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Pfahlbauten Open-air Mseum at Unteruhldingen courtesy of Wikipedia Commons - Share-alike

Pfahlbauten Open-air Museum at Unteruhldingen
courtesy of Wikipedia Commons – Share-alike

Just a little more time-travelling through architecture before my thoughts are firmly back in the newness of New Zealand…

And this time – travelling just about as far back as we can go …

The first two reconstructions, built 1922 and still holding up well. Photo by Andreas F. Borchert, by courtesy Wikipedia Commons

The first two reconstructions of Stone Age houses, built 1922 and still holding up well. Photo by Andreas F. Borchert, by courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Once upon a very long time ago, Stone Age people discovered the benefits of building houses on poles in lakes.

It was easy to keep your domestic animals inside the village, and wild animals and other human marauders out.

Thatching and building materials grew in profusion on the lake edges, there was mud a-plenty for weather-proofing, and fishing was just a matter of throwing out a trap, a line or a spear.

You were above the floods, well, most of them anyway, and if you chose your location well, you were on a trading route as well.

A safe spot for goats - for milk, fibre and food.

A safe spot for goats – for milk, fibre and food.

And so it worked, until the end of the Bronze Age when climate change and rising water levels pushed the settlements back into the hills, and their pole villages were inundated and thus preserved by the water that made them uninhabitable. Destruction and preservation in one act.

Bodensee – LakeConstance – was one of those highly desirable water-locations.

Fast-far-forward to the 1920’s at Unteruhldingen on the German side of the lake, and the start of the reconstruction of the Pfahlbauten – the pole-buildings.  Archaeologists,  architects and enthusiastic amateurs have brought together preserved remains of buildings and artefacts from around the region, and reconstructed clusters of Stone-age and Bronze Age buildings, complete with tools, domestic arrangements, food production and preparation implements.

Fast forward again to last month, and Lois and Roger, Margrit and Roman, and Mani and I are there, looking down into the lake-bed at the remnants of the original piles, and walking around the reconstructed Villages.

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Summer had done a sudden switch to autumn – much better for prompting thoughts of the bleak reality of much of early life.   But also prompting wonder. From 6000 years ago, in the Neolithic age, people were settling here.  4000 years ago, in the Stone Age, they were building to last.  They were creating comfort and safety through constructing buildings that not only sheltered and protected them, but allowed them to make things of beauty and worth, to decorate their lives and celebrate their spirit.   By the Bronze Age, 3000 years ago, they were trading way beyond the Alps.

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Now, in the Information Age, we can again discover their crafts, their arts and their architecture.  At Unteruhldingen,  the open-air museum has created an “Archaeorama” that you walk through before emerging onto the lake. It is new since Mani and I were last there, and an impressive scene-setter with full surround pictures and sound.

Roger and Lois submerged inI surround-experience

Roger and Lois submerged in surround-experience

But what would have the original inhabitants have made of that?  We can look back – and recognise in their houses and tools and life-style our own origins.  And a thousand years from now, our descendants will recognise aspects of our present in their future.  But looking forward, trying to imagine the technologies they will use to interpret our way of life to each other – that is beyond my mind!

Not quite as hardy as our forebears, but moved by their life...

Not quite as hardy as our forebears, but moved by their life…

Ah well – back to New Zealand, where our oldest buildings are but a blink of an eye into the past.   Now…  about those expensive sea-side mansions and the rising sea-levels…..

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