The oldest known village in the world has been discovered in southern Turkey, and the archeologists who are unearthing it are astounded at its level of architectural advancement. The village thrived 10,000 years ago, just after farming was invented and roaming bands of hunter-gatherers began to settle down.
The seven-acre site contains the ruins of dozens of rectangular stone houses, all facing south and built to the same dimensions, which indicates the ancients had a system of measurement. The walls had decorative pilasters, design elements that make it look as if a column is embedded in the wall. Three houses even have terrazzo floors made from white marble chips embedded in cement and polished smooth.
"When we found the floor, we thought at first it must be from Greco-Roman times" thousands of years later, said Robert Braidwood, a member of the excavation team and a professor emeritus of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. "We had no idea the people at this time had become so advanced."
Because the site is so advanced, archeologists assume that there must be undiscovered, simpler villages from further in the past.
The site, called Cayonu, lies near the headwaters of the Euphrates river, which flows 600 miles south through Iraq to the place where the world's oldest known civilization, Sumer, arose 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. Archeologists usually define a civilization as a large urban culture possessing the ability to read and write.
The Cayonu houses contain copper pins, hooks and drills, the oldest known examples of the use of the metal.