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Stilt houses or pile dwellings are houses raised on piles over the surface of the soil or a body of water.
In the Neolithic and Bronze Age, stilt houses were common in the Alpine and Pianura Padana (Terramare) region. Remains have been found at the Mondsee and Attersee lakes in Upper Austria, for example. Early archaeologists like Ferdinand Keller thought they formed artificial islands, much like the Scottish Crannogs, but today it is clear that the majority of settlements were located on the shores of lakes and were only inundated later on. Reconstructed stilt houses are shown in open air museums in Unteruhldingen and Zürich (Pfahlbauland). A single Scandinavian pile dwelling, the Alvastra stilt houses, has been excavated in Sweden.
Today, stilt houses are still common in parts of South East Asia, Papua New Guinea and West Africa. In the Alps, similar buildings, known as raccards, are still in use as granaries. Stilted graneries are also a common feature in West Africa, e.g. in the Malinke language regions of Mali and Guinea.
Stilt houses are also common in the western hemisphere, and appear to have been an indigenous creation by the Amerindians in pre-Columbian times. They are especially widespread along the banks of the tropical river valleys of South America (Palafito), notably the Amazon and Orinoco river systems. Stilt houses were such a prevalent feature along the shores of Lake Maracaibo that Amerigo Vespucci was inspired to name the region "Venezuela" (little Venice). As the costs of hurricane damage increase more and more houses along the Gulf Coast are being built as or converted to stilt houses.
Stilt houses are built primarily as a protection against flooding, but also serve to keep out vermin. The shady space under the house can be used for work or storage.
Types of stilt houseEdit
- Kelong - built primarily for fishing, but often doubling up as offshore dwellings in the following coutries Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.
- Nipa hut - the primary house-type prevalent in the Philippines
- Pang uk - a special kind of house found in Tai O, Lantau, Hong Kong, mainly built by Tankas.
- Papua New Guinea stilt house - a kind of stilt house constructed by Motuans, commonly found in the southern coastal area of PNG.
- Thai stilt house - a kind of house often built on freshwater, e.g. a lotus pond.
- Vietnamese stilt house - similar to the Thai ones, despite having a front door with a smaller height due to religious reasons.
- Palafito - Found throughout South America since Pre-Columbian times.
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