Housing memory: architecture, materiality and time
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This thesis is concerned with the concept of memory, its role in inter‐generational transmission, and identity formation, within the context of pre‐literate, small‐scale societies. It explores different mnemonic practices in relation to different perceptions of time, and the continuities or discontinuities (locational, temporal and symbolic) with the past they create, as part of exploring aspects of cultural cognition in prehistory. Through these three interrelated concepts – memory, time, and cognition – and their intricate relationships with material culture, especially architecture, landscapes, practical action and social life, the aim is to suggest a theoretical and methodological framework within which to explore how memory of the past was not only formed, maintained and transmitted but also transformed, concealed or ‘destroyed’ in the prehistoric present. The geographical and chronological framework of this study is provided by the rich archaeological record of early prehistoric Cyprus. Through the concept of memory, and using selected site data‐sets at different spatial and temporal scales, the objective is to offer a more textured narrative of socio‐cultural developments on the island that take into consideration the questions of how continuity and change are perceived and experienced, how individuals and communities ‘see’ themselves in history, and what some of the practices and material media are that shape autobiographical and social memory. Early Cypriot prehistory is characterised by a, largely, domestic landscape occupied by small‐scale communities, where public or monumental architecture as well as long‐lived tell sites are not explicitly attested. Rather than explaining away these ‘anomalies’, this thesis delves into the study of the ‘ordinary landscape’ of houses and communities in time and space and at different scales in accordance with our research aims. It, thus, diverges from the current archaeological research on memory and the monumental and regards architecture as a biographical object that encapsulates personal and communal histories. The analytical strategies that are employed in this study involve an examination of two closely related elements. First, the temporal depth of activities with regard to the life histories of buildings and people and how these intersect with larger patterns of social memory are explored. Secondly, through a topoanalysis, the spatiality and visual boundaries of remembering and forgetting, through the medium of architecture, are examined. Similar issues have recently attracted a lot of attention from many disciplines. In an attempt to link the various, often ambiguous, conceptualisations of memory – as a cognitive process, as a social construct or as an experiential domain – with archaeological ‘visibility’ and methodology this research utilises insights from a variety of cross‐disciplinary sources. This research is a contribution towards the past in the past approach by: a. building on these works and expanding our current understanding of issues of cultural transmission and memory by striking a better balance between ‘inscription’ and ‘incorporated practices’ social and biographical memory, material and ephemeral contexts (chapters 1, 4‐5). This is attempted by using an explicit multi‐scalar approach to the material and a practice‐based interpretative framework (chapters 2‐3); b. demonstrating contextually the limitations and possibilities of the theoretical endeavour in practical contexts through dealing with the ambiguities and incompleteness of archaeological assemblages, depositional patterns and stratigraphic sequences, as well as with palimpsests of activities in settlement contexts, with the underlying aim to understand the various dimensions of continuity and discontinuity (chapters 6‐8); c. critically examining concepts from a rapidly growing multi‐disciplinary literature and their often problematic applications to prehistoric material and juxtapose the Western model of memory with anthropological insights (chapter 9).