Global History of Architecture

FIRST SOCIETIES
Though modern humans developed around a millions years ago, the first tangible evidence of we might call human society began to develop around 200,000 years ago.
KEY PLACES
• Blombos Cave, South Africa (140,000-75,000 BP)
• Rhino Cave, Botswana (70,000 BP)
• Kalahari Desert, Botswana

KEY DATES
• 140,000 – 100,000 BP Human Society Developed (South Africa)
• 90,000 BP (ca.) Humans leave Africa
• 80,000 BP (ca.) Humans in Indonesia
• 74,000 BP (ca.) Mt. Toba Eruption
• 45,000 BP (ca.) Humans reach Australia
• 45,000 BP (ca.) Humans reach Europe

Rock art
Sometimes called petroglyphs (from petro, meaning “rock,” and glyph, meaning “symbol”)—can be found from the Arctic Circle to the tip of South America, from southwestern France and the deserts of Africa to the Himalayas and China all the way to the deep canyons of the southwestern United States and the cliffs of Bolivia. If one counted them, they would be in the many thousands, perhaps even millions.
These drawings give us a vivid impression of an active and dynamic world, suggesting the presence of seasonal and ceremonial coherencies. But we should not see this art as an attempt to represent real-life events. Rock art representations are not in that sense like modern photographs. An image of men shooting arrows may not be a hunting scene, but a demonstration of a person’s fighting spirit. Animals may be the spirit of those who have embodied the form of an animal to take on its potency. Early rock art could also have been an attempt to bring the ancestors who embody animal spirits into visual range and associate them with particular places in the natural landscape, for it is not just the representations that one has to consider but their location as well. Many of the sites are associated with water, and almost all seem even today to evoke something special in the landscape, whether an unusual geological formation, a special orientation to the sun, or a feeling that one can get of being in an alien or subterranean zone.

!Kung (global First Societies, some of which still exist today, such as the !Kung (San) in Botswana.)
The !Kung word for hut is chu/o which means literally “the face of the huts,” thus emphasizing the orientation of the hut toward the central, communal space. Immediately behind the zone of the huts is where ash from the fire is heaped along with spent nutshells. Behind that is a ring where the fire pits are made and butchery of animals is undertaken.
This is surrounded by an empty area and beyond that, about 200 or so meters away, the zone for defection. Past that there is the t’si, which means bush or wilderness. The !Kung do not deify or particularly revere the semiarid savanna that surrounds them or attribute supernatural powers to it.
The dry season villages can contain up to fifteen huts accommodating about fifty people. When the settlement is founded, a central fire is lit by the senior man and is kept lit at all times. If it were to go out, only the headman can relight it. It is from this fire that the other fires are lit.
The huts are placed in a ring around the central area with each hut having a fire place in front of it, which is where the food is cooked and people socialize. Each hut, with its own hearth, is a marker signifying the residence of one nuclear family. Typically huts are close enough so that people sitting at different hearths can hand items back and forth without getting up.
The most senior households will position themselves on the side closest to where their ancestors are said to have come, with married children’s huts strung out to the right and left. Other households make up the rest of the circle. The huts have no sacred zones inside or outside the house. People, in fact, do not live in the huts. Instead they will sleep around the fire. The huts are mainly used to store hunting gear, personal items, and for an occasional nap. Despite this, the huts are an important symbolic purpose identifying the locus of a family in the group.
(A Global History of Architecture – MITx)

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