This Czech Well May Be the World’s Oldest Wooden Structure
Katherine J. Wu/Smithsonianmag.com
A 7,200-year-old oak-lined water well recently unearthed in eastern Europe may be the world’s oldest known wooden structure—and to keep it from deteriorating further, archaeologists are now scrambling to preserve the vessel in a solution of sugar.
Discovered by construction workers on a strip of Czech motorway in 2018, the oak-based well—newly described in the Journal of Archaeological Science—measures about four and a half feet deep and boasts a square base. Though the structure’s complete history has yet to be unraveled, the team behind the find suspects the well stayed intact because it spent several centuries underwater.
“When blessed by such conditions—wetness and lack of oxygen—oak almost gets fossilized,” study co-author Jaroslav Peška tells Radio Prague International’s Tom McEnchroe. “It becomes very hard and durable.”
To pinpoint the well’s origins, a team led by Michal Rybníček analyzed the annual rings naturally found in tree trunks and their products. In conjunction with the radiocarbon dating of some nearby charcoal fragments, this method revealed that the well was likely constructed from oak trees cut down around 5255 B.C.