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Prehistoric Architecture – The Stone Age and Early Settlements

Stone Age is the Earliest human settlements. Early human beings, hominid ancestors learned many thigs slowly and gradually such as control fire, recognize social links, maintain a bond with the remains of the dead, to engage in a symbolic thought, and to fashion symbolic images and objects.

Earliest Human Settlements of 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)
  • 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 from the animal bones with tool marks.
  • Artefacts – Stone-made artefacts, skull portraits,
  • Arts – Paintings, colors were from pigments of powdered minerals – iron oxide or ocher, charcoal, clays, animal fats, 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, new-point flaking technologies succeeded.
    • Settlements grew
    • Religion.
  • Habitats
    • Mud huts /Small Huts – Mud with a combination of water and materials like reed, straw(Binders).
    • Large Huts – Include multiple hearths inside and openings in the top.
    • 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 covering the whole structure with turf or mammoth hide.
  • Melting and smelting of copper marks the end of stone age and beginning of 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 primitive dwellings include
    • Cliff dwellings
    • Thatch and mud structures
    • Free standing stone monuments

Earliest constructions were fashion 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 of homo erectus dwelling.
  • It also represents earliest known human construction dwelling.
  • Reconstructed from holes left by decayed wooden structural members and rocks places 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 has 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 were on either sides, 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

  • Stone age is famous for the use of huge rocks – Megaliths. These Megaliths are predominantly found in Stone Henges. Henges were made 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 of thirteen feet high. The lintels were slightly in a 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 primitive dwellings 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 were one above the other reducing in length to create a vault shape in the interiors.
  • Beehive shape.
  • These type of stone structures were multifunctional – for shelters (both human 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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