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> Recreating a Cucuteni dwelling-house


We chose one of the unusual types of houses for Cucuteni that was identified in the settlement of Malnas, Covasna county. The dwelling was one with forks and pillars set in pits.

The first step in building the house was to prepare the wood for the resistance structure. We considered that we should use the same species identified in the archaelogical diggings: oak, lime and hazel nut wood. The oak wood is of hard essence and it doesn’t rot in the earth. It was mainly used for the pillars sustaining the base and the roof without being peeled off. The lime wood is soft and light and that is why the rafters, wreaths, beams and copings were made of it. The lime must be shelled so that the insects wouldn’t harm it. The nut rods are very elastic and they were used for the wattling of the walls.

The working time differred from one tree to another according to their kind, size and the experience acquired by the cutter. Therefore, the first oak tree with the diameter of 0.24 m needed 2h and 11 min of effective work; for the second oak with an 0.18 m diameter it took 1 h and 16 min. An elm tree of 0.12 m diameter was cut down in 27 min and a lime tree of 0.13 m diameter in 8 min. Comparatively, an oak tree with the same size was cut down using an iron axe in 14 minutes and a lime tree in 2 min.

Then, the trees were cleaned off the canopy and the branches in a few minutes, except the first oak which needed 20 min.

The peeling was done with both the adse and the stone axe and it was more of a fine chopping of the bark and then the remains were removed by hand. Three persons finished the first oak tree in 1 hour and 12 min while the second tree was peeled by one person in 59 min. The difference was given by the fact that the first oak was peeled off before the cutting of the forks and it was difficult to handle the 9 m trunk. The second oak was sectioned first and then peeled. We had to try many methods of peeling until we found the easiest way.

Finally the trunks had to be cut in many parts of different sizes for the forks and pillars.

As soon as the wood was ready we started to raise the structure of the house. First we dug the holes in the ground at the corners. It was decided that the house would have 7 m length and 4 m width. There were 17 holes with the diameter of 0.50m and 0.75-0.85 m deep.

The digging of the holes and the making of the forks were done at the same time. We used oak wood with the length of 2.50-2.60 m. The lower part that had to be burried in the ground was peeled and burned. The opposite side had a horizontal surface for the wreaths, these are the beams at the upper part of the walls. After their burning, the forks were planted in the holes in vertical position. The earth around them was beaten with the rammer.
Then the wreaths were assembled after been previously peeled and shaped at their ends so they could be fixed on the forks. We started with the wreaths for the long walls and then continued with those for the short walls.

All along the walls the MONTANTII were set up, three on the long walls and two on the short ones. They were supposed to sustain the roof and form the structure for the wattling of the rods. The pillars were fixed in the ground and at the upper side we used wooden nails, wickerwork or/and bast fibre.

On the short walls we raised sustaining pillars for the roof, they were also median pillars for the 2 walls. They were 4 m long pillars and we planted them in holes, fixed them by the wreath with wooden nails and tied them with wickerwork and bast.The next step was to mount the coping of the roof. A lime of 7.62m was used. The coping was fixed with wooden nails, wickerwork and bast fibre, too. To prevent the curving of the roof, a pillar was fixed in the middle with the same ties.

Once the coping had been fixed we set up the rafters, they were made of lime trunks and had the length of 2.72 m-3.10 m. The first raised were the rafters on the edges and they we fixed them by the coping with wickerwork and by the forks and the wreths with wooden nails. Then the rafters were set up at the middle of the coping and they were leaned on the pillars in the middle of the walls. Finally the last rafters were equally placed and carefully tied, three by each side of the coping.

The following step was the wattling of the walls. We know little about this procedure, the prints of the rods and branches on the remains of burned walls discovered by the aercheologists are the only information that certifies their existence. But the prints don’t allow us to learn more about the technique, whether it was horizontal or vertical, thick or rare, that’s why we decided to make three types of wattling to see how it resists during and after the building of the walls. Thus, the first type of the structure was recreated on a long wall using 38 poles 5 cm round, vertically arranged and slightly thrust in the ground and tied by the coping with wickerwork.

The second type of structure was made on the other long wall and we knitted vertically hazel nut rods. We have also built a horizontal support made of three rows of thick rods equally placed on the wall and tied by the forks and pillars with wickerwork and bast. Between these rows there were 64 knitted rods. They didn’t need to be fixed in the ground or tied by the coping anymore.
The last recreated structure was the horizontal wattling on the short walls. On the south wall, between the sustaining pole of the coping and the pillar on the left, there was a space of 0.80 m for the entrance of the house. Other poles were vertically placed between MONTANTS so we could do the wattling on this structure, the first was rare using 60 rods on one wall but the other was thicker using 83 rods. In sum, for the wooden structure of the house we needed 2 oak trees, 33 lime trees and 245 hazel nut rods, that was almost 1 square meter of wood.

The observations that we have made over a year were by far the most important in order to understand how the walls of the Cucuteni houses were built. Thus, the walls with vertical wattling were badly damaged, while those with horizontal knitted rods were much better preserved, actually very well where the structure was thicker. Taking these into consideration, we could say that this structure of walls was most common during that period.
Soon the walls were ready so we started building the cover for the roof. We have studied the houses from Cucuteni and ethnographical data and we were convinced that the roof of the houses here were not different from the traditional buildings covered with reed or straw .

First, on the rafters we assembled 4 and 5 rows of laths parallel with the coping, and sheaves of reed would be placed on them. The laths had the length of the coping and were made either of a single lime trunk or 2 or more.
Then the reed was laid, we have chosen reed that was still green with leaves called panusita by the natives. Five persons picked it up working around 10 hours in two days. The reed was from 1.50 m up to 2 m long and was kept in sheaves with a 0.20-0.30 m diameter. The two slopes of the roof were covered one by one. We arranged the sheaves in two rows. The first row was at the bottom of the slope. Here the sheaves were placed with their ends cut from the root downward; the second row was at the upper side of the roof, with their leaves towards the other, overleaping it at the middle of the slope. For a better covering we spread reed where it seemed rare. We used 279 sheaves of reed, 138 on one side and 141 on the other.
They were fixed with other rows of laths, 3 on one side, and 4 on the other slope of the roof, and carefully arranged over those sustaining the reed and they were tied with bast fibre and hemp string using a wooden needle.

When the roof was ready we started to prepare the clay for the walls. On one of the short walls we laid the clay before the assembling of the roof cover, and that made the work difficult where the wall was still wet. Now we think that the adding of the clay was done after the roof had been finished. Moreover, the wall wasn’t protected and the sun damaged it causing deep cracks and later the rain softened it.
We prepared different kinds of clay. First the material was crumbed and then wetted and melted with bits of straws and chaff. The four walls needed 15 tones of clay and 3080 litres of water.

The clay was laid step by step, 0.50 m of wall was done and left for half a day to dry and then other 0.50 m and so on. The upper side of the wall was wetted so the clay would stick better. The wreaths were also covered in it. All these lasted 5 days with the help of 10 workers.
The floor was next to be reconstructed and it was one of the most important architectural elements with a special role in the ecology of the house. In time, the villagers from Cucuteni have developed many types of floors, from the simplest, made of a layer of battered clay, to the most complex i.e. a structure of chopped beams covered by a mixture of clay, straws and water. The floor had to provide a good isolation from the condition of the environment at that time when there had been a raising of the FREATICE waters. For the first house rebuilt in The Archaeological Cucuteni Park we have chosen a simple floor of yellow clay. In some special places designed for interior architectural elements we have made a special structure of oak and lime leaves and branches covered in a layer of clay mixed with water and straws.

The inner part of the house was now ready so we started to recreate the elements of interior architecture. On the opposite wall of the house we placed a small footbridge of 1.30 m breadth. It was made of a wattling of rods disposed on a wooden frame, up the wall leaning on a fork. We laid clay all over this structure and then smoothed it.
On the same wall there has been placed a clay bench 1.30 m long and 0.20 m tall. These clay banches were used by day for all kinds of housework and to sleep on them by night. Near it we have recreated the fireplace of the house on a surface of 1m square. First, in order to keep the warmth, we built a small stone platform and covered it with clay. On the edge of the fireplace we made a groove of 10 cm where the charcoal was kept. Near the fireplace, on the eastern wall, we built an oven for bread and we used for it wattling covered in clay.

Alongside the opposite wall we also made 2 workshops for the daily activities of a Cucuteni house: one for a vertical loom and the other for processing the stones and the bones.
As soon as the interior was finished, we furnished the house with a small table and two wooden chairs, hides, pottery and we could say that we succeeded in recreating a whole Cucuteni house.


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