Liestal discovery pushes back date of first settlement

Previous finds placed the first human habitation in the Basel region in the sixth millennium BC Keystone Archive

A team of archaeologists from canton Basel Country has discovered what could be the earliest signs of permanent habitation in central Europe.

This content was published on October 18, 2001 - 15:38

The researchers found 7,500-year-old pottery shards and stone tools at a construction site near Liestal.

The discovery pushes back the earliest known date of settlement in the Basel region. Previously found pottery fragments of a different type had placed the first permanent habitation in the sixth millennium BC.

The discovery also suggests an important change in the Neolithic lifestyle of the time. "This find means we are no longer dealing with hunter-gatherers but with a farming community," said Basel Country's cantonal archaeologist Jürg Tauber.

The difference between the types of pottery also shows that two different cultures intersected in the area, one spreading from the Mediterranean, the other arriving later from the Danube region, according to the researchers.

Three thousand year gap

While the find shows the Liestal region was the home of Neolithic groups, it does not mean the area has been permanently inhabited since that period. "We can show these farmers were in the region around 7,500 BC, but after that we have a 3,000 year gap," Tauber told swissinfo.

The archaeologists were able to estimate the age of the ceramics by comparing them to a similar find in Normandy, France. This type of pottery is thought to have originally come from the Mediterranean coast of France and Spain.

The stone tools, an asymmetrical arrowhead and a small knife, are also typical of the earliest part of the Stone Age, around 5,500 BC.

The archaeologists are planning to refine their time estimates using a carbon-dating technique on bone fragments and charcoal found at the site.

swissinfo with agencies

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