Date: 07 Dec 2012

Of Time and the House: the Early Neolithic Communities of the Paris Basin and Their Domestic Architecture

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Abstract

The first Neolithic architectures in the Paris Basin were the Danubian-style longhouses of the Linearbandkeramik (LBK) culture. These enormous structures were first built about 5100 cal BC in this region and would have dwarfed Mesolithic structures in both size and durability. This chapter focuses on the lifecycle of the longhouse structure, examining in turn what it meant to build, live with and then abandon this type of architecture. Adding a temporal dimension to the study of domestic buildings enlivens static house plans and assists in the investigation of how the house operated as a locus for social memory. The cyclical routines of the agricultural year are considered here alongside the more linear trajectories of community formation and dissolution, in which the longhouse was implicated. The two longhouse cultures found in the Paris Basin, the Rubané Récent du Bassin parisien (RRBP) and the Villeneuve-Saint-Germain (VSG), are compared in order to investigate issues of cultural transformation. It is concluded that building a longhouse was a commitment to the local community on the scale of the human life-time at least, while older houses left to decay in situ became a focus for recalling and connecting with the past.

The title of this paper is adapted from the title of Terrence Davies’ 2008 film Of time and the city. This film explored Davies’ personal history of Liverpool through a montage of photographs, film, music and Davies’ own commentary. The changing architecture of the city plays a large role as the narrative tracks social change over the last five decades. By borrowing from this film title, I want to capture that sense of architecture as a means into exploring a particular community and viewpoint, as a perspective on the world.