At home in prehistory: critical approaches to the built environment in the south Italian Bronze Age
Wolff, Nicholas Pascal Starbuck
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In this dissertation I investigate the idea of the home in archaeology, with specific reference to home-making practices in Sicily and Calabria over the course of the Bronze Age (ca. 2400-900 BC). This area possesses a wealth of settlement evidence, but the details of everyday domestic life have yet to be studied on their own merits. Drawing inspiration from phenomenology and human geography, I define the archaeological home as an existential relationship between people and place that is generated by the history it embodies and the material investments through which that history is manifested. Although traditional Bronze Age architecture is typically characterized as crude and expedient, analysis of settlement space on the island of Filicudi demonstrates that despite their small size and simple construction, buildings were maintained and reoccupied over the course of many centuries. Patterns of rebuilding stone walls and renewing earthen floors demonstrate a concern with maintaining continuity and perpetuating a localized architectural tradition. I interpret these behaviors as instrumental in generating and negotiating a distinct sense of identity, both individual and collective. Geoarchaeological study of occupation deposits at the recently excavated settlements of Filo Braccio, Taureana di Palmi, and Sant'Aniceto reveals that inhabitants employed a diverse array of substances in their floors, including clay, ash, crushed limestone, marl, occupation debris, and clean soil material. These choices exhibit a regard for the house floor as a platform for daily life, as does the treatment of these surfaces over time. Home-making also extends to waste disposal: deeply stratified deposits at Sant'Aniceto indicate that residents initially collected their household debris in a designated midden. At a certain point, this refuse was moved en masse in order to fill a single building at the site, constituting an episode of intentional structural closure. Traditions of architectural practice, attention to flooring materials, the treatment of household waste, and the orchestrated burial of buildings can all be seen as ways in which the lives of people and the biographies of their dwelt environments become intertwined. This ongoing relationship conveys a sense of home-making in the distant past, yet still resonates for us today.