Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha Archaeological Site Interpretation Center
Virtual Museum of Canada

A Human Landscape

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Longhouse architecture

Longhouse architecture

A longhouse's entrance, near the Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha Archaeological Site Interpretation Center village's wooden palisade.

A longhouse's entrance, near the village's palisade

For the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, the basic dwelling unit was the longhouse. A rectangular building with rounded corners, it was home to several families and could be as large as 40 metres long by six metres wide, with a height of four to six metres. Longhouses could be extended at either end to accommodate more people if necessary. At the Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha site, longhouse #1 measures about 30 meters in length and more than seven metres in width; it could have easily lodged up to 50 people.

A longhouse's wall seen from the inside, showing the layout of tiles of bark.

A longhouse's bark wall, seen from the inside

Archaeological excavations at the Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha site have uncovered the remains of a longhouse that burned down in the 15th century. These remains have been analyzed and the kinds of wood employed have been identified: cedar was used to frame the longhouse, while linden and hemlock bark was used for the exterior covering.

Longhouses were normally built in spring (between the months of April and May), when the sap began to rise in trees, making it easier to detach the bark (from linden, white pine, hemlock and elm). At this time, as well, the tree bark was more flexible so that could be straightened into slabs for covering a longhouse. The principal tools used in constructing these dwellings were axes, adzes and wooden wedges for splitting lumber.

Did you know?

Did you know?

Iroquoian longhouses were semi-permanent structures that could be used for 10 to 20 years. The basic frame consisted of posts that were planted in the ground and linked by cedar poles attached to one another with hemp cord. Taller upright poles were bent inward to form arched rafters that supported horizontal roof poles. The exterior of the dwelling was entirely covered with large slabs of linden or hemlock bark. At each end were doors that opened onto porches or small rooms generally used as a storage area. Openings were made in the roof so that smoke from the hearths inside could escape.

A longhouse's ceiling with drying and smoking fish suspended over the hearths.

A longhouse's ceiling