Archaeologists working at site known as “Blades of Faith” have identified the first important site from the Palaeolithic era outside of central Asia.
The oval site has been open since 2006, but the discovery of footprints in 2013 didn’t end up meaning much until researchers trained a new metal detector on the region a few years later.
Now, using more sophisticated technology, the researchers have been able to put their finger on the site, which they believe likely belonged to either a woolly mammoth or possibly a, 100,000-year-old, animal that had been domesticated to walk upright.
First discovered in 1944, the area around it was plowed in 1951 to the delight of generations of tourists. The mounds that have been preserved by the ground shifting since then are a very unique landscape feature in Europe.
Marc Weimar, a paleo-environmentalist at the Dutch Natural History Museum, saw the similarities between the Pyramid of Khufu and “Blades of Faith.” In Khufu’s world, we have mummies, reclining statues and the extremely well-preserved sarcophagus of Khufu himself. This led Weimar to propose a connection between these sites.
“Maybe Blades of Faith, with all its importance, is the most famous Palaeolithic site in the world,” he said.
Around the beginning of this year, Weimar led two teams from Natural History Museum Utrecht and Technische Universität München in investigating what had been planted before the digging. The aim was to assess the site’s geological composition and therefore know whether there were humans there.
In the summer, Weimar’s team analyzed the mineral content of the sediment at the site, finding high concentrations of tritium, an isotope of hydrogen. According to Weimar, the presence of tritium provides insight into the rate of civilization to this ancient time.
This season the team applied software for the first time to estimate the amount of these traces in the sediment layers. Then came a lot of careful tests.
Weimar’s colleagues were able to measure a layer of caissons underneath the stairs leading to the synagogue, which aligned perfectly with the “tracer” layer. Then, measurements were taken of the fossil teeth and other body parts buried near the synagogue and the footprints leading there. The team wanted to compare results of these tests with those found at the Dead Sea.
The results were exactly what the researchers were hoping for, with some surprises. By carefully analyzing the summer caissons surrounding the synagogue, they were able to detect the oldest ever evidence of a vessel left by human beings, an early conceptual ship. They also found surprising evidence of a shallow pond that probably carried water at a high rate. In addition, modern farming methods showed up later than expected, evidence of which was found 10 meters below the surface.