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Earth Science

World's Oldest Wooden Water Wells Discovered 50

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers have discovered four wooden water wells in the Greater Leipzig region, Germany, which are believed to be the oldest known timber constructions in the world. A team of experts led by Willy Tegel and Dr. Dietrich Hakelberg from the Institute of Forest Growth of the University of Freiburg, Germany, uncovered the wells built during the early Neolithic period between the years 5206 and 5098 B.C." The (quite short) paper itself, and some cool pictures of the artifacts, are freely available.
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World's Oldest Wooden Water Wells Discovered

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  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Monday December 24, 2012 @06:35AM (#42380449) Journal
    Thus solving the mystery of neolithic web access.
  • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Monday December 24, 2012 @07:29AM (#42380617)

    Just had a look at the photos and I'm convinced this is not a first time invention. This must be the result of a lot of previous attempts, just looking at how the wooden parts are connected: pin in hole, and another pin to prevent it from falling out again. That's technology that's still being used in wood construction.

    Very likely these people were building wells and other wood constructions for quite some time already., this looks rather advanced It's just that wood doesn't preserve very well, so most will be lost by now., and we don't have any older and more primitive examples of such construction.

    No surprise though that what is found is a well, as wells are of course rather like to fill up with dirt and end up under water, preserving the wood.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by umghhh ( 965931 )
      important is that the well does not have round corners so apple cannot sue.
    • No surprise though that what is found is a well, as wells are of course rather like to fill up with dirt and end up under water, preserving the wood.

      Dirt and water touching wood is about the worst possible combination you could have. If you've ever put in a fence or any other outdoor wooden structure, you know that the most important thing to do is to make sure that you poor cement into the post holes, and that the cement completely envelops the wood so it doesn't touch the dirt. Otherwise, you will get bugs and other such creatures attacking the wood from below. It will also rot faster as well.

      Now it could be that they had some technique to avoid pe

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "Dirt and water touching wood is about the worst possible combination you could have."

        Yes and no, The reason why wood degrades in the situation you are referring to is that there is a boundary layer between the dry & wet portions of the wood, giving insects, bacteria & various fungus an environment to flourish. Kind of like having a food source (corn, wheat, etc) and a water source (lake, creek, river) close together for animals. If you completely submerge the wood you remove one or more of the es

        • by Anonymous Coward

          This is why people log rivers from the bottoms of lakes and what not, and the wood is damn expensive

      • The city of Amsterdam is built on top of millions of wooden poles, no concrete around them, just dirt and water. The reason they do not rot is (like what will happen at least to the bottom of a well) is that they are completely submerged. Lowering the water table under the city would have disastrous effects.

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Monday December 24, 2012 @10:21AM (#42381131)

      There is a common misconception that ancient people were not smart, or talented.
      They are just like people today, they have a problem to solve they will invent a method to solve it.
      Many of the scientific advancements happened by accident. Finding the some rocks melt and create a shiny strong metal, once they found out metal, they rather quickly put it to use.
      Before that they mixed hide wood and stone to make many tools that are rather useful.
      The biggest advancements were due to rises of large cultures and cities, that allowed people to obtain time, and resources to make grander things. However it, isn't that the ancient people were too stupid to not building a grand building, but they weren't in a large enough culture to have resources shared to give them free time to go and create such a device. A well would probably take days or weeks of digging, and reinforcing, it probably took a coordinated effort where the labors were to get some extra food for their work, that they didn't hunt themselves, or they choose to do a little less hunting every day and sacrificed to make a well that will give them constant water supply.

      • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 )
        What's interesting is that this is modded so high up and yet it's clear you've never dug a hole nor done any carpentry. The most time consuming part would be felling the 1m diameter oak trees and notching them. Digging a hole, even upto 7m deep, isn't very time consuming given the loose type of soil they're digging in. Splitting is pretty rapid, though not sure how wooden wedges compare to metal, but given that the splitting depends more on how wood is designed and less about what is splitting it, should
      • by Alomex ( 148003 )

        However there was a big leap in the sophistication of known solutions with the invention of the printed press. Now all these ancient people could work om improving each other's state of the art inventions rather than reinventing the wheel over and over again.Seriously, this is a known and well studied effect.

      • These wells were built by agrarian people, not hunter gatherers. The big gotcha of this article is that until recently they thought advanced wood working like this didn't happen until a thousand years or so later. While this article points out that these ancient people were doing advanced woodwork almost as soon as they settled down. I suppose it's entirely possible that they did actually already have these skills before they settled into an agrarian lifestyle. If there was any evidence of to that affect th

    • by Azghoul ( 25786 ) on Monday December 24, 2012 @10:59AM (#42381343) Homepage

      I was just thinking the same thing (particularly the pinned tenon joints) and it pretty much blew my mind.

      Something good to talk about with fellow woodworking relatives over the next couple days of endless family time!

    • Perhaps you aren't familiar with the laws of stupid careers with zero profit margin. The golden rule is make your headline as outrageous and reader-baiting as possible or you don't get any more grant money. There are whole Discovery channel documentaries about dark matter even though it's a math error and they star "celebrity" scientists and theorists who definitely have that rule understood.
  • by Richy_T ( 111409 ) on Monday December 24, 2012 @08:20AM (#42380755) Homepage

    Err, well.

  • Please note (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2012 @09:21AM (#42380905)

    "The (quite short) paper itself..."

    Big on data, small on bullshit = actual science.

    • by Spykk ( 823586 )

      Big on data, small on bullshit = actual science = no grant money

      If they aren't going to tell me how these wells cause cancer and kill children then I don't want to hear about them.

  • prior art against the company that makes Lincoln Logs. They better call their IP lawyers ASAP!

  • I have a question, Why use wood wells ?Wood, when flooding a long time, will it not be corrosion? And the well can not be used? Am I right? It is just my indissoluble question.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong