5102 BC: Carpentry and sorcery, also something about loess

From this article, news of a fascinating archaeological find near Leipzig, Germany from the Linear Band Ware (aka LBK) period of the Early Neolithic.  The find can be dated exactly because the site includes — besides nearly 100 LBK longhouses and two dozen graves — four wells lined with oak wood with known tree ring series. The wood comes from thirteen individual oak trees, with 1m DBH, felled in 5102 BC.

The excavation report itself (and details, .pdf) are worth reading.  Besides the spectacular wooden wells (the excavation of which is really exemplary), the sites yielded the usual LBK pottery and cultivated crops.  These include emmer and einkorn wheat, lentils, and peas; but also plenty of poisonous black henbane, a nasty plant which was either used in small quantities as a psychoactive agent (Germans were putting witches to death up until the middle ages for using henbane in gruit for flavoring beer) or as a medicine.

German Archaeologists Discover World’s Oldest Wooden Wells

This map is a little bit confusing, but worth the effort.  The four time bands are an attempt to date the spread of the LBK toolkit.  The coloring is an attempt to illustrate one of the prevalent theories about the spread of the LBK — their association with a particular landscape, fertile loess, a type of rich, dust-like soil composed of wind-blown sand and silt.  The sites referred to in the article are numbers 5,6,8, and 9 on the map.  The general aim, then, is to show the spread from east to west on a particular soil type, of this LBK material culture.