7,000-year-old well is the oldest wooden structure ever discovered
In what is now the Czech Republic, archaeologists have found a 7,000-year-old well built by Neolithic settlers. Researchers determined it to be the oldest wooden architectural building in the world after studying the structure.
The structure was first uncovered by construction workers in 2018 in Ostrov, between the regions of Bohemia and Moravia.
The growth rings in the wood, a method known as dendrochronology, were studied by archaeologists and concluded that it was made from oak cut down around 5255 B.C.
Experts at the University of Pardubice plan to preserve the well, which is currently being stored in a climate-controlled cellar at the school, located east of Prague.
“It is by far the oldest object that we will be working on at the faculty, and it will not be an easy task,” Karol Bayer, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Restoration at the university, said in a statement.
Bayer said the structure was well-preserved because it remained underwater for centuries. The preservation process will now take several months to complete, to ensure the wooden pieces do not fall apart after drying.
“Now we cannot let it dry out, or the well would be destroyed,” Bayer said. “That is why we will gradually replace the water with a new preservative that each of us knows and uses. It is saccharose. So we will increase the concentration of the sugar solution,”
The well measures about 55 inches in height, with a square base of about 32 by 32 inches. The design reveals that Neolithic people were capable of more advanced architectural techniques than previously thought.
The structure, built with grooved corner posts with inserted planks, also highlights the builders’ advanced carpentry abilities — unknown across the continent during the Neolithic period, the later portion of the Stone Age.
The structure was said to be constructed with the “utmost precision” even though the only tools available at the time consisted of stone, bone, horn, and wood.
“The shape of the individual structural elements and tool marks preserved on their surface confirm sophisticated carpentry skills,” the researchers said.
During a preliminary analysis, experts found evidence of many invertebrate animals and small vertebrate bones, shellfish, crustacean eggs, and insects.
Researchers were also able to deduce some information on the environment and economy of these farmers after identifying the residue of crop plant species, including prehistoric wheat, flax, and opium poppy.
This well is the third Neolithic well found in the country in four years.
A man picking mushrooms in the Czech republic discovers a rare 3000-year-old sword
A man hunting for mushrooms found came away with more than just a bunch of fungus – he discovered two rare Bronze Age weapons. Roman Novák was foraging for fungi after a rainstorm in Jesenick, a small town about 150 miles from Prague when he noticed a piece of metal jutting out of the ground.
Examining it closer, Novák realized it was part of a sword, dating back some 3,300 years ago.
Digging some more, he also uncovered a bronze axe from the same era nearby. The discovery has led local archaeologists to plan an excavation in the area.
‘It had just rained and I went mushroom-picking,’ Novák told Radio Prague International. As I went, I saw a piece of metal sticking out of some stones. I kicked it and found that it was a blade, part of a sword.’
Archaeologists who examined both pieces say they date to about 1300 BC when Central Europe’s Urnfield culture was just emerging and Jeseník would have been sparsely populated.
Unlike later iron swords, which are hammered into shape while still red hot, bronze swords were made by heating the metal until it turned into a liquid and then pouring it into a mould.
The sword has an octagonal handle, with a bronze hilt intricately carved with circles and crescents. The blade, which is broken near the base but otherwise intact, resemble weapons used mainly in what is now Northern Germany.
‘They were obviously trying their best, but the quality of the casting was actually pretty low,’ said Jiří Juchelka, director of archaeology at the nearby Silesian Museum. ‘X-ray tests show that there are many small bubbles inside the weapon.’
Because of that, Juchelka believes the sword was more ceremonial than something used in combat.
Nevertheless, it’s only the second of its kind found in the region.
‘It is like a puzzle,’ said Milan Rychlý of Jesenick’s Ethnographic Museum. ‘We just have four little shards from the story that took place right now, so we have to start piecing everything together.’
When the excavation of the area is complete, all the items will go on display at the two museums.
Mushroom picking after it rains is a popular hobby in Eastern Europe: Last month a man foraging in north-central Poland literally stumbled across a trove of 17th-century silver coins.
Bogusław Rumiński’s bike got stuck in a rut while he was riding in his tiny village of Jezuicka Struga.
When he put his hands out to stop his fall, Rumiński landed on dozens of silver pieces dating to the reign of King John II Casimir Vasa. The coins, which are in excellent condition, were minted between 1657 and 1667, shortly after the Deluge, an era of frequent wars involving Russia, Poland and Sweden.
Later searching with a metal detector turned up even more coins, bringing the total to 86. Because of the coins’ fine condition, experts believe they were hidden shortly after being produced.
This Astronomical Clock is 6 centuries old and still ticks in Prague
One of the most compelling of landmarks in the Czech Republic is the Astronomical Clock in Prague. Legend dates the clock back to the 15th century when Hanus, a clock master with plenty of experience, was chosen to make a device that not only told the time but which also offered other functions.
The most widespread legend of all dates back probably to the 15th century, around the time the clock appeared. It says that an experienced clock master, known as Hanuš, was selected by the city councillors of Prague to produce an original device that would not only measure the time but also have a few other functionalities.
However, the councillors were worried about whether Hanuš might produce another, similar-looking clock for another city. Which is how they started thinking of ways to eliminate any such possibility, and eventually they came up with a sick plan.
One night, they sent people to break into the home of the clock master to injure his eyes with a chunk of iron, leaving him blind.
It was not that Hanuš couldn’t figure who committed this wrongdoing, so in revenge, with a little help of his apprentice, he went to his creation and made the clock halt. As the story goes, over 100 years passed before the clock was brought to life again.
Like many other versions of the legend, this one attributes the clock’s craftsmanship to the wrong person.
According to a paper that contains an insightful description of how the clock’s astronomical dial works, discovered in 1961, the creator was the Imperial clock-producer Mikuláš of Kadaň. He devised the piece in 1410, helped by astronomer and university teacher Jan Sindel.
On a few occasions during its history, the machinery of the Astronomical Clock has failed. Therefore, the device needed to undergo maintenance.
No one knew how to fix it though, so when the clock stopped sometime during the late 18th century, local officials even considered replacing it with another piece.
Luckily they didn’t, but for an extended period, the device was simply not working. The long-needed repair came many decades later, around 1865, when one of the clock’s newest features was added, the Calendar Dial.
It is one of the most famous clocks around the world, but it also makes for the third-oldest astronomical clock and the oldest one still in use. Its age and authenticity are some of the reasons why people gather each hour in front of the Old Town Hall Tower where the Astronomical clock wisely sits, to watch how it chimes the hour, an experience that lasts just 45 seconds.
When it does chime the hour, the window of the clock in the upper part shows the 12 apostles moving. Simultaneously, the surrounding sculptures that adorn the device are set in motion.
One of the moving figures carrying an hourglass in his hand personifies Death. Another moving figurine has a mirror, representing Vanity. Other figurines, such as those of the Astronomer, the Philosopher, or the Chronicler, appear to be motionless. However, several of these figures are replicas because their originals were severely damaged by the Germans at the end of World War Two.
The Astronomical Dial is probably the oldest of all clock components and is one of the main reasons why the Prague clock is so unique. This element splendidly illustrates how people of the medieval era observed the universe. Of course, it is the Earth represented in the centre of it. The dial’s bits of the blue stand for the skies beyond the horizon, while a brownish counterpart stands for the skies below it.
Inscribed Latin letters further indicate which side is east and which one is west; north and south are in this case replaced by denotations for “above” and “below” the horizon, both marked with Latin words for “dawn” and “twilight” respectively.
A zodiac circle stands for the stars up above and it runs in harmony with them, and the two clock hands display the symbols of our closest stellar bodies, the sun and the Moon.
The three sets of this dial can count three different times. The first is the Italian time or what would be Old Czech time. Central European Time is measured by the sun pointer and this is the hour, from 1 to 24, which the clock chimes. It was once set to measure Old German Time, but before that, it counted the hour according to Bohemian Time.
The third is likely the most interesting of all sets, measuring Babylonian Time where the hour’s length is determined by which season of the year it is. During summer the hour is longer; in winter it’s shorter. This device is the only clock one on the entire planet known to be capable of tracking Babylonian Time.
In comparison with the Astronomical dial, the Calendar one has fewer functionalities, but it is brilliant anyway. In its centre, it shows the symbol of the Old Town of Prague and its outer ring reads the description of each day for all year round. The current day is shown at the very top. Each month is also represented by a zodiac sign situated in a medallion.
Little did we know there were so many ways to measure and represent time.
A cache of 14th-Century Coins Discovered in the Czech Republic
PLZEŇ, CZECH REPUBLIC—Radio Prague International reports that hundreds of fourteenth-century coins were discovered in the western Czech Republic, near the Kladruby Monastery, by a couple out for a walk.
“As they were walking through the forest, they spotted a few coins, two made of gold and one of silver, lying on the ground,” explained archaeologist Milan Metlička of the Museum of West Bohemia.
The West Bohemian Museum in Plzeň confirmed hundreds of 14th century silver and gold coins have been found. The cache, discovered in a forest near the Kladruby Monastery in Tachov area, is believed to be one of the largest uncovered troves of gold coins on Czech Republic territory.
The chance discovery occurred already in March, during the coronavirus lockdown, but it was not until this Monday that the museum announced the find to the public.
The coins were stumbled upon by a young couple who went on a walk through the forest near the West Bohemian town of Stříbro.
Milan Metlička is an archaeologist from the Museum of West Bohemia in Plzeň:
“As they were walking through the forest, they spotted a few coins, two made of gold and one of silver, lying on the ground. They were probably dug up by some forest animals, most likely by wild pigs.
“There was a large stone protruding from the ground. When they pulled it out, they saw a large amount of gold and silver coins underneath and they immediately called us to announce the discovery.”
Among the coins are gold ducats bearing the image of the Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, Albrecht of Austria, and Rupert of the Palatinate as well as ducats from the Hanseatic city of Lübeck.
“It also contains 343 silver groschen mostly minted in Bohemia during the reign of Charles IV and several groshen bearing the image of John of Bohemia, the Duke of Luxembourg.
“The discovery of the silver groshen is not that unusual. But such a large trove of gold coins is really unique. No such discovery was made in the country in the past 50 years.”
Archaeologists believe the coins were buried in the ground in the late 1370s. While the reason why someone hid the treasure is likely to remain unknown, it was most likely linked to the nearby Monastery in Kladruby.
“The monastery was located on a strategic medieval trade route between Prague and Nürnberg. And since the discovery was made not far from there and close to the royal town of Stříbro, it is very likely that it is somehow connected to it.”
According to Mr. Metlička, it is hard to express the value of the find in terms of money, but the nominal value of the gold coins, which weigh over 325 grams, is at least CZK 420,000.
“With the silver coins, it is more complicated, because they also contain copper, which reduced their value. However, the historic value of the silver coins could be around CZK 180,000 and the value of the gold coins could range between CZK three and four million.”
The coins are expected to go on display in the Museum of West Bohemia in Plzeň at the end of this year or at the beginning of next year after they have been restored and catalogued.
A Dog Named Monty Has Dug Up a Rare Cache of Bronze Age Artifacts in the Czech Republic
In March, Monty was out on a trip with his owner Mr. Frankota, to Orlické Mountains (northeast Bohemia), making a spectacular discovery. Archeologists report that the objects discovered by the dog are “surprisingly” in good condition.
Frankota recounts that Monty rushed off during their walk and started digging frantically. He walked over to check what got his dog so excited and was surprised to see a collection of bronze objects.
The stash — which has been donated to the Hradec Králové Region local government — contained 13 sickle blades, 3 axe blades, and two spearheads.
All items were fashioned out of bronze. The wealth of objects, as well as the excellent condition they were buried in, points to a ritual deposit, archeologists believe.
“The fact that there are so many objects in one place is almost certainly tied to an act of honoration, most likely a sacrifice of some sorts,” Martina Beková, an archaeologist at the nearby Museum and Gallery of Orlické Mountains, told Czech Radio.
“What particularly surprised us was that the objects were whole, because the culture that lived here at the time normally just buried fragments, often melted as well. These objects are beautiful, but the fact that they are complete and in good condition is of much more value to us.”
Beková was part of the team that examined the artifacts after Frankota delivered them to local authorities.
They were likely produced by the Urnfield culture, a late Bronze Age Indo-European people that lived in the area. Their name stems from the group’s mortuary practices: they would cremate their dead and bury them in urns in fields.
As of now, the team cannot say for sure how or why the items were buried in the area.
The discovery has local archeologists excited — and rightly so. It’s the largest single finding in the region. They’re currently combing the region with metal detects but, so far, their search proved unfruitful. Still, they’re not about to give up just yet.
“There were some considerable changes to the surrounding terrain over the centuries, so it is possible that the deeper layers are still hiding some secrets,” Sylvie Velčovská from the local regional council.
The artifacts are currently on display as part of the exhibition Journey to the Beginning of Time at the Museum and Gallery of Orlické Mountains, Rychnov, until 21 October 2018. After that, they will undergo conservation and be moved to a permanent exhibition in a museum in Kostelec.
The team also wants to point out that archeologists often work with lucky discoveries made by members of the public or during excavation works; if you happen to stumble into some artifacts, you should notify local authorities (archeological items are considered government property in most states). It’s not a one-sided deal, either: Frankota was awarded 7,860 CZK (roughly US$360) for the items.
Hopefully, some of that will go towards buying Monty some well-deserved treats.
Mummified monks and the accidentally interred, in a 17th-century crypt.
However, we normally associate mummies with Egypt; you don’t have to become a pharaoh to mummify. There are mummies in Brno, the Czech Republic.
This happens when you have an environment that enables very little bacteria to grow and thus does not decompose the flesh. This only partially decomposes the body and gives a “tanned” effect. The mummification of the monks in Brno is not like the mummies of Egypt.
The Egyptian mummies have been mummified by wrappings and preparation, they were meant to be mummified. The monks in Brno were mummified by accident.
When I say Capuchin I don’t mean the monkey; the Capuchin is an order of monks found around the world.
The Crypt and church in Brno were founded in the mid. 17th century. The crypt of the Brno monastery is located in the basement, which is probably basement space leftover from houses originally in that location. When the monks died they where brought to the basement in a coffin on mobile gout.
The coffin used was the same coffin used for every monk for one hundred years. Once there, they have laid down with a few bricks below their heads.
The monks were located in the crypt below the altar. This placement below the alter is very symbolic in the Christian faith, in the bible it states that below the altar of God in heaven lie the souls of the Saints. The monks were not meant to be mummified but due to the environment of the crypt the monks where mummified in place.
The church is still standing today and you can go and view them in the same position that they lay when buried. The entrance is located behind the church in a small white courtyard.
It is reached by walking through abnormally (by today’s standards) narrow alleys with whitewashed walls and small beams holding lanterns high above the street.
Some of the monks have the hoods of their cloaks pulled up over their heads to symbolize a special unit within the Capuchin order. Other monks are buried with objects. There is a monk who was buried with a rosary and a wooden cross signifying some status that he held in life.
Mummification did not only happen to the monks, other members of society where placed in the crypt and where subject to the same mummifying conditions. If you go to the monastery today you can view all of the remaining mummies in the crypt, there are about 25 monks and a handful of townspeople of various class. You can see a high-class family that was mummified in all their finery as well as some choir boys and a doctor.
There is also the body of a Saint in the crypt in Brno. this particular Saint is prepared in the “Spanish style.” She is dressed up in clothing that shows the bones. Saints’ bones are very important because they are primary relics of the Siant.
Having the whole body of a saint would be really important as well because that saint would be the church, monastery, and even the town’s patron. The patron saint of a place, in the middle ages, would be the protector of the people against all enemies, divine or mortal. This saint has been placed in a glass coffin to allow visitors and pilgrims to see the body but not to touch it, increasing the otherworldly sense associated with the divine.
To me, this is interesting because I wonder how the people of the community viewed the mummified bodies from a spiritual standpoint. The fact that the crypt held the remains of monks, commoners and a saint is also unusual.
In the middle ages a saint’s remains where placed in a high ranking location to be viewed and worshiped by the people, not near the bodies of the locals. This change in the organization of the crypt is obviously changed for a museum set-up but It is still curious that all of these bodies were found together in the same location.
Almost all the information on this monastery and church is in Czech, a language that I do not speak, however, it is interesting to think about how the community would react to finding members of their community mummified in the crypt of the church.
What happens when our own people are mummified? Does this change how we see the dead? Is a dead person just a dead person or does the state of their corpse affect the way we see the person? Does it affect the way we see death?
If you are not expecting a body to be mummified, how does that affect how you deal with death?
If, in the future, we discover that out relative that we had buried as a child had been mummified; how would this affect our grieving process? Would this change our perspective on this person or their death?
Suspected Human Sacrifices Unearthed Beneath Medieval Castle
In the 1,000-year-old ruins of Breslov Castle in Southern Moravia, archeologists have confirmed that three skeletons have been identified as victims of ritual killings.
The archaeologist Miroslav Dejmal said: “The individuals had been buried in the foundations of the older phase of the rampart right at the time of its construction.
“In very extreme positions, the three skeletons were found close to one another and were probably tied together.”
“These unfortunates seem to have fallen victim to some drastic pagan practice, or murder”, explains Dejmal. “It is hard to imagine that all three died at the same time by accident. And most importantly, placing them on the first layer of stones of the newly rampart and the position of the bodies, suggests they were in fact sacrificed.”
The Sacrificial Origins of Haunted Houses
Dejmal explains that the men had been placed on the first layer of stones of a newly constructed rampart and their positions also suggested they were sacrificed.
Next week a team of anthropologists will attempt to shine light on the mystery of the three sacrificed men, to learn if they were local and perhaps related, and the archaeologist said it is possible they were prisoners of war enslaved into building the stone walls before being sacrificed or executed.
Archaeologists use the term “foundation sacrifice” when referring to burying a human being beneath, within or upon the foundations of buildings.
An article on JSTOR says in medieval times building a structure was an “affront to the spirits and deities of the land” and to appease them, sacrificial rituals were performed.
Believed to have been transformed by death, the sacrificed became protective spirits that guarded the buildings in which they were entombed, and this concept according to Seán Ó Súilleabháin in his 1945 paper “ Foundation Sacrifices ” is perhaps “the root of our modern haunted-house tales.”
Child Trafficking in the 11th Century
According to Alan Dundes 1995 paper published in The Journal of American Folklore , all across the Balkans, ballads about foundation sacrifices are so renowned that variants of the tale have been embraced as part of national identity in Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and Greece (among other places).
An Albanian version of the tale “ Rozafa’s Castle ,” tells of “three brothers” laying the walls of a mighty fortress when old man said “the castle spirit seeks a human life.”
And there is plenty of evidence for foundation sacrifice substitution where empty coffins buried under houses representing the dead and coins, eggs, books, candles, bottles of wine and playing cards were used as sacrificial substitutes.
An example of human sacrifice is found in the history of the small village of Vestenberg, 2 1/2 hours from Ansbach in Germany, where a large hill surrounded by a deep moat holds the foundations of ancient stone towers built by the Vestenbergs, the wealthiest family of medieval Franconia.
According to D. L. Ashliman of the University of Pittsburgh, in his paper Human Sacrifice in Legends and Myths , an eighty-year-old woman said that when Vestenberg Castle was being built, the mason built a seat into the wall for a small child whose mother had given it up to be sacrificed for “a large sum of money.”
Return to the Ancient Murder Scene
Returning to the Lednice-Valtice valley, and the early 11th-century building of Břeclav castle, considering how commonplace and widespread foundation sacrifices were at that time, the question of the three men chained together upon the first layer of foundation stones is no longer a mystery as much as it is a point of newfound archaeological interest.
As soon as next week, a new team of archaeologists and anthropologists will head to South Moravia to begin their quest aimed at illustrating the circumstances of their deaths, but they are quite convinced that they will find further layers of evidence of sacrificial ritual.
Over 1,000 skeletons discovered during the renovation of Kutná Hora “bone church” in the Czech Republic
The Ossuary of Sedlec is not a common Catholic chapel in the Czech Republic. This is one of the most unique chapels that you can visit, situated at Sedlec, in the suburbs of Kutna Hora.
Its nicknamed Church of Bones, or sometimes Bone Church visitors may not notice anything extraordinary on the outside but once you enter the chapel you should be prepared to cope with a gruesome sight.
The Sedlec Ossuary is adorned with more than 40,000 human skeletons, and many more are still found. Some think there could be as many as 70,000 or human skeletons arranged into all sorts of formations inside the Sedlec Ossuary.
During the renovation works of the 14th-century church archaeologists accidentally stumbled upon 34 mass graves with 1,200 skeletons, most of which belong to the victims of the Black Death and famine. Experts say it is the biggest find of its kind in Europe and the finding gives provides researchers with valuable historical information about people who lived in this community.
These bones belong to people who died during the mid-14th-century plague and in the subsequent Hussite Wars. Extensive renovation of the Sedlec Ossuary started in 2014 and two years later archaeologists were granted permission to launch a survey.
“We have been digging around the ossuary. The most significant discovery we have made are mass graves of the victims of a famine in 1318 and the plague in 1348.
“It could be compared to the burial ground in East Smithfield in London, which has some 500 skeletons. We have discovered around 600 plague victims and 600 victims of famine, so altogether 1,200 skeletons.
This year we also started research in the interior. Below the first pyramid, we found five mass graves, which are even older. So when the ossuary was built, they had no idea that the graves were there,” archaeologist Jan Frolík, who is one of the members of the research team said.
Frolik said the skeletal remains have already unveiled a lot about the population of Kutná Hora at the time:
“They could be characterized as a mining population because there is a significant prevalence of men over women.
The ratio of adults and children is around fifty-fifty, which is a common population make up. But the 30-percent prevalence of men shows that there were new miners constantly flowing into the town and that it was apparently a very dangerous trade.
Otherwise, I would say it was a typical medieval society, judging by the injuries and illnesses reflected in the bones. So there were common fractures of limbs, some of them badly grown together. As for the illnesses that can be detected this way, we have recorded tuberculosis and meningitis,” he explained.
The story of the Church of Bones goes back to 1278 when the King of Bohemia sent the abbot of the Sedlec Cistercian Monastery to Jerusalem. The returning abbot returned with a jar of soil from the Golgotha. This “Holy Soil” attracted many people from different places and many wanted to be buried in Sedlec. In time there was no more room for skeletons and, thus the cemetery had to be expanded.
The Church of Bones in the Czech Republic is famous but certainly not the only place where we find walls decorated with bones and skulls of long-deceased people.
Under the city of Rome, Italy there is the Capuchin Crypt also known as the ‘Bone Chapel’. Inside the Capuchin Crypt, there are remains of 4,000 Capuchin monks buried by their order. They ‘decorate’ the underground crypt with vertebrae chandeliers, skulls of real size and cross-bones.
The skeletons are standing and are dressed in robes. These people who passed away a long time ago are staring from the walls and in the background, there are hundreds of anonymous skulls of those who died.
Even more bizarre are the bodies discovered by art historian Paul Koudounaris who hunted them down in secret Catholic vaults in Rome and churches across Europe.
In his book, Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs, Paul Koudounaris offers an intriguing visual history of veneration in European churches and monasteries of bejeweled and decorated skeletons.
The bodies were discovered by art historian Paul Koudounaris who hunted them down in secret Catholic vaults in Rome and churches across Europe.
Beneath the streets of Paris, France there is a huge underground labyrinth with dark galleries and narrow passages. The Paris catacombs contain skeletal remains of some 6 to 7 million former Parisians. The bones were deliberately arranged in a macabre display of high Romantic taste.
While visiting these particular chapels and catacombs it may be wise to remember that regardless of how macabre these piles of skulls and skeletons are, these are still places of worship and we should pay respect to those who rest there.