A Stone Age wall has been discovered beneath the Baltic sea in Germany believed to be the oldest megastructure built by humans in Europe, stretching nearly a kilometre along the seafloor.
The accidental find occurred when scientists operated a multibeam sonar system during a student trip about 10 km offshore in the Bay of Mecklenburg, The Guardian reported.
Comprising 1,673 individual stones, each too heavy for humans to move, the wall stands less than 1 m in height, extending over a distance of 971 m.
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Is the Stone Age wall natural?
Researchers believe the size and shape of the 971-meter wall make it unlikely to have formed through natural processes like a tsunami or glacial movement.
“We consider a shoreline influenced by drifting ice as least unlikely, whereas eskers, moraines, and tsunami deposits appear highly implausible. Finally, there is one observation that cannot be explained by natural processes at all, and which pointed us toward a possible anthropogenic origin of the structure,” the researchers write in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This is the preferential location of the largest and heaviest stones at knickpoints along the Blinkerwall, they add.
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Is the Stone Age wall man-made?
Researchers propose that it was constructed over 10,000 years ago by hunter-gatherers on land near a lake or marsh. While the exact purpose is challenging to prove, scientists suspect the wall served as a hunting lane for reindeer herds. The intentional creation of an artificial bottleneck, possibly with a second wall or a lakeshore, could have directed the animals.
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A second wall, potentially buried in seafloor sediments, or the Blinkerwall itself, might have funnelled the animals into a nearby lake, slowing them down for effective hunting. Although reindeer can swim, the water would have impeded their progress, making them easier targets for hunters in canoes armed with spears or bows and arrows. If the wall was an ancient hunting lane, it likely submerged around 8,500 years ago due to rising sea levels.
The suggested date and functional interpretation of the Blinkerwall make it a thrilling discovery, offering valuable insights into the subsistence patterns of early hunter-gatherer communities and shedding light on human history over 10,000 years ago, the researchers add.