Houses in a Landscape

Memory and Everyday Life in Mesoamerica

by Dr. Julia A. Hendon

2015 Linda S. Cordell Prize

Houses in a Landscape: Memory and Everyday Life in Mesoamerica2010. Duke University Press

2015—The first winner of the biennial Linda S. Cordell Prize is Dr. Julia A. Hendon for Houses in a Landscape: Memory and Everyday Life in Mesoamerica (Duke University Press, 2010). The book explores social memory and identity through archaeological research on indigenous societies that existed more than one thousand years ago. It is at once a social and traditional archaeology of Mayan households in the environs of Copan, Cerro Palenque, and the Cuyumapa Valley. The text is beautifully layered as it examines memory and forgetting; identity as social practice; everyday domestic activities and rituals; and the features and spatial proximity of buildings and artifacts. These aspects of households and community all come to life as the daily worlds of unheralded families are explored and depicted in vivid dimension. This is a forward thinking book that invokes a broad, deeply thought-provoking vision of archaeology as anthropology.

Excerpted from Houses in a Landscape:

Recognizing that memory does not reside only in the mind, waiting to be retrieved from some neurological equivalent of the Roman orator’s memory palace or the computational model’s hard drive, frees one to consider how the inescapable sociality of human beings undermines any simplistic equation of the individual and remembering. At the same time, dismantling the reification of social groups as bounded and unchanging entities allows one to reconfigure them as collections of people connected through practice and meaningful interaction. Identity and memory are practices that are constituted and reconstituted over time, practices that involve forgetting of certain aspects of history as much as celebrating others.

“Written by an accomplished archaeologist with substantial field experience, integrating data she produced through projects she directed in three separate regions, innovative in form and integrating fluently throughout the book questions and perspectives shared by social anthropologists (whether engaged in archaeological, ethnographic, or biological approaches), Houses in a Landscape will become a model for other archaeologists to present the results of their studies as contributions to broader conversations in social analysis.”—Sabrina Agarwal, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

Julia A. Hendon, Professor of Anthropology, Gettysburg College

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