Tue, Jun 21, 2005 - Page 16 News List

Europe's ancient past revealed

Around the same time as great cultures long ago such as China, Mesopotamia or Egypt, Europeans appear to have been building gathering places

DPA , HAMBURG, GERMANY

While Goseck has been dubbed a "temple of the sun" in the media, there is no proof of sun worship. Archaeology professor Francois Bertemes of Halle University who led the excavation of Goseck is convinced, though, that it is the world's oldest solar observatory.

Even that remains controversial.

Christoph Heiermann, spokesman for the Saxony state archaeological service, said the purpose of the quadruple enclosures, which inspired his agency's new four-ring publicity logo, is still unknown.

"We prefer to just speak of central places where people gathered. We don't know what they did there. Maybe they were temples. Or markets," he said. The scientific community had not yet accepted that Goseck was an observatory.

Another such enclosure, 126m across, has been excavated under time pressure in Nickern, a suburb of Dresden. It will be lost when a new autobahn leading to Prague is built.

"It was a civilization, and highly organized," said Heiermann. "They cultivated crops and had village communities. They skilfully used stone tools. You can't assume any more that the further back you go, the more savage the people.

"These people were just like us. Where they came from and where they went is a mystery."

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