Archaeologists discover 8,500-year-old village beneath Albanian lake

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Scientists have possibly found one of Europe’s earliest sedentary communities sheltered behind a fortress of defensive spikes beneath one of the oldest lakes in the world.

The discovery beneath Lake Ohrid in the village of Lin, Albania, confirms that lakeshore settlements of the region — which straddles the mountainous border of North Macedonia — are much older than archaeologists’ expected,  said Albert Hafner, a professor of archaeology from Switzerland’s University of Bern, in an interview with the university.

The findings made by Swiss and Albanian archaeologists’ with the help of professional divers indicate that Lin served as a hub for the development of agriculture, craftsmanship and fishing around 8,500 years ago, making it the oldest lakeside village discovered to date and even older than similar ones found in southern Italy and throughout Europe.

Until the EXPLO project’s finding, the oldest previously known settlements in the Mediterranean and Alpine regions were several hundred years younger. The new radiocarbon date points to between 6000 and 5800 BC as a time mark for one of Europe’s earliest settlements of stilt houses.

Albanian archaeologist Adrian Anastasi told AFP that “building their village on stilts was a complex task, very complicated, very difficult, and it’s important to understand why these people made this choice.”

This photograph taken on July 27, 2023, shows a diver searching for archaeological material in Lake Ohrid, southeastern Albania. A mixed team of Albanian and Swiss archaelogists from the Univesity of Bern have confirmed that the Palafitte settlement of Lin dates back to 5800 – 6,000 years BC, making it the oldest lakeside village in Europe discovered to date. The village is believed to have consisted of houses built on stilts above the lake’s surface or in areas regularly flooded by rising waters.

This photograph taken on July 27, 2023, shows a diver searching for archaeological material in Lake Ohrid, southeastern Albania. A mixed team of Albanian and Swiss archaelogists from the Univesity of Bern have confirmed that the Palafitte settlement of Lin dates back to 5800 – 6,000 years BC, making it the oldest lakeside village in Europe discovered to date. The village is believed to have consisted of houses built on stilts above the lake’s surface or in areas regularly flooded by rising waters.

Divers prepare to leave to continue their research in Lake Ohrid, near the shoreline of the Lin Village, southeastern Albania on July 27, 2023. A mixed team of Albanian and Swiss archaelogists from the Univesity of Bern have confirmed that the Palafitte settlement of Lin dates back to 5800 – 6,000 years BC, making it the oldest lakeside village in Europe discovered to date. The village is believed to have consisted of houses built on stilts above the lake’s surface or in areas regularly flooded by rising waters.

Divers prepare to leave to continue their research in Lake Ohrid, near the shoreline of the Lin Village, southeastern Albania on July 27, 2023. A mixed team of Albanian and Swiss archaelogists from the Univesity of Bern have confirmed that the Palafitte settlement of Lin dates back to 5800 – 6,000 years BC, making it the oldest lakeside village in Europe discovered to date. The village is believed to have consisted of houses built on stilts above the lake’s surface or in areas regularly flooded by rising waters.

Archaeologists who have been working at the site for four years — uncovering various seeds, plants and the bones of wild and domesticated animals — recently stumbled upon a new mystery to try and solve. The discovery of palisades suggests the settlement was fortified with thousands of spiked planks used as defensive barricades, but archaeologists are unsure why it was needed by villagers.

Researchers estimate that roughly 100,000 spikes were driven into the bottom of the lake off Lin, with Hafner calling the discovery “a real treasure trove for research,” AFP reported.

According to archaeologists who spoke with AFP, it will take another two decades for the settlement to be fully explored and studied and for final conclusions to be drawn.

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