Wednesday, August 12, 2009

1000 year old marks in tree found near Prague

Czech archaeologists have uncovered a unique 1000-year-old mark engraved into an oak tree the remains of which were found near Celakovice in Prague, which is probably the oldest preserved sign of this kind in the world.

According to a report from the Czech News Agency, the real meaning of the 10-cm star-shaped mark on the oak trunk is not certain. Experts say it may have marked the territory or serve some iconic purposes.

This find is rare as so old engraved signs were not previously mapped and they are not systematically searched for either, archaeologist Jana Marikova of the Academy of Sciences (AV)'s Archaeological Institute, said.

Geologist Radek Mikulas, from the AV's Geological Institute, found the engraved sign by accident when he was searching for the actual age and state of the old oak trunks that were lifted near Celakovice during sand and gravel strip mining.

The mark was engraved into the trunk after the bark was removed from the spot, and this is why its traces were preserved. Experts estimate that the oaks were standing near the Labe (Elbe) River between 600-800 A.D. and the engraved symbol must originate from the early Middle Ages.

Archaeologist Dagmar Dreslerova points out that the tradition of engraving signs and ornaments date back to the Palaeolithic Era (Old Stone Age). However, only engravings made on stone, rocks and exceptionally on bones have been preserved, as wood and other organic material decompose with time.

The first written sources mentioning signs engraved into trees to mark land borders and paths come from antiquity.