Tateana-shiki (vertical, pit-type) dwelling (竪穴式住居)

Tateana-shiki dwelling is built by first digging a depression in a round or quadrilateral shape, then creating a framework in the depression by installing a number of columns, followed by connecting the framework with balks and beams, and lastly thatching its roof with dirt and reed or other plants.


The term "tateana" was created to contrast with "yokoana" (horizontal hole). Strictly speaking, the English term 'pit-house' is used to describe the type of tateana-shiki dwelling which, except for the thatched roof, consists solely of the dug-up depression, that is, a dwelling that is a depression in the ground covered with a roof. However, the name is used by some researchers also for the type of dwelling that is built on a shallow depression, with much of the house above ground and is therefore used to describe such dwellings to some extent.

This type of dwelling was seen in Europe from the Paleolithic era. In the Neolithic era, it was found widely around the world. Well-known examples are similar dwellings found at the Banpo archaeological site in Xian, China, belonging to ancient Yangshao Culture. This type of dwelling is quadrilateral-shaped measuring roughly 5 by 4 meters, with a stepped entrance on the south side leading inside that is 80 cm in depth and a fireplace located inside. The people of Mogollon and Hohokam cultures of southwestern United States are known to have lived in such pit-type dwellings with the entrance protruding outward, until around ninth century. In Japan, it is believed that such dwellings started to be built in the latter Paleolithic era, with 18 such sites found across Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu. In particular, a site where a group of pit dwelling structures believed to have had fuseya A type (thatched roof completely covering the structure) roofs has been found at Hasamiyama site (Nashida Point, Fujiidera City, Osaka).


Pit-type dwellings in Japan are divided into fuseya type and kabedachi (walled) type and are believed to be built starting in the latter half of the Paleolithic era, becoming widely built in the Jomon period and in the subsequent Yayoi period. While the fuseya type was predominant, the kabedachi type was limited to large-scale structures in key settlements, believed to be built in both Yayoi and Kofun (tumulus) periods as an architectural style aimed at demonstrating authority as the residence of the chieftain. Eventually, it became the base model for homes for farmers and other private homes in Japan. Pit-type dwellings were built until around the Heian period and even later in the Muromachi period in the Tohoku region. It is believed that, by the Heian period nearly all homes were built on the ground level, especially in the Kinki region.


The depth of the pit dug up for this type of dwelling varied by region and by period. The dwellings found at Ichani Karikariusu Site in Shibetsu Town near Shiretoko Peninsula had pits dug as deep as 2 to 2.5 meters, with the entrance probably located on the roof. The fireplace is commonly located either in the center or slightly off to one side of the floor, but is replaced by the furnace built against a wall in the Kofun period and later. Gutters were commonly dug in the circumference of the earthen floor for drainage. The eaves of the pit-type dwelling roof are believed to have commonly reached close to the ground, with the roof the only part of the dwelling visible from the outside. Although roofs are thought to have been thatched most often with reed, kaya (Torreya nucifera) and other plant stalks, there were many roofs covered with soil or grass as well.

The shape of the pit of the pit-type dwellings in Japan varied by region and by period. In the early half of the Jomon period, dwellings were generally quadrilateral, trapezoid or elliptical in shape and were found to have six large columns, as well as support columns located near the wall, based on small pits that were found in archaeological excavations. Additionally, super-sized structures were built mainly in the Tohoku and Hokuriku regions in the first half of the period.

Fireplaces were most often built on the dirt floor, though some were built with stones, and were found in increasing frequency over time. In the mid-Jomon period, round and elliptical layouts with four or five support columns became prevalent, with fireplaces built on the dirt floor, those surrounded by stones or those employing earthen vessels. By the end of the mid-Jomon period, dwellings with fukushiki-ro (fireplaces consisting of an arrangement of stones composed of two parts) began to appear in southern Tohoku region, along with houses with stone-laid floors in the Chubu region, especially Nagano Prefecture.

By the latter half of the period, dwellings with entrances that protruded outward, known as the 'ekagami' type, began to appear in some regions. In addition to the round dwelling layout, a more quadrilateral type begins to return at excavation sites. By the end of the period, the ekagami-type entrance becomes shorter and lower in height.

In the Yayoi period, dwelling types differed widely between eastern and western Japan in the early part but gradually converge into an identical type in the latter part. Although the circular shape was predominant, quadrilateral-shaped pit-type dwellings with rounded corners (sumimaru-hokei & chohokei jukyo) began to appear in the latter half of the Yayoi period (circa second to third century). The Ikemori-Ikegami site located across the boundary between Kumagaya and Gyoda cities, Saitama Prefecture, dates back to the early mid-Yayoi period, with houses built in quadrilateral or rectangular layouts with rounded corners. The largest was 10.6 meters at its longest side and 7.2 meters at its shortest, with space of approximately 72 sq.m., or roughly double to quadruple the size of other dwellings. Dwellings found at the Otsuka-Saikachido site in Odana-cho, Tsuzuki-ku, Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture, were built in the latter half of the Yayoi period in the sumimaru-chohokei (rounded-corner, rectangular) layout. The size was at most 9.4 by 6.7 meters, with floor area of 62.98 sq.m.--roughly double the size of many others that ranged from 20 to 30 sq.m. These findings show that dwellings in eastern Japan during the latter Yayoi period grew small in general, with no significant difference in size.

Fireplaces continued to be used until the first half of the Kofun period but saw change with the introduction of the "kamado" stove built on the northern or eastern wall of the dwelling by the middle of the period. The stove developed over time and began to protrude outward beyond the wall, but this is believed to have been a development resulting from the pit dug into the dwelling becoming narrower. This type of dwelling continued to be used until the Heian period in Japan north of Kanto and Chubu regions, but was gradually replaced by "hottate-bashira" type structures that were elevated above ground by posts in Kinki region starting in Asuka period, except in the Tokai region where the older type remained in parts. In the Kamakura period and later, the tateana pit-type dwelling disappeared in the Kanto region, except in parts as relics.