Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Some thoughts on how housing developed:

I had puzzled over what happened many many thousands of years ago when some humans switched from semi-nomadic hunting and gathering housed in round tensional hut village dwellings to sedentary semi-agricultural square/rectilinear town housing. Although caves and rockshelters have always provided some forms of shelter, they were not often conveniently located, and probably used more for special activities (meeting place, food stores, art studios, temples, quarries) than regular domestic housing. I think simple dome piles, originally like beaver lodges, of stacked circular sedges & interwoven branches/saplings, may have been long employed for housing, and gradually they became more vertical and with thinner walls, transforming into the typical round hut, which then differentiated depending on the seasonal climate and migratory patterns of the people and various associated flora and fauna, and the increasing level of resource control and sedentary community development.

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I 'knew' it was due to population concentration around a wellspring, a semi-controllable "domesticated" resource, where freshwater was always available and semi-domesticated animals were kept safe from predators by a wall or thorn fence.

But I didn't know how the dome huts converted to pyramid-roofed cube/rectilinear housing. Domes are stronger, stabler, roomier, better airflow control. Why change to a "worse" arrangement?

I think as populations grew, instead of enlarging the outer perimeter fence, they tightened their domes to fit more in, making them from hemisphere dome to round house to square house, then added a patio on top, then added a roof on top, which then became a second story house, which then became a 3 story apartment building.

It was hard to understand why didn't they just expand the perimeter fence, and keep making more domes outwardly. I think partly this was due to generations spent enclosed in the "permanent" compound, the children were told not to mess with the fences to prevent breaking it which would allow night-time predators to sneak in, and when the children grew they subconsciously continued to maintain that rule, repairing when necessary but not altering it. Only when subgroups moved in or out would the fence perimeter become a bit flexible, as part of a change in social order.

Also, to avoid polluting the well, all the food scraps & waste would be deposited outside the fence, resulting in a ring around, with only paths radiating from the center well, so people wouldn't want to build a house just outside the fence in the fertile wasteland, (better to move beyond to a "suburban" colony).

So the result was a concentric but discontinous ring of dome huts that evolved over generations to a series of rectangular huts in interconnected arcs (but split by paths/roads) radiating out from the center. Over time, 2nd and 3rd floors were added, which depended on both the house below and the neighboring house structural strength, while domes changed from houses to central social buildings like temples, later they also became more rectilinear due to population concentrations, canals and road congestion.

So, I'm glad to finally make sense of this prehistorical transition from dome structure housing to multiple unit subdivision blocks/longhouses. Interestingly, I figured it out by thinking about bubbles! A single bubble on a pond surface is a dome, but two combined bubbles form an adjoining vertical plane, and a ring of pond-floating bubbles produce rectilinear radiating vertical inner walls and horizontal floors (lacking only entrance/exit paths). I recall some Chinese traditional ring housing, 3 stories, vertical walls, around a central well. The residents said it was to protect them from predatory bandits, it may be a stage of social structural development which some cultures already passed through (like huge modern hyperpopulated rectilinear-imposed-grid cities) while others went through a parallel but distinctly different route (like feudal castles). DDeden
Brief add: post-hole artifacts probably derived from a period after dome huts were 'tightened' into roundhouses by tensional fence/wall effect on population density as function of social-physical concentration/compression; self-stabilized domes replaced by roundhouses with ground soil friction supporting post foundation (indicating shovels/drills used in well digging in soil).


Interesting information on theoretical structural architecture archaeology:
theoretical structural archaeology


Brief on housing in nature, in reference to Bucky Fuller (geodesic domes, isotropic vector matrix IVM):

Also, in a general sense, in nature, many animals tend to distribute their burrows/nests in an IVM pattern, not perfectly since the terrain contains many different local features (hills, ponds, dry spots) but in a generalized ecosystematic way. This depends on a lot of other factors, but holds true for many very different species, excluding highly social types (honeybees pack em in tight in hexagonal packing). I was thinking about how beaver families in small streams stay apart from other families (topographically descending knotted rope), but in large swampy lakes they tend to be horizontally equidistanced, that is, vectorially equilibrium distributed in a horizontal space-conserving fashion, (topographically planar crystal).

Etymology: commercial, merchant, marchand, mercantile, market, marine, mire/moor/mer
mer - sumer/meru/meroe/samar...,
Malay: satu, Uzbek(?): sato

Why did Greek use thalassa for sea? thalassa sounds like Arab Selasa/thelatha (wednesday/3), did "thalassa = sea" come from salt-aqua/sal-akwa/thal-acca?
Malacca/malaga/malaya from mal-aqua?

"Oddly, all tent-based cultures that evolved to locational permanency and more sophisticated materials use, seem to have rather naturally adopted the vertical-walls method." JB

Not so likely, since tents were specialized implements and derivative of dog domestication, long after generalized dome huts had been in use. Until then, skins and hides were food wraps and scraps, the whole furry carcass burned, just as in nature after wildfires.

Post-holes are found only after dome huts got (fence-tensionally) squeezed into ("vertical") roundhouses and longhouses with triangular roofs (from which nomads derived tipis, yurts, tents), and are associated with improved well-digging and early irrigation, which then encouraged vertical wall construction. DD

article on 10,000ka lakeside roundhouse:

Pygmies & bushmen: dome hut = mongolu (igloo, bungalo/buffalo, ger, geodesic, judaic, masjid?)

Slovenian marsh: veneti, oldest (square circle/merkaba) axle & wheel, wood canoe


Geoff Carter said...

Interesting ideas. I think the evolution of forms is often a local issue, dependent on both environment and culture. Climate and other environmental factors, as well as raw materials are important.

Areas with bamboo will develop differently from areas with only access to mud brick.
Domes and cones can require longer individual of pieces of wood to create a roof than a long house.
Large 'domes' only became possible with the use of cements/ concretes in the Roman periods.

"the Dude" said...

Thanks Geoff, yes local building resources have always been important, though less so for the nomadic people that brought their poles & hides with them. I agree large domes were Roman period, IIRC the ancient Greeks made smaller stone domes but not for dwellings.
I'm not sure when mud brick housing began, perhaps once the local woods were harvested/burned/ planted to crops; straw & mud were the only cheap local option in many early watershed/floodplains settlements. DDeden