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Groundbreaking discovery in the Baltic Sea rewrites history with Europe's oldest man-made structure

Researchers analyzed structures found at the bottom of Baltic Sea and concluded that the hunter-gatherer society might be more advanced than assumed.

Groundbreaking discovery in the Baltic Sea rewrites history with Europe's oldest man-made structure
Cover Image Source: 3D model of a section of the Blinkerwall adjacent to the large boulder at the western end of the wall. Photographs were taken by Philipp Hoy (PNAS/Philipp Hoy)

Our planet never ceases to amaze, revealing hidden wonders layer by layer. The recent one comes from the Baltic Sea. Researchers found a wall structure that challenges the long-held beliefs about the hunter-gatherers from the Stone Age, as reported by CNN. The discovery implies that this group of people might be more rooted in one place with more expertise than history gives them credit for. Since the discovery, more interest has developed in analyzing structures like these in different places so that details about the lifestyle followed by such groups could be revealed. Such findings can also aid further human development in those areas

Image Source: BINZ, GERMANY - AUGUST 04: People relax at a beach on the Baltic Sea coast on Rügen Island on August 04, 2021 in Binz, Germany. Holiday destinations along Germany's Baltic Sea coast are reporting a booming tourist season. Many people in Germany have opted to spend their summer holiday in country due to remaining uncertainties in traveling abroad due to the pandemic. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Representative Image Source: People relax at a beach on the Baltic Sea coast on Rügen Island on August 04, 2021, in Binz, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The researchers from Kiel University in Germany made the discovery. The experts came across a row of stones underneath the Baltic Sea while conducting a marine geophysical survey along the seafloor of the Bay of Mecklenburg, about 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) off the coast of Rerik, Germany.  The sheer number of stones buried deep beneath the sea came as a stunning surprise to the team. After that, a research vessel named RV Alkor was sent to probe further, which eventually revealed a wall made of 1,670 stones stretched for more than half a mile (1 kilometer). The experts concluded that the wall was man-made as the stones were in perfect alignment, connecting with several large boulders. 

Image Source: PNAS/J. Auer, LAKD
Image Source: 3D model of a section of the Blinkerwall adjacent to the large boulder at the western end of the wall. Photographs were taken by Philipp Hoy (PNAS/Philipp Hoy)

The researchers collaborated with the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern State Office for Culture and Monument Preservation to further investigate how the wall reached the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Further, diving teams and underwater vehicles were employed to examine the whole site. Their results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal. "Our investigations indicate that a natural origin of the underwater stonewall as well as construction in modern times, for instance, in connection with submarine cable laying or stone harvesting, is not very likely. The methodical arrangement of the many small stones that connect the large, non-moveable boulders speaks against this," said lead study author Dr. Jacob Geersen, a senior scientist at the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Germany, in a statement.



 

The study places the origin of the wall some 10,000 years ago, with its location being along the shoreline of a lake or a bog. They found the structure's age through the analysis of the whole region, as dating submerged structures is close to impossible because of the effects produced by natural elements. In their analysis, the researchers collected sediment samples, recreated a 3D model of the wall and virtually reconstructed the landscape as it was 10,000 years ago. It makes it the oldest man-made structure recorded in history. The wall in all probability was built on the land, but 8,500 years ago, the sea levels increased, which led to the structure getting submerged inside the water. "This puts the Blinkerwall into the range of the oldest known examples of hunting architecture in the world and potentially makes it the oldest man-made megastructure in Europe," said the researchers.

"At this time, the entire population across northern Europe was likely below 5,000 people. One of their main food sources were herds of reindeer, which migrated seasonally through the sparsely vegetated post-glacial landscape," said study co-author Dr. Marcel Bradtmöller, a research assistant in prehistory and early history at the University of Rostock in Germany, in a statement. "The wall was probably used to guide the reindeer into a bottleneck between the adjacent lakeshore and the wall or even into the lake, where the Stone Age hunters could kill them more easily with their weapons," he added.

The community must have identified the behavioral pattern in the animals to follow the path created by the wall and capitalized on that. They created the structure close to the lake because the animals were slow swimmers. "It seems that the animals are attracted by such linear structures and that they would rather follow the structure instead of trying to cross it, even if it is only 0.5 meters (1.6 feet) high," Geersen said.

This revelation challenges the dominant perception regarding the hunter-gatherers that they were always mobile, as building such a huge wall requires an investment. They wouldn't just pick up and leave a place, but instead, they built it with so much hard work. Other structures like this wall have also been found in the United States and Greenland. "We have evidence for the existence of comparable stonewalls at other locations in the (Bay of Mecklenburg). These will be systematically investigated as well," said study co-author Dr. Jens Schneider von Deimling, a researcher in the Marine Geophysics and Hydroacoustics group at Kiel University.

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