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Neolithic architecture refers to structures encompassing housing and shelter from approximately 10,000 to 2,000 BC, the Neolithic period. In southwest Asia, Neolithic cultures appear soon after 10,000 BC, initially in the Levant (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B) and from there into the east and west. Early Neolithic structures can be found in southeast Anatolia, Syria, and Iraq by 8,000 BC, with food-producing societies first appearing in southeast Europe by 7,000 BC, and central Europe by ca. 5,500 BC (of which the earliest cultural complexes include the Starčevo-Koros (Cris), Linearbandkeramic, and Vinča. The people of the Americas and the Pacific remained at the Neolithic level of technology up until the time of European contact, including very small exceptions (a few copper hatchets and spear heads in the Great Lakes region).
The Neolithic peoples in the Levant, Anatolia, Syria, northern Mesopotamia and central Asia were great builders, utilising mud-brick to construct houses and villages. At Çatalhöyük, houses were plastered and painted with elaborate scenes of humans and animals. In Europe, long houses built from wattle and daub were constructed. Elaborate tombs for the dead were also built. These tombs are particularly numerous in Ireland, where there are many thousand still in existence. Neolithic people in the British Isles built long barrows and chamber tombs for their dead and causewayed camps, henges flint mines and cursus monuments. Early Neolithic water wells from the Linear Pottery culture have been found in central Germany near Leipzig. These constructions are built in timber with complicated woodworking joints at the edges and have been dated between 5,200 and 5,100 BCE.
Megaliths found in Europe and the Mediterranean were also erected in the Neolithic period. These monuments include both megalithic tombs, temples and structures of unknown (possibly religious or astronomical) purpose. The oldest known megalithic temple is Ggantija on Gozo Island.
Neolithic pile dwellings have been excavated in Sweden (Alvastra pile dwelling) and in the circum-Alpine area, with remains being found at the Mondsee and Attersee lakes in Upper Austria. Early archaeologists like Ferdinand Keller thought they formed artificial islands, much like the Scottish Crannogs, but today it is clear that the majority of settlements was located on the shores of lakes and were only inundated later on. Reconstructed pile dwellings are shown in open air museums in Unteruhldingen and Zurich (Pfahlbauland).
In Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine, Neolithic settlements included wattle-and-daub structures with thatched roofs and floors made of logs covered in clay. This is also when the burdei (below-ground) style of house construction was developed, which was still used by Romanians and Ukrainians up until the 20th century.
Neolithic settlements include:
- Jericho in the Levant, Neolithic from around 8,350 BC, arising from the earlier Epipaleolithic Natufian culture
- Çatalhöyük in Turkey, 7,500 BC
- Mehrgarh in Pakistan, 7,000 BC
- Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, ca. 9,000 BC
- Nevali Cori in Turkey, ca. 8,000 BC
- Knap of Howar and Skara Brae, the Orkney Islands, Scotland, from 3,500 BC
- over 3,000 settlements of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, some with populations up to 15,000 residents, flourished in present-day Romania, Moldova and Ukraine from 5,400–2,800 BC.
- Early Neolithic Water Wells Reveal the World's Oldest Wood Architecture Tegel W, Elburg R, Hakelberg D, Stäuble H, Büntgen U (2012) Early Neolithic Water Wells Reveal the World's Oldest Wood Architecture. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51374. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051374
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