Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha Archaeological Site Interpretation Center
Virtual Museum of Canada

A Human Landscape

PresentationChoosing a good locationVillage lifeLonghouse architecture | Interior layout

Interior layout

Interior layout

View inside a longhouse with its central alley, its structure and entrance door.

Inside a longhouse

The interior of an Iroquoian longhouse was divided lengthwise by a central aisle with a series of hearths down the middle. Each hearth was generally used by two families. The number of hearths usually indicated the number of families living in the longhouse. A longhouse with the average five hearths could thus shelter up to ten families.

On either side of the hearths there were storage pits and sleeping platforms that corresponded to family 'apartments.' Tools, clothing and food like dried fish and corncobs could be stored in the porches or small rooms at the ends of the longhouse and on platforms built beneath the longhouse roof. Firewood could be kept in the end rooms or under the sleeping platforms.

Family life inside a longhouse
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On the Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha site, longhouse #1 has five hearths and over 15 pits, which could have been used for storing food, discarding ceramic, bone and stone debris or disposing of ashes that built up in the hearths. The limits of the longhouse have been hypothesized on the basis of the alignment of the five hearths, the position of the pits and the spatial distribution of the artifacts associated with the structures.

The rubbish pits held ashes, broken pottery vessels, the remains of meals and utensils or tools (in bark, hide, cordage, basketry, bone, stone, etc.) that had become unusable. The number of pits and the quantity of ceramic, bone and stone debris they hold gives a good indication of the intensity and duration of the longhouse's occupation.


Family mealtime inside a longhouse

Inside a longhouse, each hearth was shared by two families. The fire, used for warmth and for cooking food, was kept burning day and night.

Father teaching his children, sitting around the fire

Children were taught many things and were quick to develop their autonomy.

Chidren sitting and playing with clay gaming pieces.

They also enjoyed playing numerous games, such as this one that used baked clay gaming pieces somewhat like dice.

Family tucked in for the night near the fire on a sleeping platform.

Sleeping platforms were located on either side of the hearths and constituted family 'apartments,' where parents and children spent the night.

Did you know?

Did you know?

On the Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha site, the extremely stony soil makes it difficult to find post moulds (traces of postholes), which are normally used by archaeologists to determine the dimensions of a longhouse. The identification and interpretation of structures like hearths, rubbish pits and middens, often located away from the dwelling, has thus been crucial at this site. Determining the position of these structures, knowing the number of hearths and studying the density of the artifacts enables researchers to extrapolate information about a longhouse, including its limits, size and interior layout.

Animal skin stretched over a circular wooden frame for cleaning and drying.

Animal skin stretched out for drying