Orientations and Placement of the Middle and Late Neolithic Housepits of Ostrobothnia: A First Investigation Based on On-site and Lidar Observations
The orientations and placements of 349 single-room and 72 multi-room housepits or 'longhouses' of Middle and Late Neolithic Ostrobothnia have been analysed and compared with each other and the orientations and placement of the Giants' Churches. It was found that while the housepits in general were often oriented along the local termin, some of them were oriented towards certain, probably astronomically determined directions. The astronomical orientations seem to be related to hitherto unrecognized subgroups of the housepits, which were partly covered but not exhausted by the selected subgroups of this study. The multi-room pithouses a.k.a. terraced houses and 'longhouses' had an orientation distribution different from all other subgroups of housepits and the Giants' Churches, and may have been deliberately oriented perpendicular to the Giants' Churches. The doorways of rectangular housepits were found to mostly reflect the axial orientations of the housepits, and there may have been regional differences: in the large dwelling sites of Kokkola-Kruunupyy-Pedersöre region, the doorways of the housepits seem to have been preferably oriented towards the four cardinal directions. The astronomical orientations of the housepits may indicate the ex.istence of a lunar or lunisolar "seasonal pointer" calendric system, the kinds of wh ich have previously been detected in the Giants' Churches and European megalithic monuments. It was observed that in addition to possible astronomical orientations, also cairns and other signs of ritualization, which are frequently encountered with the Giants' Churches, are seen around some middle-sized and large housepits. The ritualization of a housepit could be connected to beliefs concerning the 'death' of a house, and the process of turning a decaying pithouse into a ritual site, perhaps a mortuary or ancestral monument. Among the housepits, the existence of the class of 'central', i.e. prominently placed middle-sized or large housepits is suggested. The central housepits cannot be distinguished from the Giants' Churches by their placement among other housepits or orientations alone, and together these two categories of prominent structures may indicate the existence of social and/or regional hierarchy with different levels in Late Neolithic Ostrobothnia.