Houses, households, household activities

Colin Hope, Gillian Bowen

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The study of the domestic context is invaluable for our understanding of life at Kellis, both in terms of its architecture that reflects the interplay of different cultural traditions and for what we can learn of the lived experiences of the occupants. Extensive parts of Kellis are devoted to residential sectors, and excavations have shown that they attest a variety of mud-brick architectural types that contribute significantly to the study of domestic architecture in Egypt throughout the period of the site's occupation (Hope 2015). The excavated structures can be dated by associated artefacts, including a wide array of textual and numismatic data. This chapter describes architectural forms, what we know of the occupants, their activities and the material culture they used. While the data are abundant, the number of actual structures examined so far is small. From the second to third centuries there are parts of several in Area C, but only one has been completely examined, one in Area B and small parts of the extensive complex there. Of the late third to fourth century we have five houses and one associated structure in Area A and a single unit in Area D. The range of domestic facilities that they document is therefore not necessarily complete; this is shown by the details of one house mentioned in a document from House 2 quoted below. The location of the various buildings discussed here on the site is shown in Figure 1.1.

The significance of the Kellis structures has been noted by several scholars (e.g., Alston 1997; Nevett 2011), especially those of the fourth century in Area A, and takes on particular importance in light of the general paucity of information on domestic architecture in ancient Egypt. Its trajectory throughout the long history of the country is poorly documented, for settlements of various types have not been a major focus of exploration, despite some remarkable examples that have been well researched, and the vast majority have disappeared or are buried under modern occupation and ever-expanding cultivation. The situation is lamentable for much of the first millennium BCE. For the Roman period it is better as a result of excavations primarily in the Fayyum (Davoli 1998; 2015a), though now also at other sites throughout Egypt (Müller 2010a–b).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKellis
Subtitle of host publicationA Roman-Period Village in Egypt's Dakhleh Oasis
EditorsColin A. Hope, Gillian Bowen
Place of PublicationCambridge UK
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages42
ISBN (Print)9780521190329
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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