Monday, February 14, 2011
The site is in the Cetina River valley in Croatia, which so far has yielded metal, stone and timber artefacts, some dating back to 6000 BC.
Project leader, Dr Vincent Gaffney, director of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at the University of Birmingham, is excited about the find.
"The Cetina Valley is certainly the most remarkable site that I have, and will ever, have the privilege of being involved in ... I believe this to be one of the most important archaeological wetlands in Europe," he said.
Balkan archaeologists have long known about the site but it is only now that the British researchers realised its significance.
Initial surveys of the site in October last year yielded artefacts from the Neolithic and the Bronze Age.
The Neolithic or New Stone Age was characterised by the use of polished stone tools and weapons; the Bronze Age was when the metal alloy bronze was made by combining copper and tin.
The archaeologists found artefacts including swords, helmets and a Roman dagger and sheath that date back to the Bronze Age. There were also jewellery, axes and spearheads.
The researchers could also see remains of wooden buildings from the Neolithic and early Bronze Age, submerged in the water at the bottom of the valley.
The fact that the site was waterlogged has led to exceptional preservation of the artefacts, said Gaffney.
The river would have been an important source of water for the people who once lived there, Gaffney said. Inhabitants seem to have thrown metal and stone objects into the water deliberately, possibly as an offering to river gods.
Team member and environmental archaeologist Dr David Smith said he planned to examine ancient plant and soil samples from the area.
"Through examination of pollen cores and peat samples from within the basin we can gain a real insight into the everyday life of the people; the food they ate, the crops and animals they kept, and the crafts and activities they pursued."
River sediments will provide information about the Croatian environment over the past 10,000 years, said Smith.
The researchers will go back to the Cetina valley in April or May this year to continue their search for more clues to its past.