The Iroquois Indians created shelters called longhouses, which feature long and narrow designs and rectangular shapes. Longhouses served as homes to many populations around the world, including Vikings in Scandinavia. The Iroquois adopted this housing style, forming long, communal structures from various materials.
The Iroquois Indians lived between 300 and 500 years ago, settling in the modern southern New England and Mid-Atlantic states. These Native Americans established communities featuring longhouse living spaces. Longhouses served practical and cultural functions. Their large sizes permitted the shared residences of large, extended families. Each longhouse held up to 20 families. Families sharing these homes generally trace their ancestry back to a single common ancestor, such as a great-grandparent. These family networks identified as clans; each clan decorated its longhouse with unique items, symbolizing a distinct heritage. Clans lived in groups within Iroquois villages. In addition to providing shelter and sleeping quarters, each longhouse supported work and trade, performing a key economic role as well as a social role. Women, rather than men, served as the leaders of longhouse operations. They provided directions and orders, and even identified men suitable for acting as tribal leaders. Despite showing a distinct heritage, Iroquois considered longhouses a unifying symbol of the Iroquois nation.