What Are Some Facts About Longhouses?

Longhouses were the basic house type built by the northern Iroquoian peoples, such as the Huron and Mohawk, before contact with Europeans. The Iroquois built longhouses with a long, narrow framework of wooden posts and poles that they then covered with sheets of bark.

The Iroquois built longhouses to house large, extended families, known as clans. Iroquois clans were often very large and included everyone from siblings to distant cousins. All members of a clan traced their heritage to a single female ancestor. Iroquois individuals married outside their clans, and Iroquois men, when they married, moved into their spouses' longhouses. These clans formed the basic units of Iroquois society.

Typical longhouses were 20 feet wide and 20 feet high. Longhouse length varied greatly, but most were between 180 to 200 feet long. However, archaeologists have found some longhouse remains up to 400 feet long. The Iroquois divided longhouses into compartments about 20 feet long, with a fire in the middle that vented out a hole in the roof. Families lived two to a compartment, one on each side of the aisle that ran the length of the longhouse.

Many other societies in history also built homes in a long rectangular shape, including the Vikings. However, these societies built their longhouses with different materials and methods than the Iroquois.