View Full Version : Europe's oldest Civilisation: A Network of Dozens of Temples

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005, 03:00 AM
Found: Europe's oldest civilisation
By David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent

Archaeologists have discovered Europe's oldest civilisation, a network of dozens of temples, 2,000 years older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids.

More than 150 gigantic monuments have been located beneath the fields and cities of modern-day Germany, Austria and Slovakia. They were built 7,000 years ago, between 4800BC and 4600BC. Their discovery, revealed today by The Independent, will revolutionise the study of prehistoric Europe, where an appetite for monumental architecture was thought to have developed later than in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

In all, more than 150 temples have been identified. Constructed of earth and wood, they had ramparts and palisades that stretched for up to half a mile. They were built by a religious people who lived in communal longhouses up to 50 metres long, grouped around substantial villages. Evidence suggests their economy was based on cattle, sheep, goat and pig farming.

Their civilisation seems to have died out after about 200 years and the recent archaeological discoveries are so new that the temple building culture does not even have a name yet.

Excavations have been taking place over the past few years - and have triggered a re-evaluation of similar, though hitherto mostly undated, complexes identified from aerial photographs throughout central Europe.

Archaeologists are now beginning to suspect that hundreds of these very early monumental religious centres, each up to 150 metres across, were constructed across a 400-mile swath of land in what is now Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and eastern Germany.

The most complex excavated so far - located inside the city of Dresden - consisted of an apparently sacred internal space surrounded by two palisades, three earthen banks and four ditches. The monuments seem to be a phenomenon associated exclusively with a period of consolidation and growth that followed the initial establishment of farming cultures in the centre of the continent.

It is possible that the newly revealed early Neolithic monument phenomenon was the consequence of an increase in the size of - and competition between - emerging Neolithic tribal or pan-tribal groups, arguably Europe's earliest mini-states.

After a relatively brief period - perhaps just one or two hundred years - either the need or the socio-political ability to build them disappeared, and monuments of this scale were not built again until the Middle Bronze Age, 3,000 years later. Why this monumental culture collapsed is a mystery.

The archaeological investigation into these vast Stone Age temples over the past three years has also revealed several other mysteries. First, each complex was only used for a few generations - perhaps 100 years maximum. Second, the central sacred area was nearly always the same size, about a third of a hectare. Third, each circular enclosure ditch - irrespective of diameter - involved the removal of the same volume of earth. In other words, the builders reduced the depth and/or width of each ditch in inverse proportion to its diameter, so as to always keep volume (and thus time spent) constant .

Archaeologists are speculating that this may have been in order to allow each earthwork to be dug by a set number of special status workers in a set number of days - perhaps to satisfy the ritual requirements of some sort of religious calendar.

The multiple bank, ditch and palisade systems "protecting" the inner space seem not to have been built for defensive purposes - and were instead probably designed to prevent ordinary tribespeople from seeing the sacred and presumably secret rituals which were performed in the "inner sanctum" .

The investigation so far suggests that each religious complex was ritually decommissioned at the end of its life, with the ditches, each of which had been dug successively, being deliberately filled in.

"Our excavations have revealed the degree of monumental vision and sophistication used by these early farming communities to create Europe's first truly large scale earthwork complexes," said the senior archaeologist, Harald Staeuble of the Saxony state government's heritage department, who has been directing the archaeological investigations. Scientific investigations into the recently excavated material are taking place in Dresden.

The people who built the huge circular temples were the descendants of migrants who arrived many centuries earlier from the Danube plain in what is now northern Serbia and Hungary. The temple-builders were pastoralists, controlling large herds of cattle, sheep and goats as well as pigs. They made tools of stone, bone and wood, and small ceramic statues of humans and animals. They manufactured substantial amounts of geometrically decorated pottery, and they lived in large longhouses in substantial villages.

One village complex and temple at Aythra, near Leipzig, covers an area of 25 hectares. Two hundred longhouses have been found there. The population would have been up to 300 people living in a highly organised settlement of 15 to 20 very large communal buildings.

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005, 03:25 AM

green nationalist
Tuesday, June 14th, 2005, 04:00 AM
Yeah I read tthis in the paper today. this means that the first civilisation was in Germany. I love it when we are proved right all along dont you? :-D

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005, 04:03 AM
Yeah I read tthis in the paper today. this means that the first civilisation was in Germany. I love it when we are proved right all along dont you? :-D

Who was proved right?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005, 04:21 AM
Who was proved right?

I would imagine those who are proved right would be the scholars and anthropologists who alleged that something like this did indeed exist, hmm?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005, 04:25 AM
I would imagine those who are proved right would be the scholars and anthropologists who alleged that something like this did indeed exist, hmm?

I don't think that's what Green Nationalist was hinting at...

Friday, November 17th, 2006, 01:05 AM
Europe's oldest civilisation and its rondels: the real story

Jaromír Kovárník, Radan Květ & Vladimír Podborský

Not long ago a report of the German TV MDR and by David Keys in the British newspaper The Independent (11 June 2005) about the discovery of the 'oldest' civilisation on the European continent dating back to the latest period of the Stone Age (Neolithic) between 4800 and 4600 BC excited the European intellectual public (Antiquity 79: 501). This civilisation, building circular 'temples', is said to have been founded by the descendants of 'nomads from the Danubian lowlands' and after a 'short period of two to three centuries' ceased to exist. The report evoked the impression that it is a recent discovery of German archaeologists.

But what in fact are we talking about?
To begin with we should consider very carefully the term 'civilisation', a definition in history assigned to that stage of development when mankind discovered vocal writing; naturally this is not the case of the Neolithic, the stage into which the reported 'civilisation' falls. For all that we may perhaps use this term with certain reservations, especially when we take into consideration the fact that some languages (e.g. French) use the term 'la civilisation' instead of 'archaeological culture'.

Indeed, after c. 4800/4700 BC a late-Neolithic population with state-of-the-art material and spiritual culture was established in the countries of the central Danubian region (Pannonia, southern and western Slovakia, South Moravia, Lower Austria), in archaeological terminology indicated as people of the Lengyel Culture (after Lengyel in west Hungary). This cultural complex formed the outermost of the Anatolian-Balkan Neolithic zone characterised by advanced agricultural economy and highly developed material and spiritual culture; in particular it had an advanced agronomical practice, abundant assortment of tools made of stone (chipped and also ground and drilled), bone and horn (originally definitely also wooden) and pottery with rich polychromic paintings and mass occurrence of human, particularly female figures - 'Venuses', indicating respect for the Great Goddess - Mother (Mother-Earth). Today the makers of this cultural complex are more frequently thought of as Proto-Indo-Europeans. Several cultures or cultural groups, related chronologically and geographically, were part of the Lengyel domain; one of the most important was the Moravian-Austrian group, in Moravia traditionally indicated as the Moravian painted pottery culture.

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