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Lake City - Expo Paris 1889

Lake City at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1889

The Neolithic period marks a considerable progress. From the special point of view that concerns us here, man began to build lakeside cities; he erected more comfortable circular dwellings on land; he established real workshops for working stone near the quarries; he sought out the vicinity of springs, rivers and the sea, and finally he had burials that were famous under the name of dolmens.

The terrestrial dwelling was exposed to the visit of ferocious beasts and to the attack of the enemy, who could close off the exits by piling up more stones; so the lakeside dweller had the idea of founding his dwelling on fire-hardened piles. In this way, real cities, palafittes, were built in the middle of the lakes. The Neolithic lake dwellers domesticated dogs, cattle, goats, sheep and pigs; they cultivated cereals while continuing to fish and hunt; they dressed themselves in sewn or unstitched skins, linen or hemp fabrics; they learned the art of the tailor, the basket maker and the potter. A host of objects from this period have been found: knives, nuclei, drills, saws, scrapers, arrows, daggers, polished axes, ornaments made of shells and animal teeth. Do you want to have an idea of what a lake city was like? Listen, on this point, to M. N. Joly, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Toulouse.

Let us imagine," he says, "a multitude of piles 15 to 30 feet long with a diameter varying from 3 to 9 inches, and rising from 4 to 6 feet above the still waters. Let us imagine these stakes more or less spaced out, arranged some parallel, others perpendicular to the shore and forming by their whole a circle or a rectangle. Most often sunk into the mud of the lake above which they rise, they are sometimes supported, when the nature of the soil does not allow them to penetrate, by piles of stones deposited at their base. Let's connect all these piles by means of crosspieces, themselves fixed by wooden pegs. All that remains to be done is to establish a sort of platform, intended to support the dwellings and built with thick planks or split tree trunks, roughly squared and attached to each other by strong ties, wooden pegs or even by scatters and dovetail grooves. Finally, let us place on this framework oval, rounded or rectangular huts, 10 to 15 and even 27 feet in diameter, whose walls will be formed of perpendicular posts, connected together by a kind of wattle and daub, coated on the inside with a clay cement. Let us cover each hut with a roof of bark, thatch, rushes, reeds, ferns or moss; let us leave a door for the entrance; let us make a trapdoor inside communicating with the lake. For a seat and table a tree trunk; for a bed a pile of moss. Finally, let us surround each of these rustic dwellings with a row of stakes having their free end flush with the water to prevent the boarding of enemy pirogues; let us establish a sort of wooden bridge or footbridge, which will connect the huts to the shore, and we shall have a sufficiently exact idea of the lake dwellings."

© L'exposition de Paris - 1889