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The public life of the Swahili stonehouse, 14th - 15th centuries AD

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JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
DateE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jun 2013
DatePublished (current) - Dec 2013
Issue number4
Volume32
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)759-773
Early online date15/06/13
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Houses are an important subject of archaeological research, normally explored through the households they contain. This has established a deliberately social agenda for the archaeology of houses, yet has had the unintended consequence of creating bounded worlds for study. Although household archaeologies explore the ways that households contributed to broader social and economic realms, it is rare to think through the public role of houses for non-residents and the larger population of the settlement. This paper seeks to explore this more public aspect of houses using the data from archaeology at Songo Mnara, a 14th–15th century Swahili town on the southern Tanzanian coast. This was a time when stone-built domestic architecture was first emerging in this region. The archaeology of the houses provides data for a series of ways that the house was at the heart of the economic and political life of the town, as well as demonstrating a spatial continuity between indoor and outdoor spaces. It is therefore suggested that the domestic and residential functions of the house for a particular household should be balanced with an appreciation of the broader world of the house itself.

Bibliographical note

©2013, The author. This is an Open Access article published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence (CC-BY). http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/.

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