December 22nd, 2012 by James Ayre
Four ancient water wells constructed by the first Central European agricultural civilization have now been precisely dated by using dendrochronology, also known as growth ring dating.
The wells were created at known human settlements in the Greater Leipzig region, they are now known to be the oldest timber constructions in the world. There is good evidence to associate the wells with the Linear Pottery culture, which is thought to have existed from around 5600 to 4900 BC.
“The four early Neolithic wells were constructed from oak wood. In addition to the timber, many other waterlogged organic materials, such as plant remains, wooden artifacts, bark vessels, and bast fiber cords, as well as an array of richly decorated ceramic vessels, have survived for millennia hermetically sealed below groundwater level. With the help of dendrochronology, the scientists were able to determine the exact felling years of the trees and thus also the approximate time at which the wells were constructed.”
“The tests revealed that the wood comes from massive old oak trees felled by early Neolithic farmers with stone adzes between the years of 5206 and 5098 BC. The farmers cleaved the trunks into boards, assembling them to make chest-like well linings with complex corner joints. Using state-of-the-art laser scanning technology, the scientists collected data on the timbers and tool marks and documented the highly developed woodworking skills of the early Neolithic settlers. The very well-preserved tool marks and timber joints testify to unexpectedly sophisticated timber construction techniques.”
“In the course of the sixth millennium BC, the nomadic hunting and gathering lifestyle gave way to a sedentary lifestyle with agriculture and stock breeding in Central Europe. This break in the history of humankind has been termed the ‘Neolithic Revolution.’ A sedentary lifestyle required permanent housing, and houses are inconceivable without a developed woodworking technology — in other words, the first farmers were also the first carpenters. Until now, however, archaeologists have only succeeded in unearthing the soil marks left by their houses.”
“The precisely dated wells will enable scientists to conduct more detailed studies on the important role of timber construction techniques for humankind’s adoption of a sedentary lifestyle.”
The new research was just published in the journal PLoS ONE.
Image Credits: Sächsisches Landesamt für Archäologie, Dresden
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