7,000-year-old building near Prague older than Stonehenge and Egyptian pyramids

(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeologists excavating near Prague have unearthed the remains of a Stone Age structure older than Stonehenge and even the Egyptian pyramids: a mysterious complex dubbed the round dance.

About 7,000 years ago, during the Late Neolithic, or New Stone Age, the local agricultural community may have gathered in this round building, although its true purpose is unknown.

The excavated circle is large – about 55 meters in diameter, or about the same as the Leaning Tower of Pisa in height, Radio Prague International reported.

And while “it’s too early to tell about the people who built this round dance,” it’s clear they were part of the stucco pottery culture that flourished between 4900 B.C. and 4400 BC, Jaroslav Ržidki, a representative of the Institute of Archeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences (IAP) and an expert on Czech round dances, told Live Science in an email.

Miroslav Kraus, leader of the excavation of round dances in the Vinorža area on behalf of the IAP, said the discovery of the structure could give them a clue about the building’s use.

Researchers first became aware of the existence of the round dance in Vinorzh in the 1980s, when builders were laying gas and water pipes, but the current excavations have revealed the entire structure for the first time.

According to Rzhidka, at the moment his team found fragments of ceramics, animal bones and stone tools in the filling of the ditch.

Carbon dating of organic remains from this excavation could help the team pinpoint the construction date of the structure and possibly link it to a Neolithic settlement found nearby.

According to Ržidka, the people who made hand-made ceramics are known for building other round dances in the Bohemian region of the Czech Republic.

Their settled agricultural villages – located at the junction of modern Poland, eastern Germany and northern Bohemia – consisted of several longhouses, which were large rectangular buildings that could accommodate 20 to 30 people each.

But “knowledge about the construction of circle dances crossed the borders of several archaeological cultures,” Rzhidkiy noted. “Various communities built round dances throughout Central Europe.”

Round dances were not well-known ancient features until a few decades ago, when aerial and drone photography became a key part of the archaeological toolkit. But archaeologists now know that “round dances are the oldest evidence of architecture in all of Europe,” Ržidki told Radio International Praha earlier this year.

When viewed from above, round dances are one or more wide, round ditches with several openings that served as entrances. The inside of each round dance was most likely lined with wooden poles, and the gaps may have been smeared with mud.

Hundreds of such circular earthworks have been found throughout Central Europe, but they all date from only two to three centuries. While their popularity in the Late Neolithic is clear, their purpose remains in question.

In 1991, the earliest known circle was found in Germany, also belonging to the culture of stucco pottery. Called the Gosek circle, it has a diameter of 75 m, a double wooden palisade and three entrances.

Because the two entrances correspond to sunrise and sunset during the winter and summer solstices, one interpretation of Gosek’s circle is that it functioned as an observatory or calendar of sorts, according to a 2012 study published in the Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association. .

Ržidki preferred a more general interpretation of Vinorž’s structure, noting that “round dances probably combined several functions, the most important of which was socio-ritual”.

It is likely that circle dances were built for gatherings of large numbers of people, perhaps to commemorate events important to their community, such as rites of passage, astronomical events, or economic exchanges.

Given that the people who built the round dances had only stone tools, the size of these round dances is very impressive – most often their diameter is about 60 m, or half the length of a football field.

But little is known about the people themselves, since very few burials have been found that could provide more information about their life seven thousand years ago.

After three centuries of popularity, circle dances suddenly disappeared from the archaeological record around 4600 BC.

Archaeologists do not yet know why they were abandoned. But given that more than a quarter of all round dances found to date are in the Czech Republic, future research, like the excavations at Vinoře, may ultimately help unravel the mystery of round dances.

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