The primitive hut

Published by Basilio on

Yanomami´s Shabono

The primitive hut is a concept in the history of architecture that alludes to its origin as a logical consequence of human development. Societies modify the environment and create architectural spaces in response to room needs. Which are the product of the sedentary.

«Therefore, on the occasion of the fire, meetings, assemblies and life in common arose among men, which were increasingly seen in one place; (…) Some began to obtain roofs using branches and others to dig grottoes under the mountains, and some to do, imitating the nests of the swallows with mud and branches, enclosures where they could shelter. Then, others, observing the roofs of their neighbors and adding new ideas, were improving their hut types day by day. (…) At first they planted horcones, and intertwining them with branches they raised walls that covered with mud; others built, with lumps and dry lawns, on which they placed crossed timbers, covering all this with reeds and dry branches to protect themselves from the rains and heat; but so that such roofs could withstand the winter rains, they topped them on end and covered them with mud so that, thanks to the sloping roofs, the water slipped.

First chapter of Book II of The ten books of Architecture , Vitruvian

Before Hut

There is a human group that still lives in a phase prior to the primitive hut. In the North Sentinel Island Its inhabitants have been living as hunter-gatherers for tens of thousands of years, obtaining what they need from the ecosystem without altering it, the Sentinelenses.

Indigenous North Sentinel Island
Source © Indian Coastguard/Survival

On November 17, 2018, the death of a preacher on the part of an indigenous uncontacted tribe on the North Sentinel Island, located in the Andarman islands, India, was news. This unfortunate incident drew the attention of the general public about the existence of this tribe.

The Sentinelenses are the only isolated human group in the Old World, they inhabit that island since the Pleistocene. They do not know the navigation and it is possible that their ancestors came walking from the continent when the sea level was much lower.

On the map you can see the North Sentinel Island, as far as we know from the Sentinelenses they do not know the fire and agriculture, being possibly the last totally paleolithic human community that remains. No structures have been found or logging of the dense jungle of the island has been appreciated, which is verifiable in satellite images.

It is possible that the Sentinelenses sleep in the trees, in small bivouacs to protect themselves from the rain, as some nomadic tribes of the Amazon do. In any case, its culture is prior to the modification of the landscape and the creation of Architecture.

The hut

The creation of the primitive cabin implies the need for a semi-permanent space to inhabit in order to store and process resources. It is a qualitative leap in social complexity, which ends up in urban society.
Many isolated tribes still maintain architectural models that respond to incipiently agricultural societies that continue to depend on hunting and gathering.

Shabono Yanomami, 1961
René Fuerst source

The Yanomami case is paradigmatic. Lacking social stratification or having a concept of private property, their living space is common and the stored resources are shared. Its typical architecture is the Sabono, which is a large communal house with a ring floor plan.

Sabono Yanomami traditional building

Social structure

Not all uncontacted tribal groups have a horizontal social structure like the Yanomami. Social stratification involves the creation of differentiated architectural structures. This is the most common in fully agricultural societies, since the need for crop protection and population growth ends up leading to the formation of the concept of land ownership and social classes.

In the Amazon many of the uncontacted tribes maintain these Neolithic social structures although they are nomadic. This can be explained by the fact that they actually carry few generations as nomads. Since fleeing to the jungle was their only way to save themselves from persecution during the colonization of their lands. So they went on to lead a more primitive lifestyle.

Uncontacted tribe state of Acre, Brazil
Wikimedia Commons Source

In the image above you can see an example of an Amazon community with hierarchical social stratification. Their cabins are grouped together forming a T. On the contrary that with the Yanomami each social group has its cabin and its resources, all the cabins being oriented towards that of the leader of the group.

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