Longhouse 3.5

SKW_RollerPosterThis has been an extremely busy week.  Craig and I have been working hard on finalizing the vestibule entrances to the longhouse and how the Elm bark shingles would be positioned. Because of the Toronto Heritage event on October 13th, we’ve also sped up the development process a little so that hopefully Mayor John Tory and the other Toronto Heritage guests will be able to experience something unique during the event. The image on the right is a mock up of a roller poster we are having printed for the event and for future talks. The project has also gone through a little rebranding to Longhouse 3.x or LH3.x. It’s obviously a play on Web3.0 and everything that entails currently, so some of the website has changed to fit with the new branding.

Since our first post in Longhouse 1.0, you will notice a change in writing from purely academic to more casual blog style. Although I’ve spoken about this a few times, don’t let the style fool you. We are working at great pains to ensure the data being presented is represented within the archaeological, historical or oral records and when they are not, we are clearly identifying the assumptions being made. This is a conscious effort to ensure we are conducting this research with transparency and following The London Charter on virtual archaeology research and dissemination. The project itself is by no means meant to be a final interpretation but a gateway to further research and investigation which segues nicely into today’s post.

We’ve also been getting a little bit of blog notice as well. It all started at the beginning of the project with a short but well thought out mention in Geoff Carter’s (no relation BTW) Theoretical Structural Archaeology blog . Yesterday I had noticed a massive jump in visitors to the website from France and realized it was due to a short mention in the French website 3DVF.com mentioning the project.


As of this post, there has been over 700 views on the blog above, so many thanks to 3DVF for highlighting our project!


Getting into the project now, we have been working specifically on the vestibule and Elm bark wood shingles. According to Christine Dodd’s 1984 research, the vestibules on either end of the longhouse had the same width and height dimensions of the main longhouse and was generally 4.2-4.7m’s deep.  There was also an indication that the front of the vestibule would taper from main longhouse width of 7m’s to about 5.3-5.8m’s wide on the front entrance.

The image below is from the 2008 Alexandra excavation in Ontario by ASI. It clearly shows a building expansion process of a longhouse that occurred over three different phases.  However it does demonstrate the vestibule taper mentioned above quite nicely. It is also a nice visual to demonstrate the reconstruction process that occurred when a longhouse community needed to expand. You’ll notice that the end of the vestibule continue to be rounded and there seems to be clear areas in which a doorway would have occurred. Most significant is the slight veering to the right of the actual walls as the extension is grafted onto the original existing longhouse. Lastley, the final expansion has a relatively clear vestibule area with no straws (which is our way of denoting post hole stains during excavation). This is significant in a couple of ways as it demonstrates it was purely for storage and that the last reconstruction didn’t need additional posts to support any roofing or structural issues that may have occurred after the remodeling.2008_Alexandra_ASISeen in the image below, we have adopted Dodd’s dimensions for the vestibule.  Also, our flat roof approach for the smoke holes and the bark shingles that surround it has worked out well. We will add flaps later to allow for the holes to be closed and to represent the descriptions of bark flaps being opened from the interior of the house with long poles.

Lawson Site
From Jacob M. Anderson’s book The Lawson Site: An Early Sixteenth Century Neutral Iroquoian Fortress (Special Publication No. 2. Museum of Ontario Archaeology, 2009, page 70)

The flat roof has caused slight issues with having the bent vestibule posts terminate properly at the roofline.  We will also need to revisit how the poles would have been attached because there typically wasn’t a superstructure within the vestibules like the main part of the longhouse. So climbing onto the vestibule exterior framing would have been more challenging mainly because the framing wouldn’t be as stable as the rest of the house.Vestibule1You will notice that we’ve tried to approximate how this lightweight structure would have been terminated at the roofline.  There is some immediate issue with how we’re bending the poles on the sides which Craig and I will have to address later in the revisions. Currently there isn’t enough wall posts. As you can see in the excavation plan from the Lawson site below, the rounded ends have a substantially larger volume of post holes grouped tighter together.The profile image below gives us a nice representation of what we “think” is a typical rounded vestibule.  Again we are being influenced by several factors namely previous physical reconstructions, limited historical drawings and to be honest, our grade 4 classes in Native history which always seem to emphasize a “half cigar shaped” shape.


Lastly, to frame the door below and to terminate that framing so it matches the roofline, we’ve added short bracers above the doorway in order to have a continuous rounded connection between the two halves of the vestibule walls.  Again these wall posts/poles would have had a diameter of about 1-3 inches with a natural taper in length.  We have also kept the door at 3ft x 6ft which will later be covered with a skin curtain.


The next set of images are revisions on the structural elements of the vestibules.  We added more support posts, but would likely have to add substantially more poles to meet archaeological records in terms of post density.  I’m still not fully convinced of the current termination points on the roof, but for now it’s an estimated guess and will be something additional to add to our list for future research.Vestibule6

A slightly camera distorted front view of the entrance.  The archaeological record also reveals that the doorways were not always centered (either by construction mistakes or by design) and that some longhouses had the doors on the side, along the length of the building.Vestibule7

A side profile view of the entire interior and exterior framing to date.  It’s clear now that we have to increase the amount of poles used in order to replicate the archaeological record, however one of the issues we are now facing is the amount of 3D data within the actual model.  The more modeled surfaces, the slower the interaction when in the game environment, so even at this point I’m starting to weigh the need to maintain archaeological accuracy with the technical requirements of providing a fully interactive experience.

Vestibule8The wall and roofing system of the longhouse is primarily to support the bark shingles.  We’ve used Elm bark 1x2m shingles, with a randomizing pattern.  I can see some need for further randomization of the textures but this is definitely a good start.  Once fully shingled, we will need to add the bracing ex-skeleton that was used to keep the shingles in place and to act as a support system to increase the rigidity of the entire structure.


Up until this point, all of our image renders have been in Maya.  When lighting is added within Maya and if the model is created to be hyperreal, then the final images will come out spectacularly crisp and clean.  Additionally, if properly composited with other elements like atmospherics and possible real life images, these models above can and will look lifelike.

By comparison below, we give you our first rendering in Unity 5 of the longhouse fully shingled!LH_Unity_Ext_LoRezThis is our first test to see if the textures will hold up to a resolution higher than the standard 72dpi of digital screens.  Below is the lighting rendering test for the interior of the house.  As you can see in game mode it takes on a slightly stylized appearance. This will change to a more photorealistic/hyperreal experience once we compile the actual Unity game in 64bit and make our lighting and environmental tweaks.LH_Unity_Int_LoRez

It’s been a very exciting time to finally enclose our structure.  At lot of effort to date has been to provide a transparent model of project development in virtual archaeology and some insight into the micro decisions that are made throughout the process. Further, it’s been a team effort with Craig, who has been an invaluable source providing a wealth of artistic and technical knowledge.

We have compiled a simple walkthrough to start testing the experience on various platforms and will be spending the next week making all of the model and lighting adjustments needed for our first public reveal!

Again, if you have any comments, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


On Friday October 2nd, I received a great email and question from Bill Engelbrecht:

I’m enjoying your work.  Did you come across any information on door height? I’ve speculated (Defense in an Iroquoian Village) that low doorways would have added a measure of protection. An enemy entering would be forced to be bent over and would be at a disadvantage. This occurred in a number of warring societies, but I couldn’t find any info. on door height in Iroquoia.
My response to Bill was:
Hi Bill,
Many thanks for your email!  You raise a great point which I should have mentioned in my post today!
My height estimate is really coming from three sources; the Jesuit Relations, Christine Dodd’s work on longhouse dimensions and in this case, bunk widths and physical anthropology research on the height of the average Frenchman in the 1600’s.  In the JR they state that the Iroquoian people were about the same height as themselves or just slightly taller.  I had searched for PA data on 1600’s era Frenchmen and found on average they were 5’6″ in height and Dodd’s research indicated that the common sleeping bench width was 1.5-2m’s wide so in between the 5’6″-6′ height.
The width estimate is a little more tricky as I’ve found archaeological data yet that can suggest a common door width.  I suspect that’s easy to find but would require some additional site map evaluation.
To be honest, I’m making a guess but in talking it out with you, I like the idea of a lower door height to the 5’5″ or 5’6″ level which would require most people to stoop a little.  I was hesitant to do so only because I couldn’t find anything in the JR that indicated the Father’s had to stoop to get in (as they basically complained about everything else).
What is your experience telling you?
Bill’s question raised a great question in which I’m not sure if there has been any research done.  As seen in the Alexandra picture and the Lawson site map above, actual doorways are difficult to discern.  I’m wondering if anybody has done a survey of known archaeological excavations in which a doorway is clearly present and what the distance is between post-hole stains?  I haven’t found any yet, but if anybody does, please let us know.
I’m also interested if anybody has found information on doorway height and it’s cultural and/or defensive practices for making it shorter than the average height of the Iroquois or Iroquoian people?
Thanks Bill for raising such a great question!

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