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Albania: a lake hides the remains of the oldest lake city in Europe

2023-08-13T06:06:32.079Z

Highlights: Archaeologists continue excavations in the emerald waters of Lake Ohrid, the oldest lake in Europe. The city of Lake Balkan could have been populated by 200 to 500 people, according to initial estimates. The analysis of the growth rings of these trunks by the dendrochronology method should provide "a valuable insight into the climatic and environmental conditions" of the time and the daily life of the inhabitants of this city, explains archaeologist Adrian Anastasi, head of the Albanian research team.


The scientific results of samples recovered from this pile dwelling site, discovered off the small Lin Peninsula, place its antiquity between 6000 and 5800 years before our era.


Scientific analysis and excavation will take many more years, but the Albanian waters of Lake Ohrid have already revealed a secret. They hide the remains of the oldest lake city discovered to date on the European continent.

Recently arrived from a laboratory at the University of Bern, radiocarbon dating results of pile samples recovered from this pile dwelling site, discovered off the small Linen peninsula, place its antiquity between 6,000 and 5,800 years before our era. "To our knowledge, the Lin lake site is the oldest in Europe. It dates back several hundred years and is older than those known until nowin the Mediterranean and the Alpine region," archaeologist Albert Hafner, director of research at the University of Bern, told AFP.

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For the past four years, this professor has been co-directing the work of a team of Albanian and Swiss archaeologists who are continuing excavations in the emerald waters of Lake Ohrid, the oldest lake in Europe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which Albania shares with North Macedonia. "In the north of the Alps, the oldest sites date from around 4000 BC, further south, in the Italian alpine lakes they date around 5000 BC," says this expert on European lake cities of the Neolithic. These villages consisted of houses on stilts, above water or in areas regularly flooded by rising waters.

Farmers in prehistory

Archaeologists continue to take turns descending to the bottom of the lake to reassemble fossilized fragments and pieces of oak piles. AFP

The city of Lake Balkan could have been populated by 200 to 500 people, according to initial estimates. Assisted by professional divers, archaeologists continue to descend to the bottom of the lake to reassemble fossilized fragments and pieces of oak piles. The analysis of the growth rings of these trunks by the dendrochronology method should provide "a valuable insight into the climatic and environmental conditions" of the time and the daily life of the inhabitants of this city, explains archaeologist Adrian Anastasi, head of the Albanian research team. "Oak is like a Swiss watch, very precise, like a calendar," says Albert Hafner.

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To understand the structure of this pile dwelling without damaging it, we move very slowly and with great caution," says Adrian Anastasi. Abundant vegetation does not facilitate this work. "Building their village on stilts was a complex task, and it's important to understand why these people chose this type of architecture," he adds. It is assumed, for the time being, that agriculture and cattle ranching had been the main activities of these villagers. "We found different seeds, plants and also bones of wild and domestic animals," says Ilir Gjepali, an Albanian archaeology professor in charge of making an initial selection of the materials brought to the surface.

Among the first sedentary people in Europe?

Each descent to the bottom of the lake provides valuable information to reconstruct the architecture of the dwellings or the organization of the life of the villagers, who could turn out to have been among the first sedentary on the European continent, according to Adrian Anastasi. After a two-hour dive, Kristi Anastasi, an Albanian researcher in underwater archaeology, found a large amount of archaeological material, ceramics and fragments of flint tools four meters deep. Samples of piles and other organic materials are regularly sent to university laboratories in Bern for analysis.

Archaeologists discovered that the city had probably been fortified. They estimate at some 100,000 the number of piles driven at the bottom of the lake, off Lin, "a real treasure for research," says Hafner, adding that research on the site could take another twenty years. "To protect themselves like this, they had to cut down a forest," he said. Protect yourself from whom? It is difficult for archaeologists to have an immediate answer. "These are key sites for prehistory and are not only interesting for the region, but also for the whole of southwestern Europe," says the archaeologist.

Source: lefigaro

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