“A ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD”
THE FIRST ARCHITECTURE
42,000 years ago
|This is conceivably one of the first types of primitive man-made shelters. It is a reconstruction of an Upper Paleolithic tent from non-tanned leathers.
Credit: Photo by :snek01, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Many animals (for example termites, bees, fish, birds, and beavers) build nests of some sort. There is almost certainly a strong instinctive element to many of these structures. Human architecture, on the other hand, is culturally learned. Most of us have lived in a house, apartment, or a dormitory during our lives. But for most of human evolution, early hominins do not appear to have constructed habitation structures that have left archaeological traces, although they are known to have frequented natural caves and rockshelters. The Middle Palaeolithic site of Moldova 5 in the Ukraine, dating to about 42,000 years ago, shows a large hut made out of mammoth bones with a number of hearths inside. Starting about 40,000 years ago, during the Upper Palaeolithic, evidence for structures become more common, with stone and mammoth bone foundations showing circular and rectangular shapes, often associated with stone tools, other animal bones, and hearth structures.
Evidence of deliberate-constructed architecture can be, in very early periods of our prehistory, very difficult to identify or certify. Early hominin ancestors may have sheltered in trees at night, as do many modern species of apes and monkeys, with no obvious or lasting evidence left behind of their stay in the area. For instance, modern chimpanzees construct ‘nests’ in trees for overnight sleeping, but these would not leave any lasting record archaeologically. Similarly, temporary wooden or branch structures or ‘lean-to’s’ that early ancestors may possibly have built would likely not leave any physical record behind. Sometimes at earlier sites, large blocks of stone have been found around an inhabited area, where large quantities of stone tools and other artifacts have been left behind, but it is difficult to be certain what, if anything, may have been constructed in that place. It would seem very likely that early ancestors, in the course of their migrations from Africa into cooler, more temperate areas of Europe and Asia, would have developed structures for shelter and protection in these new environments, but we have no record of them if they did exist.
Starting between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago, early hominins more consistently inhabited caves in various parts of the world, but deliberately-made structures at that time are still elusive in the prehistoric record. Finally, during the period of pervasive modern Homo sapiens, during the period known as the Upper Palaeolithic, we start seeing clear evidence of deliberately-made structures.
HOW DO WE KNOW?
Inferences about huts and other structures comes primarily from the spatial patterning of stones and other materials, and the presence of hearths and other artifactual materials. Postholes (areas of darkened earth from decomposing wooden poles that were part of a hut’s superstructure) are also an indication of the size and the shape of an architectural structure.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Try to live without a roof over your head. If you have ever camped out in the rain or snow without a tent, you know that it can become a very harsh and uncomfortable living situation. The advent of architecture, along with clothing, provided extra protection from the elements that could be crucial in times of bad weather, especially cold, wet, and windy conditions. And, along with the invention of fire, architecture would have encouraged more social interaction.
This is a webpage about the first forms of architecture.
This is a list of early homes and shelters, and the first evidence of bedding.