assessment of the pace of possible transformation of the materials/methods that were used for lighting Greek houses. The latter objective is intended to highlight further aspects of the social dynamics within Greek households with regard to patterns of spatial distribution of human activity over time and in different geographical areas. Close examination of the architectural development of domestic space will be carried out, with particular reference to evidence for windows, roof-openings, light wells, or other apertures of similar function within domestic structures. Furthermore, portable lighting material found in Greek houses will be examined in its architectural and archaeological context in order to trace both the nature and shifts of human activity within domestic space on the basis of the lack and/or provision of light that these activities required.

Mieke Prent
University of Amsterdam

Cretan Early Iron Age Hearth Temples and the Articulation of Cultic Space

Since the discovery of the first Early Iron Age hearth temples at the beginning of the twentieth century, a number of different theories have been formulated as to their origins and functions. While these temples were initially seen as the missing links in a unilinear development from Mycenaean palace to Classical temple, modern research tends to emphasise formal and functional correspondences with Early Iron Age domestic architecture.

A recent exponent of this theory, Mazarakis Ainian, argues that the earliest temples were the direct successors of Dark Age rulers’ dwellings, in which cults were celebrated in the form of ritual dining. His views tie in with more general ideas about the absence of independent urban temples and lack of spatial differentiation between the realms of the gods, of men and of the dead prior to the eighth century BC.

For Crete, however, these ideas need further examination. Although Cretan hearth temples probably served for ritual dining and thereby betray a functional connection with rulers’ dwellings, evidence from various settlements also indicates the existence of cult buildings and independent dining areas in the early Dark Age. The development of the Cretan hearth temples may therefore mark less a hardening of spatial boundaries than the ascendancy of a new cult, growing up in the shadow of longer-established urban cults and only acquiring prominence of place in the eighth century BC.

Karl Reber
Archäologisches Seminar, University of Basle

Living and Housing in Classical and Hellenistic Eretria (Euboea, Greece)

The ancient town of Eretria offers - thanks to the intensive excavations of the Swiss Archaeological School in Greece and the Greek Ephoria of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities - an ideal field for research into house architecture of the Classical and Hellenistic periods. At the beginning of the fourth century BC new large houses of the so-called Zweihof-Typus were built in the northern quarters of the town. It seems that in the north-eastern area near the so-called House with the Mosaics a whole quarter of houses had been added. The houses in the southern part of the town are not very well investigated - because of modern buildings it is difficult to undertake excavations in this area. The few traces we know show, however, that even the smaller houses had attained a high standard of housing. At the end of the fourth century the formal rich residential quarter in the north had been changed: some of the houses were divided into several apartments, others were extended by the integration of workshops. What are the reasons for these changes? An answer to this question could give us maybe a look at socio-political structures in the time of the rising influence of the Macedonian kingdom.

Dorella Romanou
Institute of Archaeology, University College London

Residence Design in Minoan Mallia and Variation in Residential Group Structure

Residences sustain particularly dense networks of activities and social relationships. Each residence in a settlement is built with the implicit intent of accommodating the socially acceptable practices and relations associated with a certain type of residential group. The residence design embodies these prescribed behaviours, and encourages its inhabitants to conform to them. The initial architectural layout, however, may be negotiated using structural modifications, or the spatial arrangement of moveable objects, thus adapting the original design and allowing sets of occupants of different numbers and social configurations to inhabit the residence. Consequently, a diachronic study of residential design within a single settlement - which takes all formation processes into account - can reveal significant attributes of the residential groups the buildings were intended to house at the time of their construction or modification, and also of the residential groups they lodged in their last phase before destruction or abandonment. This study identifies repeated elements in the architectural design of a small sample of well-preserved residences in Bronze Age Mallia, establishes the design conventions in operation within the settlement, and then seeks them in other buildings. The variability in the application and in the negotiation of these conventions may be attributed to the requirements and preferences of particular residential groups. This sheds light on the acceptable parameters for size and configuration of contemporary residential groups in Mallia. The social picture revealed is one of a heterogeneous community composed of households of varying types and sizes, which are captured in the archaeological record in different stages of their developmental cycles.

James Roy
Department of Classics, University of Nottingham

The Urban Layout of Megalopolis in its Civic and Federal Context

Megalopolis was founded as a new creation by the Arkadian confederacy, itself new, in the aftermath of Sparta’s defeat at Leuktra in 371. The project was grandiose, as its name (‘Great City’) shows, and was designed to meet both civic and federal needs. The new state’s territory was very large, covering much of south-west, south, and central Arkadia, and so too was the urban area included within the new city’s fortifications. While the settlement pattern in the territory is important, this paper will concentrate on how the urban space was intended to serve civic and federal functions. The town had the normal public buildings and functions of a fourth-century Greek polis, but it has been suggested that it was also intended as a federal capital - a view which needs to be re-examined. Its strategic role, however, was certainly intended to serve not only its own security but that of other Arkadians and of allies like the Messenians, since as a fortified city it was sited to control Spartan movement on the easy route out of Lakonia by the upper Eurotas valley and on to Messenia or to western, northern, or eastern areas of the Peloponnese. The large urban area allowed the town to shelter the rural population in times of danger (though other refuges were also needed in Megalopolis’ extensive territory) but also had space enough for other agro-pastoral needs

Lena Sjögren
Department of Classical Culture & Society, Stockholm University

A Model for Interpreting the Private and the Communal of Cretan Sites (800-500 BC)

The purpose of this paper is to present a model for interpreting the private and the communal on the basis of archaeological remains. The model will be applied to architecture at Cretan sites dating from the beginning of the eighth to the end of the sixth century BC. Scholars have lately paid more attention to this period, even though most of the sites were excavated a long time ago. It is however evident that Late Geometric and Early Archaic material from the island can potentially give us a picture of how different social aspects of living were expressed in built environments.

Private and communal features in architecture are here analysed from the outset from three perspectives: 1. usage, which concerns the notion of private and communal space; 2. form, i.e. planning and construction, which implies that certain architecture must have come into being only through communal efforts; 3. appearance of separate architectural structures, which could adhere to a larger group of people and thereby imply a communal or in some cases even a public meaning. The entire complex of human activities at archaeological sites must be studied in order to interpret how private and communal functions are expressed in the remains. The sites comprise various forms of settlements, cult-sites and burial-sites and an important aspect is their relationship to each other.

Aikaterini-Akrivi Skourtopoulou
Department of Archaeology, Cambridge University

Identifying Domestic Space through Refuse Patterns in the Neolithic of Northern Greece

Research on the archaeological definition of domestic space has broadened its horizons during the last decades with more comprehensive work, sensitive to microscale spatial arrangements and their potential relation to the understanding of core social constructs, such as family, gender, age, household or certain consolidated forms of social status. One methodological outcome of this approach is the more efficient exploitation of refuse depositional patterning as a complementary index for the signification of various types of mundane activities, next to the fixed structures of built space. The present paper discusses a series of refuse patterns in an attempt to re-define domestic space for a number of Late Neolithic sites of northern Greece. Based on the reconstruction of production and use stages of chipped stone assemblages from various intrasite contexts, in comparison to other craft evidence, it aims to offer alternative interpretations on the spatial arrangement of domestic activities. In particular, it highlights contrasting uses of space with relation to everyday domestic routines, such as habitation or ‘household’ (e.g. food preparation and consumption, storage) areas versus possible craft production or discard ones. This differentiation is going to be discussed at both intra- and intersite scales in terms of the distinction of potential forms of gradual institutionalisation, following the current discourse on the Late Neolithic of Greece.

Stella Souvatzi
Department of Archaeology, Cambridge University

The Identification of the Neolithic Household: Unfeasible or just Disregarded?

Due to heavy reliance on generalised assumptions concerning what prehistoric households were about, often qualified by the illusory premise that the prehistoric household is elusive and its identification clearly an unfeasible task, rarely has prehistoric research focused attention on the household. This is both in contrast to the other social sciences and historical disciplines, in which the household has long been established as a most salient unit of social analysis, and at odds with the numerous studies of prehistoric economy, ideology and analyses of settlement patterns and artefact distribution. Yet, the prehistory of the household and the settlement offers a unique opportunity to examine the complex interrelationships between social, economic and ideological factors and to gain invaluable insights into the use of space within a settlement. This is especially true of the Greek Neolithic, whose architectural and material data are not only impressively rich, but are almost entirely derived from houses and settlements.

My paper aims to show that the household is as salient a unit of social analysis for prehistoric archaeologists as it has been for our related disciplines and that its assumed elusiveness can no longer be an excuse for its neglect by our discipline. I will employ theoretical insights from anthropology and social theory and will attempt to integrate them within archaeology’s own materialist concerns and empirical data drawing on evidence of household practices from the site of Neolithic Dimini in Thessaly. Questions relate to the nature of and appropriate methods for data-led archaeological interpretation, with particular reference to the conceptual, spatial, and ultimately social, definition of the household, to the recognition of spatial variability, and to the value of anthropological and archaeological contributions.

Sorina Spanou
Department of Archaeology, Edinburgh University

Changing Patterns in Spatial Boundaries: Private and Public Space in Chalcolithic Cyprus

Patterns of spatial organisation can be related to the way that settlement space is used to structure and reproduce social relations. Decisions about planning and location of activities are cognitive processes supporting a specific social order. This paper explores the relationships between bounded and open space as an expression of the distinction between private/household and public/community space and their transformation over time. The multi-phase settlement plans of two Chalcolithic sites in Cyprus, Kissonerga-Mosphilia and Lemba-Lakkous, form the basis of the discussion. The analysis of the spatial organisation of public and private spheres over time suggests a pattern of increasing spatial discreteness of production, consumption and storage activities indicative of the emergence of household autonomy and unequal social relations at the expense of earlier communal systems of integration. Moreover, evidence for private ownership and differential access to resources points to the emergence of a hierarchically organised society. Finally, the paper will consider cross-cultural comparisons with the Aegean.

Karen Stears
Department of Classics, Edinburgh University

Working Wool: Locating the Domestic Economy in Classical Greece

One of the most important domestic tasks for a household in archaic and classical Greece appears to have been the production and storage of textiles. This paper presents the literary and archaeological evidence for spinning and weaving within the household and attempts to identify particular areas in the house particularly associated with production and storage. In so doing the investigation raises a number of questions centred on the processes of manufacture: To what extent was textile manufacture (on warp-weighted looms as opposed to hand-held tapestry looms) wide-spread throughout all levels of household? Where and how were textiles stored? How are we to identify dyeing and fulling in the domestic context? How far was seasonality a factor in the location of looms within the household? What can the archaeology of textile production tell us about gender and space (and hence possible private/public divisions) in the domestic context?

The paper concludes by broadening the parameters of the study: Can/should we attempt to distinguish ergasteria from households (economically, ideologically and archaeologically)? To what extent did the products of women’s labour within the household serve to furnish its ‘public’ space and self-image?

Laura D. Steele
Graduate Group in Ancient History & Mediterranean Archaeology, University of California, Berkeley

The Neolithic Settlement at Çatalhöyük and Pueblo Ethnoarchaeology

Over the course of excavations at the Ceramic Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in central Anatolia, several scholars have likened its aggregated architecture to that of the familiar Pueblos in the U.S. southwest. The descriptive comparison, however, has not yet been elaborated. This paper will investigate certain implications of Pueblo ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological research for the understanding of construction techniques and domestic life at Çatalhöyük.

Several conclusions, both methodological and substantive, may be drawn from this comparison. First, recent studies of Pueblo dwellings focus on room function analysis as a basis for distinguishing discrete household units in aggregated roomblocks. Combined with dendrochronological and artefact distribution data, such an approach is helpful for interpreting complex spatial relationships at Çatalhöyük. Second, Zuni spiritual retreats within living rooms provide an analogy for the creation of elaborate ‘shrine’-like decorations in otherwise residential rooms at Çatalhöyük. Even though Neolithic Anatolian and historic Zuni practices must have been quite different, Zuni social groupings and domestic activities (particularly in clan rooms and on flat rooftops like those at Çatalhöyük) alert us to some possible interpretations of Neolithic material culture. Finally, Pueblo ideals of household and community organisation often do not correlate with actual use of space by Pueblo people; likewise, the symbolic and social systems of Çatalhöyük and other prehistoric settlements might not be reflected accurately or consistently by material remains.

Rebecca Sweetman
British School at Athens

Identification of Space through a Study of Mosaics: A Case Study, Knossos, Crete

Research on Roman Crete is undergoing a veritable revival with a new generation of scholars. Given the nature of the way material is produced, mostly through rescue excavations, there is still a long way to go before inroads are made into analysing the enormous amount of evidence produced from Roman contexts such as chronology, use of space and its change in function over time and more basic cultural knowledge such as extent of Romanisation and the nature of society. The ramification of this is that our knowledge of architectural contexts and use of space is somewhat curbed. Through a study of mosaics, one can go some way towards re-creating how space was used, identifying function and addressing social implications. Much recent work has been carried out on how much one can infer regarding architectural space from a study of mosaics. There are many constraining factors in defining space according to mosaics such as the limitations of the craftspeople, the whims of the patrons and the economic feasibility. In this paper I present evidence for architectural space as shown by Roman mosaics from Crete with a primary focus on Knossos throughout the Roman period. This evidence will then be applied to suggest some hypotheses regarding Roman Knossos and its changes and developments within the broader context of Roman Crete.

Richard Tomlinson
Department of Ancient History & Archaeology, University of Birmingham

Houses into Tenements: Domestic Architecture in Hellenistic Alexandria

Alexandria became the largest city of the Hellenistic world. Strabo gives the figure of 300,000 for the number of its free population in the first century BC; the actual figure for those living there could have been considerably higher. Despite the size of the city area (roughly 5 x 2 km, of which perhaps a third was the ‘Royal’ area), such a population could only be accommodated if most of the dwelling-places were arranged in multi-storey tenements. Archaeological evidence from Hellenistic Alexandria is extremely limited. In the nineteenth century Mahmoud al Falakri made an investigation of the ancient remains, the greater part of the ancient city then being undeveloped. He planned the layout of the principal streets, though he realised that what he has observed related only to the final phase of occupation, before the larger part of the city had been abandoned. Recent excavations have confirmed, though, that this plan is originally Hellenistic.

A reconstruction by Wolfram Hoepfner of this original layout gives a total of 5000 conventional Greek courtyard houses, with room for perhaps 100,000 inhabitants at the most. I shall argue that even this is too large for the original town, and try to show how a system of courtyard houses was converted to the tenements needed to house the inflated population.

Monika Trümper
Archäologisches Institut, University of Heidelberg

Functional Areas in the Hellenistic Houses of Delos

Segmentation and differentiation is already visible in Classical Greek houses and tends to increase in late Classical and Hellenistic times, culminating in double (or multiple) courtyard houses with separate zones for different functions (mainly domestic/private/gynaikonitis versus representative entertaining guests/public/andronitis). Although multiple courtyard houses are lacking in Delos, functional zones have been postulated: economic (kitchen, bath, toilet) and representative (peristyle courtyard, rooms for entertaining guests) on the ground level, private/domestic (bedrooms, rooms for children, women and slaves) on the upper floor.

How can functions of rooms and thus possible functional areas be defined? As artefacts, with rare exceptions, have not been recorded systematically only architectural elements (placement, form, size, accessibility, openness, decoration etc.) can be assembled and judged. These rarely allow the identification of specific functions (e.g. latrine, bath) but can be used to order rooms according to their rank and quality. The richest/best rooms are grouped around the courtyard (with preference of the side opposite the entrance) and were installed in the - often separately inhabited - upper floors. As clear indications for the ‘traditional’ use as dining rooms are rare it remains open how these rich rooms on ground as well upper floors have been used; on this basis clear functional areas are difficult to establish.

Barbara Tsakirgis
Department of Classical Studies, Vanderbilt University, Nashville

Fire and Smoke: Hearths, Braziers and Chimneys in the Greek House

A necessary part of the ancient house was a location for fire, which served for heating and cooking, as well as a locus of ritual activity. This paper surveys how the Greeks dealt with the fundamental need for a hearth. The paper concludes that, while environmental factors played a role in the form and location of the fireplace, personal choice was the most important determinant, and there was no set type of hearth or location for it in the Greek house. Included in the paper is a discussion of fuel and the provision for the evacuation of smoke and fumes.

The paper begins with a look at earlier periods, but focuses on the sixth through fourth centuries BC. There is an emphasis on material from around the Athenian Agora. While immovable hearths were typical earlier, when most houses had a single room or a few rooms in a linear arrangement, braziers are known. These portable objects were more common later, as house plans expanded, and as built courts became the norm in domestic architecture. The forms of these braziers are considered, as are the literary testimonia for them.

Because charcoal was the fuel burnt in the braziers, smoke holes or chimneys were necessary for evacuating not only the smoke, but also the carbon monoxide. Little evidence of built chimneys has been recovered from Greek houses, and it is possible that if vents in the roof existed, they were simple holes covered with wood or tile, or topped by reused pithoi or amphorae.

Elena Walter-Karydi
Department of History & Archaeology, University of Cyprus

Public and Private in Classical Athens

The distinction between public and private was clearly drawn in the Greek language; it appears already in the Homeric poetry. This distinction was strongly felt in Classical Athens, as written sources and material remains plainly show. Public and private constitute indeed interdependent key-notions of Athenian society, and their particular character in the fifth century is significant, as well as its change in the late fifth/fourth. In this period fundamental early Greek values, such as honour (time) and fame (kleos), do not anymore determine the Athenians’ public behaviour and this goes hand-in-hand with a certain state bureaucracy. Yet it is above all the notion of private that undergoes a radical transformation. This is related to the rise of a distinctive type of upper-class house, the so-called peristyle house, so that it concerns only the Athenians who could afford such houses and/or cultivated the way of life connected with them. In an attempt to grasp specific features of the domestic space and notion of private in the peristyle houses of the late fifth/fourth century, this paper focuses on some striking differences to the same in the upper-class houses of the first century BC in Rome, Pompeii, etc., for which material remains are abundant and Cicero’s speeches and letters are a main written source.

Ruth Westgate
School of History & Archaeology, Cardiff University

Life’s Rich Pattern: Decoration as Evidence for Room Function in Hellenistic Houses

Studying the floor and wall decoration of Hellenistic houses enables us to make a broad distinction between ‘reception’ and ‘service’ areas, which may correspond to one of the most fundamental status differences in ancient society, between free and slave. A clear pattern can be observed, with large, elaborately decorated spaces concentrated in the northern part of the house, and often on the upper floor. But is it possible to distinguish the functions of different areas more precisely? This paper examines the form and decoration of reception rooms in detail, in order to reconstruct how they might actually have been used. An understanding of mosaic composition can help to identify room function, as mosaics are often clearly designed to reflect patterns of use and movement in the room, but closer study suggests that the relationship between pavement design and function is not always straightforward. A range of examples from sites in different parts of the Greek world will be discussed, and the significance of regional variations will be considered.


This page is maintained by Ruth Westgate. Last updated: 27 March 2001. Image © W. Hoepfner & E.-L. Schwandner.