Oct 27, 2016

Home and Private Life

Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba

A historical journey through everday objects.

Home and Private Life
As a space designed to provide shelter and accommodation for people, their property and belongings, the home is where private life unfolds. Its shape, spatial and functional layout, the way it is divided up internally, and its decoration and furniture have changed considerably since the early Neolithic structures. Since the classical era, housing in Córdoba has belonged to the cultural context of the Mediterranean world, sharing certain spatial solutions with other areas. For example, having the courtyard as the central space with the rooms looking onto it, and even the character and function of the objects that are part of everyday life.
How did Iberians live?
En época ibérica se puede hablar ya realmente de urbanismo y complejidad social. Las casas, de planta cuadrangular, suelen tener una estancia principal a la que se accede desde la calle y una o varias habitaciones destinadas a diversos usos, existiendo incluso viviendas con varias plantas. Los muros suelen construirse con un zócalo de piedra sobre el que se levantan las paredes de adobe o tapial que se revocan y encalan. La cubierta de vigas de madera se cubre con ramaje y barro. El ajuar doméstico está compuesto sobre todo de cerámicas, empleadas como vajilla de mesa, en la cocina o para almacenaje de productos.

Dish made in a pottery wheel and coated with a layer of beige engobe, with parallel and concentric bands in wine-red color. It was found in the necropolis of Los Torviscales, in the Cerro de las Cabezas de Fuente Tójar (Cordoba) and can be dated around 300-200 b.C. This type of pottery is heavily influenced by the Greek models, which began arriving on the Iberian Peninsula during the 5th Century b.C. They were imitated by the local population although the copies were poorer in quality.

The Roman House
Roman houses, which were built around courtyards, were the foundation of traditional Cordovan housing. The domus, or courtyard house, was the kind of home that people in the wealthier classes had. Numerous remains of these sorts of houses have been found in Córdoba. The rooms were set out around patios: one for receiving guests (atrium) and another for recreation (peristyle) at the end of the house, with flower beds, plants, and fountains. The most important rooms—the dining room (triclinium), and a number of bedrooms (cubicula)—were decorated with mosaics. The houses also had kitchens, storage, and service areas.

Este emblema central forma parte de un mosaico perteneciente al pavimento de una vivienda del S. II a.n.e. que se descubrió al completo, pero del que sólo pudo recuperarse el motivo central. En él se representa la figura del caballo alado Pegaso, imagen mitológica del caballo que transportó a su dueño Belerofonte hasta la morada de los dioses, el Olimpo, siendo recogido por Zeus tras enviar a su dueño al suelo. Pegaso es símbolo de la inmortalidad, de la imaginación y de la poesía, dadas sus conexiones con las musas.

Decorative domestic element that was originally part of a circular table with three legs. It was often part of the furniture in a domus during the imperial era.

La pieza consiste en un pie de mesa con forma de pata de felino y que acaba en la parte superior en cabeza de león, esculpida con gran detallismo, mostrando la boca abierta y la melena a base de mechones. El modo en que se ha resuelto la unión de la cabeza con la pata es un tanto fantástico, ya que la pata animal acaba en forma de hojas de acanto de las cuales nace la cabeza.

Escultura broncínea que representa una figura humana en movimiento, identificada como joven o hermafrodita danzante. Se supone que decoraba alguna de las estancias de la Villa Romana de El Ruedo, en Almedinilla (Córdoba), donde fue hallada. Durante las excavaciones en esta villa se recuperaron varias esculturas de bronce, entre las que destacan un Hypnos y este Hermafrodita. Debieron estar en torno al peristilo, que daba acceso al comedor, donde existía un pequeño templete. Por eso, pudieron tener una función religiosa además de decorativa. Las villas eran las viviendas romanas en ámbito rural, centros residenciales (pars urbana) a la vez que económicos (pars rustica), que cobraron auge a partir del S. II.

Roman Lucerne, made of baked clay and finished with a light reddish engobe (liquid clay slip). It is decorated with geometric patterns along its edge, framing the image of the mythological character, the Gorgon Medusa. This piece was used for lighting homes, and was a precursor to Islamic oil lamps.

Lucerna romana de arcilla decorada con una cenefa de motivos geométricos que enmarca la representación del personaje mitológico, la górgona Medusa.

Bronze chandeliers were also manufactured.

In most homes, the crockery was ceramic. From the time of Augustus onwards, pieces made from "terra sigillata" clay, which is characterised by the use of a reddish engobe that gives a bright red surface, became widespread. This phiale (or patera) is an example of this type of ceramic crockery, which was considered a luxury in Roman times.

The Terra Sigillata is characterised for being a red-gloss impermeable pottery. This was achieved thanks to the careful selection of clay and a perfect control of the cooking phases. After being decorated, the piece was immersed in the engobe that gives its final appearance, it was finished with a ‘sigillum’ stamp.

Terra Sigillata Hispanic pottery emerged due to the increase on the demand of ceramic products in the Península. Local workshops were created in order to imitate this technique.

Thin-rimmed jugs decorated with barbotine patterns which resemble scales, and laurel decoration around the top of the neck.

The “thin walled pottery” is distinctive for the extreme thinness of its walls. The decorative motifs performed in this technique are different types of stylized and foral motifs, spines, pseudo-vegetable waves, etc.

During the 1st Century BC the production and distribution of thin walled pottery was huge, especially for those used for decorative purposes.

Glass blowing was a technique widely used for making everyday objects in Roman times.

Jarra de paredes finas y en forma de ánfora de dos asas, soplada al aire en vidrio de tonos azulados.

La técnica de vidrio soplado fue muy utilizada en época romana para la fabricación de objetos de uso cotidiano. Además de su uso en ámbito doméstico, estas piezas se relacionan también con los banquetes fúnebres o el rito de la incineración.

Las vajillas fundidas en bronce durante el período romano eran muy usuales. En cuanto a la técnica empleada, se destaca la maestría de estos orfebres, que utilizaban en un principio la técnica del martilleo sobre una plancha hasta darle forma, posteriormente se usaron técnicas mixtas y a fines del Imperio, se generaliza la técnica de la fundición para la elaboración de este tipo de piezas.

Cucharilla de bronce a la cera perdida cuyo uso puede relacionarse con una función litúrgica o médica.

Objetos de muy diversa naturaleza componen el tocador de la mujer: peines de marfil, recipientes de vidrio para los aceites aromáticos, pinzas de bronce, agujas de hueso para sujetarse el pelo (las más largas) o pintarse los ojos (las pequeñas), espejos de bronce pulido… La mujer romana acomodada invertía varias horas al día en su peinado y maquillaje. Algunos elementos destacados del tocador romano son los frascos destinados a contener perfumes y ungüentos. Normalmente se utilizaban recipientes de alabastro, vidrio, cerámica o metal. Suelen ser de sección circular y base redondeada, sin asas, como este ungüentario de vidrio.

Pin carved from bone for personal adornment. Very common vanity item among women. A woman's dressing table consisted of a wide variety of objects, including ivory combs, glass pots for aromatic oils, bronze tweezers, bone needles to grip their hair or paint their eyes, and polished bronze mirrors. A wealthy Roman woman spent several hours a day on her hair and makeup.

Bronze mirrors of Etruscan origin were among the funerary objects found in female graves. This trend would later be passed on to the Roman world where they were also used domestically.

A gold-cast ring which curves in a snake-like spiral, its body decorated with incisions that resemble the creature's scales. This type of jewelry was very common in the Roman world and could have a double meaning, serve merely as a personal adornment or as a protective amulet.

Necklace made of a gold chain and knotted cord crimped with 24 garnet beads, all crafted by hand.

A gold-cast ring formed of a circular section that widens at the center of the face, where a gem or an agate is placed, and a carving of a horse figure. This may have been a ring belonging to someone with certain administrative social status, since the use of such rings was regulated by the Roman state.

The Islamic House
Cordovan Andalusian houses inherited their layout from Mediterranean traditions. The Andalusian house is modest, organised around a courtyard (or courtyards) surrounded by a series of rooms. In the Caliphal neighbourhoods of Poniente, they have a single door to the outside, providing access to a hallway. This leads to the courtyard, which was the main area of ​​the house. Several rooms are arranged around it, one of which is usually a large, rectangular room. The rooms are used interchangeably to eat, entertain guests, or sleep, and the latrine was located in a corner of the house.

Household items were essentially ceramics made using a variety of shapes, techniques and decoration. This is a ceramic jug painted in stripes—an example of commonly used ceramics.

Los recipientes cerámicos eran los más comunes en la mesa: en los ataifores o fuentes se presentaban los alimentos, las tazas eran para las sopas, las redomas y botellas para el agua y el vino. Los vasos de vidrio no abundaban, estando reservados seguramente para las mesas de los más ricos.

Glazed ceramics and Caliphal "green and manganese" products (a kind of luxury crockery) were important pieces.

"Green and manganese" ceramics are the indicator that marks the full Islamization of Andalusian society. It is the hallmark of the Umayyad dynasty, which based its production and distribution in Madinat al-Zahra, from where it spread throughout "Al-Andalus" (Islamic Iberia).

It is characterized by its three colors (white, green and black). White came from lead, silica and tin dioxide, black came from manganese dioxide, and green from copper oxide. The three colors have a symbolic meaning: green is the color of the Prophet, white represents the Umayyad dynasty, and black the Caliphate's authority.

Example of ceramics with a metallic glaze, called "lusterware", considered luxury crockery. Its use would become widespread from the middle of the 11th century.

Lighting in Andalusian homes was with these oil lamps, and the materials used to make them are closely associated with the different socio-economic levels that families had. The Islamic lamp derives from the Roman lucerne (oil lamp).

Oil lamp made using the "vedrío" technique, which was commonly used by Islamic peoples. This helped make the piece waterproof by immersing it in a mixture of galena (a mineral) and sand prior to firing it.

Among household items were everyday objects like this bottle, which was used to comfort crying children, or to administer drugs or potions such as opium or tilia.

Bronze oil lamp with zoomorphic decoration that can be identified as a deer or a dog. This type of decoration was used extensively in art throughout the Caliphate, contrary to the widely held belief that Islamic art lacked figurative representation.

Double-spouted oil lamp illustrating the importance of metalwork (bronze and brass) in Andalusian Cordoba, where there were a high number of workshops that manufactured all sorts of metal objects.

Bronze mortar. The high number of metal pieces found in our city indicates that there were a lot of workshops manufacturing metal objects for domestic use in Cordoba while it was under Islamic rule.

Los braseros eran utilizados para quemar productos olorosos y preparar alimentos. Su presencia en las habitaciones justifica el carácter de piezas de lujo.

Brass censer that was used to perfume houses with resins or aromatic plants.

Basin decorated with sections of dry rope. It was used in domestic spaces and communal bathrooms. Personal cleanliness took up a significant amount of time in the everyday life of a Muslim, not only for reasons of hygiene but also as a process of purification that bound people to Allah.

Lavish and elaborately decorated silver censer used to hold perfumes or cosmetics.

Gold bracelet with 16 beads decorated using the filigree technique and soldered hemispherical forms.

Gold necklace with 33 beads and an almond-shaped clasp made using the same technique of soldered spherical beads based on two hemispheres joined together, chiseled, embossed or in filigree.

A pair of 24-karat gold pendant earrings of incredible quality and workmanship. They were made using the filigree and granulation technique, which were both widespread during the Andalusian period. It is made of two thin gold sheets with tiny golden spheres outlining the piece's decorative motifs with filigree patterns formed using thin threads of the same metal. The technique was widely used by Cordovan silversmiths, which remains one of the most important productive sectors to this day.

Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba
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Home and Private Life

Organised by:
Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba
Consejería de Cultura de la Junta de Andalucía

Curated by: Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba
Texts: Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba
Photography: Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba
Digital Edition: Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba

Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba.

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