ASA09: Anthropological and archaeological imaginations: past, present and future
Bristol, UK

(P05)
The archaeology of family and kinship
Location Arch & Anth LT2
Date and Time 8th April, 2009 at 09:00

Convenor

Duncan Sayer (University of Central Lancashire) DSayer@uclan.ac.uk
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Short Abstract

This panel welcomes papers from scholars who are attempting to develop original archaeological and anthropological approaches to the study of family, kinship and relationships. Interdisciplinary, and new theoretical models are welcome!

Long Abstract

Archaeological studies of kinship have been scarce in recent scholarship and social archaeological studies have focused on household, gender, age and individuality often without considering the mechanisms through which these social identities are constructed. This is at least in part due to the uncomfortable relationship between archaeological data and anthropological terminology. The purpose of this panel is to begin to readdress this balance and papers are welcomed form scholars who are attempting to develop original archaeological approaches to the study of family, kinship and relationships using an interdisciplinary methodology. New theoretical models are welcome and it is envisaged they may include the interaction of adults and children, gender groups, people at different stages of the lifecycles as well as localised and distant kinship relationships in complex, tribal and clan based societies.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

An archaeology of kinship, family and household

Author: Duncan Sayer (University of Central Lancashire) DSayer@uclan.ac.uk

Abstract

Archaeological studies of kinship have been scarce in recent scholarship and social archaeological studies have focused on household, gender, age and individuality often without considering the mechanisms through which these social identities are constructed. This is at least in part due to the uncomfortable relationship between archaeological data and anthropological terminology. This Introductory paper will outline the history of this relationship. Using an examples from contemporary and early medieval societies it will outline ways that archaeological approaches can see the construction of family identities, and transformations in those identities, in a funerary context.

Kinship as process in archaeology: examples from Neolithic Greece

Author: Stella Souvatzi (Open University of Cyprus) stellasouvatzi@hotmail.com

Abstract

It is widely acknowledged that kinship is a significant organizing principle of human grouping and often the basic matter of social categories in archaeological and anthropological societies. However, anthropology has long remained attached to classificatory approaches and abstract and formalist models, while archaeology has rarely resisted the temptation to construct rigid models of association of family types with house types or. This paper argues that another dimension of kinship may be more worth pursuing than kinship's morphological and structural segmentations: the role of diverse kin grouping in the organisation of social networks that may contribute to the reproduction of individual social units and may provide a framework for social relationships. Drawing on the recent re-conceptualization of kinship as a process in anthropology (e.g. Carsten 2000; Parkin and Stone 2004), the paper explores some of the many ways in which kinship provides a dynamic potential for connections and continuous transformations at a larger context as well through everyday acts, and which are variously manifest in households and settlements in Neolithic Greece, including architecture, material culture and burials.

Arenas of skill: learning strategies, family, kinship and specialisation in the Early to Late Middle Bronze Age in Hungary

Author: Sandy Budden (University of Southampton) s.a.budden@soton.ac.uk

Abstract

Understanding skill is seen as a key mechanism through which the articulation of cultural and social dynamics may be viewed. Skill is the foundation on which the renewal or reinvention of material categories depends. Material categories are, in turn, deeply enmeshed in the constant negotiation and renegotiation of identity and social relations. The way in which societies choose to pass on skill is seen as determined through socially sanctioned institutionalised practices. Moreover, societies are seen as constituted through numerous cross cutting institutions with both vertical and horizontal relationships. The social nature of skill acquisition, through specific learning strategies, means that the way in which skill is acquired, and then deployed, may be argued to reflect the nature of the practices related to these institutions.

Using a newly formed skills methodology it has been possible to suggest that during the Early to Late Middle Bronze Age in Hungary, skill associated with pottery manufacture was acquired and deployed through two contrasting social arenas; one related to the household, family and kinship and one related to craft specialisation and the perpetuation of a highly stratified society. These two arenas of skill shed light on different aspects of the social dynamics being played out within a highly stratified and structured society.

'When I grow up, I want to peel potatoes'. Learning as imitation: children in Apiao, ChiloƩ, Chile

Author: Giovanna Bacchiddu (Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Chile) gbacchiddu@uc.cl

Abstract

What makes an adult in the small island of Apiao, ChiloƩ is not some complex rite of passage or some specific transformative ritual. In fact, all instances marking pivotal moments in one's life, such as marriage, pregnancy, birth of a child, moving with the in-laws are carefully downplayed and minimised. Real social life takes place only within the household and each action undertaken in one's home acquires a strong value, whether it involves the households' inhabitants, or visiting guests. In the household children learn the elaborate ritual acted out each time a guest arrives, the offer of food and drink, the uttering of fixed formulas, the proper way to address people, the boundaries between individuals and what it is expected of them. Children know that the only way to be accepted into the adults' world is learning to act like adults. This can be achieved only by careful and silent observation, obedience, attentive imitation and reproduction of the adults' ways. However imitation is never mere passive repetition but it carries the full force of the child's witty personality, often expressed in children's playing practices. This paper, based on rich ethnographic data, shows the intricacies of the concept of the person in Apiao as seen through children's experiences and dwells on anthropological notions of learning, knowledge, and experience.

Constructing kinship: social and familial identities in the built environment of Gaelic Ireland 1400-1650

Author: Andrew Tierney amttierney@hotmail.com

Abstract

Gaelic Ireland remains one of the least understood areas of Western Europe in the late medieval period. A network of small and competing lordships, its internal political and social structure was based on a lineage system that was swept away by the expanding capitalist world of Tudor colonists. Histories dependent on English state papers have been poorly equipped to chart the micro topographies of Gaelic Ireland's lordships or explore the complex alliances and identities that supported them. In particular, the character and context of Gaelic Irish settlement has been misrepresented, denigrated or rendered invisible.

Thousands of tower houses and hundreds of churches were built across medieval Gaelic Ireland from 1400 onwards, but while some archaeological research has assessed their typology we have yet to query what such buildings can tell us about kinship and identity. This paper proposes a new way to tackle the limitations of narrative histories, combining research on two poorly understood resources for Gaelic culture: the written genealogical record and built remains in the landscape. The rich but under-used genealogical data on Gaelic Ireland's families, carefully preserved in native manuscripts, allows us to reconstruct the complex network of kinship between the various branches of each sept, providing a new context in which to analyse their built environment. This paper will argue that the relative character, quality and geographical distribution of castles and churches can say much about the workings of kinship and social status within and between lineages in each territory.