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An international archaeological team recently discovered the earliest stilt village in Europe, after four years of excavation at one of the world’s oldest lakes, CBS News reported.

Located near the Albanian village of Lin, the 8,000-year-old settlement stood above the surface of Lake Ohrid, which straddles North Macedonia and Albania.

Radiocarbon dating from the site puts it between 6000 and 5800 BCE, making it hundreds of years older than other such villages found elsewhere in Mediterranean and Alpine regions.

“To our knowledge, it is the oldest in Europe,” Albert Hafner, a professor of archaeology from Switzerland’s University of Bern, told Agence France-Presse.

Hafner and his team believe the settlement was once occupied by up to 500 people, adding that the village’s construction was an arduous task for the Neolithic inhabitants.

“Building their village on stilts was a complex task, very complicated, very difficult, and it’s important to understand why these people made this choice,” according to Albanian archaeologist Adrian Anastasi.

But what perplexed researchers the most was the presence of around 100,000 spikes found at the bottom of the lake. They believe these spikes were used as a form of fortification, but it’s a mystery why the ancient villagers built such extensive defenses.

The archeologists suggested that the prehistoric people relied on agriculture and domesticated livestock for food, but noted that more research is needed to learn more about the site.

“These are key prehistoric sites that are of interest not only to the region but to the whole of southwest Europe,” said Hafner.

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