New discoveries in Albania could change what we know about ancient European history.
An international team of archaeologists who have been exploring the shores of Lake Ohrid, discovered the sites both in the lake and on the shore. The lake straddles the mountainous border between the south-western part of North Macedonia and eastern Albania and is one of the deepest and oldest in Europe.
The settlements, some believed to be almost 8,000 years old, show signs that the Stone Age inhabitants were engaged in farming, fishing and even growing olives.
Of them, an 7,800-year-old settlement in the village of Lin has been revealed as the oldest in Europe.
The evidence shows that the village was made of “pile dwellings” or stilt houses that would have sat over the lake’s waters.
Albanian archaeologist Adrian Anastasi expressed his awe at the remarkable age of the settlement, stating: “We are approximately 7,800 years in the past. This is the most ancient date we have ever encountered. Over the course of around eight centuries, this settlement, sprawling across 3,500 hectares, was constructed continuously.”
A joint effort by Anastasi and Swiss archaeologist Albert Hafner led to the extraordinary find, marking a significant milestone in understanding Europe’s ancient past.
Previously, the oldest farming settlements were stilt houses found in Alpine lakes dating back around 5,500 years; the Albanian stilt villages are more than 2,000 years older.
Archaeologists say these ancient inhabitants displayed an innovative approach in building and architecture, often shifting their settlements from land-based constructions to lakeside structures.
Their homes were linked to the lakeshore by an arch-shaped protective wall or fence made of wooden piles. This left researchers questioning the inhabitants’ motivations for choosing such a challenging building style, suggesting the need for protection from the forces of nature or other potential threats.
Perhaps the most astonishing revelation is the identification of Europe’s earliest farmers in this ancient community. Unlike migratory hunter-gatherer tribes of the time, these settled people established permanent roots and farmed, marking a pivotal moment in Europe’s early development, according to experts.
As the excavation continues, the implications of this momentous discovery will undoubtedly reshape our understanding of early European people, observers say.
The puzzle of why these Neolithic settlers migrated from land to lake dwellings remains a mystery but with every find, archaeologists draw closer to unravelling this conundrum. “Why did these people choose to settle in locations on the lake’s shore? This is a part of our study,” Anastasi said.