Hidden wealth & community defense
One of my big priorities with building out my fantasy world, Verraine, is making sure that I don't lean so hard on Euroecentric norms that I fail to take into account neat ways people in different cultures and environment solved problems — like designing shelters.
- In the mountains of Anatolia, Early Trans-Caucasian peoples built homes over the ruins of the grand temple buildings.
- Traditional Apatani houses have a three-tier hearth known as a chulha in the center; it's used for making tapyo, a salt substitute.
- "Building a house" in ancient Mesopotamian and Levantine cultures was a common metaphor for divine creation; it was an incredibly important part of kingship.
- The merchant class of the Aztec empire (pochteca) acted with "abject humility" to avoid upsetting the noble class, so they tried to look poor everywhere except inside their homes, which they decorated with beautiful (expensive) textiles.
- "Troglodyte" literally means "cave-dweller," for example these Iranians who fled the Mongols and hid in homes carved from volcanic rock.
Tulou are large defensive structures built like earthworks but designed for communal living (~800 people!). They're several stories high, built around a central courtyard, and generally have only one entrance. The windows are all located above the first floor. They're common in the fertile mountain valley portions of China, and were mostly built between the 13th & 20th centuries.
Çatalhöyük in Turkey was a Neolithic settlement that predates urbanization, states, money, and private property. The rectangular mud-brick structures had hearths and sleeping platforms. Since they were located so closely together, people entered through holes in the roof instead of doors, and were painted with geometric designs in crimson and burnt orange using ochre and cinnabar.
Harappan urban planning included the world's first known urban sanitation systems. Within the city, individual homes or groups of homes got their water from wells. Waste water was directed from bathing rooms to covered drains, which lined the major streets. Houses opened only to inner courtyards and smaller lanes.
Maize processing methods impacted Mesoamerican home layout because maize cooking was mostly done by women. Since women mostly worked in the kitchen, maize cooking areas had to be within line of sight — so Mesoamericans mostly put maize cooking locations in the patio far enough away to avoid interfering with the other household activities but close enough to glance in on.
📗 ICYMI: If you found this interesting, you may also enjoy my previous newsletters about masonry architecture and unusual beds.
💚 If you learned something from this overview, consider forwarding it to a friend and encouraging them to sign up for more research deep dives into obscure history and science.
🏘️ What's the weirdest house you've ever seen? I'd love to hear about it, either via email or in a comment where other readers can see.
Note: There are a couple of affiliate links & codes scattered around, but these always come from links I was already recommending and usually I share them because they benefit you too (i.e. getting you extra time on trials).
Check out one of these related posts
Cloth records, syllabic scripts, and bone calendars.
Antiseptic poop, agricultural poop, & the surprising value of eating poop.
Quick facts about historical cleaning methods from around the world, from lotus leaves to bronze knives.