Ian Tattersall describes how human beings shifted from shelters toward more permanent homes:
Archaeologists begin to see proto-houses during the Ice Age, some 15,000 years ago. Hunter-gatherers at the Ukrainian site of Mezhirich built four oval-to-circular huts that ranged from 120 to 240 square feet in area, and were clad in tons of mammoth bones. Out there on the treeless tundra, their occupants would have cooperated in hunting reindeer and other grazers that migrated seasonally through the area. The Mezhirich people dug pits in the permafrost that acted as natural “freezers” to preserve their meat and let them spend several months at a time in the “village.” With so much labor invested in the construction of their houses, it is hard to imagine that the Mezhirich folk did not somehow feel “at home” there.
But if an archaeologist had to pick an example of the earliest structures that most resembled our modern idea of home, it would probably be the round houses built by the semi-sedentary Natufians, an ancient people who lived around the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea (Israel, Syria, and environs) at the end of the last Ice Age, some 12,000 years ago.
A typical Natufian village consisted of several circular huts each measuring about 10 to 20 feet in diameter; these villages testify to a revolutionary change in human living arrangements. Finally, people were regularly living in semi-permanent settlements, in which the houses were clearly much more than simple shelters against the elements. The Natufians were almost certainly witness to a dramatic change in society. … [E]ven before early people settled down to permanent agriculture and animal husbandry, the Natufians had laid a huge amount of the physical and social groundwork necessary for a fateful economic development that literally changed the world. And in a busy Natufian village, buzzing with life, we can readily imagine that everyone had a sense of belonging, both to the village itself, and to the individual homes that sheltered them. It seems that the formation of a community was an important turning point in the evolution of human society.
(Image: Yuchi Town by Martin Pate, 1776. The archeological sites on Fort Benning, U.S.A., include both prehistoric and historic Native American sites. There is evidence of occupation or use as far back as approximately 12,000 years ago. Via Wikimedia Commons.) Update from a reader:
The picture is not one of a prehistoric pad, but a quite historic pad. That is an artist drawing of one of the Yuchi towns in Georgia prior to Andy Jackson’s genocidal death march, AKA Indian Removal to Oklahoma, where the Yuchis reside today, mainly around Sapulpa and Glenpool, although the Brown allotment (he was a bothlan – “chief” at Pole Cat Creek ceremonial ground”) is in Tulsa about a mile from my parent’s house. It is now a shopping center.