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7,000-year-old structure near Prague is more than Stonehenge, Egyptian pyramids

An aerial view of the Vinoř roundel near Prague, showing three separate entrances.

An aerial view of the Vino roundel near Prague, showing three separate entrances.(Image credit: Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences)

Archaeologists digging near Prague can see the remains of a Stone Age structure that’s over the age of Stonehenge and also the Egyptian pyramids: an enigmatic complex referred to as a roundel. Nearly 7,000 years back through the late Neolithic, or New Stone Age, an area farming community could have gathered in this circular building, although its true purpose is unknown.

The excavated roundel is large about 180 feet (55 meters) in diameter, or around so long as the Leaning Tower of Pisa is tall, Radio Prague International reported (opens in new tab). Even though “it really is too early to state anything concerning the people building this roundel,” it’s clear they were area of the Stroked Pottery culture (opens in new tab), which flourished between 4900 B.C. and 4400 B.C., Jaroslav dk, a spokesperson for the Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences (IAP) and a specialist on the Czech Republic’s roundels, told Live Science within an email.

Miroslav Kraus, director of the roundel excavation in the district of Vino with respect to the IAP, said that revealing the structure could provide them with a clue concerning the usage of the building. Researchers first learned all about the Vino roundel’s existence in the 1980s, when construction industry workers were laying gas and water pipelines, in accordance with Radio Prague International (opens in new tab), however the current dig has revealed the structure’s entirety for the very first time. Up to now, his team has recovered pottery fragments, animal bones and stone tools in the ditch fill, in accordance with dk.

Carbon-dating organic remains out of this roundel excavation may help the team pinpoint the date of the structure’s construction and perhaps link it with a Neolithic settlement discovered nearby.

Related: 7,500-year-old Spanish ‘Stonehenge’ discovered on future avocado farm

Individuals who made Stroked Pottery ware are recognized for building other roundels in the Bohemian region of the Czech Republic, dk said. Their sedentary farming villages located at the intersection of contemporary Poland, eastern Germany and the northern Czech Republic contains several longhouses, that have been large, rectangular structures that held 20 to 30 people each. However the “understanding of building of roundels crossed the borders of several archaeological cultures,” dk noted. “Different communities built roundels across central Europe.”

Archaeologists working on the excavation of the Stone Age roundel.

Archaeologists focusing on the excavation of the Stone Age roundel. (Image credit: Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences)

Roundels weren’t well-known ancient features until several decades ago, when aerial and drone photography became an integral portion of the archaeological tool kit. However now, archaeologists understand that “roundels will be the oldest proof architecture in the complete of Europe,” dk told Radio Prague International earlier this season.

Viewed from above, roundels contain a number of wide, circular ditches with several gaps that functioned as entrances. The inner section of each roundel was likely lined with wooden poles, perhaps with mud plastering the gaps, in accordance with Radio Prague International. A huge selection of these circular earthworks have already been found throughout central Europe, however they all date to a span of just several centuries. While their popularity in the late Neolithic is clear, their function continues to be involved.

Open trenches undergoing excavation by a team from the Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Open trenches undergoing excavation by way of a team from the Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences. (Image credit: Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences)

A trench wall revealing stratigraphy (different layers) of the excavation.

A trench wall revealing stratigraphy (different layers) of the excavation. (Image credit: Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences)

In 1991, the initial known roundel was within Germany, also corresponding to the Stroked Pottery culture. Called the Goseck Circle, it really is 246 feet (75 m) in diameter and had a double wooden palisade and three entrances. Because two of the entrances correspond with sunrise and sunset through the winter and summer solstices, one interpretation of the Goseck Circle is that it functioned being an observatory or calendar of sorts, in accordance with a 2012 study in the journal Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association (opens in new tab).

dk preferred a far more general interpretation of the Vino structure, noting that “roundels probably combined several functions, the most crucial being socio-ritual,” he told Live Science. Chances are that roundels were built for gatherings of a lot of people, perhaps to commemorate events vital that you them as a residential area, such as for example rites of passage, astronomical phenomena or economic exchange.

Considering that individuals who built roundels had only stone tools to utilize, these roundels’ sizes are very impressive mostly, about 200 feet (60 m) in diameter, or half along a football field. But little is well known concerning the people themselves, as hardly any burials have already been discovered that could provide more info about their lives seven millennia ago.

After three centuries of popularity, roundels suddenly disappeared from the archaeological record around 4600 B.C. Archaeologists usually do not yet know why the roundels were abandoned. But considering over one-quarter of most roundels found up to now can be found in the Czech Republic, future research like the excavation at Vino may eventually help solve the mystery of the roundels.

Originally published on Live Science.

Kristina Killgrove can be an archaeologist with specialties in ancient human skeletons and science communication. Her academic research has appeared in various scientific journals, while her news stories and essays have already been published in venues such as for example Forbes, Mental Floss and Smithsonian. Kristina earned a doctorate in anthropology from the University of NEW YORK at Chapel Hill and in addition holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical archaeology.

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