The use of collective memory in archaeology can provide a unique perspective into the lives of people from the past. It can be expressed or recorded as written text, orally, physically such as through a ritual, or in the form of an object. The readings from this week demonstrate this, and provide a better understanding of how social memory is used to investigate societies in the archaeological record. The first reading is from a section of the book “How Societies Remember”, in which Paul Connerton explains the different types of memory and their respective roles in social groups. The second, “Daily Practice and Social Memory at Çatalhöyük” by Ian Hodder and Craig Cessford is a case study of Anatolian villages. In this article, Hodder and Cressford (2004) discuss how the embodiment of daily practices, rules, and power are reflected in the construction of the settlements.
Hodder and Cessford (2004:18) argue that daily routines teach people what is acceptable or inappropriate, and the rules that are learned consequently become embodied. This is significant since it is thought that the house is central to the creation of social rules where daily activities and routines take place. By studying individual houses, Hodder and Cessford (2004:32) were able to examine the way space was segmented and used for burials that were important to social memory. It was found that certain bodies were buried for about a year then recovered in order to use the skulls for art (Hodder and Cessford 2004:35). This is a significant practice when studying social memory because it shows that specific individuals were in some way special (which can be seen by their elaborate burials) and that the social groups wanted to preserve the memory of their ancestors (Hodder and Cessford 2004:35).
When comparing the information found regarding burials in Çatalhöyük to the concepts Connerton (1989) discusses, it is clear that similarities exist in the points that are brought up. The case study in Çatalhöyük made me question how social memory enables societies to interact with not only each other, but the space around them. Connerton’s examination of semantic codes, mind maps and social habit were useful in considering this question
Connerton (1989:28) mentions that the semantic code of individuals from different cultures can vary since they are based on mental maps obtained throughout childhood. Because of this, people may recall the same event differently or conduct similar practices but with different intent or meaning (Connerton 1989:28). An example of this from Hodder and Cessford (2004:35) can be seen in burial practices involving the plastering of skulls. In Kösk Höyük, plastering of attributes on skulls was found to have similar meaning to that in Çatalhöyük, however, the intent of specifically commemorating the individual may have been different (Hodder and Cressford 2004:35). In Çatalhöyük, it is likely that the plastering of skulls was embedded in general practice rather than a mindful commemoration (Hodder and Cessford 2004:35). Moreover, the mental mind maps learned by children are also related to how societies will regulate the usage of space. Hodder and Cessford (2004:30) mention that a child growing up in Çatalhöyük would have learned that factors such as age of deceased individuals would affect which platform the person would be buried under, which type of plaster would be used for that platform and how clean that platform is meant to be kept (Hodder and Cressford 2004:30). This type of collective knowledge is an example of a social rule that is directly related to spatial segregation. One last idea from Connerton (1989:35) that is reflected in the Çatalhöyük case study is that of social habit. Connerton (1989:35) describes a social habit as an act that reflects the social conventions that others expect to be either legitimate or illegitimate in a society. Activities in Çatalhöyük such as cleaning, sweeping, burying the dead and plastering walls were all seen as positive practices that were accepted in society (Hodder and Cessford 2004:30).
1989 How societies remember. Cambridge University Press.
Hodder, Ian and Craig Cessford.
2004 Daily Practice and Social Memory at Çatalhöyük. American Antiquity 17-40.