Stone Age Structure Older Than Pyramids and Stonehenge Discovered

Archaeologists are examining a mysterious monument discovered on the outskirts of Prague that is estimated to be around 7,000 years old—making it even older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids of Giza.

The ancient monument is being referred to as a roundel—the name archaeologists have given to large circular structures of a similar age that have been found scattered across Central Europe. The shapes and designs of these roundels vary widely, but often they are made up of a complex of trenches divided by a number of entrances. Some of these designs are over 200 meters in diameter.

The general purpose of these shapes is unknown, but many suggestions have been put forward. According to some researchers, entrances might have been put in place to correlate with the motion of celestial bodies, according to Prague's Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences. It's also possible the roundels may have been connected with trade, rituals or rites of passage.

The roundel currently under examination in Prague may provide more details on this ongoing area of research.

Roundel in Prague
The roundel structure uncovered in the outskirts of Prague, Czech Republic. It's thought to have been built around 7,000 years ago. In this combination image, views of the roundel, archaeologists excavating the Stone Age roundel and an artist’s impression (Inset) of what a Neolithic roundel structure may have looked like while in use Archaeological Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences CAS

Located in the city's district of Vinoř, the roundel is exceptionally well preserved and contains troughs where a central wooden structure is thought to have been embedded, according to a report by website The Archaeologist.

In a press release, Miroslav Kraus, who is in charge of the Prague research, said: "Roundels were built during the Stone Age, when people had not yet discovered iron. The only tools they could use were made of stone and animal bones."

Kraus said part of the structure was found back in the 1980s, during the laying of gas and water pipelines. Since then, the monument has been uncovered almost entirely.

While it's possible the roundel might provide clues as to its original purpose, Kraus said this is unlikely, as previous examinations have not provided any answers. Still, it may be possible to work out the roundel's age, which would also be helpful.

"So far, radiocarbon dating of samples collected from roundels has put their age somewhere between 4,900 years to 4600 B.C. That is a pretty wide time span," Kraus said, according to The Archaeologist.

In contrast, all three of Giza's famous pyramids in Egypt were built roughly between 2575 and 2465 B.C., and construction of Britain's Stonehenge is thought to have started around 5,000 years ago.

Research on the Prague roundel is expected to continue until the end of this month.