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The University of Southampton
Lifelong Learning

Who Lives Here? The Social Archaeology of Buildings

Since earliest times people have needed shelter and constructed places in which to live.

Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire
Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

The Roman architect Vitruvius thought that the discovery of fire enabled human beings to move out of their nests and caves in order to build houses. But while the jury is still out on the question of nests, Vitruvius' books on architecture still serve to remind us that complex architecture has a long and distinguished history.

Looking at modern society we can see that buildings function in many ways for purposes other than simple domesticity. We use them to house our goods, our civic and governmental bodies, commerce and industry, our educational and medical institutions and have done for millennia. Looking into the past we see that archaeology is designed to focus on the material evidence of buildings and especially to tease from them the rich seams of information which tell us about how people occupied them, how they may have understood their built environment and how they developed it over time.

This module is designed to be a wide-ranging exploration of the social life of past buildings from prehistory to modern times. Using anthropological examples alongside archaeological ones, we will investigate such things as how and why buildings were constructed, how different societies used space, what kinds of furnishings or designs were used, who was allowed where and what it may have been like to be inside, for example, a chambered long barrow, the Forum of Pompeii or the Elizabethan Great Chamber of Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.


Date: Tuesday evenings, starting 8 October 2013
Time: 7 - 9 pm
Duration: 12 meetings


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