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The Prehistory of Home

The Prehistory of Home

Jerry D. Moore
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Prehistory of Home
    Book Description:

    Many animals build shelters, but only humans build homes. No other species creates such a variety of dwellings. Drawing examples from across the archaeological record and around the world, archaeologist Jerry D. Moore recounts the cultural development of the uniquely human imperative to maintain domestic dwellings. He shows how our houses allow us to physically adapt to the environment and conceptually order the cosmos, and explains how we fabricate dwellings and, in the process, construct our lives. The Prehistory of Home points out how houses function as symbols of equality or proclaim the social divides between people, and how they shield us not only from the elements, but increasingly from inchoate fear.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95213-3
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 The Prehistory of Home
    (pp. 1-14)

    Our trowels scrape through time. A dozen of us—archaeologists, students, and workmen—are excavating in far northern Peru. Digging through hard layers of ash-black clay and past thick jumbles of ancient oyster shells, we carefully scoop up the loosened midden and sieve it through dry shaker screens, trapping durable potsherds and glinting flakes of obsidian. We watch for traces of archaic structures: postholes from long-gone timbers, subtle variations in soil color and texture, a slightly more compacted surface. We speak in low voices as we dig, afraid that any distraction will cause us to miss the ancient traces of...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Starter Homes
    (pp. 15-31)

    With its thin melody that sounds saccharine to the modern ear, it is worth remembering that “Home, Sweet Home” is one of the most popular songs in all of American history. The song was born on the London stage in 1823, in a popular opera “Clari, or the Maid of Milan,” written by John Howard Payne with music by Sir Henry Bishop (the first composer to be knighted, allegedly because Queen Victoria loved “Home, Sweet Home” so much).¹ A native of New York, Payne had gone to London as an actor and gained modest standing as a playwright and librettist....

  7. CHAPTER 3 Mobile Homes
    (pp. 32-47)

    The portaledge is a collapsible platform of tubing and rip-stop nylon that big-wall rock climbers use when a prolonged ascent requires spending nights out on a sheer rock face. First designed in the 1980s, the portaledge allows climbers to make multi-day ascents of big walls in regions with severe weather. It extends the climbers’ reach.¹

    The platform is just large enough for two climbers to sleep in. A web of nylon lines binds the portaledge to a central anchor point, such as a pair of expansion bolts drilled into solid rock. A separate protection point is placed away from the...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Durable Goods
    (pp. 48-69)

    Enlightenment philosophers were fascinated by Savages. In their efforts to devise a natural history of social life, Enlightenment thinkers either imaginatively reconstructed the earliest stages of human life or extrapolated from the miscellany of ethnographic “data” gleaned from explorers’ journals, missionaries’ accounts, or classical Latin and Greek texts. Originally, these philosophers agreed, savage life was lived without farming, law, or permanent dwellings.

    Whether this original state was “rude,” as Montesquieu saw it, or an Edenic state of individual liberty, as Rousseau claimed, Enlightenment thinkers connected hunting and gathering, lawlessness, and impermanent dwellings. Central to these reconstructions was the assumption that...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Model Homes
    (pp. 70-92)

    Shortly before he died, I heard Jorge Luis Borges remark that of the thousands of metaphors deployed by poets, only a few are universal and key: Life is a dream. The stars are eyes. Women are flowers. Time is a river. Death is sleep. These paired metaphors inform in both directions. Time is a river. A river is time.

    Shifting from the verbal and written to the material and constructed, one of the most common metaphoric connections in human culture is between the dwelling and the cosmos. The architectural order of home replicates or restates the order of the cosmos....

  10. CHAPTER 6 Apartment Living
    (pp. 93-115)

    In the damp spring of 1806, the Corps of Discovery led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark arrived at the Nez Perce village of Tumacheootool, which the explorers described as “in fact only a single house one hundred and fifty feet long … that contains twenty-four fires, about double that number of families, and might muster a hundred fighting men.” While visiting the village of Tumacheootool, Lewis and Clark dined on a supper of “horse-beef and roots,” the roots being the staples of camas (Camassia quamash) and biscuit-root, “and the noise made by women in pounding them gives the hearer...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Gated Communities
    (pp. 116-140)

    The Greek historian Herodotus writes of Deioces the Mede, a canny political leader who “was a man of great ability and ambitious for power.”¹ The Medes had overthrown their Assyrian masters and reverted to the contentious equality of village life. A respected man in his own village, Deioces gained fame as an arbitrator of intervillage disputes, chosen by claimants to judge their merits and failings.

    Behind this public facade of fairness, Deioces privately schemed. Herodotus writes that “once the news of Deioces’ integrity got abroad, everyone was glad to submit cases to his judgment, until in the end he became...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Noble Houses
    (pp. 141-161)

    The Rio Tumbes curves down the western slopes of the northern Andes and flattens into a broad ox-bowed river as it nears the Pacific Ocean. The river’s delta was once a tangled swamp of mudflats and lagoons where black crocodiles floated in the thick brown waters. Since the 1970s, the swamplands have been dredged and drained for vast rice paddies and large lobster-raising ponds. In the equatorial spring, the rice fields stretch toward the coast in a broad emerald plain fringed by a narrow stand of mangroves that fences the beach strand.

    A dry terrace rises on the southern bank...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Sacred Homes
    (pp. 162-179)

    The Tabernacle was a tent. An audacious and elaborate tent, whose materials and design were stipulated in divine detail to Moses on Mount Sinai. Jehovah commanded that the wandering tribe of Israel, unsteady pastoralists tempted to backslide into idolatry, were to “make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” Apparently the children of Israel required the concrete materialization of the Divine, a specific place that anchored the presence of God and allowed for the Sacred to be approached, if not seen.

    In the Old Testament book of Exodus, fifteen chapters detail the construction of the Tabernacle, the religious...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Home Fires
    (pp. 180-201)

    A little after 2 a.m. on March 8, 2010, I woke to crackling wood and the quivering gold of fire. From my bedroom window, I saw a nearby house blazing. I threw on some clothes, ran outside and around the corner to the house as a piston of flames burst through the roof.

    Fire chewed the eaves.

    A night watchman driving home from his swing shift had smelled the smoke, called 911, and tried to knock on the front door, but the heat was too intense.

    It was the home of our neighborhood misanthrope. The house was a wood-framed building...

  15. CHAPTER 11 Going Home
    (pp. 202-219)

    While Stonehenge and Machu Picchu are close rivals, arguably there is no archaeological site on Earth more iconic than the Great Pyramids of Egypt. The largest and first of the Great Pyramids was constructed around 2560 b.c. for the pharaoh Khufu. For the next thirty-eight centuries, it was the tallest building in the world.

    By the time Khufu’s pyramid was completed, Egyptian society had been transformed. Thousands of laborers had quarried limestone, shoved the huge blocks up earthen ramps, levered the blocks into place, and sheathed the construction with finished stone. Elaborate burial chambers were built inside and despite centuries...

  16. CHAPTER 12 Conclusion
    (pp. 220-226)

    On the western edge of Ireland on the coast just south of Doolin, County Clare, an abandoned road leads towards the wave-hammered Cliffs of Moher. The sea is an indistinct grey. The cliffs are black, undercut, and crumbling, the eroded edge of the Burren, a nearly treeless region of carboniferous limestone, Clare shale, and sandstones scraped by glacial ice and rainwater.Burrencomes from the Irishboireann, “a place of rocks.”¹

    The old road crosses pastures and bogs before passing an abandoned village from the starving times. Although the Great Famine is usually blamed on a potato blight that struck...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 227-260)
  18. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 261-264)
  19. Index
    (pp. 265-269)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 270-270)