Longhouse 3.2

It’s been another busy week as we start to refine the longhouse superstructure.  The iconic “half-cigar” shape is starting to take form, but keep in mind that this visualization is just one of many interpretations that have been brought forward over the years and only one of many physical and digital reconstructions to be attempted.  I also wanted to touch upon our method of visual research when preparing for the project.  Unlike traditional film & television production research, where images and written descriptions are abundantly gathered in order to recreate the great Colosseum of Rome for the Gladiator movie or the Viking and Medieval Villages of Europe for the Vikings TV series, I have avoided revisiting the existing physical longhouse constructions at Ska-nah-doht, Lawson, Crawford Lake or Saint Marie Among the Hurons, so as not to be influenced by modern building interpretations of longhouse architecture.  Of course those images do seep in from pictures and illustrations gleaned from research papers and internet searches but our attempt was to experience the building process from a digital perspective, hopefully making some of the same mistakes and decisions that modern and ancient builders did.   As discussed previously, one of our ultimate goals is to develop a digital system that allows all stakeholders, from Descendent communities to Archaeologists to the general public to build their own longhouses based on their own perceptions, trade skill, oral or historical knowledge.  For instance I draw your attention to Bill Kennedy’s comments in Longhouse 3.1.5 where he speaks of years of physical reconstruction experience, which is invaluable to understanding how longhouses might have been traditionally constructed.  Alas however, our knowledge of anything above the soil line is purely speculative and hence we continue on this digital journey to visualize some of the current thoughts and opinions.  Lastly if I haven’t said this, although we are looking at the architecture of a longhouse, by no means are we qualified architects.  Snow load, wind resilience or even concerns of structural fire requirements are discussion points but not from a professional perspective and we fully accept that the study is incomplete from that perspective.

Speaking of learning from those who have already built a longhouse, Ron Williamson from ASI passed along this image taken of a longhouse construction using quasi-traditional means built over 20 years ago near Fort Erie.  The build was actually based on the modern architectural plans we discussed in Longhouse 2.5.Longhouse Construction 2Ron indicated it lasted 20 years in the harsh Fort Erie weather. This leads us into this weeks continued efforts to finalize the roofing system and superstructure supports.  One of the areas of concern from a digital perspective was how the top roof, which also houses the smoke holes, was built.  In the picture above and in the plans from Longhouse 2.5 there clearly is a flat surface.  Although I haven’t spoken in depth with Ron regarding the snow loads and the subsequent melting patterns of snow on a flat roof but with my own, sometimes water damaged experience with my own houses engineered flat roof, there would have surely been water issues.  My water issues were resolved by adding a slight slope to the roof line allowing the snow and water to naturally fall away.LongHouse_Structure_Aug10As you can see above, we’ve “finger jointed” the roofline but I think there will have to be a broader semi-flat space along the top to allow for the smoke holes.  LongHouse_Structure_Aug10b Visually the wall poles on the above frontal view seem to want or even need another support system to lash onto 2/3rd’s of the way up from the top of the bunking infrastructure or we might have to accept that the poles terminated just above the top supporting beams and then a second flatter roofing system was used similar to the one in Fort Erie picture above?  Additionally, we might add the widthwise support beams to connect both sides of the longhouse to add additional support.LongHouse_Structure_Aug10cMoving to the interior space itself, cedar boughs were added for bedding, our first attempt of having rolled up furs were also added and fire hearth wood was placed under the bunks.  You’ll notice the strapping is consistent now as well.LongHouse_Structure_Aug10eWe will be adding texture maps shortly for a hardened dirt floor with the addition of heating and cooking hearths down the middle of the structure.LongHouse_Structure_Aug10dThe exterior wall superstructure will require additional exterior lateral support poles so that the 1m x 2m bark shingles can be attached to the outside.  As well, we will need to add the rounded vestibules on either end which will include a double door systems (interior and exterior) discussed in the historical accounts.  It has been suggested a cedar bark wall, similar to the cubicles, was built on the flat end of the longhouse separating the vestibule and the main living accommodations.Jefferys_1942_LonghouseVillageSeen in the image above by Canadian Artist C.W. Jefferys, this 1942 illustration depicts the stereotypical image of an idyllic Iroquois Village.  You’ll notice in the image that the longhouses do not have the rounded vestibules (half-cigar) shape we generally equate Northern Iroquoian longhouses to have and is usually represented within the archaeological record (see Dodd 1984).  My guess is that Jefferys was borrowing from other iconic illustrations like the one below.pomeioc1 This image by Theodor de Bry in 1588 depicts the Village or Town of Pomeiooc in Virginia at the time of initial European contact.  It’s actually enhanced from an initial drawing by Thomas Harriot, also of that year.  Both visual interpretations show a flat front wall sheathed in bark.  Some have suggested this was a temporary measure to enclose the longhouse before the storage vestibules were built allowing the longhouse to be in immediate use while taking their time finishing the rest of the building.  Additionally, although I haven’t seen a historical image yet, many longhouses in the archaeological record can be seen expanding in length.  I would assume that a flat wall would help to make the space livable while they build onto the length?mantle_reconstructionThe image above was used for the new documentary called Curse of the Axe which chronicles the excavation of the massive Iroquoian City called the Mantle Site north of Toronto.  I love the image for the fact that is starts to show the exterior build of the storage vestibules in their rounded form.

For Longhouse 3.2.5, we will be looking at possibly starting to add bark siding and the cedar walls to start enclosing the longhouse structure.  Based on the successful porting of the 3D model assets into Unity at Siggraph last week, we should also be at a stage where we can enter the model in gaming mode, but  we will keep our fingers crossed!


2 Replies to “Longhouse 3.2”

  1. Many thanks Bill! Interesting to see another use of Virtual Archaeology in action. It’s clear that our Iroquoian architects had a good sense of construction.



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