tv Democracy Now LINKTV April 19, 2013 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
stand the ruins of what was once the largest city in the new world. beneath an intricate complex of dwellings, archaeologists are uncovering startling evidence of family life. and in italy, as archaeologists explore the ruins of pompeii, new investigations shed light on the nature of the roman family and the surprising role of slaves. who do we live with and why ? what can these ancient families tell us about our own families ? around the world, archaeologists are looking far beyond the palaces and temples into the households of common people, bringing families to life out of the past.
come forward all the way. oooh ! that's it. good. hold on me. come forward. ease the baby out with little pushes. come on. you can do it. beautiful ! the baby's coming up to you. waaahh ! keach: every newborn child immediately confronts three basic needs -- food, shelter and education. in the beginning, these needs are met at home. but in industrial societies, that soon changes.
teacher: times three... we educate our children in schools. how would you read this number ? 21,000. you're getting these two a little mixed up from the example before. we earn our daily bread in offices, and we buy it in markets. but in many cultures, the household is still the most basic unit of society, where people spend most of their days, producing what they need to live and teaching their children their values and culture. anthropologist richard wilk. a household is an activity group. it's a group of people who work together, who consume together, who take part in all the activities of everyday life. it's a unit of people cooperating and sharing -- putting money together, putting work together, taking care of children, living under a single roof.
keach: what makes households so different from culture to culture ? archaeologists are looking for patterns in the past. their search takes us back to a time when the home was the center of society, protected by the god of the hearth. these are the ruins of the ancient maya, who flourished from the time of christ to a.d. 900. at their height, maya settlements spanned southern mesoamerica, from the yucatan in the north to el salvador in the south.
the maya left behind dozens of cities, marked by tall pyramids and imposing statues. these remnants offer a portrait of the maya elite. but archaeologist payson sheets was seeking a broader picture. man: we want to deal with the common people, the people who are doing the farming, who are making the pottery, who are doing the work for supporting society. and it's about time we know something about them, how they lived. were they really exploited ? were they living lives of desperation, just barely eking out an existence under the oppressive machinery of an exploitative government ? or were their lives fairly rich ? did they have things of beauty in their houses ? how did they live ? did they have a variety of foods stored in their houses ? were they scrinched into scuzzy little spaces, or did they have some open areas and a comfortable life ? that's what we're working on.
keach: sometimes an archaeologist's search is helped by accident. in el salvador, a bulldozer digging a foundation for a grain silo stumbled upon an old house. could this be the evidence that sheets was looking for ? people in the area had seen well-preserved floor, good artifacts on the inside, thatched roof collapsed down onto the floor but perfectly preserved. they all thought it's a recent house under a recent volcanic eruption. when i came here, i thought exactly the same thing. but being curious about things, i decided i'd like to know what it dated to. so pulling out my trusty trowel and scraping along the floor, right along here, i found some pieces of pottery. but the pieces of pottery were all prehistoric, classic period pottery. i was looking for a coke bottle, a piece of plastic, some tin foil, something to give me an idea of what the date of the structure was -- only prehistoric pottery.
so immediately i perceived a powerful opportunity to really embarrass myself professionally by saying, "whoa ! it's prehistoric ! "it's fantastic ! total preservation !" decided, eh, little bit of caution here before doing that, and submitted a series of thatch samples for radiocarbon dating. and they all came back with an age of about 1,400 years. keach: in ceren, el salvador, archaeologists had stumbled upon a rare find -- a building made from mud and thatch that should have disintegrated centuries ago. yet here it was. how could it have been preserved for so long ? the 1980 eruption of mount saint helens provides a picture of what happened in ceren 1,400 years ago. sheets: you'd hear a big explosion because it happened all at once. and you'd see a huge black cloud coming at you.
when it hit you, it would hit with the temperature of boiling water. so it would actually scald the skin. and your first deep breath would be your last breath. keach: day after day, the volcano at ceren spewed tons of searing ash across the countryside. everything within five kilometers was buried beneath the ash. the homes of the maya were destroyed. ironically, their way of life was preserved. people didn't abandon their things. they left things exactly where they'd placed them. we have an opportunity to study people -- their individual activities, what they did, their successes, their failures, their frustrations. and so it's an opportunity to study people and families like we've not had before in this area of the new world.
keach: in a test pit, the team looks for buried structures. do still more houses lie beneath the sugar cane ? after days of digging, the test pit is three meters deep. the workers have found a large piece of wood. it may be the remains of a roof timber. ¿qué han encontrado? ahí está. ¿en la esquina? no. eso no. acá. aquí está. ahí. iotro grande! keach: using the test pit method, the team finds evidence of at least seven buried structures. right there. keach: full excavation begins.
slowly, meticulously, the team begins to remove the volcanic ash. weeks later, the ancient floors emerge, yielding the first clues of how these rooms were used. so, anyway, we're really glad to find this. it's certainly not any one of your super-elegant, towering pyramids like at tikal, but, for our purposes, super important to know where they actually did their cooking. and they've got round-bottom pots. and what they'd do is they'd rest one of those round-bottom pots on the three points of contact and put the firewood in from the side. the people in the area still do that. and i think it's impressive to watch them constantly adjusting. instead of going to the range and adjusting the amount of gas or electricity there, they're turning the firewood and keeping the fire just right.
keach: here, in another structure, the team excavates a storeroom. usually archaeologists find only fragments of pots. but in ceren, huge vessels survive intact, protected for centuries by the soft ash. amazingly, inside these vessels the archaeologists find carbonized cacao seeds, squash, chiles and beans. bingo ! the preservation at ceren is remarkable. bit by bit, the team reconstructs the ancient maya diet. in the storeroom, archaeologist andrea gerstle measures the remains of a basket that once held corn. gerstle: corncobs have been found in dry caves where no deterioration takes place, and you get a lot of detail in those instances.
but in tropical climates, you wouldn't expect to find any remains at all. the level of preservation here is excellent. and it's because the corn was coated by a layer of superfine ash. that superfine ash was moist and hardened into a shell around the corn. and then the corn rotted away, leaving a hollow space. when we filled that hollow space with dental plaster, we can recover all of the details of the corncob, even though we can't touch the corncob itself, the original corncob. this area is incredibly lush. it's incredibly rich. and the variety of plants and foods -- just wild foods -- that can be collected here today is -- is marvelous ! i imagine 1,400 years ago the variety was at least as great. and so i don't think living here wguld have been very difficult at all. keach: at ceren, household members grew their own food
and made their own tools, pottery and clothes. we usually think of subsistence farming as difficult and impoverished. but the evidence emerging at ceren challenges these assumptions. sheets: quite frankly, we are surprised by the richness of material possessions, in a fairly broad sense... beautiful polychrome painted gourds. and the amount of food they had stored in the house is fairly impressive. and the range of foods -- they're not just scrounging, not just sort of eking out an existence. they're really living quite well. that's a monkey tail. look at that. keach: from mouse bones to axe blades, the details of daily life preserved at ceren astonished the archaeologists. but it is only a beginning. it will take several seasons to excavate the remains of an entire household and several decades to excavate the entire community.
the community buried beneath the sugar cane of ceren may one day be unearthed. but other sites in the maya region offer what ceren lacks -- evidence of ancient households easily seen on the surface. mira, arturo. una, dos, tres piedras. keach: here in honduras, a survey team combs the copan valley. their trained eyes recognize mounds of grass-covered stones as the remnants of ancient maya dwellings.
okay. there's the road. mm-hmm. this...here's where we came in -- a small road. and we walked around this way, and we walked over into this pasture. and so this site is right about here, right on this little hill. keach: the copan valley lies 100 kilometers north of ceren. in 1975, archaeologists began a complete survey of the valley on foot. after 10 years of painstaking work, they have discovered the remains of 4,500 structures. más a usted... cinco centímetros. keach: archaeologist william sanders has been leading excavations in the copan valley since 1980. sanders: we decided to do a series of large-scale excavations
out in the countryside to get an idea what the farming population was like. what kind of houses did they live in ? what was their lifestyle like ? probably 80% of the population of copan was in that social category. keach: unlike ceren, the ancient houses of copan had been exposed to centuries of erosion. very few artifacts remained intact or in their original location. still the team finds significant clues. in one structure, the team discovers a razed platform of stone, the remnants of a sleeping bench. in another, they find evidence for a kitchen -- shattered obsidian blades that once were knives and broken pieces of pottery that were once used for cooking.
the layout of ancient maya houses is quite different from our own. the maya constructed separate buildings for sleeping, cooking and storing food. they organized these buildings around patios. after two seasons of work up here, what can we say ? we have almost fully excavated a complete maya settlement, which consisted of two adjoining patio groups of houses. we have two kitchens that are separated from the houses and one possible storage building. the social group here is clearly a larger one than the nuclear family. and the question is what is the relationship among the members of those four nuclear families ? keach: how do archaeologists reconstruct family relationships from the remains of kitchens and storerooms ? to pursue his search, sanders turns to the maya of today.
they cook over a wood fire, beneath a thatched roof, much the same way that the three-stoned hearth was used at ceren 14 centuries ago. the rash family is mainly self-sufficient. they teach their children and grow their food, all within a short distance of the home. as in ancient times, daily life revolves around the household. [ baby crying ] anthropologist richard wilk.
there's a lot of good reasons for people here to want to live in a multiple-family household like this. there's a lot of jobs that have to be done every day, both by men and women -- washing, hauling corn in from the field, cutting firewood. these kinds of things take time every day. and if you're off working in the fields, you can't do them. by having multiple-family households like this, they can divide up the labor. [ speaking native language ] interpreter: what can i say ? it's a lot easier working together. without a helper, life is much harder. since we're at home, we can help each other, whatever happens. keach: the rash family lives in two houses organized around a patio.
martin and concepcion share a kitchen and sleeping room with their son, daughter-in-law and grandchild. across the way, another granddaughter lives with her husband and children. this is a classic example of the extended family household. interpreter: it's better working together than on my own... for food, for cutting bush, for planting corn, for fetching firewood, for everything. keach: as the extended family grows and changes, new houses may be built around the patio. new rooms may be added on. relatives or others may come to live within the household. sometimes a person will live in two or three or four different kinds of households during their life cycle.
if you look in even a single village, you see a whole variety of different households -- in any society -- because people with different amounts of land, with different amount of resources, even different amounts of education, find different kinds of household arrangements suit their needs. and it's flexible on a generational basis. it's flexible on an individual basis. keach: changes in household arrangements do not always come easily. a new bargain must be struck about who is going to do what to meet daily needs. who will cook ? who will care for the children ? who will work in the fields ? the answers usually turn on the definitions of men's work and women's work, work for the young and work for the old. but external pressures can force these roles to change.
wilk: it's not that men in the united states suddenly woke up and realized that they had to start cooking, and it was some sudden leap in consciousness. instead, to me what happened was that women were working more. and that if the household was going to have hot meals regularly, then men were going to start to change their behavior. keach: in every household, the division of labor is constantly changing. new members come and go. in a self-sufficient household like this one in belize, there is but one constant -- are there enough people in the household to provide for daily needs ? the rash household is like millions of others around the world --
pooling the laboofheir extended family to survive. their lives are a model for archaeologists interpreting the families of the past. the excavations in the copan valley revealed many clusters of houses surrounded by agricultural fields. comparing today's belize households to the archaeological remains, william sanders believes that many of the ancient copan residents also lived in extended families. the advantage of this kind of organization is that there are a variety of work tasks that you can share. there are certain phases of the agricultural season, for example, where it's very important to do a job as fast as possible. for example, planting. you don't want to spread planting over a week. you want to get it done in one or two days. that means you have to mobilize labor. and if you're a poor peasant, how are you going to mobilize labor ? well, you share it. and you live together in that relatively close cluster of dwellings
because it's more convenient to organize this type of labor. and it's based on kinship because these people have grown up together, and they learned how to work together from children. and so it's the easiest kind of organization to have for that type of task. keach: archaeologists believe that all but a small fraction of the ancient residents of copan were farmers. at its height in a.d. 800, only 27,000 people lived in the copan valley. but what happens to households as the population increases ? when the society is transformed from rural to urban ?
the pyramid of the sun... the pyramid of the moon... the avenue of the dead... these are the crowning achievements of teotihuacan, one of the largest cities in all of the ancient world. at its height, as many as 125,000 people may have lived here. for nearly 1,000 years, between 100 b.c. and a.d. 750, teotihuacan controlled the basin of mexico.
today much of the ancient city is covered by cactus and cornfields. when the city grew, farming was pushed to the edges of the urban center and these fields were covered with residences. archaeologist dolph widmer has studied teotihuacan for more than a decade. one of the amazing things about teotihuacan is that it's a city. and even though right now it's an agricultural field -- you see cactus everywhere -- you can still tell it's a city because the surface of the ground is littered with artifacts. they're everywhere. we can see that we have a site. here i have cultural material, like this piece of obsidian. i have a piece of ceramics. all this stuff here tells me that people lived here. and by noting the artifacts on the surface, i can get an idea how big their residences were, how many residents there were in the city, as a whole, and get some idea of the size and number of people that lived here.
keach: during the 1960s, archaeologists surveyed the entire city, revealing an urban grid as deliberate as the streets of manhattan. a total of 2,600 buildings lined densely packed streets. 80% of these were residential compounds. these compounds enclosed numerous sleeping rooms, patios and kitchens. archaeologists estimate that 30 to 100 people could be housed in a single compound. were these like modern apartment buildings, where strangers lived together by chance ? or was there a thread of kinship connecting the residents of these large compounds ? what clues were left behind of teotihuacan's families ? archaeologist michael spence. we usually bury in cemeteries set apart from the places where the people lived.
that makes it difficult to tie them ba into their living quarters. in teotihuacan, fortunately, the people were buried within the apartment compound. some of them were buried in open spaces like patios. these would have been particularly important individuals. but many of them were buried under the floors of the rooms that they had actually lived in. so in teotihuacan, we have the possibility of using these skeletons to try and detect relationships within the apartment compound. keach: thousands of boxes line the walls of a laboratory in mexico's national anthropologmuseum. this is where skeletal remains from excavations at teotihuacan and other sites are stored. looking for evidence of ancient kinship, spence came here to analyze 81 skeletons from a single residential compound known as la ventilla. spence: well, i analyzed them for a series of traits,
about a dozen traits. these traits, we think, are partially genetic in origin, not completely, but partially. hopefully, by analyzing these traits, we might be able to say something about the relationships between individuals in the population. for example, you see this hole here over the eye. some vessels passed through that hole. we think that that's, perhaps, partially genetic. on this skeleton -- this is a female -- um... you can see a notch instead. so the vessels are passing through a notch. and that's one variation. there are others. here for example, in this mandible, you can see a groove running along here, but it's covered over by a bridge.
on this one... let's see... there's the groove, but there's no bridge. keach: comparing the bones from la ventilla, spence came upon some startling results. similar traits recurred frequently among the male skeletons. for example, 18 out of 20 male skulls had a hole directly over the eye socket. i think this means that la ventilla, then -- the social group occupying la ventilla -- was based on a core of related males, related male kinsmen, and that the females in the area had married in there from a variety of different places. keach: so the 2,000 compounds of teotihuacan were not apartment buildings filled with strangers,
but the households of large kin groups. 30 to 100 relatives, all living together -- greatgrandparents, grandparents, brothers, uncles, cousins. this kind of extended extended family is what is called a lineage. spence: a lineage is a group of people related either through the male line or the female line, but it's more than just that. these people usually live together. they will work together. they often own land in common. and they'll probably have some identity as a distinct religious group, too. keach: were the lineages of teotihuacan unified by religion ? again, household excavations provided answers. physical anthropologist rebecca storey. in all the compounds that have been excavated, there has always been a central courtyard. and in the middle of it, we generally find some kind of architectural feature.
now, in this particular compound, it's a very elaborate and very beautiful one -- look at the detailing on the stone, and also look at the little ornaments on top of it. there are fragments that shows that it once was plastered and painted. so we have to remember that it would have been completely brighter and much more colorful, and really looked splendid. keach: these strange and splendid structures were altars. but who was being worshiped here ? in 1980, rebecca storey and dolph widmer excavated a residential compound in a neighborhood of the city now called tlajinga. the evidence showed people had lived in the compound for close to 500 years. underneath the central altar, archaeologists discovered several skeletons, buried decades apart. storey: when we excavated under the central courtyards of tlajinga,
we found a series of human burials. now, tlajinga was actually a rather modest compound, probably with people we would think of as relatively poor, in the whole city. and yet the most elaborate offerings that were found with anybody were with these individuals. this person here was buried with an awful lot of marine shell, including a beautiful headdress made out of very elaborate rattlesnake pattern. keach: marine shell was an expensive item for the ancient residents because it had to be imported. it took days of travel on foot to bring goods like these from the coast to the city. this means that all through the history of the tlajinga compound, individuals -- important individuals -- were buried with a lot of ceremony and a lot of elaborate offerings under the altar. it was quite clear that they were fairly old from several pieces of evidence, including from this jaw, for instance -- you can see this individual has lost all their teeth... that have filled back in because they were lost quite some time ago.
i can also tell from the sex that they were practically all males except for one female. putting all the evidence together of the age, the sex of the individuals and the elaborate offerings, it looks like they were very important people in the compound who were buried in a special place with a lot of reverence and ceremony and wealth. that means, probably, that they were heads or other important people in the compound. and they were placed under the altar deliberately so that they could be venerated or worshipped by the residents of the compound as ancestors. keach: this is huehueteotl, the god of the hearth, protector of the household's fertility and well-being. this icon was found along with the ancestor burials in the central courtyard of tlajinga. the evidence of altars and burials showed that ancestor worship played a fundamental role in organizing the lineage compound.
like teotihuacan, many cultures throughout the world have been organized by lineages, from the iroquois of north america to the nuer of east africa to the chinese. but why did the lineage members at teotihuacan live together in a single household ? in a laboratory at teotihuacan, dolph widmer measures potsherds thousands of years old. his team collected more than a million of these at tlajinga. measuring the fragments, widmer discovers a remarkable similarity in size. looking for explanations, he examined the methods of modern potters. here, within the outskirts of the ancient city,
in the neighborhood of san sebastian, a handful of potters still use ancient techniques. man: bueno, este viene siendo de... interpreter: i learned how to do pottery from my grandparents and from my great-grandparents. i watched how they worked. i started when i was very small. keach: oliverio hernandez-resendiz is one of the few remaining potters in san sebastian. he makes large pots that are used primarily for cooking. resendiz works with molds, enabling him to work quickly, while keeping the size and shape of the pots consistent. the use of molds explains why the remains found in tlajinga were so uniform. widmer: it tells us that we're dealing with a specialized production of ceramics --
not simply a whole range of ceramics for use in the compound. but, instead, what we're finding is they're making one or two types and making lots and lots of them. the thing about this ceramic production is it's basically simple -- you take clay, you make the shape, and then you fire it, you sell it. but as simple as that process is, it requires people for all the steps. keach: young and old, male and female, every member of the household can be involved in pottery production. children can move pots from the drying area to the kilns. elderly people can sell the finished pots in the marketplace. widmer: what's interesting is when we think of this kind of specialized production, we think of it in terms of industrial scale -- that is, in workshops or factories that are located away from residences.
here it's different. these activities, as far as we know, take place within the compound, within the family -- larger family grouping -- within the lineage structure. keach: the lineage compound of tlajinga made thousands of these pots. their neighbors specialized in other goods, like obsidian blades and clay figurines. archaeologists have detected craft workshops in more than 800 compounds. in contrast to the relative self-sufficiency of the households in ceren and copan, teotihuacanos were engaged in a web of trading. teotihuacan households were large because they were not only providing for themselves,
but producing goods for the marketplace. teotihuacan is known for its achievements in crafts and architecture. but economic growth causes strains on kin relations. the lineage ties which bound the households of teotihuacan through worship and work were frayed by increasing wealth. probably through time, as some lineages got wealthier than others. then, all of a sudden, some people would probably attach themselves to a wealthy lineage that they weren't related to just in order to work for them and have a better life than they could if they stayed with just their own lineage. this kind of thing happens, i think, all the time.
keach: over time, the interior design of the house compounds changed. althier household members enlarged their rooms and painted them with elegant murals, while others in the household saw their living space shrink. storey: it's getting less egalitarian. you're getting more stratification, more division into what you would call social class -- the wealthy and powerful and then those that work for the wealthy and powerful, in essence. keach: what happens when a society becomes divided by wealth ? when some people get richer and some get poorer ? how do households change ?
these faces are the legacy of rome, the wealthiest and most powerful society of the ancient world. from the grandeur of the coliseum to the glory of the senate, the roman empire paraded its opulence. but the empire was upheld by a society that spanned the extremes of wealth and poverty. how did these differences affect roman households ? as in ceren, natural disaster preserved a window onto ancient daily life. mount vesuvius looms over the bay of naples, a constant threat to those who live around it.
on the 24th of august in the year a.d. 79, one of its victims was the ancient town of pompeii. [ speaking latin ] reader of translation: "over mount vesuvius, "a fearful cloud, rent by forked and quivering bursts of flame, "turned the day blacker and denser than night. "many besought the aid of the gods, "but still more imagined there were no gods left, "and that the universe "was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore." keach: thousands died, unable to escape from the lethal blasts of scalding ash and stone.
for 1,500 years, pompeii lay buried. in 1729, a well-digger accidentally struck the stones of an ancient street. the discovery triggered the longest ongoing excavation in archaeological history. walking through the cobbled streets, pompeii seems abandoned just yesterday. monuments to emperors still dominate the central forum. the graffiti of candidates still scream from the walls. like ceren in el salvador, pompeii preserved a snapshot of daily life. roman scholar andrew wallace-hadrill. i'm interested in ways of recapturing a picture of roman society as a whole. we've got great written sources for the romans,
but with them there's always a suspicion that they represent the viewpoint of a thin upper crust. the great thing about pompeii is that, archaeologically, it preserves the full social spectrum from rich to poor. if you look at a standard plan of any part of pompeii, what you see is an extraordinary jumble of lines. and it's not until you start measuring and analyzing that a pattern emerges. what i've done is to group the houses according to size, from largest to smallest. what comes out is a jigsaw of tiny shops right next door to enormous mansions. here we have a shop -- one of dozens up and down pompeii. the way the eruption preserves things, you can tell exactly what was in these bins -- beans, chick peas, lentils... in fact, this guy was a grocer.
the backyard here is full of empties -- amphorae which contained wine, olive oil and garum -- the unspeakable fish sauce which they smothered their food with. tens of thousands of these amphorae all around pompeii -- must have been a terrific problem. these are the coke cans of the ancient world. what do you do to get rid of them ? one of the answers is you crunch them up and make floors out of them. there is more to this house than bins and empties. as well as being a place of work -- a shop -- it's also a place for a family, a place for living. and you can see this the moment you come into the kitchen. here's the stove, the hearth, on which the family could prepare its food. and above the hearth, we find something very characteristic -- a lararium, a little shrine where the spirits of the household, the lares, dance on either side of an altar where an offering is made.
so this is not just a place for food preparation, but it's a focus for the loyalties of the family and family life. what we see in this house, then, with this combination of rather shabby shop rooms and surprisingly nicely decorated private rooms, is something very typical of a roman house. we make a separation between work and family, between office and home. for the romans, the two -- not just here, but all over pompeii -- you find work and home tightly linked together. keach: these tombstone engravings depict the daily lives of shopkeepers and artisans. just as in ceren and copan, production in the roman world was based primarily in the household. yet, as in teotihuacan, roman households specialized in providing goods and services. these households represented the middle levels of roman society. but what set rome apart was the extraordinary wealth of its elite.
wallace-hadrill: what we have here is a really magnificent house, built in a prime position over the city walls, looking out over the bay of naples, and built on three levels, almost tumbling over the walls. it's obviously the house of an extremely wealthy person. keach: as in teotihuacan, the elite of ancient rome paraded their wealth on the walls of their homes. wallace-hadrill: framed by this sort of confectionery of columns, you have a great panel picture of three gods, suitable company for the great master. we've got a backdrop. and the function of the backdrop is to set the scene and to create a suitable stage on which the owner can perform.
the owner may be sitting here holding court -- that could be helping his clients, helping his friends and dependents. it might also be actually judging cases, literally holding court. right next to the big room with the bay window is this much smaller room. and its shape and its decoration tell you a lot about how it could be used. the shape provides just enough room for the three couches of the standard roman dining room, the triclinium. keach: dining for the wealthy roman was more than a meal. it was an event. a wealthy roman home had not just one, but two, three, four, even ten dining rooms. for us the dining room is a place for the family to meet. here what's vital is the entertaining of guests.
it's a great privilege to be invited. and it's at the dinner party in the evening that power is built up, contacts are made, men exchange not just drink and food, but ideas and deals with each other. keach: wealthy romans flaunted their fortunes in orgies of food and wine. their decadence became a target of literary scorn, as in "the satyricon" of petronius. [ reading ] "i am really ashamed to relate what followed. "it was so unheard of a piece of luxury. "the preliminary course was served in very elegant style. "among the hors d'oeuvres -- "white olives on one side, black olives on the other. "sausages, too, smoking hot on a silver grill.
"syrian plums and pomegranate seeds. "our host toasted: fragile, life's thread, and brief our day, "so drink and make merry while you may." keach: but there was a dark side to these displays of wealth. hidden within the grand villas of ancient pompeii were dozens of small rooms. these were the rooms of slaves. wallace-hadrill: to have a powerful house, it's not enough to have the grand rooms. a vital part is the slave quarters. and it's almost as important to have those cramped and bustling quarters behind scenes as the grand rooms in front. keach: a dozen, a hundred, as many as 400 slaves could work for a single household.
who were these slaves ? and where did they come from ? "the romans gained control of aspis," wrote the roman historian polybius. "in full force, the army marched out to plunder the countryside. "they destroyed many houses, "captured a large amount of spoils, "and took more than 20,000 slaves back to the ships." beginning in 510 b.c., roman armies spiralled outwards, conquering ever vaster territories. greeks, egyptians, gauls, mauritanians... all fell under the sweep of the empire. hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war were torn from their home countries. they became the slaves of the conquerers. the numbers of slaves was astounding --
an estimated one out of every three people living in the empire. their lives were hard. they could be beaten, whipped, even killed for disobedience. yet slaves could earn their freedom. wallace-hadrill: the crucial difference between the roman and the american concept of slavery is the possibility of freedom in the roman concept. not only that, but the fact that once freed, a roman slave becomes a citizen. keach: in rome, freed slaves were often included in the family tombs of their former masters. while the lineage compounds of teotihuacan grew through kinship, roman households increased by adding slaves. in the process, the very definition of family changed. wallace-hadrill: for us the word family means people related by blood -- married couple, children.
now, in the roman concept of the family, the slave is built in from the very first. the roman word familia actually means the slaves who belong to the household more easily than it means the family united by blood. and the more i look at the houses of pompeii, the harder it becomes to populate them with modern nuclear families. instead there's a glorious mishmash -- people related by blood, slaves, and, also, freedmen who, ex-slaves, continue to live with their masters, dependents, lodgers of all sorts. for me what's important about daily life and about culture is that it's -- forms an enormously complex pattern which is influenced all the time by the big currents,
the great swirling currents of big history out there -- conquests and wars... high politics. these aren't just things that affect the elite. they just don't affect the big history books, but they penetrate to a very banal level of daily life which reforms itself all the time as history changes. keach: from the villas of the romans to the lineage compounds of teotihuacan to the thatched-roof huts of the maya, households have always been part of larger political and economic systems. household archaeology reveals that changes in politics and economics affect our choices about who we live with...