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6000-Year-Old Temple Possible Site of Animal Sacrifices

Oct 22, 2014 11:53 AM EDT

A temple dating back about 6,000 years has been discovered within a massive prehistoric settlement in Ukraine, and ancient artifacts suggest that it was possibly a site of animal sacrifices, according to new research.

Inside the temple, about 197 by 66 feet (60 by 20 meters) in size, archaeologists found human-like figurines and sacrificed animal remains, as well as eight clay platforms that may have been used as sacrificial altars. A platform on the upper floor contained "numerous burnt bones of lamb," according to lead authors Nataliya Burdo and Mykhailo Videiko, and the floors and walls of all five rooms on the upper floor were "decorated by red paint, which created [a] ceremonial atmosphere," they added, via Live Science.

The two-story wood and clay structure was first discovered in 2009, and researchers have been studying it ever since. The worship site was part of a significant prehistoric village near modern-day Nebelivka, spanning more than 66 acres. At its height, the ancient settlement boasted more than 1,200 buildings and some 50 streets.

In addition to burnt animal bones, archaeologists discovered human-like figurines, some with noses that look like beaks, and ornaments made of bones and gold. The gold ornaments are less than an inch in size and may have been worn on the hair, according to researchers. The temple and settlement were products of the "Trypillian" culture, a name given to the culture of one of Ukraine's earliest villages, Trypillia.

Similar to other villages of the time period, the settlement, along with the newly discovered temple, was eventually abandoned and all the buildings burned.

"The rationale, origins and collapse of these large sites, however, has remained unclear, as has their impact on the local environment and their place in local and regional settlement structures," the researchers wrote.

The temple and its collected artifacts are detailed in the journal Tyragetia, a supplemental report hosted by the online journal Antiquity.

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