Prehistoric Housing Research Proposal Sample
There are a number of important dwelling types that are specific to North and Central American Native Americans during prehistoric times. During prehistoric times, the pit house was one of the most common types of dwellings that were utilized by the ancestral Pueblo, as well as a number of other populations in the American Great Plains (Fiedel). The American Great Plains Native Americans experienced a number of different conditions that made pit houses an excellent option; these types of dwellings were used all around the world, however, including Amazonia and prehistoric Europe (Denevan).
In the American Great Plains and plateau region, the weather is very hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter. Fiedel suggests that pit houses were usually used in the winter, because the weather was so extremely cold that the people there were not able to use their more transitional structures like tents (Fiedel). These houses had a number of very important impacts on the lifestyle of the people who utilized these houses.
Interestingly, individuals who lived on the Great Plains during this time tended to use tents and teepees in the summer instead of pit houses. These were transitional structures, and were not permanent; this allowed them to move around the Great Plains following the herds of buffalo and other game that they needed for survival (Nabokov). These tents and teepees allowed for good airflow in the summer months, but because the temperature changes were so extreme during the winter months, the Native Americans of the American Great Plains turned to pit houses for protection from the cold (Fiedel). This means that during the winter months, their communities moved less frequently, and often stayed in the same location for months on end (Fiedel).
Pit houses take advantage of a number of important physical qualities that protected people and kept them safe through extreme weather (Fiedel). For instance, pit houses on the Great Plains could protect better against extreme weather like wind and tornadoes than a teepee—even today, the recommendation for tornadoes is to move into a cellar or other low place in a home. They were not foolproof by any means, but they did afford some protection from the elements, and allowed the habitants of the pit house the insular protection of the soil. In the Great Plains and American southwest, these homes sometimes had a fire pit and a hole in the ceiling for smoke (Lange et al.).
When individuals were not living in pit homes, they were often accumulating food for the winter months. Pit homes could be used as storage spaces when they were not being used as living spaces, because they tended to be cool and dry (Lange et al.). Some Pueblo Native Americans even used a special kind of pit house as a ceremonial space, called a kiva (Fiedel). These kiva were used only for ceremonial rites and communal gathering, indicating that they were places for community groups to gather and address any issues that might arise. They had spaces for fire, and are thought to be where many community decisions were made by Pueblo elders (Fiedel).
Most of the communities that used pit houses were simple communities; many of them were still cultures that used hunting and gathering as their primary form of sustenance (Fiedel). Pit houses increased longevity, however, because they provided shelter during the cold winters. The kiva used by the Pueblo provided a community, political, and religious meeting space that is still sacred in Pueblo cultures today (Fiedel). Pueblo Native Americans used the kiva as spaces for meetings with other group leaders, as well as for their religious rites (Fiedel).
The ability to live comfortably through bitterly cold winters provided the Native Americans of the Great Plains with the ability to form communities and become entrenched into a communal lifestyle. The Pueblo people began to use pit houses as well as cliff dwellings to stay safe from enemy groups and to grow their communities. These pit houses provided a method for stabilization for these peoples, and allowed them to become more stationary and thus, more agrarian as a whole. The development of housing structures was the first step in the process of community development.
Denevan, William M. 'A Bluff Model Of Riverine Settlement In Prehistoric Amazonia'. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 86.4 (1996): 654-681. Web.
Fiedel, Stuart J. Prehistory Of The Americas. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Web.
Lange, Richard C., Craig P. Howe, and Barbara A. Murphy. 'A Study Of Prehistoric Roofing Systems In Arizona Cliff Dwellings'. Journal of Field Archaeology 20.4 (1993): 485-498. Web.
Nabokov, Peter, and Robert Easton. Native American Architecture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Web.