Prior to European intervention, Tahitians followed a pattern of dispersed settlements, dwellings being scattered along the coastal plain and up the broader valleys. By the nineteenth century missionary activities and the use by European vessels of safe harbors on the island resulted in the formation of Villages near these locations. The Tahitian house resembled a flattened oval inground plan, the long sides being parallel and the two ends rounded. The thatched roof extended down on all sides from a central ridgepole extending lengthwise along the house. Most dwellings were enclosed by a wall of vertically lashed bamboo poles, a space being left open in the middle of one long side to serve as a doorway. Such structures averaged about 6 meters in length with a width of 3.6 meters and a ridge height of 2.7 meters. However, important chiefs might have buildings measuring as much as 91 meters in length and proportionately wide, with a ridgepole resting some 9 meters above the tamped earthen floor.