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Newly discovered ancient civilization shows glimpse of survival

A team of archaeologists worked to unearth the ancient settlement, which was buried under thousands of years of peat.

A team of archaeologists worked to unearth the ancient settlement, which was buried under thousands of years of peat.

university of manchester

Metal is a basic element in modern human existence. Your fridge, your smartphone, your laptop, your TV? All made, at least in part, of metal.

But tens of thousands of years ago, civilizations existed without metal, and archaeologists have long struggled to determine how. Now, a recent discovery in England is shedding some light on the question, giving experts a rare glimpse into ancient human life.

Excavations carried out by a team from the University of Chester and the University of Manchester have unearthed remains of an ancient civilization inhabited by hunter-gatherers some 10,500 years ago, according to a Jan. 19 press release from the University of Manchester.

“It’s so rare to find material this old in such good condition,” said Nick Overton, co-director of the University of Manchester project. “The Mesolithic in Britain predated the introduction of pottery or metals, so finding organic remains like bones, horns and wood, which are not usually preserved, is incredibly important in helping us to rebuild people’s lives.”

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The treasure trove of artifacts included animal bones, weapons, tools, and traces of wood. university of manchester

The site – which is around 250 miles north of London, near Scarborough – dates back to the Mesolithic period, or “Middle Stone Age”, the university said. At the time it was inhabited, the village was on the shores of an island in a lake. Since then, the lake has been filled with peat deposits, burying but preserving the remains at the site.

Archaeologists said they found a variety of artifacts, including bones of animals that were hunted, handcrafted tools and weapons and traces of wood – a rare find. These remains have revealed previously misunderstood aspects of prehistoric life.

For example, fossils discovered at the site indicate that humans hunted a variety of animals in various habitats, including moose and deer, the university said. The way the animals were slaughtered and deposited around the village also demonstrates that certain rituals existed within the civilization.

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The team unearthed rare traces of wood and antlers and decorated tools. university of manchester

Hunting tools and weapons also shed light on unique rituals that may have existed in ancient society. Some of the weapons and horns were decorated and dismantled before being placed along the coast of the island, indicating that there may have been rules about the disposal of animal remains and the weapons used to kill them.

“People often think that prehistoric hunter-gatherers lived on the verge of starvation, moving from place to place in an endless search for food, and that it was only with the introduction of agriculture that humans lived a lifestyle more settled and stable way of life.” Amy Gray, co-director of the project at the University of Chester, said in the press release.

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It’s incredibly rare for artifacts this old in such good condition, the team said. university of manchester

“These are not people who were struggling to survive. These were people who were confident in their understanding of this landscape and the behaviors and habitats of the different species of animals that lived there,” Gray said.

Now, the team hopes that continued analysis and research at the site will reveal more about prehistoric life, especially the relationship ancient humans had with the environment.

Moira Ritter's profile picture

Moira Ritter covers real-time news for McClatchy. She is a graduate of Georgetown University, where she studied government, journalism and German. Previously, she reported for CNN Business.

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