SYMBOLIC USE OF DOMESTIC SPACE IN THE UPPER SVANETIAN (GEORGIA) VERNACULAR HOUSE
Keywords: Upper Svaneti, Vernacular Architecture, Space Anthropology, Symbolic Space, Popular Religion, Gender Segregation
Abstract. Upper Svaneti (Georgia) is a territory in almost permanent isolation amid the Caucasus mountain range. This strategic position, along with the military nature of its settlements made its defence so effective that Svaneti served as Georgia`s safehouse, protecting its chief historical and religious relics in times of crisis. This isolation also ensured the preservation of archaic cultural traditions and ancient rituals, such as animal sacrifices, ritual shaving and blood feuds, establishing what is known as popular religion. Some of these rituals, mainly those performed by women, take place in the domestic space. This paper, developed under the scope of the 3DPast project, aims to interpret the symbolic use of space in vernacular houses of Upper Svaneti. The methodological strategy combines architectonic survey with documental analysis and brings forward an interpretation of this vernacular house from a space anthropology perspective. The traditional svanetian house (machubi), is composed of a single volume, of rough quadrangular plan. The ground floor (machub) houses, during winter, the family and the cattle, while the upper floor (darbazi) was mostly used as the family residence during warmer periods. This analysis will focus specifically on the machub, where there are traces of the symbolic use of domestic space. The machub is composed of a single space with a central fireplace. This element is the axis of segmentation of female and male spaces inside the house. The present paper will address this gender-differentiated symbolic use of the domestic space through the scope of anthropology and of the Svanetian history.