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World's Oldest Wooden Water Wells Discovered

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Dec 23, 2012 06:29 AM EST
Early Neolithic Water Wells Reveal the World's Oldest Wood Architecture
Early Neolithic Water Wells Reveal the World's Oldest Wood Architecture (Photo : Willy TegelRengert ElburgDietrich HakelbergHarald StäubleUlf Büntgen )

Researchers have discovered four wooden water wells in the Greater Leipzig region, Germany, which are believed to be the oldest known timber constructions in the world.

A team of experts led by Willy Tegel and Dr. Dietrich Hakelberg from the Institute of Forest Growth of the University of Freiburg, Germany, uncovered the wells built during the early Neolithic period between the years 5206 and 5098 B.C.

Based on results from growth ring dating, the research team was able to determine the felling years of the trees and also the time when the wells were built. They found that the wood used to construct the wells belonged to old oak trees and were felled by early Neolithic farmers.

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Researchers found a total of 151 oak timbers preserved in a waterlogged environment dating back to the Neolithic period. Besides timber, experts also unearthed waterlogged organic materials like plant remains, wooden artifacts and ceramic vessels completely sealed (airtight) below groundwater level.

The discovery of timber gives insights into earliest wood architecture and the carpentry skills of humans around 7,000 years ago. Using laser scanning technology, experts were able to collect data on the timber joints and tool marks, shedding light on the highly developed woodworking skills of Neolithic settlers in central Europe.

During the sixth millennium B.C., Neolithic culture (New Stone Age) spread across Europe, with settlers leading a sedentary lifestyle with agriculture and livestock breeding. The Neolithic period was the final stage of cultural revolution, which is when prehistoric humans began using technology like stone tools, settled in permanent villages and produced pottery.

Settlers built houses and it is not possible to construct permanent homes without woodworking skills. This shows that the Neolithic people were highly skilled in woodwork. This also suggests that the first farmers of the Neolithic period were also the first carpenters.

Experts hope the findings will help them carry out detailed studies on the role of timber construction techniques to help humans adopt a sedentary lifestyle.

The findings of the study, "Early Neolithic Water Wells Reveal the World's Oldest Wood Architecture", are published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

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