How Everything started: Prehistoric Architecture

Prehistoric "Buildings"

It took thousands of years, but our ancestors finally built something timeless!

Let’s explore the evolution of Prehistoric Architecture!


Hi and welcome back to another Exploring Art with Alessandro post! Today we are going to make another step in the world of our ancestor to see how the third of the main Visual Arts started: architecture.

In the previous posts we learned about prehistoric painting and prehistoric sculpture. Both of them were a consequence of conveying messages and communicate, so mostly “mental needs” rather than “physical”… Architecture was, first of all, the solution to a basic need: protection. Protection from weather, animals and all the dangers of a complicated environment.

For these reasons, architecture always existed, but since our ancestors were hunters-gatherers it is difficult to find settlements’ evidence. The fact that they were using fibrous/organic materials for their shelters did not help either. As a consequence we started to have more examples during the Neolithic era (12,000 – 1,700 BC) when Homo Sapiens began to domesticate plants and animals and settle in houses.

Once they started to have homes, the next step has been using architecture for “deeper” meanings.

But let’s go in order!

The old

A Paleolithic village was successfully excavated in Mezhirich in the Ukraine dating back to approximately 15,000 BC. The village revealed a cluster of huts made of mammoth bones which provided an intricate framework for structures. The huts dimensions were between 4 and 10 meters (13 – 33 feet).

Mammoth hut in Mezhirich, architecture made of mammoth bones
Reconstruction of Mammoth hut in Mezhirich

The strong

As humans began to form settlements during the Mesolithic and the Neolithic era, architecture branched out into more distinct architectural forms. Most of the structures discovered were made of timber with a post-and-lintel system. However, in areas of northern Europe, many constructions were made with stone and a very impressive one is the Neolithic village of Skara Brae in Scotland. It consists of eight clustered houses and is believed to have been inhabited from 3,180 BC to 2,500 BC.

The entrance to, and one of the dwellings at Skara Brae, neolithic settlement in Scotland
Neolithic village of Skara Brae - Scotland

The elegant

Around 3000 BC, stone megalithic ceremonial structures began to appear across Europe. One of these architectures, called cromlechs, is the famous Stonehenge in UK.

The circular layout of the stones was common for the cromlechs and that suggests a reference to the cyclical nature of life and/or the sun/moon shapes.

Stonehenge - Wiltshire - England, prehistoric architecture site

About Stonehenge, the purpose is still debated and many are the theories and myths around it. But what is undeniable is the big effort that took many generations to complete an architecture with a religious meaning.

Another basic step in the beautiful journey of Art that we are going to discover together!

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Watch my video to discover how prehistoric architecture evolved!

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