The human desire to build a nice home and settle down for life goes back to some 11,000 years ago in the Neolithic age. There have been many archaeological findings that uncover the initial stages of human settlements. The Linear Pottery Culture sites — existed during 6000-4500 BCE and marked by the early Neolithic culture’s characteristic pottery — are spread across the European continent.
Across all sites of the Linear Pottery Culture, most of the homes that the Neolithic humans built have a certain interesting tendency. All of these homes are skewed slightly towards the left. Where homes, as it seems, were supposed to be parallel, they are asymmetric and appear rotated anticlockwise.
There exist plenty of explanations for the phenomenon. For one, the Neolithic humans did not have precise geometric tools and hence they could not construct perfectly parallel lines.
However, most of such structures appear to be oriented only counter-clockwise, a general trend that is reflected in most of the Neolithic sites found across Europe. These “errors,” which seem unintentional and unconscious, could have gone either side of the symmetry at random but that is not the case. To verify that the tendency was actually reflected in each construction, archaeologists conducted magnetic surveys to detect the lines formed by the timbers used in their foundations.
Nils Müller-Scheeßel, who works as a scientific editor and course coordinator at the Institute for Pre- and Protohistoric Archeology, Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel Germany, tells Atlas Obscura, “They could have built their houses in every direction, but there is a certain tendency for alignment.”
According to a study led by Scheeßel published in PLOS One journal last year, the tendency could be attributed to the distorted spatial perception of Neolithic humans.
A preferential error in perception is there in present-day humans as well as most of us, if not all, pay more attention to the left side of our world. This is an effect of the division of work in the human brain. For example, speech synthesis is dedicated to the left brain, while spatial attention is managed by the right part. These divisions manifest in subtle inaccuracies of perception. The effect is called pseudoneglect and has been verified in a psychology experiment some 20 years ago.
According to MarcMcCourt, a psychologist who has worked on pseudoneglect, “The commonly held idea is that it is a by-product of the fact that the right hemisphere is specialised for the deployment of spatial attention.”
8000 years ago, the Neolithic humans probably too had this perceptual error, propose Scheeßel and other archaeologists from his team, which reflected in their peculiar counter-clockwise orientation of homes.
According to researchers, we cannot accurately know because we have no access to the brain of a Neolithic human but the study also finds that over a 300-year period, the deviations reduced significantly from 32 degrees to 4 degrees. This temporal change makes researchers wonder if the Neolithic humans’ brains were more prone to perceptual errors.