Archives For prehistory

Once upon a time — about 2,500 years ago — people in what is now Britain switched from building rectangular houses to building round houses: in many instances, small circular structures with wooden walls made of wattle and daub, no windows, a conical roof, and a single entrance. And for more than 2,500 years, from the early Bronze Age to the late Iron Age, they stuck with this circular design, even while people in the rest of Europe — or what later became Europe — lived in rectangular structures.

It was with the Roman conquest that the British, too, began to adopt rectangular house designs. But evidence of the region’s history of round construction can still be found in archeological sites all over the UK, from Dartmoor, Devon, England, to Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

In recent years, a number of replica round houses have been built. Below is one in Burwardsley, Cheshire, which is open to school groups and other visitors -

celtic round house

The archaeological site at Jarlshof, in the Shetland Isles, includes remains of Iron Age round houses that date from between 200 BC and 800 AD -

caribbean round house

November 2, 2011 — Leave a comment

The floor plan of a maloca, or traditional round house, excavated at the Golden Rock site in St. Eustatius -

In Alberta, Canada, the construction of an iron age round house -

The materials include spruce, willow and poplar trees; the tools include billhooks, kukris, axes and a cell phone.

All you need are posts, pegs, coppiced wood, daub, hazel, wheat straw, and a length of cord.

Round houses were all over the place in ancient and not-so-ancient times. Discussing archeological sites in the region that now includes Iran and parts of Iraq, an Iranian studies professor explains -

Hallan Jemi, on a tributary of the upper Tigris in the foothills of eastern Turkey, is the oldest pre-pottery Neolithic site in the region. People lived in round houses with stone bases, and may have been among the first to domesticate pigs, an animal that was introduced at Iranian sites only toward the end of the Neolithic . . . . Zawi Chemi Shanidar was small settlement with stone-based round houses in Iraqi Kurdistan. The site is roughly contemporary with Hallan Jemi, as indicated by a single radiocarbon date of 10,800 B.P . . . . The construction of round houses is typical of the earliest communities in the Near East, none of which has unequivocal evidence for the growing of crops or for domesticated herd animals.