Stilt houses or pile dwellings are houses raised on piles over the surface of the soil or a body of water.
In the Neolithic and Bronze Age, stilt houses were common in the Alpine region. Remains have been found at the Mondsee and Attersee lakes in Upper Austria, for example. Early archaeologists like Ferdinand Keller thought they formed artificial islands, much like the Scottish Crannogs, but today it is clear that the majority of settlements were located on the shores of lakes and were only inundated later on. Reconstructed stilt houses are shown in open air museums in Unteruhldingen and Zürich (Pfahlbauland). A single Scandinavian pile dwelling, the Alvastra stilt houses, has been excavated in Sweden.
Today, stilt houses are still common in parts of South East Asia, Papua New Guinea and West Africa. In the Alps, similar buildings, known as raccards, are still in use as granaries. Stilted graneries are also a common feature in West Africa, e.g. in the Malinke language regions of Mali and Guinea.
Stilt houses are also common in the western hemisphere, and appear to have been an indigenous creation by the Amerindians in pre-Columbian times. They are especially widespread along the banks of the tropical river valleys of South America (Palafito), notably the Amazon and Orinoco river systems. Stilt houses were such a prevalent feature along the shores of Lake Maracaibo that Amerigo Vespucci was inspired to name the region "Venezuela" (little Venice).