Landscape, Typologies, and the Social Meaning of Castles

Departmental News

Posted:  Oct 01, 2020 - 12:00pm

Scott D. Kirk (UNM Archaeology Doctoral Student), Evan S. Sternberg, and Paulina F. Przystupa (UNM Archaeology Doctoral Student) have co authored Landscape, Typologies, and the Social Meaning of Castles in The Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 

Castles are fortified elite residences, built and maintained by members of militarized ruling classes in preindustrial societies (cf. Anderson, 1970, Brown, 2012, Duby, 1982, Morris, 2017, Prior, 2006, Wickham, 2016). Defined in this way, they appear in a wide variety of temporal and spatial settings, not just medieval Europe.1 Commonly cited non-traditional examples include the castles of feudal Japan and colonial fortresses in places like Havana, Cuba. Regardless of spatio-temporal setting, castles are often the permanent residences of elites (i.e. Noble Houses, the Houses of a military commanders, and/or the residences of holy orders), equipped with provisions for their extended households and a garrison. However, they have also been built as summer retreats and temporary refugia. Despite obvious differences in form and specific functions, there are cross-cultural features of castles that make them recognizable as part of the same human behavior. In this paper we propose an anthropological explanation for why castles are universally recognizable and a typology for exploring variability in their development based on landscape. Read the full article