The longhouse was a traditional type of dwelling that sheltered Iroquoian families. One of the most renowned reconstructed habitats is the Turtle Clan Longhouse, located in the Iroquoian Village in Southern Ontario.
Picture courtesy of Native American Images
Established as early as the 12th century, longhouses sheltered large numbers of families. As they evolved, their use changed from serving a shelter to being converted in the 18th century into political and ceremonial structures while families took residence in single-family structures. Unfortunately, only a few longhouses were ever preserved.
One of the most famous structures is the Turtle Clan Longhouse. Reconstructed in the 1980s, the Iroquoian Village rose again in Crawford Lake’s Conservation Area in Milton, ON.
Photo courtesy of Bencito (on Flickr)
The excavations discovered 11 longhouses on the site, including artefacts of the inhabitants' lives. Three longhouses have been rebuilt following the exact footprints of the archeological findings.
The dwellings were constructed using easily accessible natural materials. To create the structures, flexible wood poles were driven into the ground at fixed intervals. The poles were then bent over and lashed together. Additional horizontal poles strengthened the frame, and bark sheathing covered the buildings.
This First Nations village represents some of the richness and diversity of the aboriginal cultures of what is now Southern Ontario.
Picture courtesy of Panoramio
The longhouse interiors were subdivided into bays with sleeping platforms wrapping the perimeter of each structure, with a wide corridor running down the length. Longhouses featured firepits in the center for warmth. Holes were made above the firepits to let out smoke, but such smoke holes also let in rain and snow. Protective fences were built around these collections of dwellings in order to keep the longhouse village safe.
Photo courtesy of Laslovarga (on Wikipedia)
Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton
The Iroquoian People holistically integrated nature into the construction of their communities, building longhouses which served every manner of daily life. The reconstruction and preservation of this First Nations settlement is important, as it stands as a testament to the roots of our past and how this landscape, from which Canada evolved, has served generations of inhabitants. There's value in visiting this site to see how these longhouses were built from the land, along with exploring the fascinating culture of these indigenous people.
Here's a great link from the Royal Ontario Museum that shares more insights on The Archeology of an Iroquoian Longhouse.
And visit the Iroquoian Village at Conservation Halton to learn more.
Researched and Written by Anastasia Grigoryeva, Post-graduate studies in Architecture at McGill University