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The Cultural Lives of Domestic Objects in Late Antiquity

Stoner, Jo (2015) The Cultural Lives of Domestic Objects in Late Antiquity. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (KAR id:50784)

Language: English
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This thesis investigates evidence for the cultural lives of domestic objects in Late Antiquity. As such, it focuses on objects as meaningful possessions, rather than their practical, utilitarian functions. In particular, this research seeks to reveal the personal meaning for domestic possessions and their sentimental, as opposed to economic, value. This is something that has either been ignored or mentioned only in passing and without further qualification in existing studies of late antique material culture.

This research is underpinned by specific theoretical approaches from the disciplines of archaeology, art history and anthropology. Object biography, or the understanding that events in the lives of objects can affect their meaning and value, is key to this investigation and provides the opportunity to approach the material evidence in a novel way. It allows the direct comparison of previously disparate textual and archaeological sources to better understand the relationships between people and their possessions across a broad social spectrum. It also governs the structure of the thesis, which has chapters on heirlooms, gifts, and souvenirs – all of which are defined by an element of their biography, namely the context of their acquisition. The case study chapter also examines a generally ignored artefact type – the basket – bringing this undervalued example of domestic material culture to the fore.

This thesis reveals that personal domestic possessions had the capacity to function as material vehicles for intangible thoughts, memories, and relationships. This function was known and exploited by the people of Late Antiquity in order to create and possess meaningful domestic objects of various types. It provides a new interpretation of domestic material culture that is different to more traditional studies of economic and social status. As such, it allows an understanding of how material culture transformed dwellings into homes during this period.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Swift, Ellen Victoria
Uncontrolled keywords: Late Antiquity, Archaeology Material, Culture, Object, Biography, Souvenirs, Gifts, Heirlooms, Basketry
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 06 Oct 2015 13:00 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 16:47 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Stoner, Jo.

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