A pit house (also spelled pithouse) is a type of residential structure or dwelling built by non-industrial cultures all over the earth. The "pit" part means that construction began by excavating a pit in the earth, from a few inches to more than three feet. A superstructure was then added to the excavation, low walls or simply a roof built of poles chinked with mud and covered with an earthen mound.
The roof was generally flat, and entry to the house was gained via a ladder through a hole in the roof. A central hearth would have provided light and warmth; in some pit houses, a ground surface air hole would have brought in ventilation.
Pit houses were warm in winter and cool in summer; experimental archaeology has proven that they are quite comfortable. However, they are only good for a few seasons—after at most ten years, a pithouse would have to be abandoned.
Many different prehistoric groups used pit houses. Although generally associated with the American southwest cultures, such as Fremont, Pueblo, Anasazi, Hohokam, and Mogollon, pit houses were used by a wide variety of people in a wide variety of places over the past 12,000 years.
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