Archaeologists discover Europe’s oldest lakeside village underwater, find ‘treasure trove’

Archaeologists discover Europe’s oldest lakeside village underwater, find ‘treasure trove’

Under the turquoise waters of Lake Ohrid, the “Pearl of the Balkans” Scientists find out What may have been one of the first settled societies in Europe, trying to solve the mystery of why it was sheltered behind a castle of defensive spikes.

Archaeologists believe that a stretch of the lake’s Albanian shore hosted a settlement of stilt houses around 8,000 years ago, making it the oldest lakeside village in Europe yet discovered.

Radiocarbon dating of the site has been dated to between 6000 and 5800 BC.

“They are hundreds of years older than previously known lake sites in the Mediterranean and Alpine regions,” he said. Albert HafnerProfessor of Archeology from the University of Bern, Switzerland.

This aerial photo taken on July 27, 2023 shows a diver searching for archaeological materials in Lake Ohrid, southeastern Albania. Archaeologists say that the settlement of Palafitte in Lin dates back to 5800-6000 years BC.

ADNAN BIKI/AFP via Getty Images

“As far as we know, it is the oldest in Europe,” he told AFP.

The other oldest villages were discovered in the Italian Alps and date back to around 5,000 BC, said the expert on European Neolithic lake dwellings.

Haffner and his team of Swiss and Albanian archaeologists have spent the past four years conducting excavations in Lin on the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid, which straddles the mountainous border of North Macedonia and Albania.

Last month, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama touted the discovery in a Facebook postpraising its “undisputed historical and archaeological value”.

Swiss Ambassador Ruth Huber visited the excavations in July because she “wanted to be personally and immediately briefed on the research,” Hafner’s team said in a statement. statement.

The settlement is believed to have been home to between 200 and 500 people, with homes built on stilts above the surface of the lake or in areas that regularly flooded.

And she is slowly revealing some startling secrets.

During the recent dive, archaeologists uncovered evidence indicating that the settlement was fortified with thousands of jagged wooden planks used as defensive barriers.

“To protect themselves in this way, they had to cut down a forest,” Haffner said.

But why did the villagers need to build such extensive fortifications to defend themselves? Archaeologists are still looking for an answer to the elusive question.

The researchers estimate that approximately 100,000 thorns were driven into the bottom of the lake off Linn, and Haffner called the find “a veritable treasure trove for research.”

Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest lakes in the world and has existed for over a million years. Underwater excavations have proven difficult.

“We’re dealing with a lot of riparian vegetation here,” said diver Marie Claire Reese SRF News said. “You have to make your way through thick reed beds to get to the dive site.”

This aerial photo, taken on July 27, 2023, shows divers searching for archaeological materials in Lake Ohrid, southeastern Albania.

ADNAN BIKI/AFP via Getty Images

With the help of professional divers, archaeologists would often scrape the bottom of the lake and uncover fossilized fragments of wood and valuable pieces of oak.

Albanian archaeologist Adrian Anastasi said analyzing the tree rings helps the team reconstruct the daily lives of the region’s inhabitants – providing “valuable insights into climatic and environmental conditions” from the period.

“Oak like a Swiss watch, very accurate, like a calendar,” Haffner said.

Anastasi, who heads the team of Albanian researchers, added, “In order to understand the structure of this prehistoric site without damaging it, we are doing very careful research, moving very slowly and very carefully.”

The site’s lush vegetation makes the hard work slow at times.

“Building their village on stilts was a complex task, very complex, very difficult, and it is important to understand why these people made this choice,” said Anastasi.

For now, scientists say it is possible to assume that the village relied on farming and cattle-raising for food.

“We found many seeds, plants and bones of wild and domestic animals,” said Ilir Gibali, an Albanian archaeologist working at the site.

But it will take another two decades for the site to be fully explored and studied and for final conclusions to be drawn.

According to Anastasi, each excavation trip yields valuable information, enabling the team to piece together a picture of life along the shores of Lake Ohrid thousands of years ago, from the architecture of the dwellings to the structure of their community.

“These are important prehistoric sites not only for the region but for the whole of southwestern Europe,” Haffner said.

Last month, the team of scientists Present some of their findings At a conference in Greece.

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