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Neolithic Age: Homes & Architecture

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

The Neolithic Age might be part of the Stone Age, but that does not mean neolithic people were cavemen - in fact, neolithic people had relatively advanced architecture and homes, which you can learn more about in this lesson.

Characteristics of Neolithic Architecture

If you have ever seen pictures of Stonehenge, the huge and mysterious stone circle in Great Britain, you have seen an example of Neolithic architecture. The Neolithic Age was the last period of the incredibly long Stone Age that encapsulated the beginning of human history. Ranging from about 8,000 to 3,000 BCE, the Neolithic Age saw the rise of ancient civilizations and the invention and usage of advanced technology. However, still being part of the Stone Age, architectural materials were not very advanced, so neolithic people mostly used stone and mud brick in their buildings.

Illustration of Stonehenge
Illustration of Stonehenge

Neolithic Homes

Unlike the prior periods of the Stone Age, people in the Neolithic Age mostly lived in settled societies. Because of this, they no longer lived in impermanent structures like huts and caves, but, for the most part, actually built homes. Homes were usually built around a central hearth, or stone or brick fireplace, which was used to warm the house and to cook. At the beginning of the period, homes were usually one room, but towards the end, they were often multi-roomed - sometimes even having two stories!

These homes, often called long houses, were usually rectangular, no matter how many rooms they had. Homes were made primarily of mud brick, which was simply mud formed into bricks and dried. While mud brick was not as sturdy or permanent as other materials, it was cheap and easy to make since mud was easy to find. Mud brick homes sometimes had wood frames depending on the location, but were mostly made from mud brick with just one door and no windows.

Neolithic Religious Architecture

Temples

Beyond housing, most neolithic architecture was created for religious purposes. Though basic materials and technology were used, temples were quite complex and large. The builders used a variety of materials, from mud brick to sturdier materials like stone and limestone. Good examples of neolithic temples are the Ggantija Temples, which still stand in Malta today. These temples were largely made from limestone, but had some plaster and paint on the walls as well. In addition to the hearths found in most neolithic architecture, the Ggantija Temples also had altars, courtyards, and multiple doorways.

Illustration of the Ggantija Temples
Illustration of the Ggantija Temples

Henges

As you might know, henges, architectural set ups of circles of stone or wood, were common during the Neolithic Age, particularly in the British Isles. Of course, the most famous of these is Stonehenge. Though it is not certain what the history or purpose behind Stonehenge is, many suspect it was used for religious rituals - perhaps even human sacrifice. Stonehenge is still standing in the British Isles today, composed of many megaliths, literally ''large stones,'' that weigh up to 25 tons each!

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