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The oldest wooden structure unearthed at the excavation site in Czech Republic.        Source: Michal Rybníček / Mendel University

Stone Age Well is World’s Oldest Wooden Structure


In ancient past, the majority of architectural structures and buildings were made of wood. This has meant that many structures have decayed and been lost in history. However, in the Czech Republic, archaeologists have identified a well with a wooden structure that dates from the Stone Age. It is believed to be possibly the oldest manmade timber construction that has ever been found.

The ancient timber object was found in the East Bohemian region near the town of Ostrov, in the Czech Republic. It was unearthed during the early stages of the construction of a new highway near the town. Archaeologists from the Archaeological Centre in Olomouc excavated the site.

The village of Ostrov near where the wooden structure was unearthed in Czech Republic. (JackF / Adobe stock)

The village of Ostrov near where the wooden structure was unearthed in Czech Republic. (JackF / Adobe stock)

Ancient Well

The experts were able to extract the wooden structure from the soil, which is similar to a box and in a remarkable condition. It measures 2.5 feet by 2.5 feet (80 × 80 meters) and 10 inches high (25 cm) in height. This wooden construction would have lined the walls of a well.

The design of the structure “consists of grooved corner posts with inserted planks,” according to the Journal of Archaeological Science. This item was clearly made by individuals who had sophisticated technical knowhow.  An examination of the surface showed that it was made with advanced tools. “It is the third well from the early Neolithic period that has been discovered in the Czech Republic within the last four years,” reports the Journal of Archaeological Science. However, the design of this wooden structure is not like anything else that has been found in the area.

A representation of an old wooden well. (jozefklopacka / Adobe stock)

A representation of an old wooden well. (jozefklopacka / Adobe stock)

Stone Age Wooden Structure

The object was made of oak timbers and their excellent condition meant that they could be “precision dated using the tree rings in the wood,” according to the New Scientist. Researchers using dendrochronologically dating techniques, measured the rings in the wooden planks. This allowed them to date the age of the trees, which they came from. Radio International Prague quoted  Jaroslav Peška, of the Archaeological Centre as saying that the “tree trunks for the wood were felled in the years 5255 and 5256 BC.”

However, further tests, by a Czech-German team of scientists, on the wooden construction revealed that it was even older than first thought. The Journal of Archaeological Science, reports that “thanks to the combination of annually resolved and absolutely dated tree-ring widths (TRWs), the Czech oak TRW chronology has been significantly extended back to 5481 BC.” This means that the wooden structure is the world’s oldest.

Insights into Europe’s First Farmers

More, tests revealed that some hazel wood was also used in the construction of the structure. The oak and the hazel that was used, came from local forests. Researchers now believe that they have a clear picture of the manufacture of the item from the time its wood was felled to the advanced carpentry skills that were used to make it.

This is very important as it is providing insights into a key period in European history, to the time of the first farmers on the continent. The well indicates that they had advanced technical skills and tools, and they could adapt their environment to meet their needs. Interestingly there is evidence that some of the planks may have been repurposed. The New Scientist reported that this “provides evidence that Europe’s first farmers may also have been keen on recycling.” Moreover, the ability to construct such an item indicates some level of labor specialization and even a sophisticated social organization.

The object found in the wet soil of Bohemia is probably the world’s oldest wooden architectural structure. It is giving specialists new insights into the Neolithic period and demonstrates that the first farmers were quite sophisticated. The results of the research are going to be published in the Journal of Archaeology Science in the coming months.

Top image: The oldest wooden structure unearthed at the excavation site in Czech Republic.        Source: Michal Rybníček / Mendel University

By Ed Whelan

Ed Whelan's picture


My name is Edward Whelan and I graduated with a PhD in history in 2008. Between 2010-2012 I worked in the Limerick City Archives. I have written a book and several peer reviewed journal articles. At present I am a... Read More

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