The changing Neolithic household: Household autonomy and social segmentation, Tell Halula, Syria

Ian Kuijt, Emma Guerrero, Miquel Molist, Josep Anfruns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

While households are widely held to have existed as the fundamental building block of early agricultural villages, researchers have only a limited understanding of the local social and economic trajectory of Neolithic households. Expanding our archaeological understanding of the Neolithic household beyond architecture, settlement organization, and subsistence practices, in this paper we explore how gradual changes in mortuary practices at Tell Halula, Syria, help us to understand the process of household development around 7500-7300 Cal. BC. Drawing upon high-resolution mortuary data we consider the tempo and mechanisms of change and how these patterns help us understand the organization of the household. Material patterns including the increased use of burial objects, an increased frequency of the placement of burial objects among adults, and the differential use of burial objects between households. These represent subtle, yet observable, small-scale shifts in how social roles were redefined and materialized. We argue that these reflect a series of gradual changes that are suggestive of increased household autonomy and an increase in social segmentation within and between households. The Tell Halula data highlight elements of continuity and how household members adhered to a broadly shared physical and organizational framework of life. Data also illustrate how household members developed subtle means by which practices were personalization, and potentially, reflect growing means by which households and individuals were identified within these communities. Collectively, this research provides a detailed understanding of the grass-roots building blocks of Neolithic households over a short time frame and a more detailed understanding of the local social and economic trajectory of Neolithic households. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-522
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Volume30
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011

Keywords

  • Burial practices
  • Households
  • Near East
  • Neolithic
  • Social inequality

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