Currently building the civilisations of my world, I found myself stuck on a particular aspect of the arboreal civilization, and would be very grateful for any tip (Tall trees : selective pressure).

To recap, this arboreal civilization has been completely isolated from other ones since they settled in a forest with giant trees (see the link above).

Some information :

  1. The technologies in the story are similar to the beginning of the Age of Discovery, but this civilization is still hunter-gatherers. They live in heights, because the grounds are too dangerous, so they never developed agriculture.

  2. They have art, religions and only oral language (they can make colored pigments with what is available - abundantly - in the forest) and have also the means to make tools to gather food (like wicker baskets, but not with wicker, obviously, because it grows on the ground and they can't reach the ground anyway)

  3. The forest is settled in an area with a hot climate, so there is food all year, no need for the arboreal people to make provisions for winter. It also means that there is almost no conflict or war because no territories or supplies to defend.

  4. The branches and trunks of the trees are huge, so in some areas there is gaps / openings for the arboreal people to shelter from rain or tempest (and those gaps also creates some type of wells that keeps water on the heights, so the people don't run out of water), but they are not as deep as a cave, so I don't know if it would be sufficient, but I don't know either if they would have enough materials and flat space to actually build shelters.

So here is my question :

What type of shelters would need / create this arboreal civilization, if any ?

Thanks !

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    $\begingroup$ there are always limited resources, for your people it will be water and ground supplies. $\endgroup$ – John Oct 6 '20 at 1:58


They live in hights, because the grounds are too dangerous

This indicates that all is not quite as peaceful as the rest of your comment seemed to indicate. I'm presuming there are some pretty nasty predators at ground-level if the entirety of human civilization in the area doesn't even attempt to touch the forest floor. Also war might be rare as we know it, but tribal raiding in hunter-gather societies almost certainly took a higher death toll (percentage wise) than modern industrial warfare, and it didn't stop just because food and shelter was plentiful. (For details I suggest the excellent "War Before Civilization" by Lawrence Keeley.

So you have two threats that cannot be overcome with your current setup of large branches to shelter from rain and storm. SOME form of man-made shelter would be necessary. Because I'm a nerd we'll refer to this structure as a "Flet". Probably your people would set up around some of these arboreal wells you mentioned, as a reliable water source is always handy. Next, they would "fortify" the flet. I'm going to make an assumption that your forest, like all forests, have vines that climb trees and potentially exploit them for nutrients. Poison Ivy is one such vine common in north america, and can climb trees. A similar vine which causes nasty rashes or blisters, or one with thorns, would be an excellent deterrent. Maybe a couple different varieties trained/pruned to grow under/on the lower outside edges of a Flet (or the underside of the branch a flet is on, depending on branch size). This would deter whatever large predators from the ground level might decide to climb a tree to get after the tasty humans, as well as other human raiders thinking of attack from below.

If there are no significant airborne predators the next step would be to remove branches (or even entire neighboring trees) which would provide cover/concealment for an enemy or predator trying to sneak up to your flets. The flet village (depending on the size of your tribes/size of your trees) could either be multiple flets on a single tree or several trees. This clearing would do double duty, since it would not only remove hiding places where something could sneak up on you, but it would also likely encourage the growth and wellbeing of the tree/s your flets are in! If you want added safety you could use the spiked vines or tree branches to weave the walls of their flets, or (if the foliage is dense enough) as a sort of floating wall around the village.

It seems like your branches are wide enough to provide rain cover. If you can fell the local trees/vegetation surrounding your flet you're not in much danger of attack from above, as humans/predators couldn't climb/jump over very well. If so, then you wouldn't need to do anything to the upper branches at all! If you can't cut down the neighboring trees, or if your weather doesn't often come with hurricane-force winds, then your flets would be built as high as possible to make it as difficult as possible for things to come in from above. If the tribal warfare is particularly fierce (or was in the past) they might build flets even higher than the large sheltering tree limbs at what I assume are mid-tree height. At that point they'd probably construct what amounts to treehouses using the thinner branches of the tree as key supports.

Another thing to note is they would, if at all possible, NOT cut into the tree their flet is in without REAL good cause. Any cut through the bark runs the risk of infecting the tree, so even if the trees have useful/edible sap they'd likely only drill into trees their not living in. Sure a big tree with a little hole isn't THAT likely to cause a rot that kills the tree, but it only takes a couple times in the millennia your people have lived in this forest for "don't cut your own tree" to become a piece of folklore passed down through generations.

  • $\begingroup$ Wow, I really like this answer, thank you ! You were right for the predators bellow and also right for the canopy, there is mostly birds and human size species that climb there. And there is indeed a lot of vines that climb trees, that also allow the arboreal people to reach the canopy when needed. $\endgroup$ – Emie Oct 5 '20 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Emie did you mean vine like this or hanging roots or vine like tarzan usually swing with? because Dario answer seems to referring the first one which i think probably to slippery due to the dew and leaf and i doubt it can support human weight to climb to far. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Oct 6 '20 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Emie if you mean the tarzan hanging roots, thats literally what korowai house is, if you dont know what banyan tree and rattan look like. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Oct 6 '20 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ @LiJun I meant both. Everything in this forest are way more huge than earth's forests so the vines are bigger and larger (the branche's vines are as large as a hand), but I guess it would not be sufficient for them to climb, or they would need to make extra ladders to help secure the ascension. Or just not climb at all, I need to think about it ^^ (thanks by the way for your answer, it's super helpfull !) $\endgroup$ – Emie Oct 6 '20 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Emie banyan hanging roots can be quite big actually and can support a person weight even the smaller one and this but need to be careful though otherwise can end up tangled like clayton in disney tarzan, it can even be larger than an arm, here one picture of korowai people descending the tree (still not build the stair yet i assume, you can see the vine almost as big as the person arm there) $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Oct 6 '20 at 12:27

It sounds similar like the Korowai people. I don't know if this would fit regarding your tree height and size though, but maybe it can help for inspiration.

Here is some copy paste from the link:

Deep within the inaccessible jungle of the southeast Indonesian province of Papua, about 150 kilometres inland from the Arafura Sea, lives the Korowai tribe – a clan totally isolated from the rest of the world. They are hunter-gatherers living in a small society of traditional family ties who need to share all they have in order to survive. Until their discovery by a Dutch missionary in 1974, the Korowai had hardly any contact with the outside world.

The Korowai people live in tree houses ranging in height from 6 to 12 meters, but some are as high as 35 meters above the ground. Usually the houses are built on a single tree but frequently the base of the house consists of several living trees, and additional support is derived from wooden poles. These tree houses protect families not only against swarms of mosquitoes below, but also ward off annoying neighbours and evil spirits. enter image description here To build a tree house, a sturdy Banyan tree is selected to function as the central pole. The top of the tree is then removed. The floor frame, made of branches, is constructed first and then covered with sago palm. The walls and roof is made with the same leaves the frame of the house consists of branches fastened with rattan bindings. The flooring must be quite strong as the tree houses often accommodate as many as a dozen people. A dry tree trunk with notches is hung from the bottom of the tree house in order to get up to the house. This ladder shakes with each step and warns the inhabitants that a visitor is on his way up.

I know the BBC video could be revealed to be fake or something, which is more like it's the exaggeration version of the village, the original even having a simple hanging bridge plank to connect each house and it's still quite high.


Base it on native stilt structures.

building on stilts is common in places where flooding is common, so the problem is similar buildings that must be elevated.

enter image description here

enter image description here

Note how the walls and roof are essentially made of woven leaves or bark, everything else is just wooden poles. Such houses are basically made of nothing but tree products. Keep in mind hunter-gatherers are not going to be spending a lot of time in their houses, they are basically places to sleep and store things.

Your biggest problem is they don't have a tools to really work the wood. The lack of resources is going to make everything very hard. An axe or knife is near impossible without access to the ground. Functional axes have been made from large clam shells but they won't have those either.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes... I have this weapon problem too, I have been wondering if this civilization could actually survive that long and if they are plausible at all. I could eventually create a material that is available in hights, it's fantasy after all. $\endgroup$ – Emie Oct 6 '20 at 10:46

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