Using the material remains found in and around ancient Maya domestic spaces in three settlements in Honduras, Hendon examines how aspects of everyday life, rather than ritual and commemoration, transform these shared spaces into ‘places of memory’. She argues that social memory is a reconstructive process and that human groups re-envision the past in light of present circumstances. Social memory – or what she refers to as ‘memory communities' – would have involved an interaction with the remains of the dead, buried within the context of their social spaces. In other words, memory is an active process that binds people together through historical social bonds, and non-elites provide rival memories to the official narratives of the elites. She argues that by rethinking about the basic aspects of what archaeologists deal with in the archaeological record – the material remains of burials and households – she can place these within social practice. She also attempts to dissolve the boundaries between everyday practices and the ritual world to argue that rituals are a part of regular life in that they bring the past into the present through selective memory. She contends that archaeologists should create a separation between domestic activities and craft activities, in that both involve memory as part of self-identity through lifelong training, are part of the daily routine, and incorporate a broad range of individuals across the life cycle. She emphasises that ritualisation, or the practices of action and interaction, occurs within domestic life. She builds on the arguments of previous scholars that ritual and religious beliefs are incorporated into the domestic sphere, and are fundamental to the fabric of society. And yet, the timelessness of the ancient household, due to its repetitive quotidian activities, has made it difficult to anchor it to notable events or to view it beyond the mundane. Finally, she examines periodic ritual through the ballgame as an activity that brings together disparate communities as a way of reinforcing social identity. She argues that the space of the ballcourt is tied to domestic space through the presence of household objects such as clay whistles and figurines, and encompasses a range of activities that make up ritual spectacle but that we might also see in the home.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Mathews, J. (2013). [Review of the book Houses in a landscape: Memory and everyday life in Mesoamerica, by J. A. Hendon]. Bulletin of Latin American Research, 32, 104-105. doi: 10.1111/j.1470-9856.2012.00777.x
Bulletin of Latin American Research