Troglodyte communities

I’ve been thinking a lot about living underground lately. Not in the hiding-out-from-the-law way, but in the standard, beneath-the-ground-house way. I have a feeling that my early interest in subterranean housing came as a 4th grader on a field trip to see Monetzuma’s Castle, a tiny city carved into the face of a cliff by the Sinagua Indians in the 1300s. More recently, I had a chance to see the Gila cliff dwellings in New Mexico, which, while less imposing, are no less impressive. Other, less accessible cliff dwellings of the Anasazi and related tribes are also inspiring, as are those outside of North America.

Ideally, then, I would like to carve my house out of the side of a shear cliff. This isn’t unheard of in, for example, the Mediterranean; especially Italy and Greece. But more modern approaches could make for a breathtaking home. Unfortunately, land with suitable cliffs tends to be not so easy to find (though there are definitely possibilities), and construction can be a bit difficult.

The other option, now gaining some popular momentum, is to live underground, sans cliff. There are certain possibilities for occupying otherwise unused underground spaces. Building underground–either using traditional methods, pre-fabs, more experimental approaches, or some combination–is certainly another option, and can be done fairly inexpensively.

Before deciding on the best path, though, I want to visit more historical and current troglodyte communities. Unfortunately, they tend toward the remote. 80% of Coober Pedy, in the Australian outback live underground, and there is a hotel there. In fact, there are hotels among many underground dwellers. Perhaps among the most well known are the underground homes of Matama, made famous as the Tatooine setting at the beginning of Star Wars. In fact, Luke’s home was (and is) the small Sidi Driss Hotel. Monks seem to like living underground, from early Christians (in, for example, Cappodocia) to the monks of Gu-ge. There is a converted underground hotel in Spain as well as one in France.

I guess I have more things to add to my project list, including learning how to run a roadheader.

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One Comment

  1. Posted 8/4/2003 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Great links! I’ve had a long obsession with these kinds of architecture and dwelling ;)

    I did my first season of archaeological fieldwork in the American southwest, and the Anasazi cliff-dwellings are beautiful. I’ve also wanted to visit Cappodocia since I learned of it as a child. The Inka also built structures that stretched directly from bedrock or other geological formations, creating a sense of seamlessness between nature and culture in the built environment. Fab stuff!

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