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Thread: Celtic to Medieval building styles in Britain

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    Default Celtic to Medieval building styles in Britain

    In Britain we have a very distinctive building tradition influenced by native developments and the peoples who've pass through here.

    The most ancient of these is perhaps the "Celtic" roundhouse which have existed here since the Bronze age and probably evolved from tee-pee like tents in my opinion (as still used by the Nenets of Russia).

    In most areas the roundhouses were made from a post frame and wickerwork with wattle and daub walls and a thatched roof. In upland areas such as Dartmoor they had stone walls - hence why those in Dartmoor left so much evidence.

    In Scotland, parts of Wales and Northern England they placed roundhouses on artificial constructed islands in lakes. This lasted in Scotland and Ireland the latest and there's a fine reconstruction on the Tay. These were called Crannogs.

    Roundhouses were also constructed in NW Spain.

    Tents like this could have evolved into roundhouses:


    Roundhouses:



    Most were round, but not all.





    Crannogs:










    Again, I'll mention that these existed before Britain was Celtic but the Celts carried them on. They would have also had rectangular buildings alongside them too, but roundhouses were prevalent and would be so until the Romans.

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    With the Anglo-Saxons, the Germanic invaders who led to the formation of England came new building styles.

    The roundhouse tradition did survive and some evidence of this can be seen in Medieval buildings in England, but gradually fell out of fashion (I suppose rectangular buildings are more practical).

    Again the Anglo-Saxons used wood, wickerwork, wattle and daub and thatch. The houses of most Anglo-Saxon commoners would have been similar to those of the Netherlands and evolved directly into the medieval peasant houses of England.



    A house like this would have belonged to a minor elite.





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    The building traditions of Anglo-Saxon (and lesser so Celtic and Viking) developed into the medieval building styles of England.

    Houses of the Middle and upper classes:




    Only the rich could afford glass in Medieval Britain and so windows were small and usually had shutters.

    Houses of the common folk, the majority of the English population:







    Simple houses like these would have been the norm for most English people, with similar styles of building in Wales and Scotland. In upland areas again they would have been stone.
    Many people believe the garden to be a recent invention, but the English always traditionally had a small vegetable garden besides their houses to add to the food they got from the lord's fields. This probably dated back to when people first settled down instead of being nomadic. The English lost their gardens with industrialisation but got them back after WWI and a garden is a must for most people. I believe they should be used for their original purpose of growing things.

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    With R1b now being said to have originated in Asia instead of Western Europe and spread to Europe with pastoral nomads I have revised my theory about Celtic roundhouses slightly.

    I still believe the basic structure is based on a circular tent, but instead of being descended from tents used in the Mesolithic I instead think that they could be based on the tents used in the steppes - yurts and related styles.

    "Yurts" and many very similar tents seem to be a common structure across a huge swathe of Eurasia - the Eurasian and Mongolian Steppes, the Tungusic lands (Russian far east), Nenetsia and traditionally amongst the Sami and Hungarians.
    The basic structures were all very similar but the steppe tents tended to be rounder and larger with lower roofs whereas those in the forest zones were smaller but taller, a more teepee shaped style.

    I believe that the British roundhouse arrived in the British Isles with R1b - roundhouses first appear at around the late Neolithic and Bronze age and continue right through the Iron Age.
    R1b is now believed to have arrived at roughly the same time in these islands.

    In my theory the "yurts" of the Steppes probably go back to the first colonisation of the steppes and must all descend from one or two prototypes.
    Although we are very settled today in the not too distant past whole nations would move. Poland has shifted many times, Germanics migrated across the continent whilst the East Germanics may as well have been nomads, the Helvetii attempted to migrate en mass and outside of Europe the Thai-Kadai peoples migrated from Yue (Now southern China) to SE Asia (Thailand + Laos).

    So I believe that the British roundhouse style was originally a tent / yurt based on early types from the steppes.
    As the carriers reached the British Isles they found lush grasslands and the edge of Eurasia - they didn't need to move so much any more and it would have been difficult with being on islands.
    Thus the tents became permanent dwellings and took advantage of heavier but cheaper materials such as thatch, willow, wattle and daub instead of precious leather, skins or fabric.

    Eurasian "yurts" and related tent structures

    Structure of a Yakut tent - similar to many other Eurasian tent types and the British Isles roundhouse.


    Sami tent structure



    Altai region yurts which bear the most resemblance to British roundhouse structure - maybe other yurt types in the steppes have changed whilst these and the British roundhouses were of an older style?

    Compare to the British roundhouse structure:


    Structure of a roundhouse

    Roundhouses, Yurts and Teepees - links?


    Much of the steppes are devoid of trees. Temperatures can be high in summer and very cold in winter.

    A similar stucture turns up in North America - the "teepee" style tents. This could be pure coincidence of course, but we need to ask a few questions:

    1. How would humans have found shelter in a largely tree and cave-less environment of the steppes and tundra?
    2. Without such shelters how would Native Americans have crossed to Alaska without portable shelters?
    3. How would the Eurasian Steppes have been habitable?


    When we look at haplogroups we see something very interesting - the haplogroup P. Haplogroup had offshoots in R1 and Q haplogroups. R1 would head off to the Western parts of the Eurasian Steppes and split into R1b and R1a - the two predominant haplogroups in Europe today whilst Q went to Northern Siberia and the Americas.

    So a "proto-yurt" / tent must have evolved very early indeed to allow humans to have colonised the steppes, much of Europe, Siberia and the Americas.
    So it is my belief that these related structures evolved from the first tent shelters constructed in Eurasia, Yurts, Teepees and roundhouses could all descend from very ancient shelters constructed by the ancestors of most Europeans and Amerindians today.
    These shelters are probably older than separate European and Amerindian races themselves.

    Additionally Solutrean peoples visiting the Americas from Europe may have further influenced the development of these structures by adding their own additional, perhaps unrelated styles and techniques.


    Haplogroup P and its offshoots - R1 and Q


    Basic teepee structue

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    Great work, collecting the pics!

    As for typological theories on architecture, I'm afraid you have a lot of homework to do, though. It's a massive field, requiring immense knowledge of ethnographic data from many regions, in works in many languages too. Some practical building/carpentry knowledge wouldn't go to waste, either. Speculation is always welcome, of course, though. Keep up the good work!

    /subscribed to thread

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    Quote Originally Posted by Osweo View Post
    Great work, collecting the pics!

    As for typological theories on architecture, I'm afraid you have a lot of homework to do, though. It's a massive field, requiring immense knowledge of ethnographic data from many regions, in works in many languages too. Some practical building/carpentry knowledge wouldn't go to waste, either. Speculation is always welcome, of course, though. Keep up the good work!

    /subscribed to thread


    I like to plant ideas in peoples minds, hopefully some passing anthropologist or archaeologist or whatever will see this and be inspired and prove it for me.

    I may dig further into it, but who will believe the word of Mr average?

    I could gather some more data, work on the theory and approach a museum or uni with it. I got a prominent organisation to make a correction before and they were quite approachable.

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    I've found further evidence of roundhouses in the beginnings of agriculture in the Near East, I'll post it tomorrow if I don't forget. They could have developed independently there and spread to the rest of the world with migrations.

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