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The Ancient Indigenous Architecture of Microlithic Tribes

Clickable terms are red on the yellow background




Map 1. Types of human dwellings (after R. Biasutti)





  1. Evolution of human dwellings
  2. Types of huts and dwellings
  3. Architectural Taxonomy
  4. Lakeside Stilt-Dwelling with Crossed Poles



       Cliff-Dwellings and Burial Rock-Cut Caves

       Rectangular Longhouses Out of Straw and Mud

        Earth lodges and Subterranean Sancturaries

       Semidugout Zemlyankas of Lapponoid Cremators




        Tungusoid teepes, pile-huts and lake-dwellings

       Pelasgoid conical rondavel roundhouses

        Megara, palatial temples and columnal palaces

        Flat-roofed labyrinth architecture of Oriental farmers

        Rectangular wicker longhouses with thatched roofs

        Gotho-Frisian wurts, terps and half-timber longhouses

        Dome-shaped beehive huts

        Irregular multi-peaked marquee nomadic tents

        Epi-Aurignacian tepees and pile-dwellings

       Bascoid Cyclopean megalithic architecture

       Megalithic tombstones and tholoi graves

        Lapponoids lean-to and semidugout pit-house

        Turcoid dwellings and burials in rockcut caves



        Lakeland, marshland, lowland, grassland and desert ecosystems

        Multicellular labyrinths in arid subtropical lowland

        Tell-sites in oases of subtropical shrublands

        Multicellular labyrinths in arid subtropical lowland

        Tell-sites in oases of subtropical shrublands

        Oppidans: hillforts towering on high rock promontories

        Getic boroughs: villages in alluvial lowlands

        Palatial poleis and cultic spas in seaside harbours

        Straight streets and alleys of lake-dwellings



Cliff-Dwellings and Burial Rock-Cut Caves


Argillae. The Cimmerian cliff-dwellings were dugouts and souterrains cut into cliffs. They appeared in misty regions veiled in gloomy clouds and dense fog where the sun never shone and never showed its face. Ephoros, himself a native from Cyme in Asia Minor, attributed Cumae in Italy to the Cimmerians. He explained that their permanent homes were in rock-cut subterraneans called argillae. In deep subterranean caves they had oracles and priests who never saw the sun and were allowed to go out only at night. They drank water from a well at the bottom of their subterranean temple. They believed that it was linked with the Styx and sprang from mineral springs (Strabo IV, 4, 5). Argil(l)a probably corresponds to the Rumanian expression argea hut and Albanian ragl hut (Georgiev 1985: 5; 1977: 11).

Geryons caves. According to the Old Irish chronicle Lebar Gebàla, the earliest inhabitants of Ireland were called fomoire. They lived in submarine crags and caves on ragged cliffs towering like glass castles over the sea. The description of their vertical rock-cut towers reminds us of Geryons submarine caves mentioned by Greek myths. Geryon was another hero of Iapethos progeny, he was Typhons son and Chimairas brother. He inhabited submarine crags that were accessible only through the entrances submerged in the water. In these caves Cimmerians deposed the bones of their forefathers and their warriors met to practice chthonic cults with feasts on human victims.

Strabo gives a vivid description of the subterranean caves called argillae used by the Cimbri at Cumae in Italy. They were dug in rocks as vertical towers and at their bottom there was a sacred well where visitors threw gold coins. Cave-dwellings were characteristic also of the Kelteminar culture (4,000 BC) east of the Caspian Sea. Their inhabitants were people of Turkic stock.

Gebru. Near Teheran and in Yezd and Kerman there is a group of cliff-dwellings in rocks which may be attributed to the Gebru, a tribe of Zoroastrists, who preserved this creed and habitation up to the 19th century. Zoroastrism was made an official religion by the Achaemenids, who seized the rule in 522 BC. The Achaemenid rulers Dareios I, Dareios II, Xerxes and Artaxerxes and constructed monumental rock tombs cut in the rock. The Persian cave tombs have rich reliefs, columns and rock carvings. The kings wear long hanging beards and Median tiara-shaped crowns. Similar tombs were built by Russ I, King of Urartu. Phrygia, Urarte and Media were three large centres of rock-cut funeral architecture. The origin of the Achaemenid may be associated with the Tajik, Tat and Talysh. V. V. Bartold (1925) linked the Tajiks with the Moslem tribe Tazi of the 10th century AD and an earlier Arabic group Tai. They were highlanders living in terrace houses (kishlaks) cut into steep rocks. Their flat roofs were levelled with the ground and their inner rooms had numerous niches. Their tombs were mostly cellars with niches and mounds (gūri laxad).

Ossuaries. The architecture of artificial caverns in Palestine originated in the Neolithic and its builders were the Jews and Phoenicians. The dead corpses in rock-cut caves lay on elevated benches or in niches. Later they were placed in sacrophagi out of stone, wood or clay (larnaces). Most corridors were sloping down like shafts. The cave ossuaries with larnaces are usually attributed to the Philistines, forefathers of Palestinians. The expansion of burial caves to Punic Carthage was probably due to the Phoenician sailors.

Scarab. The Phoenician rock-cut graves contained sealing-sticks with the symbol of scarabs (Scarabaeus). This beetle was a sign of the scarab god Cheprew and the sun god Amon whose cult was introduced with rock-cut graves by the priests and pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Tutankhamen had several scarab amulets on his neck. Amenhotep III edited memorial scarab gems on jubilee occasions. Large gems contained a text from the 30th chapter of the Book of the Dead. They were called heart scarabs since they had to replace the heart after a mummy was embalmed and deprived of bowels.

The stone graves were cut into the limestone rocks in the Valley of the Kings (Bībān el-mulūk) in the Upper Egypt. This necropolis was founded by Amenhotep I, the first of Weset kings. The military power of this dynasty rested on the title of kings of Nubia. This dynasty kept regular marriage contacts with the Mitanni and exhibited a Persian influence in the decorative entrances and columns in front of the tombs. The tomb of Ramesses II is decorated by four statues of the king depicting him with a high tiara or fez which was formerly typical of the Mitanni.

Table 1. Dwellings and burials in rock-cut caves

Capsians. The Capsian culture in North Africa (-8000) belonged to nomads who practised mummification and used ostrich eggshells as vessels. Capsian caves exhibited many rock drawings and cave paintings. The Guanches in Teneriffe prepared real mummies and deposited them in large caverns. These caverns served as ossuaries but also as shelters before enemies. The mummies were not wrapped but stood naked as columns along corridors and galleries.

A large centre of artificial caverns is found in the Seine-Oise-Marne region. These caves cut into a meek limestone composed of narrow entrances, sloping passages and large ante-chambers. At the estuary of the Tago in Portugal they were cut into cliffs. Within the range of the Greek world they were discovered in Cyprus (-3000 to -2400), on the Cycladic Islands, in Attica, Euboia and on Crete. R. Whitehouse paper The rock-cut tombs of the Central Mediterranean proved their structural analogies with chamber-graves in Britain (D. and R. Whitehouse 1975: 94).

(Extract from Pavel Blek: Prehistoric Dialects II. Prague 2004, p. 546-549)


Architectural Taxonomy


An alternative model of architectonic classification may be submitted to consideration in Table 2. Its disadvantage is seen in too many neologisms, great complexity and divergence from standard conventions. Its specific trait consists in applying local terms as archetypes for entire classes of similar buildings. If it displays a positive feature worth pursuing, it is a series of compound words ending in -tectonic. It indicates that the actual reference cocerns the systematic typology of constructions in popular huts and folk architecture. They show that folk architecture builds a bridge over the wide abyss between Palaeolithic and Eneolithic morphology and disclose their structural continuity from times immemorial.







2 H. A. Bernartzik: Die neue grosse Vlkerkunde. Wien Prag 1962. **********************