Sun, Jun 12, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Scientists unearth Europe's oldest known civilization

ANCIENT SITES More than 150 large temples have been uncovered, built by religious farmers whose culture existed more than 6.500 years ago


Europe's oldest civilization has been discovered by archaeologists across the continent, the Independent newspaper said Saturday.

More than 150 large temples, constructed between 4800 BC and 4,600 BC, have been unearthed in fields and cities in Germany, Austria and Slovakia, predating the pyramids in Egypt by some 2,000 years, the newspaper revealed.

The network of temples, made of earth and wood, were constructed by a religious people whose economy appears to have been based on livestock farming, the Independent reported.

Excavations have taken place over the past three years but the discovery is so new that the civilization has not yet been named.

The most complex center discovered so far, beneath the city of Dresden in Saxony, eastern Germany, comprises a temple surrounded by four ditches, three earthen banks and two palisades.

"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 Harald Staeuble, from the Saxony state government's heritage department.

The temples, up to 150m in diameter, were made by a people who lived in long houses and villages, the newspaper said. Stone, bone, and wooden tools have been unearthed, along with ceramic figures of people and animals.

A village at Aythra, near Leipzig in eastern Germany, was home to some 300 people living in up to 20 large buildings around the temple.

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