The first structures humanity was able to create for itself didn't have
signs on the lawn bearing titles like: "Built By General Contractors,
Aurora, Colorado." In fact, there were no lawns or signs in existence
at the time, which was more than 12,000 years ago when man was little more than
a hunter-gatherer, continually scouring the plains and river valleys for his
next meal. In those days, buildings were built solely to satisfy man's
need for shelter. It was only later, when humans became more secure in their
food supply, that they had extra time and energy to construct buildings of religious
and artistic significance. Here are some of the primary types of structures
used by early man:
Tents are the most basic form of human shelter, developed independently by
indigenous tribes all over the world, from Troncones, Mexico to the depths
of the African jungles. Because man, at his most basic, was a hunter-gatherer,
the building materials he had earliest access to were rocks, sticks, and animal
by-products such as skins, bone, and sinew. To create a tent, wooden sticks
would be driven into the ground to form a frame and animal skins would be draped
over it. The skins would then be either tied down with sinew or braided grass
or weighted on the edges with stones.
Once humans traded their nomadic hunter-gatherer ways for the more sedentary
farming lifestyle, the need arose for more permanent structures. Thus came the
hut, the early predecessor to the home for sale. Usually built
to house a single family unit, huts were constructed using stick frames which
were tied at the top like a teepee or covered with a mat of thatched reeds.
The covering was then made by weaving leaves and other vegetation into the sticks
or by plastering the frame over with wet clay. This method is sometimes referred
to as wattle-and-daub.
Communal housing, because of its larger size, required a bit more ingenuity
and effort, but we're still not into the realm of loop calibrators and
central heating. These buildings had to have stronger frames made of thick timber
rather than sticks, which was difficult to harvest using the stone tools they
had at the time. The frames for communal houses used the same design we still
use today for houses, with posts, ridge poles and rafters tied together with
plant cord and covered with a thatched roof. Walls could be covered with tree
bark, leaves, thatch, or clay.
Early buildings and structures made from stone are the ones that most often
survive the trip forward in time to the era of automobiles.
Though generally limited in size because of the lack of construction machines,
stone houses called dolmens were made by using flat stones for the walls and
balancing another flat stone on top for a roof. Most were made by the combined
physical effort of a number of village members, but some, like Stonehenge, are
so impossibly large as to be beyond the abilities of humans unassisted by technology.
Their origin remains a mystery.