5 Oldest Houses In The World, And One Of Them Is In Penang!

·5-min read

Since humans became an agrarian society, we have come a long way and learnt of the rise and fall of civilizations based on the works of teams of archaeologists, historians, engineers and the likes.

Uncovering clues such as pottery and stone tools much like the prehistoric Paleolithic artefacts estimated to be 17,000 years old found in the Gunung Pulai cava, Kedah, gives us an indication of how people lived in those times.

It remains that we spend most of our time in and around our homes, especially in 2020 and that lends a special blend of character to the environment.

Perhaps it is a way of leaving our mark on the world for future generations to discover and ponder how we lived our lives.

This list of the oldest houses in the world will leave you asking more than a few questions about how its inhabitants used to live, why certain locations were specifically identified to build homes.

And when borders reopen, you can plan a visit and even spend a night at one or two of these incredible places.

 

1) Cave Houses of Sassi di Matera, Basilicata, Italy

Sassi di Matera 1
Sassi di Matera 1

Designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, the cave houses of Sassi di Matera ('Stones of Matera') in southern Italy are carved out of calcarenite rock, a type of limestone.

Archaeological evidence shows people lived in these grottoes as far back as some 9,000 years ago.

In the 1960s, the majority of locals were relocated but there were those who continued to live in the same houses their ancestors resided in for thousands of years.

During the late 20th century, the Italian government aided in restoration and building infrastructure and before long, artisans moved into the renovated cave dwellings with bars, restaurants and hotels soon setting up shop.

On average, the Sassi attracts over 600,000 visitors a year with around 25% of properties available on Airbnb for you to rent and experience living in a cave.

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2) Kandovan Cave Houses, Osku, Iran

Kandovan Cave Houses, Osku
Kandovan Cave Houses, Osku

Set at the foot of the Mount Sahand volcano, the extraordinary village of Kandovan in Azerbaijan which has been continuously inhabited for the last 700 years was carved out of the soft, porous volcanic rock by people fleeing from the Mongol army.

For centuries, this troglodyte village has protected its cave-dwelling inhabitants from enemy invasions and the region's extreme summers and winters, thanks to their precarious position and well-insulated walls.

The homes which resemble giant ant hills are able to stretch up to four storeys high with the ground floor housing livestock. The living quarters are situated on the following two floors and the upper level is usually left for storage.

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3) Viking farmhouse, Kirkjubøur, Faroe Islands

Viking farmhouse, Kirkjubøur
Viking farmhouse, Kirkjubøur

Kirkjubøargarður, or also known as King's Farm in the Faroe Islands is one of the oldest continuously inhabited wooden homes in the world. The farmhouse was constructed in the 11th century using driftwood from Norway.

PropertyGuru Tip

Fun fact: There are <strong>no native forests</strong> in the Faroe Islands, and only a few woody plants exist, thus <strong>making timber is a precious commodity</strong>.

Like many traditional structures, the Viking farmhouse which is also the largest on the island features a turf roof to keep the elements at bay.

In 1538, the farmhouse was confiscated by the King of Denmark and today, the Faroe Island continue to be an island territory of Denmark.

Kirkjubøargarður was leased to the Patursson family in the 1550s and has passed through 17 generations, to the eldest son, dubbed the King's Farmer.

Today, the property is owned by the Faroese government. Visitors are able to take a tour of the interior which is filled with a sizeable collection of age-old artefacts.

Exploring the surrounding will lead you to historic buildings that include the 12th-century St Olav's Church and the ruins of the 13th-century St Magnus Cathedral.

 

4) Suffolk House, Penang, Malaysia

Suffolk House, Penang
Suffolk House, Penang

Situated in our very own backyard, along the Air Itam River in George Town lies Suffolk House which comprises two residences.

The first is said to have been constructed by the founder of Penang in the 1790s, Francis Light, and the second was by William Edward Phillips in 1809, after Light’s death in 1794.

The second Euro-Indian and Georgian-style mansion named Suffolk Park served as the residence of several governors, as well as the venue for social and official gatherings.

Suffolk House was also used as the Anglo-Chinese High School, which later became the Methodist Boys’ School.

In 2009, it was restored and opened to the public and is today a restaurant and venue for weddings and dinner parties. You can even take a guided tour to relive the history behind these walls and in tastefully redecorated rooms.

PropertyGuru Tip

Fun fact: The highly successful British television drama <strong>Indian Summers</strong> shot many scenes at the Suffolk House and surrounding properties.

 

5) Knap of Howar, Papa Westray, Orkney, Scotland

Knap of Howar, Papa Westray
Knap of Howar, Papa Westray

No list would be complete without the mention of this Neolithic farmstead located on the island of Papa Westray.

The Knap of Howar may be the oldest preserved stone house in northern Europe with radiocarbon dating evidence showing that it was occupied from around 5700 to 4800 years ago.

Archaeologist Anna Ritchie, meanwhile, concluded the site was in constant use for over 900 years.

The farmstead is made up of two circular thick-walled structures made from stone with low doorways beckoning its inhabitants toward the sea.

There are no windows and the walls still stand at a height of 1.6 metres with intact stone furniture, giving one a vivid representation of the life lived within the house.

Today, the Knap of Howar sits close to the coast but archaeologists and geologists have confirmed based on evidence of erosion patterns that while the Knap of Howar was occupied, it would have been further inland.

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We hope this list has given you some insight into the oldest homes in the world and piqued your interest in wanting to learn about different cultures and ways of life that contribute to our rich and ever-evolving world history.

Malaysia is also home to many heritage buildings which makes it a good excuse to travel locally and indulge in these sites for their history and architectural beauty.

 

Modern abodes can be equally fascinating. Don't believe it? Check out these 15 Most Viewed Virtual Reality Tours on PropertyGuru.