Author: Julia A. Hendon, Gettysburg College

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In Houses in a Landscape, Julia A. Hendon examines the connections between social identity and social memory using archaeological research on indigenous societies that existed more than one thousand years ago in what is now Honduras. While these societies left behind monumental buildings, the remains of their dead, remnants of their daily life, intricate works of art, and fine examples of craftsmanship such as pottery and stone tools, they left only a small body of written records. Despite this paucity of written information, Hendon contends that an archaeological study of memory in such societies is possible and worthwhile. It is possible because memory is not just a faculty of the individual mind operating in isolation, but a social process embedded in the materiality of human existence. Intimately bound up in the relations people develop with one another and with the world around them through what they do, where and how they do it, and with whom or what, memory leaves material traces.

Hendon conducted research on three contemporaneous Native American civilizations that flourished from the seventh century through the eleventh CE: the Maya kingdom of Copan, the hilltop center of Cerro Palenque, and the dispersed settlement of the Cuyumapa valley. She analyzes domestic life in these societies, from cooking to crafting, as well as public and private ritual events including the ballgame. Combining her findings with a rich body of theory from anthropology, history, and geography, she explores how objects—the things people build, make, use, exchange, and discard—help people remember. In so doing, she demonstrates how everyday life becomes part of the social processes of remembering and forgetting, and how “memory communities” assert connections between the past and the present.



Publication Date



Duke University Press


Durham, NC

Department 1



This is the introduction to Professor Hendon's book, Houses in a Landscape: Memory and Everyday Life in Mesoamerica. Hendon's book won the Linda S. Cordell Prize in 2015. More about the prize:

"The School for Advanced Research presents its first Linda S. Cordell Prize to Dr. Julia A. Hendon for her book Houses in a Landscape: Memory and Everyday Life in Mesoamerica. The prize is awarded to a living author for a book in archaeology or anthropological archaeology that best exemplifies excellence in writing and significantly advances archaeological method, theory, or interpretation. The award recognizes innovative works that reach out to other subfields of anthropology or related disciplines. The award was established in honor of Dr. Linda S. Cordell, who is remembered among her colleagues and students as a warm, giving, sharing, and mentoring figure in the landscape of American archaeology."

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Houses in a Landscape: Memory and Everyday Life in Mesoamerica