We all have very definite ideas about what constitutes our dream
home. For some it may be a place with an ocean view, while others
dream of living in a beautiful log cabin out by the mountains.
Very few, if any, people would say that
a hastily covered hole in the ground would be where they
would like to make their home. It may come as a surprise
to learn that this type of abode, often referred to as a
pit house, was actually where people used to live in a number
of different parts of the world.
The earliest pit houses were believed to date back to Upper
Paleolithic times, with evidence of such homes found in Ukraine.
These pit houses were generally circular or oval in shape, usually
with a diameter in the 12-14 foot range.
Different types of bones were used as walls and flooring, with
each pit also having a makeshift hearth of some kind. It was a
structure that could last for months on end, with entire communities
growing around the homes.
Native American Pit House
In more recent times, pit houses were found in the Northern part
of Europe and were common between the 5th and 12th centuries.
To say that the design of the homes was basic was putting it mildly,
but there are some who believe that the pit houses may have been
a little more elaborate than we imagined.
The construction of the pit house was relatively simple, with
a hole dug in the ground and a pair of support posts set at either
end. There are some archaeologists who believe that a raised floor
was used in these home, with the space beneath used to store food
and keep the worst of the dampness out.
A Gables roof was constructed over the pit, usually with no window
of any kind present in the construction. The pit house would have
a door at one end of the structure, serving as the only way in
Modern Pit House
The pit houses were also used in the United States. The Great
Plains and Plateau region is the area where they were most commonly
constructed. Extreme temperatures made the living conditions impossible
year round, which was why many of the pit houses were designed
to be able to be quickly broken down and made portable.
It is now believed that not all pit houses were actually built
to house people. Some of the structures, referred to as grub houses,
were used to store and grow food, while others were cultural buildings
of sorts, where people would gather to celebrate an event or just
Think of them as a club house for ancient times. While a pit
house may not seem like the most appealing place to live nowadays,
back in the day they were actually a very good way to stay safe
from the elements. And of course there are modern pit house designs
that have more elaborate features than the days of yore.