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Prehistoric Architecture – The Stone Age and Early Settlements

Stone Age is the Earliest human settlement. Early human beings and hominid ancestors learned many things slowly and gradually such as controlling fire, recognizing social links, maintaining a bond with the remains of the dead, engaging in symbolic thought, and fashioning symbolic images and objects.

Earliest Human Settlements of the Stone Age

  • Started 2.5 million years ago.
  • Period – Lasted 3.4 million years, ended between 4,000 BCE and 2,000 BCE (from Wikipedia)
  • The main source of survival – Hunting Animals and gathering fruits and grains.
    • Food source – Wild animals and plants
  • Settlements – Semi-permanent homes (like base camp), huts
  • Tools – Stone tools, wood, bones, shells
    • The evidence of using stone tools was found in the animal bones with tool marks.
  • Artifacts – Stone-made artifacts, skull portraits,
  • Arts – Paintings, and colors were from pigments of powdered minerals – iron oxide or ocher, charcoal, clays, animal fats, and vegetable dyes. Paintings were with scenes(interior portions of walls and roofs of rocks) of hunting wild animals, cattle grazing in fields, etc.
  • Fabrics – wool and cotton
  • Materials – stones, timber, animal skins, bone, clay. clay to make pottery.
  • Hunting creatures – Mammoths(ten-foot tall hairy elephants)
  • Advancements
    • Adaptation to climate
    • Crop cultivation
    • Cooking
    • Tool-making traditions were more perfected, and new-point flaking technologies succeeded.
    • Settlements grew
    • Religion.
  • Habitats
    • Mud huts /Small Huts – Mud with a combination of water and materials like reed, and straw(Binders).
    • Large Huts – Include multiple hearths inside and openings at the top.
    • A simple arrangement of stones to hold branches of trees in position.
    • Stone structures with timber roofs.
    • Bones into a dome, the gaps between bones were filled with moss and shrubs and covered the whole structure with turf or mammoth hide.
  • Melting and smelting of copper mark the end of the stone age and the beginning of the bronze age.
  • Successive periods – Bronze age and Iron age

The Stone Age – Three periods

  • Paleolithic or old stone age
  • Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age
  • Neolithic or New stone age

Architecture and Dwellings

  • Three main types of early dwellings include
    • Cliff dwellings
    • Thatch and mud structures
    • Free-standing stone monuments

The earliest constructions were from organic materials and new discoveries were happening continuously. The shapes of the houses were round, domes, and conical with internal wood frames and built with organic materials.

  • Organic materials include
    • branches
    • brushes
    • Animal hides
    • Timbers and wood stakes
    • Fiber Cordage
    • Wattle and daub (basket works of sticks covered with plaster)

Examples of Stone Age Structures

1. Terra Amata

Stone Age
  • Terra Amata is the earliest homo Erectus dwelling.
  • It also represents the earliest known human-construction dwelling.
  • Reconstructed from holes left by decayed wooden structural members and rocks placed around the perimeter.

2. Cro – Magnon Dwelling

Stone Age
  • It represents Cro-Magnon dwelling.
  • The shapes of the dwellings were either round/conical/or dome.
  • These houses have internal frames of wood covered with animal hides. They were braced at the bottom with massive mammoth bones, piled all over the perimeter.

3. Monte Verde Dwellings

Stone Age
Monte Verde Dwellings
  • Monte Verde dwellings – Use of organic materials such as base frame timbers, mammoth hide covers, wood stakes, and fiber cordage

4. Middle Stone Age Village

  • A fence of wooden stakes was on either side, leaning against an inclined central ridge pole.
  • The floors of the huts were covered with earth plaster around a central stone-lined hearth.

5. Stone Henge – Predominant in Stone Age

  • The stone age is famous for the use of huge rocks – Megaliths. These Megaliths are predominantly found in Stone Henges. Henges were of wood or stone circles. Henges, simply circles of stone or wood usually in a circular ditch, are quite common in the Stone Age and seem to have had some kind of religious or astronomical significance. (from study.com)
  • These mark sacred spaces but the exact purpose is still unknown.
  • Three different types of these massive stone structures :
    • Menhir, dolmen, and cromlech.
  • It consists of a series of concentric circles and U-shapes. Sandstone blocks were erected in a layout that aligned with midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset and the positions of the moon. The outer circle is post and lintel construction with stone blocks thirteen feet high. The lintels were slightly in curve form creating a circle and are attached end to end. The inner circles are single upright bluestones.
stone age
Image source – Wikipedia
Stone Age
Image source – Getty Images: Aerial photo of Stonehenge on a sunny day.

6. Shielings

Image source: Wikipedia.org
  • One of the early dwellings is similar to the types of nests of birds.
  • Huts were of branches of trees and covered with turf.

7. Beehive Huts – Village des Bories

Village des Bories; Image source: brewminate.com
  • The structures were constructed using local stone quarried locally – thin and small. They were roughly laid in horizontal layers to fit together. Each horizontal layer was one above the other reducing in length to create a vault shape in the interiors.
  • Beehive shape.
  • These types of stone structures were multifunctional – for shelters (both humans and animals) and storage of grains.

8. Ggantija temples in Gozo

Ggantija temples in Gozo; Image source: Wikipedia
  • Megalithic Temples of Malta.
  • Ggantija temples in Gozo are considered as the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
  • Clover-leaf shape
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site

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