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Archaeo News 

It is often difficult to find some news about the most recent archaeological meetings, digs and breathtaking discoveries. As we are particularly interested in prehistoric and megalithic monuments, we are trying to collect every bit of information about them and to put it inside this website.
In these pages you can find the latest news about those special events, people and places mainly related to Europe's most ancient heritage.
Latest news:

Huge Jordanian stone circles baffle archaeologists
Ancient art and architecture influenced by sound
Highest altitude Ice Age settlement discovered
Small clue to Neolithic Cham flint traders
Bog material reveals 11,500 years of Scottish history
Ancient Danish burial sites plundered
Bronze Age find in Outer Hebrides dig
Neolithic village found underwater in Poland
Surprising discovery at Ness of Brodgar
Earliest human genome ever analysed
Palaeolithic settlements discovered in the Nefud Desert
Clues about prehistoric residents of the Rocky Mountains
Bronze Age settlement in England found using Google Earth
Ancient sundial discovered on a Russian stone slab
Massive prehistoric settlement unearthed in Ukraine

  

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10 November 2014

  Huge Jordanian stone circles baffle archaeologists

Archaeologists in Jordan have taken high-resolution aerial images of 11 ancient "Big Circles," all but one of which are around 400 meters in diameter. The similarity seems "too close to be a coincidence" said researcher David Kennedy, a professor at the University of Western Australia.
     The Big Circles were built with low stone walls, little more than a metre high, and originally contained no openings. Their purpose is unknown, and archaeologists are unsure when they were built. Analysis of the photographs, as well as artefacts found on the ground, suggest the circles date back at least 2,000 years, but may be much older.
     First spotted by aircraft in the 1920s, little research has focused on these structures.
     In addition to the 11 photographed circles, researchers have identified another similar circle in Jordan, which appears to have been only partially completed. Old satellite imagery also reveals two destroyed circles, one in Jordan and another in Syria.
     Constructed mainly with local rocks, Kennedy thinks a dozen people working hard could potentially complete a Big Circle in a week, however their precise shape would have required planning.
     Archaeologists Graham Philip and Jennie Bradbury, both with Durham University in England, examined a Big Circle they found near Homs in Syria, positioned in such a way that it could give someone standing inside it a "panoramic" view of a basin that would have held crops and settlements. While the circle was "badly damaged" when the researchers found it, they completed their fieldwork before land development completely destroyed the structure.
     Kennedy's team has found thousands of stone structures in Jordan and the broader Middle East. They come in a variety of shapes, including "Wheels" (circular structures with radiating spokes); Kites (stone structures that forced animals to run into a kill zone); Pendants (rows of stone cairns aligned with burials); and walls (mysterious structures that meander across the landscape for up to several thousand meters, and have no apparent practical use).

Edited from LiveScience (30 October 2014)

  Ancient art and architecture influenced by sound

During a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in October, Steven J. Waller of Rock Art Acoustics described how prehistoric people may have interpreted sound phenomena as supernatural occurrences: "Ancient mythology explained echoes from the mouths of caves as replies from spirits, so our ancestors may have made cave paintings in response to these echoes and their belief that echo spirits inhabited rocky places such as caves or canyons. Many ancient cultures attributed thunder in the sky to 'hoofed thunder gods,' so it makes sense that the reverberation within the caves was interpreted as thunder and inspired paintings of those same hoofed thunder gods on cave walls. This theory is supported by acoustic measurements, which show statistically significant correspondence between the rock art sites and locations with the strongest sound reflection."
     When Waller set up an interference pattern in an open field with two flutes droning the same note, the quiet regions of wave cancellation "gave blindfolded subjects the illusion of a giant ring of rocks or pillars casting acoustic shadows," Waller says. He demonstrated that Stonehenge radiates acoustic shadows that recreate the same pattern. "My theory that musical interference patterns served as blueprints for megalithic stone circles - many of which are called Pipers' Stones - is supported by ancient legends of two magic pipers who enticed maidens to dance in a circle and turned them all into stones," Waller notes.
     There are several important implications of Waller's research. Perhaps most significantly, it demonstrates that acoustical phenomena were culturally significant to early humans, and that the natural soundscapes of archaeological sites should be preserved for further study and greater appreciation.
     Waller's observations and conclusions are among a number of other research findings by scientists exploring this phenomena. In a massive 6,000-year-old subterranean stone complex on the island of Malta, low voices create reverberating echoes, and sounds made in certain places can be clearly heard throughout all of its three levels. Some scientists have suggested that certain frequencies may have actually altered human brain functions.
     Another study found that acoustic behaviour at sites such as Newgrange in Ireland and Wayland's Smithy in England was characterised by a strong sustained resonance, or "standing wave", between 90 and 120 cycles per second. "When this happens," says Linda Eneix, President of the Old Temples Study Foundation, "what we hear becomes distorted, eerie." At the 10,000 BCE site of Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey, a massive T-shaped standing limestone pillar in the centre of a circular shrine "sings" when smacked with the flat of the hand. Obviously made to represent a human with a decorated belt and hands carved in relief at its waist, it bears unexplained symbols in the area of the throat."

Edited from EurekAlert!, Popular Archaeology (28 October 2014)

  Highest altitude Ice Age settlement discovered

At two sites high in the southern Peruvian Andes, scientists have discovered remains that suggest human settlement about 12,000 years ago. More than 4,000 meters above sea level, they are now the highest sites for continuous human occupation ever recorded, predating the earliest known settlements by almost 900 years.
     Led by Kurt Rademaker, a University of Maine (USA) visiting assistant professor in anthropology, the team investigated one site that yielded 260 stone tools such as projectile points, bifaces and scrapers, as much as 12,800 years old. The other site, the Cuncaicha rock shelter, contained stone tools made from locally available obsidian, andesite and jasper, as well as plant remains, bones of llama-like vicunya and guanaco, and the taruca deer, and featured sooted ceilings and rock art, indicating it was likely a base camp.
     The Cuncaicha cave shelter was big enough to fit 20 or 30 people and had been occupied multiple times over thousands of years. The site is more than 2,000 metres higher than the famous Inca archeological site Machu Picchu, and just 880 metres lower than the Mount Everest base camp in the Himalayas.
     "We don't know if people were living there year round, but we strongly suspect they were not just going there to hunt for a few days," says archaeologist and research team member Sonia Zarrillo of the University of Calgary. "There were possibly even families living at these sites, because we've found evidence of a whole range of activities. In Cuncaicha we found remains representing whole animals, indicating they were living close to where the animals were killed. And the types of stone tools we've found are not only hunting tools but also scraping tools used for processing hides to make things like clothing, bags or blankets."
     Zarrillo specialises in identifying edible plants at archeological sites. There are no edible plants growing in the area surrounding the cave, yet Zarrillo found bits of edible roots and tubers from lower elevations, suggesting the cave dwellers were either trading with other groups, or at times moving to lower elevations.
     Rademaker stumbled upon the cave a few years ago while trying to locate the source of obsidian found at archeological sites on the Peruvian coast, and "instantly recognised that it was an archeological site."
     The cave is located in a cold and dry area of the Andes that Zarrillo describes as "a moonscape," but the nearby Pucuncho Basin appears to have been a rich hunting ground 12,000 years ago, when the climate was just a little bit cooler and wetter. Today, the area is used by local Andean herders to graze thousands of llamas and alpacas. The locals have genetic adaptations that allow them to live comfortably at high altitude, such as unusually large lung capacities, high metabolic rates and the ability to carry more oxygen in their blood. Those adaptations were thought to have taken thousands of years to evolve.
     The fact that humans were living at these altitudes for long periods of time just 2,000 years after entering South America raises scientific questions. In addition, Zarrillo said, it's possible that there are even older settlements in deeper layers of the cave floor or other sites in the area.

Edited from Popular Archaeology, CBC News (23 October 2014)

6 November 2014

  Small clue to Neolithic Cham flint traders

Weighing a few grammes and only 25 millimetres long, a tiny flint scraper discovered by an amateur archaeologist on the Schlogen loop of the Danube in Upper Austria tells a story of trade and society in Central Europe over 5,000 years ago, and helps piece together a long forgotten way of life.
     An ongoing study of flint artefacts imported into Upper Austria places the origins of this scraper 200 kilometres away, in the mines of Arnhofen in Lower Bavaria. Arnhofen is one of the largest sources of this quality Jurassic flint in Europe and was exploited for over 2,500 years. The flint was mined at a depth of up to 8 metres via more than 20,000 shafts, many of which can still be seen.
     Found on one of the broad flat terraces that form around the Danube loop, the scraper is of a type created by the Late Neolithic Cham culture (3400-2700 BCE), which stretched along the waterways of the Danube from Austria to Bavaria in southern Germany.
     Though most of their settlements are represented by only a few stray finds on later sites, they must have had a sophisticated network of trade and transportation. Up to 50 per cent of the tools from the Cham culture were made of flint imported from the Bavarian mines.
     It is easy to imagine flint traders in dugout canoes landing on this piece of land beside the broad river loop, where a tiny clue to their passage will be discovered thousands of years later.

Edited from Past Horizons (30 October 2014)

  Bog material reveals 11,500 years of Scottish history

Peat from a bog near Edinburgh contains 11,500-year-old vegetation and glimpses of the impact made by humans on the landscape from as far back as the Neolithic period.
     Ravelrig bog contains two hill forts. Kaimes Hill shows evidence of human activity from the Mesolithic period. Dalmahoy Hill is thought to have been occupied during the pre-Roman Iron Age and early medieval times.
     "The bog started out as a small lochan [lake] within a rocky hollow that was formed at the end of the last glacial period," says archaeo-botanist Susan Ramsay. "Aquatic plants gave way to marshland and finally raised Sphagnum [peat] bog as natural succession progressed. During the early Holocene, the woodlands of the area were dominated by birch, hazel and willow but developed into mixed oak, elm and hazel woodlands by the mid-Holocene."
     An initial survey in 2007 revealed the scientific potential of a core deposit covering more than 10,000 years.
     "Previous studies have suggested that the first major woodland clearances in central Scotland occurred in the pre-Roman Iron Age, with the cleared agricultural landscape being maintained throughout the Roman period," says Ramsay. At Ravelrig, human impact on the landscape is recorded from the Neolithic period onwards, with increasing woodland clearance and agricultural activity in the Bronze Age and a peak in activity in the pre-Roman Iron Age. These periods of agricultural intensification appear to correspond with known periods of occupation at the nearby hill forts."
     Ramsay says that between 250 BCE and 150 CE, "Birch pollen levels increased significantly, suggesting that land that was previously farmed was abandoned and was gradually colonised by birch woodland. It is not clear what the cause of this agricultural decline might be but further work may be able to determine a more precise date range for this event," believes Ramsay.

Edited from Culture24 (21 October 2014)

4 November 2014

  Ancient Danish burial sites plundered

Grave robbers have dug up and plundered four ancient burial sites in Mangehøje north of Grindsted near Billund in Jutland (Denmark). It is believed the sites date back to some 4,000 years ago.
     Lars Bjarke Christensen, an archaeologist from the Culture Ministry, is gutted over the theft and the loss of Danish history. "It's a disaster. The grave robbers have ruined part of Denmark's history," Christensen said. "The things we could have learned from the burial mounds have now been erased from history. We can no longer investigate how ancient life was in this area of Jutland," he added.
     The archaeologists have not excavated the burial mounds either since they are protected, but they do know that other mounds from the same era contained artefacts - such as stone axes, jewellery and pottery - that were buried with the dead for use in the afterlife.
     According to Christensen, the last time graves were plundered in Denmark was back at the end of the 1890s. He estimates the plundered artefacts won't net more than 2000 euros  on the black market. The police in southeast Jutland are investigating the incident.

Edited from The Copenhagen Post (24 October 2014)

  Bronze Age find in Outer Hebrides dig

A significant Bronze Age pottery find has been made during an archaeological dig on the east side of Lewis (Outer Hebrides, Scotland). Pieces believed to date from between 1500 and 1000 BEC were unearthed in the Point district of the island.
     Scottish Water had been working on a new line when a saddle quern, used for grinding corn, was spotted. The site was initially thought to be an Iron Age dwelling but experts now believe they are dealing with something older.
     Archaeologist Alastair Rees said: "The pottery that we first found initially seemed to be from the Iron Age. But since then we have found much more pottery and it is definitely Middle Bronze Age, which is much older in date. So we have had to rethink the site considerably."

Edited from BBC News (32 October 2014)

3 November 2014

  Neolithic village found underwater in Poland

Under the surface of a lake in Northern Poland, known as lake Gil Wiekli, archaeologists have found evidence of what could prove to be the first Stone Age settlement found in Polish waters. The team carrying out the investigations comprises members from the Scientific Association of Polish Archaeologists and the Department of Underwater Archaeology from the Nicolaus Copernicus University of Torun (Poland).
     Several scanning techniques were used to map the underwater contours of the lakes, which were then studied to identify areas which could be of archaeological interest. Once these had been identified then penetrating radar was employed to further examine the sediment, prior to any excavation being carried out.
     Dr Andrzej Pydyn, leader of the research team, is quoted as saying "In shallow water in the reservoir we found a large amount of animal bones, renmains of tools made of antler and numerous fragments of pottery, used at various times by ancient communities. Among them, the framents that caught our attention relate to tradition of late Neolithic, probably associated with the so-called Corded Ware culture".
     This is only one of several underwater sites being investigated and the results of the analyses of the latest finds are eagerly awaited.

Edited from Science & Scholarship in Poland (15 October 2014)

  Surprising discovery at Ness of Brodgar

A giant-sized Neolithic Era cow found as archaeologists excavated at the famous Ness of Brodgar site in Orkney (Scotland). "It is so big that there was an immediate need for an expert opinion," reported the Dig Diary blogger for the Ness of Brodgar Excavations project. So archaeologists called upon Jen Harland, an expert at identifying faunal remains. "She has confirmed that the bones belong to an enormous cow - so big indeed that it is probably off the scale for the biggest known modern cow and into the range for an aurochs."
     The aurochs, a huge, prehistoric ancestor to the modern day cow, is now extinct, the last one having died in the Jaktorów Forest, Poland in 1627. But even during Neolithic times, they had already become relatively rare.
     Thus far, the animal's massive horn core has been revealed, along with part of the skull. But much more work needs to be done when the excavators return for the next season.  "Further identification will be needed and this will have to wait until next year when the contexts can be properly excavated without the need to rush," continues the blog report. "However, it will have important implications for our understanding of the agricultural economy of the Neolithic in Orkney, and for the range of animals present at that time."
     Archaeologists have been excavating at this now famous Neolithic Era site ever since a geophysical survey in 2002 revealed anomalies that indicated a buried settlement complex, and then ploughing turned up a large, notched stone slab in a field in 2003. Radiocarbon dates from excavations have since shown that the site was a prehistoric complex that was used for 1,000 years - from at least 3200 BCE to 2300 BCE.
     The animal remains are among the latest of a string of remarkable finds. Other discoveries have revealed a sequence of Neolithic structures, including a large oval structure enclosed by a monumental wall, a symmetrical building, and a structure measuring 25 metres (82 feet) long by 20 meters (65 feet) wide, with the remains of five-meter-thick outer walls still standing at a height of about one meter (three feet).
     
Edited from Popular Archaeology (14 October 2014)

2 November 2014

  Earliest human genome ever analysed

Scientists have reconstructed the genome of a man who lived 45,000 years ago - by far the oldest ever obtained from modern humans. The research provides new clues to the expansion of modern humans from Africa into Europe and Asia, adding support to a provocative hypothesis: Early humans interbred with Neanderthals.
     The discoveries were made by a team of scientists led by Svante Paabo, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Comparing Neanderthal to human genomes, Dr Paabo and his colleagues found that we share a common ancestor, which they estimate lived about 600,000 years ago.
     In 2008, a fossil collector searching for mammoth tusks along the Irtysh River in Siberia found a thighbone near a settlement called Ust'-Ishim, and brought it to scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Researchers identified the bone as a modern human, and determined it to be about 45,000 years old - the oldest modern human fossil found outside of Africa and the Near East.
     Dr Paabo and his colleagues used a number of genetic fragments to create a high-resolution copy of the man's complete genome, which they compared to those of ancient and living people. They found his DNA was more like that of non-Africans, but no more closely related to ancient Europeans than to East Asians. He was part of an earlier lineage - a group that eventually gave rise to all non-African humans.
     Homo sapiens, our own species, appeared in Africa around 200,000 years ago. Previous studies, both on genes and on fossils, suggest they then expanded through the Near East.
     Ust'-Ishim man's genome suggests he belonged to a group of people who lived after the African exodus, but before the split between Europeans and Asians. Dr Paabo and his colleagues also found pieces of Neanderthal DNA in his genome.
     Fossils indicate that Neanderthals spread across Europe and Asia before becoming extinct an estimated 40,000 years ago. By comparing the Ust'-Ishim man's long stretches of Neanderthal DNA with shorter stretches in living humans, Dr Paabo and his colleagues estimated how long ago Neanderthals and humans interbred. Previous studies based only on living humans had yielded an estimate of 37,000 to 86,000 years. Dr Paabo and his colleagues narrowed that down: Humans and Neanderthals interbred 50,000 to 60,000 years ago.
     The findings question research suggesting that humans in India and the Near East date back as far as 100,000 years ago. Some scientists believe that humans expanded out of Africa in a series of waves.
     Christopher Stringer, a palaeo-anthropologist at the Natural History Museum, says the new study offers compelling evidence that living non-Africans descended from a group of people who moved out of Africa about 60,000 years ago. Any humans that expanded out of Africa before then probably died out.

Edited from The Washington Post, Examiner.com, The New York Times (22 October 2014)

  Palaeolithic settlements discovered in the Nefud Desert

The Nefud Desert is an oval depression in the northern Arabian Peninsula, known for its red sand, sudden violent winds, and large crescent-shaped dunes. It is 290 kilometres long, 225 kilometres wide, and sees rain only once or twice a year. But in antiquity, there were lakes.
     Dr Eleanor Scerri of the University of Bordeaux and her colleagues call them 'palaeo-lakes'. Today these ancient lakes are only sediments and other features that tell us that there was once water, but scientists have also found fossil flora, fauna, and archaeological features and artefacts.
     Scerri and her colleagues detail their discovery of 13 sites associated with palaeo-lake basins dated to Lower and Middle Palaeolithic times - from 2.5 million all the way to 30,000 years ago. "One of the sites, T'is al Ghadah, may feature the earliest Middle Palaeolithic assemblage of Arabia," they write.
     According to Scerri and her colleagues, ancient humans came and went in this region, following the rivers and settling around the lakes during wet periods, bringing stone tool cultures that differed depending upon their culture, and perhaps origin. Who were they? Thus far, no human fossils have been found at any of the sites.
     Despite the diversity, the researchers suggest that there was at least one common characteristic among these various ancient groups - a rarity of formal tools, but strong similarities in production techniques. How they produced their tools could give clues to their relationship and origins.
     The survey is one of a number of efforts to research human dispersal and habitation from northeastern Africa through Arabia and beyond. For Scerri, early modern humans may have arrived at various times from northeastern Africa, traversing what is called the 'Saharo-Arabian belt' via land routes - perhaps more than 100,000 years ago.
     It is a theory based on years of research, that may help to explain the presence of early modern humans in Southwest Asia in prehistory. Considered controversial by some scholars, it contrasts with one widely-held theory that early modern humans dispersed rapidly out of Africa primarily along the coasts about 55,000 years ago. The evidence for this shows up in small blade technologies - very similar to stone tools made in what is called the 'Howiesons Poort' industries of southern Africa - and symbolic items such as beads, incised and decorated items and bone tools.
     Scerri and others suggest a different scenario. "Human movements across Southern Asia would have been slow, continental advances during humid periods, and contractions (and even extinctions) during arid periods. Mapping of environments from Arabia to Southeast Asia indicate dramatic variability in habitats." Major revisions in genetic studies "suggest that 'Out of Africa' movements may date to 120,000 years ago, which would correspond with fossils of Homo sapiens in the Levant, and Middle Palaeolithic technologies in southern Asia."
     Evidence thus far suggests an ancient human presence in the Nefud that may bear significantly on the study of prehistoric human dispersal.

Edited from Popular Archaeology (20 October 2014)

  Clues about prehistoric residents of the Rocky Mountains

This past summer, Matt Stirn, Rebecca Sgouros, and a crew of volunteers made two expeditions on the west slope of the Teton Range, a mountain range of the Rocky Mountains between Wyoming and Idaho, just south of Yellowstone National Park, USA.
     Not that long ago archaeologists thought indigenous people of the region made short visits and occasional use of resources above 10,000 feet. Then a team that included Stirn started finding evidence that American Indians not only pitched camps in the high country, but also established alpine villages that were possibly used for thousands of years. Besides widespread projectile points, they found large grinding stones that may have been used over generations, as well circular depressions that proved to be remnants of structures.
     Archaeological surveys in the Tetons go back to the 1970s, but new technology and new ideas about how prehistoric people might have used the area have resulted in the discovery of 30 previously unrecorded sites dating back perhaps 11,000 years.
     Artefacts include stone points and tools, soapstone fragments, and one complete bowl. Because soapstone is porous, any fats the bowl may have contained could have sunk into the vessel’s pores and been preserved, and reveal how old the item is and also offer clues about what its makers ate.
     Also of interest are artefacts made of stone from near Dubois, Idaho - a 200 kilometre trek over rugged terrain.
     Stirn said a lot of artefacts found at Wind River sites are associated with Plains Indian cultures to the east, while Teton artefacts are more in the style of the Great Basins of Utah and Idaho to the west.
     The team has a five-year permit with public land agencies to continue its work. They’d like to plot sites, compare the east side of the Tetons with the west side, and preserve and protect the sites.

Edited from Jackson Hole News & Guide (15 October 2014)

31 October 2014

  Bronze Age settlement in England found using Google Earth

Devonshire treasure hunter Howard Jones trawled satellite images for the sort of terrain that would have offered food, water and shelter for a prehistoric settlement, pinpointing a spot in the South Hams. The former Royal Marine then sought permission from the local landowner before heading down there to scour for remains. He soon unearthed old flint tools, pottery shards and scraps of metal thought to date back 5,000 years.
     Howard called in Devon County archaeologist Bill Horner, who carried out a geophysical survey using ground-penetrating radar. According to Horner, "The survey shows two or three probable farmsteads which look to be late prehistoric, bronze age to iron age. Other parts of the underlying settlement possibly continue to the Romano-British period, around 1,500-2,000 years ago. The images also show tracks and enclosures, as well as a number of pits, which alongside Howard's findings, looks like evidence of metal works. We know that Devon's mineral resources were being traded along the coast and along the channel in prehistoric times. While Dartmoor is famous for preserved historic sites, the same is not true of coastal areas. So this could be the missing link between those moorland sites and the evidence we have of trading." Mr Horner has arranged for a series of trench digs, which could take place as early as February 2015.
     Howard, a commercial scuba diver, has previously searched for ancient artefacts underwater, and in 2010 he was involved in the discovery of the 300-year-old Dutch merchant vessel Aagtekerke off the Devon coast.

Edited from Express & Echo (22 October 2014)

  Ancient sundial discovered on a Russian stone slab

The stone slab is marked with round divots arranged in a circle, and an astronomical analysis suggests that these markings coincide with heavenly events, including sunrises and moonrises.
     Last year, study researcher Larisa Vodolazhskaya of the Archaeo-astronomical Research Center at Southern Federal University in Russia and her colleagues analysed a different Bronze Age sundial found in Ukraine, and discovered it to be a sophisticated instrument for measuring the hours. Their work came to the attention of archaeologists in Rostov, Russia, who knew of a similar-looking artefact found in that area in 1991, which had been sitting in a museum and never thoroughly studied.
     The Rostov slab was found over the grave of a man who had died about age 50, and dates back to the 12th century BCE - similar in age to the one found in Ukraine.
     By studying the geometry of the Rostov slab, Vodolazhskaya and her colleagues discovered that the carved circles, which are arranged in a pattern about 33 centimetres in diameter, correspond with the sunrises at equinoxes and solstices.
     The Bronze Age people who created this pattern weren't only interested in the sun. The circles that didn't correspond to solar movements were linked to lunar wanderings. The angle of the moon's orbit goes through an 18.6-year cycle, during which its position shifts. The Rostov slab tracks these movements with circular carvings indicating the southernmost and northernmost moonrises of these 'low' and 'high' moons.
     The slab was found at a Bronze Age Srubna or Srubnaya site, a culture which flourished on the steppes between the Ural Mountains and Ukraine's Dneiper River. The artefact, Vodolazhskaya says, may be the work of Bronze Age scientists.

Edited from Discovery News (16 October 2014)

23 October 2014

  Massive prehistoric settlement unearthed in Ukraine

A temple dating back about 6,000 years has been discovered within a massive prehistoric settlement in Ukraine. The temple is about 60 by 20 meters (197 by 66 feet) in size: it was a "two-story building made of wood and clay surrounded by a galleried courtyard," the upper floor divided into five rooms, write archaeologists Nataliya Burdo and Mykhailo Videiko in a copy of a presentation they gave recently at the European Association of Archaeologists' annual meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.
     Inside the temple, archaeologists found the remains of eight clay platforms, which may have been used as altars, the finds suggested. A platform on the upper floor contains "numerous burnt bones of lamb, associated with sacrifice," write Burdo and Videiko, of the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. The floors and walls of all five rooms on the upper floor were "decorated by red paint, which created [a] ceremonial atmosphere." The ground floor contains seven additional platforms and a courtyard riddled with animal bones and pottery fragments, the researchers found.
     The temple, referred to as belonging to the "Trypillian" culture, was first detected in 2009 and is located in a prehistoric settlement near modern-day Nebelivka. Recent research using geophysical survey indicates the prehistoric settlement is 238 hectares (588 acres) - it contained more than 1,200 buildings and nearly 50 streets.  
     Fragments of figurines, some of which look similar to humans, were also found at the temple. Like findings at other Trypillian sites, some of the figurines have noses that look like beaks and eyes that are dissimilar, one being slightly larger than the other. Ornaments made of bone and gold were also discovered at the temple. The gold ornaments are less than an inch in size and may have been worn on the hair, researchers say.
     The newly discovered prehistoric temple is similar to temples from the fifth to fourth millennia BCE that were built in ancient Middle East cities, such as those in Anatolia and Mesopotamia, Burdo and Videiko note.
     Archaeologists found that when this prehistoric settlement was abandoned, its structures, including the newly discovered temple, were burnt down, something that commonly occurred at other Trypillian culture sites.

Edited from LiveScience (20 October 2013)

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