Bricks, cement, and metal are materials made by people.
In earlier times people didn’t build houses. They lives in caves. Some travelled, carrying tents with them. The tents were made of the skins of animals and were easy to move and light to carry. People who moved from place to place were known as nomadic people.
Wood and felt
Today in Mongolia, and other parts of Central Asia, the people who live as herders of sheep and horses, shelter in yurts (or gers) which are portable, folding homes. To the Mongolians, the word yurt means ‘home’. They set up their yurts in places where water is easy to get, and where there is grass for their horses and sheep. The yurt has a light wooden frame over which a felt cover, made from sheep’s wool, is stretched. The felt gives protection from the weather and insulates against cold and heat.
About 10 000 years ago people began to build houses. The type of house they built and the materials they used depended on where they lives. If it was in a cold place they built a house with a place for a fire inside. There was usually only one room in the house and the fire was placed in the centre of the room. A hole in the roof let the smoke escape. Chimneys weren’t invented yet.
Materials used might have included wood, other plants and animal skins. The roof would be thatched (made of plants) or wooden tiles called shingles. The roof would slope so that rain and snow would slide off. The floor of the house was just the ground. The animals kept by the people shared the house or were kept in a second room nearby.
Mud and timber
In many parts of China, and since the 1300s, people have lived in large groups, inside the high mud walls of a tulou. Tulou means ‘earth building’. Inside there can be up to 250 identical rooms or apartments built around a courtyard. The building are made of wood, including the tiles on the roof. In the courtyard people can cook, wash and dry clothes and children can play. Families also gather there for celebrations.
At first, the tulou were safe places that protected the people from raiding bandits.
Go here to read about tulou in the Fujian province of China where people still live as they did hundreds of years ago: There’s a video here
Mud bricks, timber and straw
Tata house: Another kind of fortress house.
In hot places, and where there wasn’t much wood, people made mud bricks and build a house with them. The roof was flat and people could sleep safely there on hot nights. Several houses were built inside a walled courtyard and the animals would be kept in the yard.
Today, in Togo, a part of West Africa, Tata houses are built with wood, handmade bricks and straw. There are usually fives buildings inside and each has two-storeys. Goats, sheep, and guinea fowl live on the ground floor where there is also a place for cooking. Spirits of the living and dead are also believed to live on the ground floor! The top floor, open to the sky, is where people sleep, and in times past, watched for enemies. The towers of the tata, with thatched roofs of straw, are used to store grain.
Bamboo and grass
These houses in a traditional Torajan village on Sulawesi, Indonesia are made from timber, bamboo and grass. The wooden houses are built off the ground on stilts and have wooden floors. The walls are highly decorated with carvings of plants and buffalo. traditionally the tongkonan had thatched roofs, but those built today usually have roofs made of sheets of iron.
Rock and Stone