Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a Stone Age structure older than Stonehenge and even the Egyptian pyramids during excavations near Prague: an enigmatic complex known as the Rondell.
Nearly 7,000 years ago, during the late Neolithic or Neolithic period, a local farming community may have gathered in this circular building, although its true purpose is unknown.
The unearthed rondel is large — about 55 meters in diameter, or about the length of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Radio Prague International reported.
And although “it is too early to say anything about the people who built this rondel,” it is clear that they were part of the painted pottery culture that existed between 4900 B.C. and 4400 BC The Czech Academy of Sciences (IAP) and an expert on the rounds of the Czech Republic told Live Science in an email.
Miroslav Kraus, who headed the roundel excavation in the Vinoř district on behalf of the IAP, said that uncovering the structure could give them a clue as to the building’s use.
According to Radio Prague International, researchers first learned of the existence of the Vinoř Rondell in the 1980s when construction workers laid gas and water pipes, but the current excavation has revealed the entirety of the structure for the first time.
According to Řídký, his team has so far recovered pottery fragments, animal bones and stone tools in the trench filling.
Carbon-dated organic remains from this circular excavation could help the team determine the date of the structure’s construction and possibly link it to a Neolithic settlement discovered nearby.
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The people who made stroked pottery wares are known for building other roundels in the Bohemian region of the Czech Republic, Řídký said. Their sedentary farming villages—situated at the crossroads of modern-day Poland, eastern Germany, and the northern Czech Republic—consisted of a number of longhouses, which were large, rectangular buildings each accommodating 20 to 30 people.
But the “knowledge about the construction of rondels has crossed the borders of several archaeological cultures,” noted Řídký. “Various communities have built roundels across central Europe.”
Roundels were not known ancient features until a few decades ago, when aerial and drone photography became an important part of the archaeological toolkit.
But now archaeologists know that “round pieces are the oldest evidence of architecture in all of Europe,” Řídký told Radio Prague International earlier this year.
Viewed from above, roundels consist of one or more wide, circular ditches with multiple gaps that acted as entrances. According to Radio Prague International, the inner part of each rondel was probably lined with wooden poles, possibly with mud plastering the gaps.
Hundreds of these circular earthworks have been found throughout central Europe, but they all date from a span of only two or three centuries. While their late Neolithic popularity is clear, their function is still questionable.
In 1991, the earliest known rondel was found in Germany, which also corresponds to the Stroked Pottery culture. The so-called Goseck circle has a diameter of 75 m and had a double wooden palisade and three entrances.
Because two of the entrances correspond to sunrise and sunset during the winter and summer solstices, one interpretation of the Goseck circle is that it functioned as a kind of observatory, or calendar, according to a 2012 study in the journal Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association.
Řídký preferred a more general interpretation of vinoř structure, noting that “Rondells probably combined several functions, the most important of which was socio-ritual,” he told Live Science.
It is likely that roundels were built for gatherings of large numbers of people, perhaps to commemorate events important to them as a community, such as B. rites of passage, astronomical phenomena or economic exchange.
Given that the people who built rondels could only work with stone tools, these rondels are quite impressive – most commonly they are around 60m in diameter, or half the length of a football pitch.
Little is known about the people themselves, however, as very few burials have been found that could provide more information about their lives seven millennia ago.
After three centuries of popularity, rondelle suddenly disappeared around 4600 BC. from the archaeological record. Archaeologists do not yet know why the roundels were abandoned.
But considering that over a quarter of all rondels found so far are in the Czech Republic, future research similar to the Vinoř excavation could eventually help solve the rondel riddle.
This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.