Thursday, April 21, 2011

From Early Man's Tents to modern Palaces - 2.

As the Ice Age glaciers receded, farming communities were established across the continent of Europe, and houses were increasingly built to last. In the Mediterranean region and across Central Europe, they built rectangular houses, often with thatched roofs. One of these, dating from the 4th millennium BC, was excavated in Danube Valley in present day Bulgaria. In front of the house was an entrance room; behind was a living room with an oven and grind stone. As farmers moved deeper into temperate Europe, pitched roofs and overhanging eaves became important to cope with heavy rain and snow. Houses also began to include an area to stall animals on winter.

Cahokia was the largest town of the Mississippian culture of North America, lying across the Mississippi river modern St Louis. It may have housed as many as 30000 people in its heyday around 1050to 1250 AD. A substantial log palisade surrounded the central part of the town where the houses of the elite were built. These are constructed of timer poles and had high thatched roofs with a central opening through which smoke escaped from the hearth below. Each house was home to one family. Also located in the central compound were enormous terraced mounds in which the leaders of society were buried. Less important families lived outside the compound, their homes spread out on either side along a ridge above the Mississippi.

Chinese architecture embodies principles which have remained unchanged for centuries – wooden framed buildings where it was the wooden uprights, rather than the walls, that supported the roof. This limited the height and width of the house, and dictated steeply sloping roofs and large overhangs. Chinese houses were designed to be self contained worlds, each as precisely organized as the larger world outside, with the owner’s status evident in the building’s size. Set with in a walled courtyard, rooms and porches provided a series of open and closed spaces.

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