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Neolithic Woodworking

January 14, 2013

The discovery of ancient wooden wells in Germany reveals that Neolithic woodworking was more sophisticated than previously believed.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Neolithic woodworking.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Many people assume that woodworking was very primitive before metal tools were invented. But excavations of ancient water wells in Germany suggest that neolithic peoples were actually very skilled carpenters. Rengert Elburg of the Archaeological Heritage Office of Saxony says most wooden structures from the time period decomposed long ago. But some wooden wells have been preserved. That’s because they have remained below the water table for the past 7,500 years, in an oxygen-free environment where bacteria couldn’t destroy them.

RENGERT ELBURG (Archaeological Heritage Office of Saxony, Germany):

And now with these preserved timbers from the stone-age wells, we see that they were really good carpenters. And the whole frame of the wells was built in log cabin style, with interlocking cogs at the corners to withstand the pressure from the outside.

HIRSHON:

He says the stone tool used to cut the wood is still used by some woodworkers today. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Archaeologists excavate a Neolithic well in Saxony. (Rengert Elburg/Archaeological Heritage Office of Saxony)