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24 December 2005
Germany reopens 6,800-year-old circle

At the winter solstice this week, Germany opened a replica of a mysterious wooden circle that is believed to be a temple of the sun built by a lost culture 6,800 years ago. The circle of posts, in a flat river plain at Goseck south of Berlin, has mystified scientists since its discovery in 1991 by an archaeologist studying the landscape from the air. An excavation found post holes and what may be the remains of ritual fires.
     Goseck has been dubbed the German Stonehenge, though it is twice as old as the Stonehenge megalithic circle and has no stones. The original wood rotted away long ago, but new palisades, or wooden walls, were constructed
at Goseck this year. In a public works scheme, 2,300 oaken poles were erected in a circle on the same site over a seven-month period, with gateways opening to the points of the compass where the sun rises and sets on December 21. There are now two concentric wooden palisades, each 2.5 metres high, as well as a ditch and an earthen wall.
     The Goseck Circle was apparently erected by Europe's first civilization, and is one of the best studied of 150 monumental sites arrayed through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Slovenia. The realization that a very early European farming people built such vast sites has arrived in little more than a decade. The culture is known only as that of stroke-ornamented ceramic ware, from fragments of pottery it left. The jars and bowls had their decoration jabbed into the soft clay with a kind of fork to form zig-zag lines. The whole period of stroke-ornamented pottery is limited to 4900 to 4650 BCE.
     Francois Bertemes, who heads the prehistoric archaeology institute at nearby Halle-Wittenberg University, claims the site marks the start of world astronomy and surmises that it was a place of fertility rituals that would have included weddings. Excavation of the 6,000-square-metre site found two 'sacrificial' pits containing fragments of human bone. There was evidence of a very hot fire in both, but the ash had been removed, which Bertemes sees as a sign that humans were sacrificed. The dig also turned up hundreds of pottery fragments and cattle bones. However, Bertemes' views remain controversial. "We prefer to just speak of central places where people gathered. We don't know what they did there. Maybe they were temples. Or markets," Christoph Heiermann, spokesman for the Saxony state archaeological service said.

Source: Expatica (20 December 2005)

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