How houses build people : an archaeology of mudbrick houses from Çatalhöyük, Turkey
- Abstract This research used mudbricks to glean social information about the people who built Neolithic houses at Çatalhöyük. Within a framework where both the house and raw materials are considered active agents, I laterally expanded and integrated the conversation about architecture through the process and performance of mudbrick manufacture. Regarding the mudbricks as any other artifact class provided an opportunity to explore how this object was independently produced and how materials circulated between and within a group of densely packed houses. By situating the development of mudbrick technology within a larger framework of social practices during the early periods of the Neolithic in the prehistoric Near East, I concluded that the adoption of mudbricks was concurrent with other social innovations, such as the appearance of communal structures, individual storage, in-house burials, symbolic behavior, and ritual activities (skull removal, plastered skulls, symbolic art, figurines, etc.). I argued that mudbricks contributed to the emerging concepts of independence and 'fabrica' through a mosaic of materials, which blur the spheres of interaction, including wild and domestic, natural and cultural, onsite and off-site, etc. This study was not focused on the motivations supporting mudbrick technology, but rather to examine how a specific community performed technology, and the ways in which mudbricks were appropriated and manipulated. The primary question was how houses build people; the very fabric of the house was regarded as a social entity, where the composition was negotiated and employed as a vehicle of expression. The diverse combinations of material created unique mudbrick products, which was as individual as the producers. Mudbricks differed not so much in the sources of materials as the specific combinations of materials, which were a result of the manufacture process. Using literature from anthropology of the senses and architectural aesthetics, I argued that houses are sensory agglomerations, made indirectly aware through the haptic sense. Architecture is experienced through the body; the physical appearance and texture of building materials are a source for corporal reaction. Using multiple ethnographic case studies, I considered materials active in their natural, unmodified state, which can be intentionally manipulated by builders. I argued for meaningful qualities inherent in building materials that deliberately contribute to the experience of the house. A house is actively enlivened through the combinations of various materials. These attributes were all made visible during the performance of mudbrick manufacture and house building. Ultimately, the biggest difference between Çatalhöyük houses was how mudbricks were made, contributing to their overall appearance. Therefore, it appeared that the manufacturing practices were significant in creating the final product. My methodological approach extracted more than just environmental data from mudbrick compositions by considering the mudbrick as a cultural artifact, no different than ceramic or lithic assemblages. I employed standard geoarchaeological techniques, such as particle size analysis, loss on ignition and magnetic susceptibility, to provide a comprehensive dataset of comparable variables, but the difference is in how I interpreted and situated the results. My research regards mudbricks beyond their functional architectural purpose, and explores the potential for agentic expression. The results demonstrated how these interpretations are made. I argued for meaningful qualities inherent in building materials that deliberately contribute to the experience of the house. A house is actively enlivened through the combinations of various materials. These attributes were all made visible during the performance of mudbrick manufacture and house building. The value of this study is the consideration of mudbricks as cultural objects, just like any other artifact class. Examining the social technology involved during the process of mudbrick production makes the sociality behind the object more visible. Placing importance on how the construction process emphasizes the role materials play in creating the architectural experience. In a wider context, this research contributes to an understanding of how the environment and culture seamlessly merged as a result of sedentism where people were exploiting resources to build and shape their society. It also provides evidence for the complexity of ancient village life and the agency of everyday practices, including organization of labor and independent households. Architecture represents the perception of the environment and the shape of social life of the people who built it.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|2010, c2011; 2010
|Love, Serena Helen
|Stanford University, Department of Anthropology.
|Statement of responsibility
|Serena Helen Love.
|Submitted to the Department of Anthropology.
|Ph.D. Stanford University 2011
- © 2011 by Serena Helen Love
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (CC BY).
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