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Archaeology of the Everyday


Module description

How do we ‘dig up’ the everyday as archaeologists? According to some, the archaeological record - the layers of dirt, collapsed buildings, broken artifacts, garbage, treasures and human bodies - that archaeologists study is just ‘one long everyday’, the compressed habits and routines of people in the past, occasionally punctuated by the shifts of big events.

On this module, we ask:

  • What is it that archaeologists study when they study everyday life?
  • Does everyone have an ‘everyday life’, and does it consist of the same activities, habits, necessities and ‘little rituals’?
  • When we scrape together an ‘everyday assemblage’, what stories about human beings do we use to reconstruct the past from our collected things?
  • Can we have museums of the everyday - and if so, what do we put in them?
  • Who lives in the everyday - and are those the same people who ‘make history’?

We will explore these questions and more, looking at archaeologies of the everyday from across periods and all over the world. Did an early human everyday look like the Maya quotidian? Did Roman pastimes look like the medieval ‘mundane’? Ultimately, we will think critically about the everyday as a spacetime, and reflect on how everyday cultures relate to histories big and small.

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • be familiar with major theoretical orientations to the everyday within archaeology, history and material culture studies
  • be familiar with the methodological approaches to the materiality of the everyday
  • have a grasp of the conceptual challenges to ‘seeing’ everyday life in archaeological records
  • be able to speak across historical periods and disciplines about the history of everyday lives
  • be able to engage in a critical assessment of narratives of everyday life
  • have a sound basis for further research into archaeological cases of the everyday/the evental.