|A ceramic storage vessel recessed in the floor of Neolithic house No. 96 in Bylany.|
Archaeological research does not simply stop right at the actual pits, however. At the same time, based on various indices of archaeological artefacts and ecofacts and using a range of other disciplines, it also seeks to reconstruct the original appearance of the world of that time, including its houses. Their outer appearance is somewhat hypothetical, while their contours are based on reconstructions of their groundplans and on more recent ethnographic analogies, while their actual chronological and geographic portability is disputable. The reconstructed form of the Neolithic longhouses has been established for more than half a century and it is based on the possibilities that are afforded by the moderate zone of Continental Europe, i.e. the easy accessibility of the requisite materials (wood, reeds, clay) and particularly the climatic conditions (gabled roof, orientation). In essence, our concept of the appearance of the aboveground part of a Neolithic house simply corresponds to the clay model of a house of the slightly earlier Lengyel culture located at the Střelice site. There are also, however, documented models of houses from Hulín-Pravčice and from Vedrovice – albeit in fragmentary form – dating from the period of the Linear Pottery culture (LBK), on which their gabled roofs and the corners of the house are apparent.
|The interior of the reconstructed longhouse from the period of the Linear Pottery culture. The internal space is defined by bearing posts. Photo by Petr Květina 2013, Všestary.|
The considerable uniformity in regard to the form of the layouts of houses of Early Neolithic period, as it has been documented in hundreds of examples from across Europe, does not, however, represent a clear reconstructive solution. The question still remains, for example, in regard to the location of the floor – as to whether, by default, it was at a ground level, or there is a relatively recently promoted hypothesis of a floor above the terrain. The entrance is expected to be in the southern wall with at least some small windows located in the timber-clay structure of the walls.
|A hypothetical reconstruction of a Neolithic longhouse with a raised floor along its entire length. In such a case the second and the fourth series of bearing posts support only the floor and they do not interfere with the actual interior of the house. Author Petr Vavrečka.|
At the time of their inception the oldest longhouses were rectangular, with relatively densely arranged triples of interior poles that are known from a wide area of the extension of the LBK culture. At the turn of the 6th and the 5th millennium their regular layout changed to constitute a trapezoidal formation. Despite some differences it remains clearly evident that there was a certain degree of continuity in Western Europe and also respect for the traditional LBK longhouses, both in terms of their orientation and their elongated shape. In the territory of the original eastern extension of the linear cultural sphere the squareness of their structural plan is still maintained in the Lengyel environment and thereby these houses are then noticeably different from those of the original Danubian Neolithic tradition.
In the Neolithic, settlements formed of houses represent a new landscape feature, creating residential enclaves around watercourses or even on the gentle slopes of their terraces. A single settlement area is represented by a circle with a diameter of 0.5-1 kilometre, which is sufficient to enable the fulfilment of basic economic needs. These included, specifically, a water source, fields and fallow land as well as intensively exploited forest.
The grouping of the floor plans of the houses in the LBK settlements suggests that the new houses respected the space of the older ones. This is also evidenced not only by the rare superpositioning of Early Neolithic buildings, even on sites that remained populated over a longer time-period, in Bylany, for example. In the area of today’s Czech Republic concurrent LBK houses do not create any kind of pattern; seemingly they appear rather to be scattered over the settlement area somewhat randomly. In Western Europe a different kind of situation is documented, whereby the houses, in the individual stages of settlement form rows with their gables. A complicated situation then arises in the Late Neolithic: in general there is an absence of construction pits while the groundplans of the later structures appear to have ceased to respect the space of the older buildings. Moreover, it also appears that the general pattern of spatial behaviour in the settlement changes; whereby it is possible to identify rows of houses that are similar to the older ones that are located on Western European sites. A new phenomenon is represented by twin-houses, with groundplans that are linked by a trough, perhaps a fence or some other type of enclosure.
|The palimpsest of the preserved floor plans in Bylany provides evidence of the long-term use of this settlement area during the Neolithic. On the other hand, this situation makes it difficult to identify the original areas of activity.|
|The use of mobile electronic devices provides a new dimension in regard to presenting cultural and historical heritage and enables almost directly “touching the past”. In this experimental application based on a game engine, visitors can walk through the part of the Neolithic village that has been reconstructed based on archaeological research that was carried-out in Bylany, near Kutná Hora. The application for mobile devices running Android; for downloading use the QR code.|
Want to learn more?
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