You could almost say that Prague keeps getting older. Not long ago, archaeologists found evidence of the oldest ploughed field here, tended five and a half thousand years ago. Now the imprints of structures have been found in the same location, dating back even further, some 7,500 years.
The dates of the earliest settlements in the area of Prague are continuously being pushed back – just about anytime someone puts a shovel to the northern district of Bubeneč. The spot in the bend of the Vltava river apparently offered an unparalleled living space, a river terrace with fresh water in plenty, defence on three sides and fertile land. The site makes headlines again and again as the ground yields up fascinating finds from the mysterious peoples who inhabited Central Europe before the Europeans. That they farmed in at least 3500 BC, and that they lived there long before that, is well known. Now though comes the first hard evidence of a settlement as old as agriculture on the Nile, from around 5500 BC. Radek Balý is the director of the Czech Archaeological Society and heads the team that made the find.
“We found two longhouses from the Neolithic. One of the big houses was rectangular in shape and was about 7,000 years old. The other was trapezoidal and was about 6,500 years old. The only remnants of the buildings that we found were the holes and grooves left by wooden structures, so we know the circumference and have a few relics of the way the houses were divided. We also found a burial that was composed of big ceramic pottery full of pieces of ashes and bones, standing on a big, flat stone. It was covered by a small bowl and two other flat stones. That find is about 3,000 years old. We found another grave in the research area, but it was very disrupted. We can say that it was much older, but that’s all we can say for now.”
The trapezoidal longhouses are common for the Linear Pottery culture that inhabited Europe in the early Stone Age; the “newer” graves came from the Stroke-ornamented ware culture. Both these peoples comprised a Danubian culture that cleared forests, practiced (perhaps accidentally) crop rotation, and imported goods from the south. The oldest evidence of settlement before this find appears to have been some 500 or more years younger. What’s more, the area of Bubeneč continues to develop with the promise of ever more finds, as any construction in such a location requires, by law, preliminary archaeological research. Radek Balý again:
“We hope that archaeological research will continue in Bubeneč. There are many buildings that are going to be reconstructed, more buildings are going to be built, and archaeological research will be needed here.”