longhouse [lôŋ′hous΄]
the long, communal dwelling common until the 19th cent. among the Iroquoian peoples of NE North America: also written long house

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long·house or long house (lôngʹhous') n.
A long communal dwelling, especially of the Iroquois, typically built of poles and bark and having a central corridor with family compartments on either side.

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Traditional communal dwelling of the Iroquois Indians until the 19th century.

The longhouse was a rectangular box built out of poles, with doors at each end and saplings stretched over the top to form the roof, the whole structure being covered with bark. It was about 20 ft (6 m) wide and could be more than 200 ft (60 m) in length, depending on the number of families living in it. Down the middle of the house were fires, which were shared by families on either side. The term is also applied today to an Iroquois building designated as church and meeting hall, though its form is entirely different. See also pole construction.

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      traditional dwelling of many Northeast Indians (Northeast Indian) of North America. A traditional longhouse was built by using a rectangular frame of saplings, each 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) in diameter. The larger end of each sapling was placed in a posthole in the ground, and a domed roof was created by tying together the sapling tops. The structure was then covered with bark panels or shingles. In some cases separate doors were provided for men and women, one at each end of the house.

      Archaeological excavations of many longhouses in New York state testify to their design and structure. They ranged from 40 to 400 feet (12 to 122 metres) in length and were generally about 22 to 23 feet (6 to 7 metres) wide. Interior partitions were built at right angles to the long sides of the building at about 7-foot (2-metre) intervals, subdividing the interior into compartments that were connected by a long open centre aisle extending from one end of the house to the other. It is supposed that each nuclear family had one or more compartments for its use, but, as there was no wall shutting off each stall from the central aisle, there was little privacy. For cooking and heating, four compartments—two on each side—shared a central fire built in the aisle; an opening in the roof served as a chimney.

      Residential life in the longhouse is no longer common, but some traditions related to the buildings persist; some contemporary groups continue to refer to their large meeting venues as longhouses. These structures are generally built with clapboard sides, and their interiors have no stalls. Separate doorways for males and females are still provided in some cases.

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Universalium. 2010.

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