HOME
CONTACT
ARCSOCI
ARCSOCIII

 

Study Aid 1: Prehistoric Architecture and Urbanism

"Prehistory" refers to any culture without written language. It does not refer to a single universal date, as some cultures remained prehistoric until this century. Nor does the word refer to a general lack of sophistication, as some cultures have created remarkable civilizations without the written word. Today we will examine the architecture and cities of prehistoric cultures in the pre-Christian era (aka BC).

Around 10,000 BC, the Agricultural Revolution (the domestication of animals and the growing of crops.) led some peoples to abandon the hunter/gatherer mode of existance in favor of a more sedentary way of life. We can find the beginnings of urban life in ancient villages and cities of the Near East, such as Çatalhöyük (sometimes spelled Çatal Hüyük). In present-day Turkey, Çatalhöyük is one of the earliest towns (or cities depending on your interpretation) that is known to archaeology. Dating to at least 6500 BC, it features an organic pattern of development without streets. Access is accomplished via the rooftops. Jericho, begun circa 8000 BC, in present-day Israel/Palestine had a massive fortified wall as the defining element of the town. Cities of the Harrapan civilization such as Mohenjo-Daro (c. 2400-1900 BC, Indus Valley, present-day Pakistan) were the earliest cities planned on a grid and featured streets as wide as 30 feet. They were also the most hygienic cities in the world until the rise of Greece nearly 2000 years later. Mohenjo-Daro featured a sophisticated water supply and waste disposal system, and bathing facilities were prominent elements of the city.


Megalithic (Giant Stone) architecture of prehistoric Europe takes a variety of forms including: isolated or grouped standing stones (menhirs), earthen barrows, dolmens, passage graves, and circles (henges). Some passage graves had giant mounds of earth (tumuli) piled atop them, such as Newgrange, Ireland, 3250 BC, where the passage is oriented to the rising of the sun on the winter's solstice. Circular megaliths (or henges, of which there were many) required tremendous expenditures of labor and were obviously significant religious and ceremonial centers. Research has also shown that some of them were used to make astronomical observations and calculations, e.g. Avebury, England, c. 2800-2700 BC; Stonehenge, England, c. 3100-1550 BC.


Çatalhöyük

Date: 6500-5700 BC
Location: Turkey
Architect: Unknown

CatalHuyuk1

Reconstruction - Bird's-Eye View

CatalHuyuk2

Reconstruction - Interior Cut-Away Perspective

Reconstruction - Interior Perspective

CatalHuyuk4

View of Archeological Site


Mohenjo-Daro

Date: 2400-1900 BC
Location: Indus Valley, Pakistan
Architect: Unknown

MohenjoDaro1

Map of City and Excavated Areas (Green)

MohenjoDaro2

Map of Residential Area

MohenjoDaro3

Wide Street

MohenjoDaro4

Aqueduct

MohenjoDaro5

Great Bath


Newgrange

Date: 3250BC
Location: Newgrange, Ireland
Architect: Unknown

Newgrange1

Plan View

Newgrange2

Section Views

Reconstruction

Exterior View

Exterior View

Newgrange3

Exterior View - Reconstruction of Quartz Wall

Newgrange4

Exterior View - Entrance

Passage Grove

Newgrange5

Interior View


Stonehenge, Period I

Date: 3100BC
Location: Wiltshire,England
Architect: Unknown

Reconstruction - Birds-Eye View


Stonehenge, Period II

Date: 2100BC
Location: Wiltshire,England
Architect: Unknown

StonehengeII

Reconstruction - Birds-Eye View with "Bluestones"


Stonehenge, Period III

Date: 1500BC
Location: Wiltshire,England
Architect: Unknown

StonehengeIII

Reconstruction - Birds-Eye View with "Sarsen" Stones


Stonehenge

Date: 3100-1500BC
Location: Wiltshire,England
Architect: Unknown

Reconstruction View

Aerial View

Stonehenge2

Aerial View

Stonehenge3

Bluestones and "Sarsen" Stones

Sunrise on Summer Solstice