Definition characters description and diffusion
A pit-courtyard acts as an impluvium and provides an open-air sunny space, surrounded by walls, which can be used for agricultural work and preparation of food. Some of these courtyards are used for collecting waste and produce humus, and form gardens carved out of the rock. This technique solves the problem of infertile soil and the need to protect plants.
General characters description and diffusion
Very similar cultivation methods have been found in Petra, in the Jordanian desert. A space hewn in the rock, closed towards the outside and open towards the sky, was the origin of courtyard dwellings used by the Sumerians, the Egyptians, in the Etruscan and classical world, and in the Islamic world too. A courtyard dwelling arrangement is actually the equivalent in buildings of what can be observed from cave dwelling architecture. A similar but artificial structure can be found in the Neolithic flint mines, of which the largest examples in Europe are on the Gargano promontory (Di Lernia et al., 1990). On this model, a new type of dwelling was made consisting of an open-air semicircular common courtyard dug vertically downwards on a flat surface; this is a communal pit-courtyard, the vicinato a pozzo, and from its walls a system of underground rooms are tunnelled through, parallel to the ground. In the Mediterranean area it can be found on the highlands near Matera, in the Turkish region of Cappadocia, along the limestone banks of the River Loire in France, on the clayey shelves of Matmata in Tunisia, in the Libyan desert and in the south of Spain. In Lybia in the gebel Nefusa and Garian, the dwelling of the patriarchal family, of pre-islamic origin, comprising a pit-courtyard with radially excavated rooms, is called damùs, a term that can be connected with dammusi, which is the name used in Pantelleria for the traditional passive architecture dwellings. In the most complex systems of this type, the tunnels are connected underground with other tunnels that radiate from other pit-courtyards, resulting in the landscape showing a number of large holes connected by a starry network of underground passageways. In China, on the loess plains along the Yellow River, even more complex systems can be found. There, the vertical hollow is not semicircular, but it is dug in precise rectangular shapes. These dwellings are still inhabited by millions of Chinese people. Similar structures can also be found in North America, all along the Chaco Canyon, in the Anasazi Indian villages called pueblo, which existed from the prehistoric age up to the 12th century AD. However similar structures are much more technologically advanced, consisting of pit-courtyards called kiva and made of massive dry stonewalls.
Advantages and sustainability
The structures create a space to perform agricultural techniques as well as create humus which then fertilizes the agricultural processes. Soil is made usable and the plants are protected.