The World's Oldest Wood Architecture, A Neolithic Water Wells

Reply Thu 20 Dec, 2012 09:07 am
Anyone writing a book about the history of carpentry may want to include these latest discoveries in the first chapter: Wooden water wells made out of oak timbers dated to over 7,000 years ago were discovered in eastern Germany, and their workmanship suggests an unexpected sophistication in carpentry skills for Neolithic farming communities of the time. The oak timbers, 151 in all, were preserved in a waterlogged environment were dated to between 5469 and 5098 BC.
"This early Neolithic craftsmanship now suggests that the first farmers were also the first carpenters", a study of the finds reports.
Moreover, they were made long before metal was discovered and used in the manufacture of tools that would have been used to fashion and construct the wells. It challenges previous assumptions that metal tools were required to create more complex wooden structures, such as these wells.
So how were they made without metal tools?
They were made by using stone adzes of at least two different sizes to produce finely cut timbers and then employing sophisticated wooden corner joining and log constructions through wedge tusk tenon joints and interlocked corner joints. Examination of tool marks also suggests the use of bone chisels in the process. Even today, certain kinds of carpentry are employed in this fashion without nails, screws and power tools, although metal tools are most often used.

Photo: DPA/ Sächsisches Landesamt für Archäologie Dresden

From PLOS One:

The European Neolithization ~6000−4000 BC represents a pivotal change in human history when farming spread and the mobile style of life of the hunter-foragers was superseded by the agrarian culture. Permanent settlement structures and agricultural production systems required fundamental innovations in technology, subsistence, and resource utilization. Motivation, course, and timing of this transformation, however, remain debatable. Here we present annually resolved and absolutely dated dendroarchaeological information from four wooden water wells of the early Neolithic period that were excavated in Eastern Germany. A total of 151 oak timbers preserved in a waterlogged environment were dated between 5469 and 5098 BC and reveal unexpectedly refined carpentry skills. The recently discovered water wells enable for the first time a detailed insight into the earliest wood architecture and display the technological capabilities of humans ~7000 years ago. The timbered well constructions made of old oak trees feature an unopened tree-ring archive from which annually resolved and absolutely dated environmental data can be culled. Our results question the principle of continuous evolutionary development in prehistoric technology, and contradict the common belief that metal was necessary for complex timber constructions. Early Neolithic craftsmanship now suggests that the first farmers were also the first carpenters.
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Reply Thu 20 Dec, 2012 09:15 am
@Walter Hinteler,
If you ever see any of the "Tree ring" cross plots from which they established the chrono age of the events, Id love to see you post them. I use dendrochronology a lot.

Those joints look almost arts and crafts style. Amazing stuff Walter
Reply Thu 20 Dec, 2012 09:42 am
@Walter Hinteler,
I can think of at least one requirement for carpentry in early agricultural societies, the relics of which would not have survived--animal pens. In fact, in early colonial North America, it was not only necessary to pen animals, but to build "bear-proof" hog pens and barns so that the local bear populations would not plunder a settler's livestock. The requirement would have been the same in the early days of agriculture. The oldest Japanese archaeological sites show very sophisticated grain storage bins--one might call them "mini-silos," as they were taller than wide, and their bases were raised above the ground to protect the contents from rodents.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 20 Dec, 2012 09:45 am
I've found a brochure about it, In German (of course), as pdf.

Reply Thu 20 Dec, 2012 04:58 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Thanks, I got a contact from their work. I must say that their graphics are really great. Much more skilled than Im used to seeing in NAture or Science
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Reply Thu 20 Dec, 2012 05:04 pm
neolithic "lake dwellers" left evidence of huge areas of post holes sunk into lake margin sediments. From their breadths, it was imagined that their dwellings were as big as some Northern State Paleo-Indian Long dwellings.
If Paleo Indians were here at a minimum of 12K years ago and evidence of their Long Dwellings (post holes) exist in US, and the "Lake dwellers of Europe" were peri-glacial, we shouldnt be too surpised at these "Dovetail" and "box" type joints shown in the well casing. Im amazed more, that they had the technology to understand about ground water
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