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Being Human: Social Change In Ancient Yemen

I am often asked how archaeologists can confidently know anything about ancient social lives from just ruined landscapes and broken artifacts. The key is to use multiple lines of evidence.

For ancient highland Yemen, for example, I have shown that the large cooking pots and wide serving platters which dominated sites of the prehistoric Bronze Age were largely replaced by individual serving dishes and storage vessels in the Iron Age.

At the same time, evidence for hearths and cooking moves from communal outdoor spaces to private indoor kitchens. Iron Age homes are more differentiated in size, and both houses and entire towns begin to be surrounded by walls.

Together, these lines of evidence show how the people of ancient highland Yemen first shifted from an egalitarian lifestyle to a more socially stratified society with increasing political competition.