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Architecture                  7,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

Africa

 

Southwest Asia

Simplified plan of an early settlement at 'Ain Mallaha (Israel). Compounds of circular huts such as those at 'Ain Mallaha were widespread in Southwest Asia after about 8,000 BC, but by 6000 BC had been superseded largely by villages of rectangular huts.(26)

Kent Flannery has noted that many contemporary African peoples live in compounds of circular huts and that most such societies share several characteristics: (1) only one or two people are usually housed in each hut; (2) many of the huts are not residential, but are used for storage, kitchens, stables, and the like; (3) huts are often placed in a circle around a cleared space; (4) food space is usually open one shared by all occupants; and (5) perhaps most important, the social organization of the typical compound, like that of hunting-gathering groups, usually consists of six to eight males, each assoicated with from one to three women and their respective children, and includes strong sexual division of labor. Flannery argues that settlements of adjacent rectangular buildings--which he calls villages--have advantages over settlements of circular buildings--which he calls compounds. The former are more easily enlarged because rooms can be added on, whereas increasing the number of circular residences rapidly increases the diameter of the settlement to an unwieldy size.(26)

Villages are also more defensible than compounds for a number of reasons. But the primary difference is in their respective capacities for intensification of production. In compounds, storage facilities are open and shared, and the basic economic unit is the group; but in villages the basic unit is the family, which maintains its own storage of supplies and thus has greater incentives for intensification of production--the seeds, in other words of private enterprise and the first steps toward capitalist economies. If Flannery is correct, the transition that occurred between 9000 BC and 7000 BC from compounds of circular structures to villages of rectangular rooms is a reflection of the changes in the social organization of the Greater Mesopotamian peoples, with the nuclear family gradually replacing the hunting-and-gathering group as the unit of economic production. And although the circular building tradition continued for several thousand years in parts of Southwest Asia, it was eventually entirely supplanted by rectangular-unit villages.(26)

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)

Southwest Asian peoples have lived in villages for nine millennia, and there is hardly a square meter there that does not contain a few shards, stone tools, bones, or old irrigation canal banks. Nevertheless, the most common unit of analysis in Southwest Asian archaeology is still the "site," which usually takes the form of a mound referred to as a tell (Arabic) or teppeh (Persian). These tells are a result of the construction and continual reconstruction of villages or towns on the same spot. For thousands of years, people here have use mud bricks as their basic building material, and their settlements have taken the form of closely packed, small, rectangular structures. Although ideally suited to the climate and resources of the area, such buildings become so dilapidated after fifty or a hundred years that it is easier to rebuild than to repair them, and because there are incentives to rebuild on the same spot (less land is lost to cultivation and higher elevation gives better drainage and protection against floods and attack), settlements become mound-shaped as they are constantly reconstructed on the debris of previous ones.

Most of the 158 structures uncovered at Catal Huyuk are not very different from their contemporaries elsewhere in Southwest Asia: each is built of shaped mud and composed of rectangular rooms with plastered walls and floors, and most houses are about twenty-five meters square, one story high, and abut one another, except where occasionally separated by an open courtyard. Inside most rooms are two raised platforms, probably for sleeping, and an occasional rectangular bench. Unlike any other community of this period and area, access to the rooms of Catal Huyuk was only by ladder through the roof--there are no front doors--and the close packing of structures is such that much of the movement among the houses must have been on the roofs. (46)

Rectangular architecture was everywhere in evidence, but at no two sites were the buildings, or their contents, identical. For example, a honeycombed architectural complex using very long, plano-convex, mud bricks at the Iranian Zagros community of Ganj Dareh D housed an extensive pottery collection that was elsewhere unknown. The huge new settlement at Tell Abu Hureyra in Syria yielded a wealth of new plant domesticates in a setting of substantial mud-brick buildings with occasional black-plastered floors. A new occupation of Jericho brought the fine red-plastered and polished floors that were to become a hallmark of seventh millennium sites throughout Palestine and Anatolia; here the red floors were found within stereotyped rectangular buildings made of cigar-shaped bricks. (115)

The east Anatolian community of Cayonu was also founded c. 75/7300 BC, and revealed not only the earliest known copper items (a drill, straight pins, ovoid beads) but a settlement plan which far exceeded the expectations of the excavators for so early a site. At least four different architectural designs included such unprecedented features as the use of internal buttresses, farisi-style entrances usually associated with later Aegean architecture, and a "brilliantly executed" terrazzo floor which had been ground smooth and polished to set off parallel strips of white pebbles against a background of salmon pink stones. (115)

Situated in a small valley of the Iranian Zagros some 1,400 feet above sea level, Ganj Dareh' s origins are equally mysterious, but her traditions were very different from those of Cayonu. Architecturally, clay was used to form two types of very long bricks, one plano-convex, the other a sausage-like shape. Tauf or chineh, clay mixed with straw and laid in sun-dried layers, was also used at Ganj Dareh (as it is today in the Zagros); walls, floors, and ceilings of the honeycombed rectangular chambers created by these several techniques were then plastered over with clay. Large clay plugs grooved for gripping with the hand were fitted to the occasional round "portholes" which had been cut through the walls. Prefabricated slabs of clay with beveled edges had also been fitted into the walls, forming partitioned cabinets or boxes. Clay was used again to raise the rims of large stone mortars, some of which had been provided with clay pedestals. (115)

Dating from around 7300 BC, the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B occupation of Jericho lasted through some twenty-five building levels of large rectangular houses whose design remained so constant that Kenyon concluded that Jericho's architecture had been stereotyped during a long period of previous development elsewhere. Lime-plaster floors had been stained several shades of red, or left white, and given a burnish that was still hard enough to be scrubbed down for photographers. A herringbone pattern had been painted on one of the floors. (115)

…the Natufian-related community of round houses at Abu Hureyra was abandoned midway in the ninth millennium, shortly before the appearance of the first recorded arrowheads elsewhere in Syria. A thousand years later, again around 75/7300 BC, a huge new settlement was founded at Hureyra, with large, multi-roomed, rectangular, mud-brick buildings present from the start. Their design, like the black-plastered floors found in these early levels, persisted throughout the 1,500 year life of this PPNB-related settlement. (115)

Jarmo's tool kit (largely microlithic) and carved stone “bracelets" have been compared to those of Alikosh, but the settlers of Jarmo built multi-roomed, tauf-walled structures and at least one stone foundation complex that resembles miniature version of Cayonu's Grill Plan. (115)

Jarmo, in northern Iraq - a Neolithic agricultural site which may perhaps date as early as 8750 years ago. It has a 7 metre high artificial mound resting on top of a very steep hill and is formed of sixteen layers of superimposed habitations. (124)

At Jarmo [around 6750 BC] a large farming community, living in square, multiroomed houses with mud ovens and sunken baked-clay basins, successfully cultivated the land, produced fruit and grain, brought up animals and smelted copper for anything up to two thousand years. These early neolithic peoples led basic but functional lifestyles, using spoons to eat, bone needles to repair clothes, and stone spindle-whorls to make clothes and probably even to weave carpets. They also used knives and tools with blades made of obsidian obtained from the foothills around Nemrut Dag on Lake Van. (149)

Egypt

 

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)

With a "green" Sahara existing between 7000 and 4000 BC and rains reaching as much as twenty-four inches per year, one can argue that Egypt's Sphinx was originally carved shortly after 7000 BC. (70)

Given the known climate of Egypt for the past ten thousand years, it is highly probable the temperature and rainfall characteristics of the area fall into the region where "very slight weathering of any kind" would be expected. The average rate of limestone erosion (excluding the Giza plateau and Niagara Falls) is three and a half inches every thousand years. Using this average, it would take ten thousand years for the Sphinx's western enclosure wall to erode three feet and twenty thousand years for it to erode six feet. Although it would be incorrect to assume that this is actually the case, these figures support Schoch's conclusion that rock weathers slowly, and that the Great Sphinx of Egypt eroded in this manner. He believes that the Sphinx is at least seven thousand years old-which, he says, is a conservative estimate. (70)

Indus Valley

 …they built [at Mehrgarh] with well-made mud bricks of regular size (33 x 14.5 x 7 centimetres) and oriented certain structures to the cardinal directions. Many of the structures are simple dwellings with relatively strong walls made out of two courses of bricks laid side by side and with floors on which the ancient impressions of reeds can sometimes still be made out. The average size of these dwellings is small, just 5 by 4 metres, and yet they are frequently subdivided into several small rooms; ovens and hearths...were usually found in the corners of rooms and signs of their use can be seen as traces of smoke on the plastered walls. One circular oven was lined with bricks and had a dome [like the tan door ovens of Pakistan and northern India today] which was traced in its collapsed condition. (124)

China

 

Europe

  7100 BC New sighting posts established at Stonehenge (160)

7000 BC Settlements on Rum in Hebrides and Mount Sandal in Ireland (160)

South America

 

Mesoamerica

 ...just south of the university campus of Mexico City, off the main road connecting the capital to Cuernavaca, stands a circular step pyramid of great complexity (with four galleries and a central staircase). It was partially excavated in the 1920s from beneath a mantle of lava. Geologists were called to the site to help date the lava, and carried out a detailed examination. Byron Cummings, the American archaeologist who originally excavated the site for the National Geographical Society, was convinced by clearly demarcated stratification layers above and below the pyramid (laid down both before and after the volcanic eruption) that it was 'the oldest temple yet uncovered on the American continent'. He went further than the geologists and stated categorically that this temple 'fell into ruins some 8500 years ago'. The archaeological excavations had revealed that it was not the product of one dynasty (as was thought to have been the case with the pyramids at Giza in Egypt), but that it had been built up over a very long period of time - two thousand years or so, at a conservative estimate. (152)

North America

 From about 11,000 to 8,000 years ago, many of the Desert West peoples apparently organized their economies around the resources of lakes and marshes, while groups in more arid areas probably adopted a more generalized hunting-and-gathering strategy. Remains of pole-and-thatch huts have been found in some areas, but the size, location, and contents of most sites of this period suggest that for most of the year Desert West peoples lived in small bands and followed complex seasonal rounds, exploiting different resources as they became available.(26)

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