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23 November 2008
Greek archaeologists find 6,500-year-old settlement

Archaeologists in central Greece have unearthed the remains of a Neolithic settlement discovered by workers laying a gas pipeline, the Greek Culture Ministry said. The finds include remains of houses built of wood and unbaked clay bricks, together with pottery vases, ovens and stone tools, the Culture Ministry announced. The Neolithic-era remains were discovered during work to lay a gas pipe near the village of Vassili in Thessaly, some 170 miles (280 kilometers) north of Athens. "Thessaly had a very dense pattern of settlement during Neolithic times," said Giorgos Toufexis, the archaeologist who headed the excavation at Vassili.
     The ministry announcement said the settlement was destroyed by fire, which baked and hardened the clay parts of the houses and preserved imprints of their wooden sections which included sawed planks. "(The imprints) bear testimony to the advanced skills of the people," the statement said. The buildings had walls made of branches covered with clay, supported by strong wooden posts, and clay-covered roofs.
     "The economy was based on agriculture and animal farming," Mr Toufexis said. "We can't provide an estimate yet on the settlement's size, but it doesn't seem to be very big. These settlements usually have a diameter of around 150 yards." Mr Toufexis said his team has only excavated a very small section of the site, through which the gas pipe will pass. It is unclear whether the dig will expand further, as neighbouring plots are privately owned.
     Among the ruins, archaeologists found large quantities of pottery, including many painted vases, stone axes and scrapers, bone tools and a small number of terracotta figurines. More than 4,000 years after the settlement was abandoned, the low mound that covered it was used as a small cemetery, where 15 graves dating from the fourth to the first centuries BCE were excavated.
     The ministry said archaeologists planned to analyze organic finds, such as seeds and pollen grains, from the site to study environmental conditions in the early 5th millennium BCE.

Sources: Associated Press, Reuters (20 November 2008), Telegraph.co.uk (21 November 2008)

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