HelRAW: Ray Laurence 4.11.2019

The Helsinki Research on the Ancient World (HelRAW) is a monthly research seminar. HelRAW is organized by the SpaceLaw project together with Marja Vierros from the Digital Grammar of Greek Documentary Papyri (PapyGreek) project.



Lecture room F205, Topelia (Unioninkatu 38, 00101 Helsinki)

Ray Laurence (Macquarie University): Shopping, Houses and the Family in the Greco-Roman World.

The archaeological identification of objects in houses excavated across the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum have filled the National Archaeological Museum at Naples and have been the subject of extensive study. Like other aspects of houses at these famous World Heritage Sites, the emphasis in the literature has been upon the inhabitants and their self-representation, often focusing on the male head of the household. The processes of acquiring goods or objects – shopping – for the home has not been discussed as a key aspect of the creation of the archaeological record. Instead, objects or artefacts have been viewed as an attribute of identity.  However, the shopper or purchaser of objects need not have been the male head of the household. In fact, it would seem more likely that wives undertook this task and the accountancy associated with shopping. This shifts the balance of agency in the production of the archaeological record of houses in antiquity away from the male head of the household and towards the female head of that household, admittedly under his guidance. Thus, the material goods of the household were shaped through shopping, but more significantly, shopping also articulated the agency and power relationships within that household. It requires us to reconsider the very nature of an ancient home and how writers articulated this concept some 2,000 years ago. This paper will thus focus on the articulation of the concept of home as it depended upon the buying and organization of purchased items. Thus, shopping was instrumental in the creation of identity in the home and the presentation of a home as a place which was occupied by the identities of its inhabitants.