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The outline of the ancient ritual site was visible from the air. Source: YouTube Screenshot

7,000-Year-Old Ritual Site Unearthed in Poland

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A massive Stone Age monument that dates back almost 7,000 years and was probably used as a ritual and sacred site has been uncovered in Poland.

This structure is almost three times the size of the circle of stones at Stonehenge. This find is providing archaeologists with a unique insight into a prehistoric society.

The site was first spotted by a paraglider, in 2015, at Nowe Objezierze near Cedynia, which is in northwest Poland, not far from the German border. In 2016 the archaeologist Marcin Dziewanowski, while investigating satellite images on Google Maps , confirmed that there was an ancient enclosure at the location. According to The First News website, “the contours of the enclosure were so clear that they looked like the crop circles made by aliens in science fiction movies“.

Looking like crop circles the remains of the ritual site was first spotted by a paraglider in 2015. (You Tube Screenshot)

For the past two years, experts and students from the Universities of Gdańsk, Szczecin, Warsaw, and Poznań have been investigating the structure and their findings have been stunning. They have used non-invasive techniques to investigate the eastern part of the structure. While the area around the south and west have been excavated.

Polish Ritual Site is a ‘Roundel’

The structure has been called a ‘roundel’ because of its distinctive circular shape. Similar enclosures have been found in a limited region in central Europe and in total, some 130 have been found in Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. “These are generally thought to have had a ritual purpose and served as some sort of astronomical calendar” reports Newsweek.

Avebury Stone Circle in Great Britain is an example of a roundel ritual site. (Dickbauch~commonswiki / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

It is believed that people worshiped divine forces there in a similar way that they did at Stonehenge. Specialists at Szczecin University carried out carbon dating on some items found at the enclosure and they established that the site dates back about 6,800 years ago.

The structure measures some 360 feet (120 meters) in diameter and it consists of four circular trenches . According to Newsweek the enclosure “is over three times the size of the inner Sarsen Circle at Stonehenge and roughly the same size as the monument's outer ditch”.

The Stone Age Ritual Site Kept Getting Bigger

Post-holes indicate that the enclosure was once protected by a triple wooden palisade. It is believed that three gates allowed people to access the interior. The experts theorize that the structure and the gates may have been aligned with the movements of the planets and stars.

The roundel was used by a Neolithic culture over a period of 200 to 250 years. The archaeologists believe that new features were regularly added to the site.

Professor Lech Czerniak of the University of Gdańsk stated that “every few dozen years, a new ditch with an ever-larger diameter was dug” according to Nauke W Polsce . The ditches are very large and quite deep and would have required a great many workers and resources, suggesting that the Neolithic people who dug them were quite sophisticated.

Large earthworks that surrounded the sight are visible from the air. (YouTube Screenshot)

Purposes of the Ritual Site

Further samples of organic remains found at the enclosure have been taken and these will be carbon dated. The results should allow the research team to understand how often the ditches enclosing the site were dug.

This can help specialists to understand when rituals and ceremonies were held at the sacred site . Ditches were probably only dug around the enclosure before an important ceremony was staged.

Nauke W Polsce , quotes Czerniak, as saying that prehistoric societies “celebrated the most important holidays once in a few, or even a dozen or so years, but very intensely“. The communities that gathered at the location did not have much time for celebrations. They were too busy trying to survive in a harsh environment.

The Ritual Site Offers Insights into Neolithic Society

Adjacent to the roundel structure are the remains of a number of small settlements, who depended on farming and animal husbandry. Here archaeologists have found hundreds of pieces of bones, flint objects, shells, and even pottery. These finds would indicate that the structure was “also a place of gathering for Neolithic communities” according to The First News .

Excavations at the ritual site. (chojna24.pl / YouTube)

The bones uncovered are now being analyzed as they can tell experts a lot about the lifestyle of the communities that once used the site. Now the focus of the project has moved towards understanding the social aspects of the site.

In particular, the researchers want to understand what were the beliefs that motivated prehistoric people to build such a massive structure and what was its role was in their society. Paleoenvironmental research will also be a focus of the archaeologists, as it will allow them to understand the communities' impact on the local environment which in turn can provide a window into the Neolithic past.

Top image: The outline of the ancient ritual site was visible from the air. Source: YouTube Screenshot

By Ed Whelan

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