Discovered at Hamresanden, not far from Kristiansandâ€™s airport at Kjevik in southern Norway, the settlement has remained undisturbed for 5,500 years, buried under three feet of sand.
â€œWe expected to find an ‘ordinary’ Scandinavian Stone Age site, badly preserved and small. Instead, we discovered a unique site, buried under a thick sand layer,â€ lead archaeologist Lars SundstrÃ¶m, of the Museum of Cultural History at the University in Oslo, told Discovery News.
Digging about 80 meters (262 feet) from the shoreline, in the headland formed by the river Topdalselva and the North Sea, SundstrÃ¶mâ€™s team first unearthed what appears to be the remains of a walled structure.
â€œSo far, we have evidence of a 30-meter (98.5-foot) bank made from sand mixed with clay and silt. We believe that this bank has been shoveled up against a wooden wall in order to support it,” SundstrÃ¶m said.
The structure, whose length continues beyond the limits of the excavation trenches, is made of large stones.
“They must have been carried from some distance, since the area is devoid of stone naturally,” SundstrÃ¶m said.
Most likely a seasonal aggregation site conveniently located between a river and the sea, the settlement is filled with shards of beaker-shaped vessels, many of which could be restored to the original state.
Highly decorated with the use of stamps, mostly cords used to form patterns, the pottery belong to the earliest phase of the Trichterrandbecherkultur (TRB) , or Funnel-Beaker Culture. This is a late Neolithic culture which spread in north-central Europe between 4000 and 2700 B.C.
â€œThe pottery has allowed us to date the site to between 4000 â€“ 3600 B.C. We found it on top of the cultural layer which reflects the last event of the occupation,â€ SundstrÃ¶m said.
According to the archaeologist, the way the pottery was found suggests that the seasonal Stone Age settlers left their pots with the intent of reusing them upon their return.
But a sudden, catastrophic event buried everything.
â€œThe formation of the upper layer remains somewhat mysterious. Most probably the site was suddenly flooded, and covered with sand by the nearby river. There are no signs of occupation within this thick sand layer. This is a strong indication of a relatively quick process,â€ said SundstrÃ¶m.
Encapsulated between the sand layer and an underlying layer of silt and clay, the remains are virtually untouched.
The archaeologists, who have so far dug out about 500 square meters (5381 square feet) out of several thousand, hope toÂ uncover much more in the following months.
â€œThe site is lying on top of a silt and clay layer which we know preserves wood, so we have good hopes for finding buried wood from the occupation phase later on in the excavation,â€ SundstrÃ¶m said.