I write Fantasy novels, and I always have the same problem: Whenever I want to create a map or outline of any village/city/farm/what have you, I don't know what goes in it. Nowhere can I find a definitive source for 'this is what every village needs for __ time period.' All I'm looking for is the basics - the buildings that every settlement has to have on some level (additional details would, of course, be nice).

I can figure out a lot of the buildings. Humans need three basic things: food, shelter, and clothing. But the more advanced I make the humans, the more things they require, and I can never tell if my city contains them all.

Is there somewhere I can find this information? (physical or virtual)

EDIT: Something else that would work would be a formula which would allow me to determine what buildings my settlement requires based off of what they need. I would imagine a simple map would be easier though.

For example, in my current work, I have a group of humans from around 1300. They are living in the vicinity of New Zealand. I say the vicinity, because this is a fantasy novel and there is, in fact, no such place as New Zealand. They do not have access to metal, and wouldn't know what to do with it if they did. There are approximately 1000 of them living in one village.

I don't know what their village would contain. The first thing I would do is try to find a blueprint for a Native American village, as I would imagine the buildings needed would be fairly similar. Apparently, no such document exists. I've done extensive searches, and I've found nothing.

How can I find the information that I need?

  • $\begingroup$ This site is actually quite useful and flexible, though I'm not sure how to format it as a proper answer: www222.pair.com/sjohn/blueroom/demog.htm $\endgroup$ – Icyfire Dec 4 '16 at 4:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Icyfire Helpful. Only Medieval of course, but definitely helpful. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 4 '16 at 4:49
  • $\begingroup$ humans don't need clothing in many climates. They do however need waste disposal and water. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 4 '16 at 6:37
  • $\begingroup$ "Humans need three basic things: food, shelter, and clothing". You are describing only part of Maslow's hierarchy [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs], and ignoring one of the important low level ones: security. Many societies are just as affected by the threat of neighbors or neighboring states as desire for food and shelter. $\endgroup$ – Mark Ripley Dec 4 '16 at 8:20

The reason you are having trouble is how basic needs are fulfilled vary wildly not just by time period but also by culture and landscape. the simpliest human settlement is a a few huts to sleep in, a communal fire pit, and a garbage pile, and that's it. even simple things like how food is obtained or what resources are abundant changes community structure dramatically. Hunter/gather, fishing, herding, or plant crops all have different living conditions.

Your best bet is to use realworld examples. Pick your time period, climate, and culture then search from there. But you will still have to consider things like whether it is a market town or farming village, are the people nomadic pastoralists or or a fishing village.

  • $\begingroup$ That's my problem. I have picked a real world example (Native American village). I have found nothing on it. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 4 '16 at 7:12
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    $\begingroup$ becasue native american in not a culture. The Maya were drastically different from the Anasazi who were drastically different from the Cherokee, ect. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 4 '16 at 7:13

Archaeological Journals

The information you want is published reports of digs in Archaeological journals. Unfortunately, getting your hands on that information can be tough. Searching through published articles is a good way to get what you want. Unfortunately, Journals aren't really free. If you are a college student, you can usually use JSTOR through your college library to search a lot of available journals. If JSTOR is available to you, that is BY FAR your best option and you should spend the time learning how to use it.

You have a few options, pay for a subscription, or see what you can get for free. Google Scholar is in general a good resource of a lot of topics, but archaeology really isn't one. I haven't had much success with it in that field; most of the good stuff is behind paywalls and most of the free stuff is crap. The Royal Archaeology Institute offers for free all their issues from 1844 to 1963. This is good, because back then people were more interested in digging that in social theories and other nonsense. Unfortunately, their search tool is godawful and it is hard to find anything.

The last option is paying for subscriptions, or pay-per-view on papers you know are interesting. Google Scholar can help here, since it links to many non-free papers in addition to the free ones. I have never done this so I can't really advise you on a good strategy for spending money effectively.


Have you been to your local library? No one goes to the library any more. But especially in older towns there can be some impressive things in public libraries. If you live near a city that boomed before 1900 or so, Public libraries often have very impressive endowments from people like Carnegie and Rockefeller and such. Check out the library. You never know what is in there until you look.

Amazon is the next best thing. The problem with amazon is that it can be hard to determine what is useful and what is garbage before you buy. read reviews and look for adjectives like 'dense' and 'hard to read.' Then you are probably on the right track.

Search terms

The term you are searching for is 'material culture'. Combine that with village and you can search on, for example, Amazon and see what you can find. Here is book on material culture of an Early Mediterranean Village (note: uses the word 'agency' in the title which is code for 'bullshit'), one on an Alaskan native village, a late Moari village (Did somebody say New Zealand!!!), an a Kickapoo village from Illinois (Native American anyone ?!?!).

So there you have it. You should probably look for journal articles or see whats in the library, but at least on Amazon there are two books that seem to cover exactly what you want. Are they good books? No idea, you and your $70 are going to have to find out. But its a start.


Stone age

"They do not have access to metal" means that they live in the stone age, by definition. There are zillions of articles on the internet about stone age settlements, and there are quite a few full books on the Internet Archive; for example, The New Stone Age in Northern Europe by John M. Tyler (1922); has pictures. For an archeologist it would be too old to be useful, but I think that for fiction it should be quite serviceable. The climate of northern Europe is not substantially different from New Zealand.


You can find what you need through more research; there is no "go-to place" of which you speak.

Given a date, a source cannot simply say "this is what there would be" because the date says nothing in an setting. In a fantasy world, there may be magic in development at 500 A.D., and the Great Elf Wars might happen, ridding the world of all it's titanium alloy in 1700 A.D. - it depends on the world completely.

You would have to provide the location, how long the society has been developing, the neighboring civilizations, their stats, the nearby resources etc. - and at that point, "what their village would contain" is still opinion-based. No source but research and reasoning will do the math for you.

  • $\begingroup$ Two things: firstly, how did you get the tag in there? That's really cool. Secondly, The things that depend on the world on the novel I know. That part I can handle. The part I can't find anything on is what is normally there. All I need is blueprints for villages from all eras. If I had that, I could find what I need, and base my village off of that. I am missing that base. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 4 '16 at 4:46
  • $\begingroup$ @ThomasMyron (1) Type "[tag:" followed by "(namehere)]" ex. [tag.:science-based] = science-based (2) Unfortunately even the base will depend on geography, resources, neighbors, age of civ, species, and a host of other things :/ $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 4 '16 at 4:53
  • $\begingroup$ I don't need to find my exact village though. That's not what I'm looking for. All I would need is a village that is similar, which I can then use as a reference for what is needed. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Dec 4 '16 at 5:05

One of the most important historical documents on demographics is the Domesday Book from 1086 that holds a very thourough land survey of the territory held by William the Conqueror in England.

Data from this document has been used by RPG fans to create a number of tools to quickly get an estimate for populations and economics of medieval settlements of a given size.

I recommend taking a look at the following links:

Medieval Demographics made easy

The Domesday Book (tool)

Low-Fantasy Populations

Medieval Demographics Online


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