The Round House @ Saveok Water
Saveok Mill Archaeological Site * Chacewater / Greenbottom / Truro, Cornwall, England * http://www.archaeologyonline.org/Roundhouse/roundhouseindex.htm *
One of the Experimental Archaeological Projects at Saveok is the construction of a Iron Age village … starting with building Iron or Bronze Age styled Round Houses. During my June 2010 visit to Saveok, I was blessed with the pleasure to participate in and help build this unique historical dwelling. Jacqui Wood (Director of Saveok Water) has done it before, several times since 1992, and a few times at Saveok – each time with her perfecting the technique and style. There is still one on the property that lay in ruins as it is being monitored and studied in how it decomposes, breaks-down, and what traces it leaves through time. This particular Round House that Jacqui is building in 2010 is one based on an excavated Round House from Black Patch in East Sussex. The Round House that it is being styled after was a Bronze Age period Round house that was constructed into the hillside. It took Jacqui’s crews some time to hack into the rocky hillside for the foundation plot, but what you have now is a splendid and sturdy location for the project. In this style the walls of the building were not just made up of the same height using posts but as the wall progressed around the house the posts would get shorter and the natural material of the hillside would make up part of the walls.
What are Round Houses?
Round houses are a circular naturally constructed building that is made of thatch, wood, and other organic materials. It was a standard housing type found in Western Europe prior to Roman occupation. The walls of these houses were made of either stone or wooden posts that were joined by wattle and daub panels. The house was roofed with thatch in a conical shape. These houses can be found throughout Europe in varying sizes from 5-20 meters. These have been built in the United Kingdom since the Iron Age. Not Much has been told about the Round house in the archaeological record as even though the post holes have been preserved in the bogs – telling us a bit about the foundation, the rest has been theorized by means of experimental archaeology. It is postulated that the pitch of the roof should be at least 45 degrees, a central fire to be lit inside for heating/cooking/and maintaining the wood/thatch, and the outer walls to be constructed of wattle and daub. There was no smoke hole ever included as the smoke from the fire would just drift and seep out through the thatch.
Saveok’s construction based on the Black Patch Round house requires natural stone and earth foundation as a hole within which the structure would sit, natural timber posts, wattle/daub, and thatch to make up the structure. Before I participated in the project, several phases of construction had already passed. The Saveok crew had recycled/salvaged materials from the old round house down in the valley; Excavation of the site, foundation, and cut in the bank where the Round House would be set; Collection of additional wood and thatch from the Cubert Holiday Park; Digging the Post Holes; Construction of the Ring Beam; Construction of the Outer Wall (41 posts with wattling of willow or hazel); Construction of the Rafters; Wall daubing, and Thatching. No metal nails as natural wood stakes would be hammered into holes to connect posts/lumber together where the wattle/daub didn’t. It was pretty fascinating. You can read about the progress and see earlier photos here as well as follow links from there to future progress of the project:
- Clearing / Setting up the Foundation
- Collecting Materials
- Setting the Post Holes
- Erection of the Ring Beam
- Building the Outer Wall
- Outer Post holes and Wall
- Construction of the Rafters
Following are photos I took while assisting in June of 2010: (More photos to be added in the days to come as I process them)
Progress on the Iron Age Roundhouse Reconstruction:
June 15, 2010