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Troglodyte



Troglodyte house in Matmata, Tunisia.
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Troglodyte house in Matmata, Tunisia.

Troglodyte house in Haddej, Tunisia.
Mountain style troglodyte house in Bahlil, Morocco.

Interior of troglodyte house in Gharyan, Libya.
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Interior of troglodyte house in Gharyan, Libya.

Underground dwellings dug out, and lived in, by man.
Originally the term 'troglodyte' comes from of Greek, where designating cave dweller. The troglodytes are a type of dwellings that are found in a group of desert villages spread around North Africa, with Matmata and Bulla Regia, both Tunisia, as the principal examples. There are villages of this kind also in Morocco and Libya (Gharyan).
Troglodytes are made as caves dug vertically into the ground. In order to make this possible, there is a need for a porous ground, while the main motivation to build underground houses instead of normal over-ground houses is warm climate through summer where normal ventilation and isolation does not manage to keep the heat out. And even in winter, the troglodytes prove valuable, as they isolate against the freezing winter nights of the desert. To some extent these dwellings have also served as protection against robbers.
Between troglodytes there have only been rare examples of underground corridors. The few examples of this has been between troglodytes with the same owner.
Troglodytes are believed to be a relatively recent invention in Saharan architecture, dating not more than 7- 800 years back in time. While the structures proved to be a success, their dissemination have only been limited, probably because normal houses are easier to build, and because there are only a limited number of days where such houses do not protect against heat/cold.
Today most of these troglodyte villages are facing changing attitudes from the village dwellers, and more and more are leaving the troglodytes for modern houses which sometimes have air conditioning and always heating.




By Tore Kjeilen