Theory and Practice in the Study of Mesopotamian Domestic Space

By Brusasco, Paolo | Antiquity, March 2004 | Go to article overview

Theory and Practice in the Study of Mesopotamian Domestic Space


Brusasco, Paolo, Antiquity


Introduction

This project combines the analysis of spatial grammar of houses with a sophisticated integration of archaeological, ethnographic and literary evidence. Such an investigation can only be carried out where sufficient material--verbal and non-verbal--survives for analysis to be effective. Early literate societies represent unique archaeological contexts for such research in that archaeologists can recreate an image of an entire ancient town by combining archaeological and textual information. In Old Babylonian Ur (2025-1738 BC)--excavated before the war by the Joint Expedition (British Museum and the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania) to Mesopotamia under the direction of Sir Leonard Woolley there are extensively excavated residential quarters where it is possible to investigate social space and the role of material culture, and written archives which provide an important second source of information on family structures (Woolley & Mallowan 1976).

Here I introduce a new way of assessing the sociology of these residential areas. House plans and cuneiform texts are studied separately in order to test conclusions based on one type of evidence against those based on the other. This methodology integrates techniques derived from the social sciences with the use of ethnographic analogy, and compares these results with the ancient textual evidence. While a better understanding of Ur family sociology is achieved through this study, its results may also prove useful for the analysis of archaeological contexts which lack the written documentation.

The archaeological evidence

The city of Ur, situated in the very south of the modern country of Iraq, is more or less oval-shaped, measuring approximately 1200 by 800 metres, and covering about sixty hectares. Within the city walls Woolley found four main residential areas of the Old Babylonian period: the AH, EM, MS, and EH sites (Figure 1). The AH site, about 150 metres south-east of the temenos (seventh century BC wall), is the largest excavated area of domestic architecture and it measures some 8000 sq. m. Woolley unearthed fifty-two buildings that are crossed by four main streets (Figure 2). The EM site includes fifteen houses located on four streets, and scattered over 2900 sq. m. (Figure 3), while the MS and EH sites contain respectively the remains of five houses in the south-east corner of the temenos, and a row of seven buildings some 30 m east of EM (Figure 4).

[FIGURES 1-4 OMITTED]

The houses were built of mud bricks with baked brick used for the foundations. The plan of an "ideal house" seems to have included a central open courtyard, around which the rooms were grouped. There was a main living room where the dominant family resided, generally located on the side of the courtyard farthest from the front of the house, and the secondary living room inhabited by an additional family (Brusasco 2000). The main living room formed with the chapel and the archive room an independent suite, while the other loci (i.e. kitchen, stairways, lavatories, workrooms) opened directly onto the central courtyard. The domestic chapel, in which cult structures and the family burial-vault were located, served for both the cult of the human ancestors and the household gods.

The construction of space

While social approaches to archaeology and to the analysis of space stem from the late processual and structural tradition (Renfrew 1973), developments in post-processual, interpretive archaeology have determined the approach used here in the study of the society-space relation (Tilley 1993; Shanks & Hodder 1995). The main tenets of the interpretive position are that the role of agents actively using material culture and space needs to be considered, and that cultural meanings are often understood in terms of practice. The sociologist Anthony Giddens has developed an influential theory of social change known as structuration theory (1979). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Theory and Practice in the Study of Mesopotamian Domestic Space
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.