Where does the meaning of the word ‘home’ come from? And when did the first homes come about? LPC Furniture explores the history behind a place called home…
The word home comes from the Old English word hām, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch heem and German heim.
Homes are really quite odd things. They come in all shapes and sizes, incorporate many different materials and have no universally defining qualities. Yet, we recognise houses in all their forms wherever we go. All over the world we can spot houses, homes, habitats. It turns out this aura of homeliness and domesticity is extremely ancient.
One of the earliest evidential sites of ‘homes’ was found in Skara Brae, a Neolithic village located in Orkney. The ancient 5000 year old mini village was found by chance in 1850, after a horrendous storm revealed the remains of a 9 stone houses, roofless but otherwise stunningly intact. The ruins are more ancient than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, in fact older than all but a handful of built structures on Earth!
Due to a shortage of wood in Orkney, the people of Skara Brae built with stone, a readily available material that could be worked easily and used for other various tools and furniture for the home. This is fortunate for us, otherwise there would have been very little to no evidence left behind to find.
Amazingly the houses had locking doors, and even rudimentary plumbing with slots in the walls to channel away wastes. The interior rooms were spacious. The walls, still standing were up to ten feet high so there was plenty headroom and the floors were paved.
In-built furniture was part of every house, from stone dressers and storage alcoves to boxed enclosures (presumed to be beds) and water tanks. The stone dresser was regarded as the most important as it symbolically faces the entrance in each house and is therefore the first item seen when entering, perhaps displaying symbolic objects, including decorative artwork such as several Neolithic Carved Stone Balls.
Interestingly, all the houses are of one size and built to the same plan, suggesting a kind of equal commune rather than a conventional tribe hierarchy. Covered passageways ran between the houses and led to a paved open area – dubbed ‘the marketplace’ by early archaeologists – where tasks could be done in a social setting.
Houses have evolved over time, what with the availability of construction materials, development of indoor plumbing and heating systems, advances in architecture, technology and location. As stated before, houses now come in all shapes and sizes; however homes haven’t changed much from the ancient ruins of Skara Brae people. We still have our various designated huts, shielded with walls and roofs, with rooms and doorways.
Homes still, most importantly, represent who lives there, your origin, and filled with personal furnishings you judge fit for a place called home.