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The University of Southampton
TAG 2016 Southampton

S2. Building through Time and Space

Session organizers:

Jude Jones, (Universities of Southampton and Bournemouth,, Penny Copeland, (University of Southampton,, Catriona Cooper (University of Southampton and Allen Archaeology,, Matt Harrison, (University of Southampton, and Ellie Williams, (Canterbury Christ Church University,

Session abstract:

Since the 2014 Symposium, Buildings and the Body brought together a host of interdisciplinary commentators and practitioners, interest in the nature, affects, materiality and agency of buildings and their bodily associates has continued to develop and expand within the archaeological, architectural, historical, anthropological and art historical communities.

This session can therefore be understood as a continuation of these themes designed to examine and discuss recent research and new conceptual ways of viewing the human/building relationship and interface. Building on these relationships, the session has chiefly been constructed to introduce new theoretical ideas centred on ways of understanding buildings, bodies and architecture across time and how this is expressed and visualised through spatial organisation. Both of these latter themes have been extensively discussed in archaeology and anthropology in the past but it is hoped that many recent theoretical ideas and technological innovations will be introduced in order to illuminate issues of building time and space which are, as yet, unexplored. In this regard, we intend to include papers which explore such things as temporal and/or spatial continuity and dislocation; the limitations of imposed stylistic periods; sensory, emotional or psychological perceptions of building space and time; the use of temporal or spatial scale in architecture, landscape and regionality; the composite or diverse agencies involved in building materiality and human dynamics; and, particularly, unfolding ways of investigating and re-viewing buildings space and its temporal composition through new science and digital technology. We also welcome papers devoted to related topics of buildings, bodies, space and time other than the few mentioned here.

Contributor Abstracts:

Unlike our previous symposium which was dedicated to historical archaeological periods, we now open out our session’s time frame to archaeological or other scholars of any period.

Graffiti in Religious Spaces: Interpreting the Actions of Medieval Lay Worshippers Through Historic Graffiti at Chichester Cathedral

Jamie Ingram (University of Southampton)

Chichester cathedral sits within the medieval walls of the city of Chichester, and occupying a quarter of the total enclosed urban area, it still dominates the city today. The cathedral was constructed between 1075 and the middle of the twelfth century with minor alterations occurring until the end of the fourteenth century.

Over the last two years I have worked extensively at Chichester cathedral recording the medieval graffiti. These marks were shown to be connected with the pilgrimage activities at this site and included veneration marks relating to the local saint, as well as many other marks - crosses, compass drawn designs and images of people and ships. Latterly, I have undertaken research on the graffiti of the north porch that shows the space was an active location of religious and secular practice.

This presentation will show that these graffiti can be interpreted through the application of liminal theory and object agency showing the porch as a liminal space. Can we also combine this liminality with the religiosity and the agency present to transform the porch into a liminal place? The porch is a location where the transformative and transitional abilities of the liminal ritual remained active over a prolonged duration and allowed lay people further access to the ontologically numinous space created by the cathedral whilst also allowing that space to be protected from the secular world of medieval England and the spiritual threats that were understood to be present within it by medieval society. 

Hearing the Commons: Acoustically Modelling the Pre-1834 House of Commons

Catriona Cooper (Allen Archaeology Limited/University of Southampton)

The use of digital techniques is not new to the study of buildings. Visualisation has been used as an interpretative methodology by bringing together research from a wide variety of sources. The Virtual St Stephen’s project began by creating three dimensional models of St Stephen’s Chapel, the first permanent meeting place of the House of Commons.

However, understanding the experience of a space goes beyond how it looks. In this presentation we discuss moving from a visual interpretation of the pre-1834 House of Commons to discuss the auditory experience. We have converted the visual model into an acoustic model allowing us to provide computer based auralizations, the aural equivalent of visualisations. This enables us to listen to how a space influences the perception of any sound heard within it, and helps to build a more complete multi-sensory representation of a historic environment. Further we can begin to question how the auditory experience of this space has influenced British politics.

A Place for Grief 

Anne Read (Royal College of Psychiatrists/College of Psycho-analysts)


Grief is the process whereby we mourn and let go of things past or lost. It is the integration of any bereavement, whether large or small, material or emotional. In order to grieve, a person needs containment or holding, in relationship, ritual or a physical place, so as not to be overwhelmed by the unbearable or unencompassable. This holding may be psychological, physical or both. The former can either be symbolic or be in a literal or internalised relationship, while the latter is often in the form of a building or a shrine. My consulting room often serves as both.

But, if someone is unheld, they are left with the options of potential disintegration or of psychological repression, the latter being preferable for survival purposes as it puts the lost object out of sight and mind. However, there is a cost. Repression takes psychological energy and it leaves the loss unprocessed and, unconsciously, still in the present and thus still active; the energy must have an outlet and so psychological symptoms will arise and give rise to distress.

This distress comprises much of my clinical work as a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst.

I propose, in this paper, to address the places and processes in which grief, both normal and ungrieved, may be placed and displaced. I shall use cultural illustrations and anonymised case material and explore some outcomes of re-awakening and completing the grief process.

Looking Up from the Plan

Penny Copeland (University of Southampton)

The most common form of visual representation of a building is through a plan of the ground floor, used for both truncated archaeological remains and for full height multi storey buildings. The plan form, so beloved by archaeologists, should however be considered a shorthand for standing buildings, a ‘map’ for orientation and a very abbreviated view of the layout. We also interpret them for activities within the building and the effectiveness of this can be variable, particularly when we are trying to read a more experiential history from the evidence. These traditional techniques are not produced objectively, but are the results of constant decision making so what do we project onto these plans from our own lives about the people who lived in these buildings? And what are we missing with them? The need for more detailed recording has been discussed in the past, but perhaps we should revisit this argument in the light of the vastly increased 3d recording and representation opportunities with modern technology. We can now produce full height elevations as easily as plans and for timber frame buildings these are invaluable. But are we simply producing elevations to be used like plans for form and function arguments? Can we use the ability to record increased detail and the new forms of data in more imaginative ways with a greater awareness of the ‘lived experience’ of occupants of historic buildings? Among other examples, I will look at Chawton House in Hampshire where a student survey project has highlighted the historic problem of creating plans of a difficult building.

Built Places: Infrastructure in the Icelandic Landscape, 870-1900 CE

Kathryn A. Catlin (Northwestern University, USA)

In this paper, I explore how built infrastructure in the landscape may encourage long-term sustainability, while simultaneously obscuring the roots of social inequality and environmental degradation upon which those practices are founded. In the late 9th and early 10th centuries, some of the first settlers of Hegranes, North Iceland made their homes in places that by the 19th century would be on the margins of larger farm properties. They built turf houses and field walls, fished and managed sheep, and presumably raised families. By the early 12th century, most of these places were no longer inhabited. The environmental changes set in motion by the agricultural practices of the first settlers were having an effect on the landscape, especially in the form of erosion.

Meanwhile, there are indications that the economy was shifting from a more mercantile foundation based on surplus wool production to one more focused on subsistence farming and rent extraction. Both of these factors likely played a significant role in encouraging households to move away from dependent properties. However, over the next seven centuries, these places were far from abandoned. Their permanent built infrastructure was repeatedly reused at least until the 18th and 19th centuries. Field walls were maintained to sustain good quality meadows, and the earliest homes were obscured and replaced by cow barns, sheepfolds, and other buildings to manage the livestock belonging to the powerful farmers who now owned the land.


The Multi-temporal Life of the Longhouse

Anna S. Beck (Museum Sydøstdanmark/Aarhus University, Denmark)

Strøby Toftegård is a large and rich settlement from the Late Iron Age and Viking Age in Eastern Denmark. The settlement has existed on the location for more than 300 years (650-1000 AD) and at least five phases of rebuilding can be identified. Conventionally, the development of the settlement would be described as separate phases of coexisting longhouses and units, characterizing the development as a linear process.

But at the same time, there are also examples in the settlement of how longhouses are built and rebuilt at the same spot over and over again, how some longhouses are deliberately moved to a new location and how certain longhouses might have been 'buried' and in that way persist to be a part of the settlement. All elements that suggest that past and present have been closely entangled and that the development might not be as linear as the conventional archaeological phases suggest. The aim of my PhD-project is to explore the relationship between time, space and buildings by investigating how time and temporality is materialised in the architecture, building processes and settlement structure at the site.

In the paper, examples from Strøby Toftegård will be used as a starting point for a discussion of how a multi-temporal approach can enrich our understandings of the relationship between humans and the build environment - especially in an archaeological material that are often perceived as so poorly preserved that it is rarely interpreted further.

All I Can Do is Tell You This Story: A Journey Through the ‘Body’ of a Synagogue Building

Ioanna Galanaki (University of Southampton)

The Etz Hayyim Synagogue constitutes a unique case in many ways; it embodies a locus of memory for all lost Jewish communities in Crete as the only surviving Jewish monument on the island. Through this monument the Jewish communities also still survive at an imaginary level and the multi-ethnic history of the island can still be traced. In this paper through a study of the materiality of the Synagogue building trauma will be discerned whereas through its social biography patterns of mnemonic purification and mnemonic conflict as well as processes of ‘organised forgetting’ will be detected and analysed.

The Etz Hayyim is a 15th c. Venetian monument. It is believed to have functioned originally as a Catholic Church and at a later stage was converted into a Synagogue. After being looted in the aftermath of the arrest of all Cretan Jews in May 1944, it was then let out by the Nazis as a dwelling house. After the end of the German occupation the main building was salvaged from illegal expropriation and locked by the representative of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. Intruders nonetheless entered illegally and used the space for various purposes. After a long period of abandonment and decay the Synagogue was renovated and finally re-dedicated in 1999. In 2010 two arson attacks caused serious damage and destroyed its archives and library. The Synagogue consequently was renovated once again and is currently functioning as an open Synagogue, a welcoming place of memory and reconciliation. 

An Archaeological Perspective on the Walking Order

Roger H Leech (University of Southampton)

Identifying documents preserving past routes in time and space through settlement landscapes can be part of the toolkit of the historical archaeologist. Examples taken from the author’s recent study of The Town House in Medieval and Early Modern Bristol will illustrate the theory and methodology underpinning such identifications and the potential for further analysis that then becomes possible. Locating in the townscape the landgable rents of 1295 and later will be shown to reveal the rural origins of the tenement plots and layout of the late Saxon town. Later documents such as the Hearth Tax of the 1660s and 70s and assessments for taxes in the 18th century such as the Poor Rate will be revealed to be decodeable street directories, enabling documents such as probate inventories to be correlated with surviving historic buildings and accounts of recorded houses, enabling the archaeologist to pass through the hierarchically structured spaces of 17th and 18th-century elite houses. 

Assemblages of Enclosure: Interconnections and Hidden Substrata in Early Modern Paintings, Tombs and Church Floors

Jude Jones (University of Southampton/University of Bournemouth)

Pursuing theoretical concepts developed from the work of the political theorist Jane Bennett and that of the archaeologists Joshua Pollard and Christopher Fowler, this paper examines ideas of enclosure adhering to gentry houses, church architecture and especially the mortuary materiality of the English early modern period. My recent work on Bennett’s insights into Assemblage Theory and the vitality of matter have led me to concentrate on her metaphor of the Russian matryoshki doll in which she demonstrates that ‘assemblages contain a sequence of ever small ones - functioning groups of actants in a series of larger, more complex congregations’ (Bennett Vibrant Matter 2010:45).

I have used this metaphor to examine the potential for extending ideas of scaled enclosure from the outer expanse of the newly enclosed early modern landscape down to the narrow wooden walls of a church’s box pew as an example of the connectivity of territorial assemblage. This presentation now examines other forms of enclosed assemblage again ranging in scale but also in medium and construction. I will explore the possibility that the composition of open-ended and dynamic enclosed assemblages such as those revealed in 17th century painting, churches and tomb monuments can themselves be connected, appraised and drawn into this field of analysis. In such a field an assemblage of enclosure like the multi-levelled structure of an effigial tomb can be seen to be composed of a series of its own nested material and immaterial phenomena . By integrating this with other similarly themed and connected assemblages I suggest one begins to reveal veiled substrata of past and present human emotional response which otherwise would remain archaeologically unconsidered. 

The Medieval Monastic Death Ritual: Archaeology and the Cluniac Customaries

Ellie Williams (Canterbury Christ Church University)

The Cluniac rituals for the dying and deceased are richly detailed within the eleventh-century monastic customaries of Bernard and Ulrich of Cluny. Through a protracted and highly structured ritual process, the ailing and deceased brother, the community of monks, and particular spaces of the monastery were intimately linked. Movement within the monastery, together with symbolic and practical actions performed to and for the brother, were carefully orchestrated, both spatially and temporally, to help manage the monks’ grief, whilst also structuring monastic relationships - reinforcing a sense of Cluniac community, and hierarchy.

This paper will consider how uniting these rich textual sources alongside funerary evidence from Cluniac houses, can provide new insights into the complex relationship between the dying and deceased brother, the living monks, and the dynamic spaces in which the monastic community interacted.

The ‘Arab House’ in Medieval Egypt: Cultural Continuity or Conceptual Chimera?

Matthew Harrison (University of Southampton/University of Winchester)

The idea of an archetypal “Arab house” or “Islamic house” has been pervasive in European architectural discourse for centuries, and remains influential in contemporary scholarship. Scholars from the 19th century onwards proposed that the Arab or Muslim’s home is defined by consistent principles of form and function, including inward orientation of space around a central courtyard, a concern for visual privacy, and segregation of space by gender. These consistencies are linked to either ethno-cultural, religious or climatic factors, with some degree of inconsistency between scholars. Indeed, the model may be portrayed as either quintessentially Arab or Islamic, yet the principles remain the same. The application of this model to characterise housing across a huge spatial and temporal scope, from the seventh century to the colonial era, can be seen as part of the wider phenomenon of the West’s portrayal of the Arab/Muslim world as monolithic, backward, and unchanging, in contrast to the dynamic progress of European culture. As such, this scholarship must, as Edward Said argued in Orientalism, be read as intimately tied with the colonial project. Yet some of the model’s most prominent proponents from the 1960s onwards have been Muslim scholars, who have called for these principles to be re-incorporated into their nations’ architectural fabric as part of a reaction against colonialism and globalisation—a revival of a traditional way of life. The model’s social and political significance in the colonial and post-colonial era should give us pause to consider its veracity, and lead us to question its influence on our interpretations of historic architecture. 

This paper examines how aspects of the Arab-Islamic house model have been used to infer the form and function of excavated medieval houses in Egypt, despite a lack of empirical support. The courtyard houses of Fustat, Egypt’s early Islamic capital, have been used as one of the key exemplars of the archetypal Arab-Islamic house. However, not only have aspects of the model been read into the fragmentary remains uncritically, other forms of housing within the excavated areas have not been given due attention.

A Political Ecology of the Medieval Castle

Matthew Johnson (Northwestern University, USA) 

Castle studies have moved away from their military role, towards a stress on social life, aesthetics, symbolism and 'status'. While this social/cultural turn is a marked advance, it has not always been thought through in an anthropological or theorized way; nor have social/cultural interpretations been related to everyday practices. Consequently, 'social' analyses of castles have tended to be rather disembodied, and to be limited in their accounts of power and inequality. In this paper, I sketch out what a political ecology of the castle might look like, with reference to the late medieval castle of Bodiam in south-east England. I focus on how the castle and its surrounding landscape work to control, delimit and define flows -- flows of things, of animals, and of people, circulating in and around the castle and its context. Flows work at a series of different scales ranging from the position and practices of the human body within castle spaces, to the local and regional, to the networks of religion and power across Europe and beyond. Things, animals and people move within and around the castle hall and kitchens, upper and lower courtyards, the ancillary buildings of demesne farm, deerpark, fishponds and estate, the local, regional and wider landscape and environment. Material flows help define the nature and scope of social relations; the description of such flows allows a clearer idea of the castle's role in materializing inequality to be delineated and understood.


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