This week, archaeologists working at an excavation site near the town of Nicolaevca, Moldova made a rare discovery: the remains of a longhouse that’s over seven thousand years old. Only a few similar pieces have been discovered in surrounding areas, like Ukraine, and none have ever been found in Romania. It’s an immense discovery for the archaeological community. Finds like this document our transition from existing as a hunter-gatherer society to existing as an agricultural society.
As humans made the transition from constantly moving from one place to another, they needed a stable, safe place to live. So, they began to construct solid homes. According to Dr. Dębiec, longhouses like the one found in Moldova were made by driving wooden logs into the ground. Then, they’d weave in other branches and cover the whole construction in clay. The houses were covered in with gabled roofs, with a space specifically set aside for the family’s livestock.
The longhouse found in Moldova measures more than sixty-five feet long and twenty feet across.
One side of the house found in Nicolaevca sported a deep pit containing the remains of an ancient cow. It’s likely not a trash pit, but rather a proper burial. Researchers don’t yet know what sort of beliefs would drive a family to give their cow a proper burial.
“Commonly,” Dr. Dębiec explained, “on both sides of the houses we discover cavities from which clay was taken to cover the walls. Then the pits were used for various purposes – as garbage, furnaces or cavities in which the dead were buried.”
Remains of ancient houses give us vital clues as to how our ancient ancestors went about their daily lives. Not much is known about the prehistoric peoples who lived 7,000 years ago in what is now Moldova, but the international team that discovered the longhouse have selected two more sites where they hope to find similar structures.
March of this year, archaeologists are going to take a stab at mapping the layout of the longhouse. This will allow them to determine what each individual part of the home was used for.