Household Haven Vol. #2 Essay 8


Caveman and his family

People have lived in shelters, of one form or another, for eons. Once tools, honed of stone, proved to be useful to fell trees, man abandoned the fixed locations of the cold and damp caves of their ancestors. Man began to travel about, building a new shelter of wood where the need arose. In doing so he began the century’s old process of creating a shelter that would not only keep the harsh weather at bay, but also the wild animals.

Once he found a mate and started a family, the structures became larger, more secure and in some cases more permanent. He was now building a house for his family rather than just a shelter for himself. The dire need to protect his defenseless family members, with a structure that was strong and secure, was the precursor to establishing tribal living in an established settlement. Safety-in-numbers would prove to be a vital element for survival.

English: Unplanted strip Winter crop with an u...

Field of crops

The houses became sturdier and moving them became nearly impossible. Eventually, men and their families ceased wandering in search of food and began tilling the soil, planting  and harvesting their food within their settlementsAlthough groups of men would leave the settlement to hunt wild game, in the surrounding territory, they were able to leave their families behind,  safe within the settlement, which was guarded by the remaining men.

When communities became well-established in one location, the inhabitants were required to build even more secure housing, not only to defend themselves and their families from animals, but to defend themselves from marauding invaders, who were in search of food, women, slaves or property, as well. In this effort, the structures became stronger and permanent.

For centuries, men used whatever natural materials were available within their surrounding area, in order to construct their housing. Some cultures used mud “bricks”, which were hardened in the sun. Others used peat “bricks” dug from peat bogs and marshes, while others used the rocks removed from the fields they cleared for planting. Still others learned to carve and shape stone, while others used ice “bricks.” But, most men used trees.

Shelters were originally built with the use of small tree limbs and branches and then covered with animal skins. This technique quickly gave way to improved methods of construction. As men learned new skills, the roofs were waterproofed with thatch of straw, palm leaves or

Rain Proof Palm Leaf Roof

Rain-proof, palm leaf roof

reeds and the skins were replaced with solid walls of local material. Although nearly all the floors remained dirt, some were strewn with straw or woven mats.

Once man discovered fire, the camp fire became the center of the home. It not only provided warmth and light, but protection and hot food as well. Not only did fire ward off wild animals, it also provided a rudimentary form of communication among neighbors and hunting parties.

anciant campfires

Ancient campfires

Initially, camp fires were lit outdoors. They were eventually moved indoors during inclement, or harsh, weather. Despite being located below a ventilation hole, which was placed at the highest point in the roof, the structure would routinely fill with smoke. People learned to live with fire’s inconveniences as it provided warmth within the structure.

Interestingly, there have been ancient corpses discovered with black lungs that are associated with living in these types of smokey environments. Improvements would come slowly. And, it would take centuries for the masonry fireplaces and chimneys, that we are familiar with today, to be developed.



Interior of longhouse

Longhouse interior with ceiling ventilation hole

In some ancient cultures, “long houses” were built. These structures housed multiple families and their livestock. The animals not only provided food for the families but warmth for the members of the household too.

When two-story structures were developed by some cultures, the families lived on the second floor and the animals lived on the ground floor, their body heat warmed the family abode above.

English: Minnesota family poses in front of lo...

Log home of Minnesota family


old chimney log home

Log home with field stone chimney

When rock chimneys, and fireplaces, were eventually developed, and attached to wood or stone structures, they not only eliminated the smoke problem, but also increased the interior temperature of the structure.

Fireplaces were considered a revolutionary idea. A shelter became a house and a house finally became a home. Mankind had ultimately tamed the wilderness, and the cold was no longer considered the killer it had once been.

Once food, shelter and the elements were no longer fearsome foes of mankind’s survival, men set their minds to overcoming the other trials and tribulations endured by their families.

As women began to settle into the warmth and safety of their homes, family life flourished. Everything of importance to the family took place within the warming glow of the home’s hearth.

Eventually, through the coordinated efforts of settled men, treaties were established between warring parties. And, these permanent and peaceful settlements began to prosper and trade with one another. The men applied the rewards of this increased prosperity directly to their family’s well-being and their protective homes.

Step by step homes began to improve and at each milestone, all involved could honestly say that life was good as they slowly improved on their ancestor’s successes.

When flooring, windows, shingles, candles and outhouses became readily available to the new middle class of traders, their homes were finally considered “perfect.” Men’s families were comfortable, warm and safe.

Homes would remain virtually unchanged for nearly 200 years until indoor plumbing and electricity were developed in the late 19th century. With the invention of indoor heating systems the fireplace was dislodged from its preeminent position within the house. The former “hearth of the home” was now relegated to the living room to be used only on special occasions. It was finally reduced to a decorative feature, a symbol of the “good-old-days” and installed only occasionally in newly constructed 20th century homes.

With the addition of electricity, most of the elbow grease required of homemakers, who were caring for their families, was removed. Washing machines, stoves, vacuums, toasters, mixers, electric refrigerators, electric irons and hot water heaters made a housewife’s life much less demanding. Women, who took pride in their neat and orderly homes, were now freed from some of the most time-consuming, back-breaking household chores.

Virtually over night, these household appliances dramatically improved the lives of the late 19th century and early 20th century wives, as compared to the progress achieved on the home front during the previous 10 centuries.

For the first time in history, women actually had some free time on their hands, and soon they began to look, with interest, at the world beyond their household havens.  And this, is when the trouble began….

It’s the Women, Not the Men to be continued…

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