Pile dwelling

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Reconstruction of the pile dwellings in the Pfahlbaumuseum Unteruhldingen on Lake Constance
Hotel in pile construction in the Philippines

Stilt houses (also called stilt houses or lakeside settlements - English called stilt house ) are wooden structures on stilts by rivers, on or in lakes, in swamps or by the sea.

Stilt houses are from prehistoric times from the 5th to the 1st millennium BC. In Europe , especially in the Alpine region. In France, Slovenia, Scotland, Lithuania and Latvia, pile dwellings can now also be found on the edges of lakes. Historic pile dwellings in the Po Valley in Italy are called Terramaren . Today pile dwellings are common along the coasts of Southeast Asia.

Prehistoric pile dwellings

Demarcation from damp settlements

Some of the prehistoric pile dwellings only stood on damp ground on the banks of lakes and are therefore called wet-soil settlements today. They only got below the waterline due to a later rise in the lake level and were initially mistaken for real pile dwellings (standing in the water). With the ongoing excavation work on the circumalpine lakes, however, more and more real pile dwellings, which only fell dry seasonally when the water level was low, were found. Pile dwellings and pile dwellings are again accepted as terms according to the latest research. This ends the long “pile-building dispute” over the location of these settlements.

Reasons for the pile construction

Pile dwellings were used, among other things, to protect against floods , predators and hostile tribes (neighbors).


In shallow areas, stakes were driven, which consisted of whole or split logs and which were typically arranged two to two. The piles were usually no thicker than 15 centimeters, and the length was usually between three and five meters, depending on the water level. Heavy stones were often sunk at the foot of the piles to provide more stability against the impact of waves. The houses themselves were also made of stilts, clad on the outside with a layer of clay and covered with straw, bark and brushwood.

The more recent research assumes that such structures existed not only on the banks of lakes (i.e. on open waters), but also in swampy terrain.


Pile-style settlements can be traced back to the Neolithic (New Stone Age). Most of the excavation work brings to light numerous everyday objects of the respective culture. Stilt houses are also known from the Copper , Bronze and Iron Ages , for example near La Tène or on Gotland . The size of such settlements varied greatly. They can cover up to 60,000 square meters.

First archaeological finds

The first such structures were discovered in the winter of 1853/54 on Lake Zurich , which at the time had an unusually low water level. Therefore they wanted to gain a larger area of ​​land from the water and built walls and dams. As the workers removed the lake bed to fill the newly reclaimed areas, they came across a dark layer with regular rows of stakes and remnants of a human culture. The Swiss antiquarian Ferdinand Keller interpreted them as the remains of settlements and coined the term pile dwellings. These discoveries sparked a great deal of interest in the pile dwellings and their residents across Europe, which subsequently found its way into art and popular science in a romantic way and is now known as pile dwelling romance.

Locations (selection)

The articles Pfahlbau # localities (selection) and Feuchtbodensiedlung # important localities overlap thematically. Help me to better differentiate or merge the articles (→  instructions ) . To do this, take part in the relevant redundancy discussion . Please remove this module only after the redundancy has been completely processed and do not forget to include the relevant entry on the redundancy discussion page{{ Done | 1 = ~~~~}}to mark. Coyote III 11:11, Jun 13, 2011 (CEST)

Mainly pile dwellings have been identified as prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps :



  • Attersee : With 25 to 30 stations, the Attersee was Austria's Neolithic and Bronze Age pile-dwelling center.
  • Seewalchen 1 + 2 + 3, (Neolithic, Bronze Age), Litzlberg, Fischer im Moos, Litzlberg 1, (North), Litzlberg 2, Litzlberg Süd, Buchberg, Attersee, Attersee Sager, Aufham 1 + 2 (Neolithic, Mondsee culture), Abtsdorf 1 + 2 + 3 (Neolithic, Mondsee culture; Bronze Age), Miesling 1 + 2 (Neolithic, Mondsee culture ), Weyregg (Neolithic, Mondsee culture), Weyregg Puschacher
  • Gerlham / Seewalchen occupies a special position among the Austrian pile construction stations. It is the only previously known pile building station in an Austrian moor. (Bronze Age)
  • Mondsee : Mooswinkel (Neolithic, Mondseekultur), Scharfling (Neolithic, Mondseekultur), See (Neolithic, Mondseekultur)
  • Keutschacher See : The huts were built between 3947 and 3871 BC. Built in BC and used for about 200 years at the end of the Neolithic. Lengyel culture or Lasinja culture
  • Traunsee : Traunkirchen (Bronze Age), another two stations are controversial


Reconstruction of houses from the Bronze Age at the exhibition "Pfahlbauland" on the Landiwiese in Zurich 1989/90



typical house in Must Farm (England; thatch = reed , turf = sod , clay = clay )




  • Must Farm Bronze Age settlement near Cambridge

Preservation of pile dwellings

Diving archaeologist Joachim Köninger , who led the mapping of the pile fields in preparation of the Unesco application, presented new results of underwater archeology in the field of conservation of oak piles in Uhldingen in March 2009 . The biggest enemy of the piles is erosion, between 1989 and 2004 it was up to 35 centimeters. They are currently testing whether they can be stopped by gravel layers. If the severe erosion is not stopped, according to Schlichtherle, 80 of the around 100 pile dwellings on Lake Constance could disappear in the next two decades. Another danger is the sea fluctuations. The extreme dry period in winter puts the remains of the pile dwellings in the shallow water zones dry. Scientists agree that there will be more such extraordinary weather and climatic situations in the future.

Stilt houses


Reconstructed pile dwelling settlement (Pfahlbaumuseum Unteruhldingen)
  • The Unteruhldingen pile dwelling museum is the oldest European pile dwelling museum . Bank settlements from different epochs have been reconstructed by and on the water of Lake Constance . The first two houses of the open-air museum were built in 1922. In the meantime, 21 further reconstructions have been made. In 2007 three more Stone Age houses were built on the shore, which were faithfully reproduced for the television documentary Stone Age - The Experiment . Life like the ARD / SWR was recreated 5000 years ago . A museum with original finds and a research institute are attached to the museum.
  • In Bad Buchau (Baden-Württemberg) there is the Federseemuseum and the ArchäoPark Federsee.


  • At the Attersee, the Pfahlbau am Attersee Association offers more than 50 “time travel to the pile dwellers” every year.
  • In the 9 km from Attersee city located Vöcklabruck is located in the Heimathaus Vöcklabruck the largest Pfahlbausammlung Austria.
  • The Austrian pile dwelling museum is located in Mondsee .
  • A pile dwelling village was established in 1910 near the district of Kammer von Attersee , Upper Austria. It was one of the first open-air museums in Europe. In 1922 it was burned down as a film set for the film “Dying Peoples”.


  • In Gletterens in the canton of Friborg, the reconstructed pile dwelling settlement Pré de Riva, the Neolithic Horgen culture , has existed since 1996 .
  • In the pile dwelling museum Lüscherz in the canton of Bern, a museum provides information about the Jura water subsidence and the lakeside settlements.
  • In Schönenwerd in the canton of Solothurn, Switzerland, there has been the Bally Park for 100 years.
  • The pile dwelling settlement of Wauwil in the canton of Lucerne was built in 2009. It includes a small open-air museum with an archaeological educational trail.


UNESCO World Heritage Site

On June 27, 2011, 111 prehistoric pile dwellings in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Italy and Slovenia were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites under the name Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps . Most of the sites included in the world cultural heritage (56) are in Switzerland. 15 pile dwellings were registered from Baden-Württemberg and three sites from Bavaria were given World Heritage status.

Stilt houses in today's time

Stilt houses in rural Laos - the area below the living space is used as dry storage or barn space

Stilt houses are still used today, especially in Southeast Asia , the Nicobar Islands , West Africa, the Chilean island of Chiloé and New Guinea . In South America, stilt houses standing in the water are commonly referred to as palafitos .

In the North Sea resort of Sankt Peter-Ording , stilt houses built in the tidal area accommodate restaurants and other leisure facilities; they are related to the sea ​​bridges found elsewhere (such as on the Baltic Sea) .

The wooden mast construction, which is mainly used for simple agricultural buildings, also uses clamped posts as load-bearing and at the same time stiffening basic elements.

"Modern pile dwellings"

The broadcasting buildings of the television stations KCRA, KXTV and KOVR in Walnut Groove , California, are modern stilt houses because of their location in the flood plain - but not made of wood.

Lower part of the Sindelfingen stilt tower

The appearance of open pile structures is cited in some modern buildings for architectural reasons, such as the high-rise on stilts in Sindelfingen .


One theory for the name Venezuela is that when Amerigo Vespucci explored the Bay of Maracaibo , the stilt houses of the locals in the water reminded him of his hometown Venice and the region was then referred to as "Little Venice" (Venezuela).

The descriptive term “pile dwellings” has been a registered trademark at the German Patent and Trademark Office since June 4, 2004 . The owner of the word mark "Pfahlbauten" with the registration number 30355957 is the Verein für Pfahlbau- und Heimatkunde e. V.



  • Helmut Schlichtherle (ed.): Pile dwellings around the Alps. Theiss, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-8062-1146-9 , ( Archeology in Germany special issue 1997, ISSN  0176-8522 ).
  • Francesco Menotti (Ed.): Living on the Lake in prehistoric Europe. 150 years of lake dwelling research. Routledge, London a. a. 2004, ISBN 0-415-31720-7 .
  • Philippe Della Casa, Martin Trachsel (Ed.): WES '04, Wetland Economies and Societies. Proceedings ot the international Conference, Zurich, 10-13 March 2004. Chronos, Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-0340-0757-4 , ( Collectio archaeologica 3).
  • Gunter Schöbel : pile dwelling quartet, 150 years of pile dwelling research, a look back. In: Platform 13/14, 2004/2005, ISSN  0942-685X , pp. 4-29.
  • Cynthia Dunning and Albert Hafner: The project “pile dwellings in the Alpine region as UNESCO World Heritage”. Information on the nomination on the “list indicative” of the Swiss federal government from December 2004. In: Philippe Della Casa and Martin Trachsel (eds.): Wetland Economies and Societies. Chronos: Zurich 2005. 297–298.
  • Susanne Rau u. a. (Ed.): 4,000 years of pile dwellings , Thorbecke, Ostfildern 2016, ISBN 978-3-7995-0676-2 .
  • Eva-Maria Seng, Helmut Schlichtherle, Claus Wolf, C. Sebastian Sommer (eds.): Prehistoric pile dwellings in the Alpine region. Development and communication of a world heritage (= reflexes of immaterial and material culture. Vol. 3). De Gruyter, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-11-041670-1 .

See also

Web links

Commons : Stilt Houses  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Natural History Museum Vienna - Natural History Museum. Retrieved June 22, 2017 .
  2. Preservation of monuments. UNESCO world heritage. Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps in Baden-Württemberg. State Office for Monument Preservation, Stuttgart 2011, p. 5
  3. see: Dunning & Hafner, 2004 and Schöbel 2005
  4. Helmut Schlichtherle : pile dwelling romance . In: Archeology in Lakes and Moors . Theiss, Stuttgart 1986, ISBN 3-8062-0435-7 , pp. 12-17 .
  5. Jana Marie Seifried: The beginning of very great discoveries. In: Südkurier of April 4, 2014, p. 10
  6. Jana Marie Seifried: The beginning of very great discoveries. In: Südkurier of April 4, 2014, p. 10
  7. Flyer " Museum Fischerhaus - Wangen am Untersee " of the "Förderverein Fischerhaus, Wangen am Untersee"
  8. ^ Georg Christian Friedrich Lisch : Pfahlbau von Gägelow (new, improved edition from the year books XXIX, 1864, p. 120 flgd.) In: Year books of the Association for Mecklenburg History and Antiquity , Vol. 30 (1865), pp. 85-97; Accessible via the document server of the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania State Library , accessed on April 22, 2014.
  9. Documents on the pile dwelling mediator training 2013
  10. a b pfahlbau.at. Retrieved June 22, 2017 .
  11. Otto Cichocki, Bernhard Knibbe, Cyril Dworsky: A Neolithic pile dwelling in the Keutschacher See / Carinthia ( Memento of September 27, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 108 KB), VIAS Institute of the University of Vienna, p. 1.
  12. ^ VIAS - Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science »Home. Retrieved June 22, 2017 .
  13. http://www.austriaca.at/0xc1aa500d_0x0009fb59.pdf
  14. ^ Studies on pile dwelling research in Austria. Materials II - The pile construction station of the Keutschacher See . 2003, ISSN  0065-5376 ( oeaw.ac.at [accessed June 22, 2017]).
  15. Divers in Lake Thun examine pile dwellings from the Bronze Age . In: Berner Zeitung . January 6, 2020, accessed March 2, 2020.
  16. They bring the pile dwellers' treasures out of the water . In: Berner Zeitung . February 25, 2020, accessed March 2, 2020.
  17. cam.ac.uk: Bronze Age stilt houses unearthed in East Anglian Fens.
  18. arte.tv: Exciting stories from the Bronze Age - Must Farm ( Memento from June 24, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  19. Sylvia Floetemeyer: stilt houses are perhaps a World Heritage Site in: Südkurier of 19 March 2009
  20. Adalbert Brütsch: At the lake it's getting warmer and more extreme . In: Südkurier from July 15, 2006
  21. ^ Wauwil pile dwellings , accessed on May 24, 2019.
  22. UNESCO World Heritage Center: Six new sites inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Retrieved June 22, 2017 (English).
  23. Website with a directory of all pile dwellings in the UNESCO World Heritage Site ( memento of September 2, 2011 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on June 28, 2011
  24. Scott Fybush: The Tall Towers of Walnut Grove, California. Fybush.com, November 11, 2005, accessed May 24, 2019.
  25. The stilt high-rise in Sindelfingen turns 50th district newspaper Böblinger Bote.