Archaeological approaches to House Societies in the ancient Aegean

International Workshop organised by AEGIS at the UCLouvain

Louvain-la-Neuve, 6th-7th December 2018, UCLouvain-Salle du Conseil FIAL

Collège Érasme - Place Blaise Pascal 1 - Louvain-la-Neuve - Belgium

Conveners: M. Relaki & J. Driessen

Lévi-Strauss was the first to recognize the potential of Houses as “moral persons holding an estate made up of material and immaterial wealth which perpetuate themselves through the transmission of their name, fortune and titles down a real or imaginary line, considered legitimate as long as this continuity can express itself in the language of kinship or of affinity, and most often of both” for bridging kin-based and class-based social orders. The rigour of the model in illuminating the intersection between individual or small-scale social units and larger, collective structures from a diachronic perspective has generated a wealth of anthropological and archaeological scholarship in recent years. While the flexibility and diversity embodied in the model offer clear advantages for analysing ancient social practices, a lot of its features require greater critical scrutiny. We propose to approach Houses as heuristic devices for exploring social relations and modelling social interactions in the past, viewing the House society model as an inherently flexible set of structuring principles capturing relations, behaviours and patterns that subvert traditional categories of social interaction. Houses are resolutely entangled with material culture and the world of things making them an interpretive model rooted in post-humanist and new materialist approaches; they can encompass and operationalise multiple spatial and temporal scales, without subsuming one to another in overarching hierarchical schemata; their material, social and political facets (e.g., combining hierarchical and heterarchical structures; being focused on collective representation whilst allowing for the emergence of individual identities; deploying architectural elaboration as both a method of unification and differentiation), allow for a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the past, which we think is worth exploring further. The geographical and cultural context of the ancient Aegean (broadly defined) offers a meaningful setting in which to situate these concerns, allowing us to follow up materialisations and expressions of Houses through time with reference to social processes and practices with transformative power and long-term implications.

We invite colleagues to discuss, embellish, and debate the usefulness of the House Society model in the context of the ancient Aegean, in any of the following fields of investigation (although by no means limited to these areas).

1) House membership. Approaches that consider the constitution of Houses from a number of perspectives including: kinship, funerary behaviour, bioarchaeology, architecture/spatial patterning, gender dynamics, marriage patterns, population mobility.

2) The role of Houses in political and economic organisation. How might collective action, alliance, co-operation, and integration affect the organisation of production, the allocation of resources; trade and exchange patterns; and administration?

3) Material culture is a key component in the definition of Houses as social entities. Can the study of ancient technology and craft production be approached from a House Society perspective?

4) Ritual and symbolic expressions of House identity; aspects of ancestor veneration, heirlooms; religion, cult.

5) Diachronic perspectives: continuity and disruption in activities associated with Houses; conflict and violence; the configuration and transformation of territories; the shaping of physical and social landscapes.

6) The value of ethnography and analogy, critical approaches to ethnoarchaeology.

Scholars interested in participating are invited to submit a preliminary title and an abstract (up to 300 words) before May 30th 2018 to maria.relaki@uclouvain.be or jan.driessen@uclouvain.be . Participants will have 25 minutes to present their paper, followed by a discussion of 10 minutes. The language of the workshop is English. The papers will be published in the Aegis series.

Picture: copyright Herakleion Archaeological Museum