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14 October 2004
Europe's oldest wooden staircase found in Austria

A 3,000-year-old wooden staircase has been found at Hallstatt in northern Austria, immaculately preserved in a Bronze Age salt mine. "We have found a wooden staircase which dates from the 13th century BCE. It is the oldest wooden staircase discovered to date in Europe, maybe even in the world," said Hans Reschreiter, the director of excavations at Vienna's Natural History Museum. "The staircase is in perfect condition because the micro-organisms that cause wood to decompose do not exist in salt mines," he added.
     The staircase is about one metre (three feet) wide and is made of pine and spruce. It was used, the acheologist said, during the Bronze Age to go down into the saltmine and was found some 100 metres (300 feet) below the surface. The saltmine lies about 200 metres from a necropolis which was the seat of the so-called Hallstatt Civilisation, one of the most important and advanced of the Iron Age, that lived around 700 BCE.
     "For the moment we have uncovered a piece of only about seven metres, but the staircase extends further down and up," Reschreiter said. He said previously the oldest known wooden staircase in Europe dated back to the fifth century BCE.

Source: AFP, Yahoo! News (12 October 2004)

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