HUMANPAST.NET

Architecture                  5,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

Africa

 

Southwest Asia

 The first major period of occupation at 'Ain Ghazal began at about 7,200 BC and it was pobably occupied  most or all of the time until about 5,000 BC. Covering approximately 30 acres, 'Ain Ghazal is about three times larger than Jericho, but it is unclear how much of the site was occupied at any one time. It probably had at one point at least several hundred inhabitants, who ate wheat, barley, lentils, sheep, and goats, and lived in mudbrick buildings of various sizes and shapes.(27)

The residential architecture of Tell as-Sawwan contrasts somewhat with that of other settlements of the period, consisting mainly of huts with stone foundations and the more common rectangular clay structures, although there is still little variability in building size or apparent construction cost. (46)

The residential architecture of Uruk reflects a diversity of occupational, economic and social classes. All the buildings were mud brick, but some were larger, better built, an more elaborately decorated. Many of the people lived in small rectangular buildings along narrow winding streets through which ran both above- and below-ground drainage canals. Apparently, houses were one story high for the poor (and two stories tall for the wealthier, but both types were similar. Built of mud brick and whitewashed, they represent an ideal architectural adaptation to the climate. (46)

Layer upon layer of plaster continued to accumulate in the remodeled shrines; more than 60 layers were added in VI.A to the 120 of VI.B to bring the total number of applications of plaster (and perhaps years of life) at Catal VI to almost 200. The many replasterings caused the floor of Shrine VI.10 to rise almost two feet, giving the bulls' heads the appearance of sinking into the floor, but no effort was made to adjust them. Burials in this same shrine became so numerous that they could no longer be contained beneath the platforms, and some intruded into the space below the floor. Mellaart also noted that less care seems to have been taken to leave earlier burials undisturbed; bones and skulls were found rearranged, funeral gifts scattered. This combination of carelessness, conservatism, and a taste for monstrous iconography tells a familiar story. If the conflagration at VI.A had not completely destroyed the Catal shrines, their own encrusted weight of tradition (and plaster) must eventually have brought them down. It seems clear that some of the cults represented in these rooms were not at the beginning, but at the overripe end of their spiritual impulse, at least for this era. When a much smaller settlement was built over the ruins of the VI.A fire, the number of shrines was greatly reduced; the monumental wall constructions were gone, and most of the chthonic themes seem to have vanished with them. By Level II, as we shall see shortly, Catal Huyuk was a thoroughly reformed site with an altogether different orientation. (115)

The fire that swept through Catal Huyuk at Level VI.A was extraordinarily intense. Mellaart felt that it must have smoldered a very long time to have penetrated more than three feet beneath the level of the floors, carbonizing the earth, the bones of the dead, and their burial gifts, and arresting all bacterial decay. When the settlement was rebuilt, much smaller now and more open, it was evident that the fire had destroyed far more than the superstructures of the Catal community. As mentioned earlier, the number of shrines and the clutter of their contents were greatly reduced. The massive wall constructions were no longer erected, nor were the multiple-horned bull benches of Level VI. Single bull pillars occasionally were used in these upper levels, but the horns were now smaller. (115)


Reconstruction of a tauf-walled house at Level IV of Hassuna, northern Iraq.
(115)

Mud-brick architecture, the earliest known to Mesopotamia, was present at both Tell es-Sawwan and Choga Mami; beneath the complex of multi-roomed buildings at the base level of Tell es-Sawwan an extraordinary cemetery had been laid, in which the dead were accompanied by a great many alabaster vessels and figurines. (115)

In the south Samarran influence has been noted at Eridu, the first recorded settlement in the land later to be known as Sumer. Estimated to the late sixth millennium, the lowest strata at Eridu yielded mud-brick architecture and fine painted pottery whose chocolate-colored cruciform patterns are reminiscent of Samarran designs. (115)

 


Closely packed rectangular houses were also typical of the earliest levels at Arpachiyah, although the Halafians are better known for their round structures, to which rectangular annexes were often attached in a keyhole pattern that resembles the later tholoi of the Aegean. But in general the Catal-Halaf parallels are so numerous that in spite of the great distance between the two cultures (750 miles from Konya to Mosul by road), Robert Braidwood concluded that Catal Huyuk was a westerly variant of the Halafian tradition. (115)

Some of these northern structures also had rectangular or curvilinear annexes like the Halafian "tholoi"; many were partly subterranean with a few steps down at the entrance, recalling the ancient round-house traditions of Natufian Ain Mallaha and the walled town of Jericho. (115)

As soon as the Sumerians had established themselves in the country at the head of the Persian Gulf they began to build dykes and other earthworks, in order to protect their settlements from the floods of the Tigris and Euphrates. At first they lived in huts made of reed-mats fastened to sticks stuck in the ground, and later in little houses of a rectangular(?) shape made of bricks...and at length they were housed in temples of brick and stone instead of huts made of reed-mats. Among the early Sumerian cities of which we have knowledge may be mentioned Eridu (the modern Abu Shahren), the most southerly, which lies to the south of the Euphrates, and was traditionally regarded as the starting-point of Sumerian and Babylonian civilization. It stood at the head of the Persian Gulf almost on the sea-shore, but its ruins are now about 130 mile from the mouth of the Shatt al-'Arab. (118)

Further to the south stood the great zikkurat, or "temple tower," or "stepped tower," which was called by the Babylonians E-TEMEN-AN-KI, i.e. the "House of the Foundation Stone of Heaven and Earth, but is more commonly known as the Tower of Babel. Many classical writers have described the "broad walls" of Babylon, as Jeremiah calls them, and given measurements them, but none of them agree with the evidence derived from the ruins. Outside this double wall was the moat, each side of which was lined with a layer of burnt bricks, 10 feet thick, set in bitumen, and the outer wall was built of the same material. (118)

The chief sanctuary of Babylon was Esagila, the seat of the god Bel, or Bel-Marduk, which had been built by the hands of angels or gods, and stood within the city walls. Close to the temple was the great zikkurat, or "stepped tower," called E-UR-IMIN-AN-KI. This building was in seven stages, like the Tower of Babel, and Rawlinson stated that each stage was dedicated to a planet, and had a different colour, thus:

Stage. Height. Square. Colour.          Planet.
1          26        272      Black            Saturn
2          26        230      Red-brown   Jupiter
3          26        188      Red              Mars
4         
26        146      Gold             Sun
5          15        104      Yellow          Venus
6          15         62        Blue             Mercury
7          15         20        [Silver?]       [Moon]

Specimens of coloured inlay from this building were presented to the British Museum a few years ago. All that now remains of the zikkurat is a mass of semi-vitrified brickwork about 35 feet high, which stands on a mound nearly 120 feet high; FelixJones made the total height of mound and brickwork 153 1/2 feet. (118)

"Marduk, the glorious chief, the captain of the gods, heard my petition and received my prayer. His Lordship showed compassion, he set the fear of his godhead in my heart, he made my heart to incline to the love of his laws. By his august help I marched into remote countries, and made long journeys over the difficult lands that lie between the Upper Sea (i.e. the Mediterranean) and the Lower Sea (i.e. the Persian Gulf), where there are no roads and the going is painful and laborious, and I subdued those who would not obey my will, and bound the rebels in fetters. I administered the country, and made its inhabitants prosperous, and I divided the loyal folk from the disloyal. I gathered together silver, gold, precious stones, copper, precious woods, and costly things of every kind, and whatsoever was in the mountains, and the products of the seas, and carried them to Babylon, and laid them as a rich gift before his Lordship in Esagila. I decorated the shrine of Marduk with them, and inlaid its walls with gold and precious stones. A former king had inlaid it with silver, but I plated it with gold. The vessels of Esagila I covered with gold, and I decorated the Boat of Marduk with precious stones and inlayings. I made the summit of E-temen-an-ki (the Tower of Babel) to rear itself up in burnt brick and fine stone, and I toiled hard to establish Esagila. I used the finest cedars which I had brought from Lebanon to roof the shrine of his Lordship, and I plated the beams with gold. I beautified Barzipa (Borsippa), and I restored Ezida, and decorated it with gold and silver and precious stones. I roofed the house of Nabu with cedar wood and plated the beams with gold. The roof of the Gate of Nana I plated with silver, and I made to shine with silver the bulls, the doors, the gate, the lintels, the bars and bolt, the ends of the roof-beams, etc. The paths to the shrine and the building I paved with glazed(?) bricks. The interior of the shrine was of carved silver work. I made the building so beautiful and fitted it with so many things of beauty that those who looked upon it would marvel." (118)

Household furniture was of a simple character and consisted chiefly of a bed, or couch, on which a man slept, or sat, or reclined at meals, stools, a small flat table at which to eat, clay lamps, reed-mats, cushions, etc. The clothes of the family were kept in chests made of wood or clay...(118)

A large part of the population of Lower Babylonia lived, like Uta-Napishtim, the hero of the Story of the Flood, in reed huts or houses, which closely resembled the tukuls of the Sudan at the present day. The house of every well-to-do man had a room set apart for ablutions--in fact, a sort of bathroom, containing a large flat vessel which served as the bath. A cleansing preparation made of oil and potash was used as soap, and it seems that in some parts of Mesopotamia the use of depilatories was not unknown. Next to ablutions and clean apparel for personal comfort and a feeling of wellbeing, the Babylonian required anointing with perfumed oils and unguents. The perfume of flowers or the odour of sweet incense was absolutely necessary for him, and a censer with incense to burn in it was found in most houses. The heat and glare compelled him to use eye-paint, and it is certain that his women employed both that and scented pomades and salves, not only to soften their skins and remove the ill-effects of sunburn and scorching winds, but to enhance their beauty. The house of every well-to-do man had a room set apart for ablutions--in fact, a sort of bathroom, containing a large flat vessel which served as the bath. A cleansing preparation made of oil and potash was used as soap, and it seems that in some parts of Mesopotamia the use of depilatories was not unknown.  (118)

Egypt

 For the past ten years, I have been working closely with John Anthony West on the re-dating of the Great Sphinx of Giza. The traditional date for the statue is circa 2500 BC, but based on my geological analysis, I am convinced that the oldest portions of the Sphinx date back to at least circa 5000 BC (and John West believes that it may be considerably older still). Such a chronology, however, goes against not just Classical Egyptology, but also many long-held assumptions concerning the dating and origin of early civilizations. I cannot recall how many times I have been told by erstwhile university colleagues that such an early date for the Sphinx is simply impossible because humans were technologically and socially incapable of such feats that long ago. Yet, I must follow where the evidence leads. (58)

Simply stated, the floor in the back of the Sphinx was weathered to a depth of only four feet, while the front was weathered to a depth of eight feet; this suggests that the front of the Sphinx is twice as old as the back. Schoch estimates that the rear floor of the enclosure was first exposed in 2500 BC, and that the exposure of the front and side floors of the enclosure (and the initial Sphinx carving) must have occurred between 7000 and 5000 BC. (70)

In 1973, while traveling through the Western Desert from Bir Sahara east to Abul Simbel, archaeologists Fred Wendorf and Romauld Schild decided to stop for a rest. A hundred kilometers west of the Nile Valley, they discovered a large ancient lake basin with hundreds of Stone Age camps. Among the finds were grave mounds that included offerings of butchered cattle, goats, and sheep, as well as groups of megalithic structures and alignments of upright stones. Six groups of stones, extending across the ancient basin, contained a total of twenty-four megaliths. Like the spokes on a wheel, each alignment radiates outward from a unique, complex structure. Astonishingly, these megaliths span twenty-five hundred meters in a north-south direction. In the north, there are ten preserved burial mounds made from broken sandstone blocks along the west bank of a shallow wadi. This northern group of megaliths ends in a small stone circle atop a rounded hill. This stone circle has been identified as a calendar. It contains two lines of stone sights consisting of pairs of narrow, upright slabs positioned to the north where the sun rose at the summer solstice, which was the beginning of the rainy season six thousand years ago. According to Wendorf and Schild, this astronomical date--the summer solstice, 4000 BC--corresponds to the time the device was last used. The dates and archaeological artifacts attributed to the site indicate that the Ru'at El Baqar people, Stone Age cattle herders who lived in the region seven thousand years ago, erected the Valley of Sacrifices burial mounds. In Africa, it is the earliest known ceremonial center that marks the beginning of complex societies. South of the valley there is a low, elongated hill with two smaller parallel rises. On the northernmost hill, a six-hundred-meter alignment of once upright sandstone megaliths, some of which weighed several tons, now appears as a cluster of broken rocks. University of Colorado astronomy professor John McKim Malville established that the line of megaliths was actually composed of three sublines aimed at the point where the brightest star of the Big Dipper, Ursa Majoris, rose between 6,700 and 6,000 years ago. In the area south of the first line, several other lines of upright stones have been recognized and mapped. The first is a 250-meter-long double alignment of stone blocks aiming at the point where the brightest stars in Orion's belt rose between 6,170 and 5,800 years ago. The second line of stones is slightly shorter and stands a bit farther away from the other two. It points to the position of Sirius, Canis Majoris, 6,800 years ago. (70)

Schoch's case, in brief - which has the full support of palaeo-climatologists - rests on the fact that heavy rainfall of the kind required to cause the characteristic erosion patterns on the Sphinx had stopped falling on Egypt thousands of years before the epoch of 2500 BC in which Egyptologists say that the Sphinx was built. The geological evidence therefore suggests that a very conservative estimate of the true construction date of the Sphinx would be somewhere between '7000 to 5000 BC minimum'. ...as the years have gone by, the Boston geologist has withstood the rigours of scientific peer review, several times successfully defending his contention that the distinctive weathering visible on the Sphinx, and on the walls its enclosure - a combination of deep vertical fissures and rolling, undulating, horizontal coves - is 'a classic, textbook example of what happens to a limestone structure when you have rain beating down on it for thousands of years ... When set in the context of our knowledge of ancient climates at Giza, he adds, this represents abundant evidence 'that the Great Sphinx predates its traditional attribution of circa 2500 BC. . . I'm just following the science where it leads me, and it leads me to conclude that the Sphinx was built much earlier than previously thought.' (134)

What Brophy discovered was that the calendar circle at Nabta Playa was more than a calendar. It was also a star-viewing diagram. Three of the six stones in the center of the circle diagramed the stars of Orion's belt as it appeared on the meridian at the summer solstice between 6400 and 4900 BC. In other words, if a person stood at the north end of the meridian sight line and looked down on the stone diagram, he or she would see a representation of Orion's belt as it appeared in the sky just before sunrise. The other three stones chart Orion's head and shoulders as they appeared on the summer solstice meridian, at sunset, during the years around 16,500 BC--symmetrically opposite Orion's belt stars in 5000 BC. According to Brophy, both dates are the maximum and minimum of Orion's tilt angle in the sky. In other words, the stone diagram depicts the time, location, and tilting behavior of the constellation of Orion through its celestial cycle. More important, it illustrates how to visually understand the pattern of stones. If an astute, ancient sky-watcher from some foreign culture stumbled upon the Nabta calendar circle, even if he had no concept of the constellation of Orion, he would very likely have figured out the meaning of the diagram, as long as he was there during the diagram's window of functionality from 6400 BC to 4900 BC. Astonishing as it may be, the bedrock sculpture underneath "Complex Structure A" at Nabta Playa appears to be an accurate depiction of our Milky Way Galaxy, as it was oriented astronomically at a specific time: vernal equinox heliacal rising of the Galactic Center in 17,700 BC. According to Brophy, in a method developed by Schaefer in 1986, the probability that seven stars align with megaliths is less than 2 in 1,000,000. Strikingly, that is more than a thousand times as certain as the usual three standard deviations requirement for accepting a scientific hypothesis as valid. Even by conservative estimates, these are by far the most certain ancient megalithic astronomical alignments known in the world. (70)

The sun-temple of Niusere near Heliopolis, the City of the Sun, was the capital of the sun-worshippers in Egypt from the fifth millennium BC at which period they are said to have established a calendar more precise than the calendars used in Western Europe before the 18th century AD. (135)

Indus Valley

 

China

 In a real sense, the first ancestors of the civilization we know imprecisely as “China” were probably the sturdy peasants of the Yangshao period (radiocarbon-dated to c. 5100-3900 BC), who lived in villages like Bampo. Wearing rough clothes made of hemp, bunkered down in houses with floors dug several feet below ground to shield themselves from winter snows and summer heat, the people of Bampo followed the familiar agricultural cycle of China. (49)

This reconstruction of a Neolithic house at Bampo illustrates how early Chinese farmers protected themselves against the harsh north China winters by living in pit-houses. (49)

Europe

 The earliest radiocarbon evidence of a definite human presence in Malta is from Ghar Dalam and gives a Neolithic date of around 5200 BC. The orthodox position is that no sample taken anywhere in the Maltese islands suggest any earlier date. The first phase of human settlement that archaeologists recognize, 5200-4500 BC, is known as the Ghar Dalam phase. The name is from the type site, Ghar Dalam cave itself, but the 'Phase', defined by its pottery and tools, is represented at sites throughout Malta and Gozo. This phase has left no evidence of any large-scale construction activities at all. Nor is it easy to make out any of the signs of organized cultic and religious behaviour that normally precede full-blown temple worship. All that has come down to us are a few traces of rudimentary huts and shelters and a stumpy wall, 11 metres long but less than a metre high, made of two rows of small upright slabs with a filling of rubble in between. (124)

And then suddenly, around 3600 BC, the fireworks start to fly with the Gigantija phase (3600-3000 BC). Here, as we know, the type site is not a pottery heap, a mud-brick wall, or a few rock-cut tombs, but Gigantija herself - the 'tower of the giants' - literally the mother of all temples if the orthodox chronology is correct, built with megaliths that are consistently amongst the biggest ever used in Malta. How are we to explain such a sudden and dramatic leap forward as the appearance in the Gigantija phase not only of the 'blueprint' for the archetypal Maltese megalithic temple - to which, with adaptations and refinements, all later temples adhere - but also, at the same instant, the complete suite of organizational and technical abilities necessary to build such temples when, we are told, none had ever been built before? I am not an archaeologist, but after reviewing what archaeology has found out about the 1600 years between the supposed date of first settlement and the beginning of temple-building at Gigantija - 5200 BC down to 3600 BC - I personally see no convincing evidence of any build-up of skills 'slowly, over time' that would have been relevant to the construction of the megalithic temples. (124)

To a number of experts the spread of the LBK culture along this arc reflects colonization by farming populations in such a brief period of time that its beginning and end are at present unresolvable by the radiocarbon dating methods. They brought with them their longhouse building style, never before seen in Europe; these huge timber-framed houses, up to 150 feet in length, were organized into villages founded exclusively on the fertile loess soil blown across Eurasia during the sky-darkening sandstorms of the last Ice Age. These dwellings were the largest freestanding buildings in the world for thousands of years. (131)

South America

 

Mesoamerica

 

North America

 The Koster site, in the Illinois River Valley, was first occupied at about 7,500 BC, and people lived at this site many times, at least until about 2,500 BC. These people slowly improved their technologies, adding new varieties of stone tools, more permanent forms of housing made of clay, poles, and thatch, rare implements of copper for which they traded with neighboring groups, and various other tools.(26)

Other

 A number of ancient Ainu stone circles have also been found, similar to the megalithic sites of western Europe; a few still have slender upright stones at their centre. Japan also has a number of prehistoric monuments known as dolmens, which consist of several great stone slabs set edgewise in the earth to support a massive flat stone roof. (160)