World’s oldest wooden wells excavated in Germany

First Posted: Dec 31, 2012 11:15 AM EST

Up to 7,400-year-old wooden structures for water wells were discovered by German archaeologists led by Dr Willy Tegel of the University of Freiburg, which suggest that prehistoric farmers had unexpectedly refined carpentry skills. The results "contradict the common belief that metal was necessary for complex timber constructions", and question the current thesis of continuous evolutionary development in prehistoric technology say the researcher.

The study, published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, is based on four water well constructions excavated in Saxony, Eastern Germany, two of them at the historic town of Eythra. The Finds are located along the path of the so called Linear Pottery Culture, an archeological trail of settlements, stone tools and ceramics left by the first Central European farmers, migrating from the Great Hungarian Plain towards todays France.

The study's abstract explains the finds in the context of neolithic human evolution: "The European Neolithization ~6000-4000 BC represents a pivotal change in human history when farming spread and the mobile style of life of the hunter-foragers was superseded by the agrarian culture. Permanent settlement structures and agricultural production systems required fundamental innovations in technology, subsistence, and resource utilization. Motivation, course, and timing of this transformation, however, remain debatable. Here we present annually resolved and absolutely dated dendroarchaeological information from four wooden water wells of the early Neolithic period that were excavated in Eastern Germany. A total of 151 oak timbers preserved in a waterlogged environment were dated between 5469 and 5098 BC and reveal unexpectedly refined carpentry skills."

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