Archaeologists have finally managed to date a unique wooden structure that was unearthed on a small hill in northern Italy's Po plain in 2005 to around 1400 B.C. The structure, an ancient "infinity pool" used about 3,000 years ago, has also been home to numerous discoveries of historical artifacts including ceramic vessels and figurines.
The in-ground structure, which is named "Noceto Vasca Votiva," was built primarily of oak wood, and stands at slightly larger than a modern backyard swimming pool. Scientists from New York's Cornell University employed dendrochronology and a form of radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the dates in which the ancient infinity pool's two main parts were created.
The new research showed that the lower tank was constructed in 1444 B.C. and the upper tank was built in 1432 B.C., both in the Middle Bronze Age, finally giving an exact age to the pool's history which had remained shrouded in mystery for more than 15 years.
The pool, located in the Po plain between the Alps and the Apennine mountain range, had divided archaeologists who estimated its construction date to be sometime between 1600 and 1300 B.C. The team from Cornell University led by Sturt Manning, distinguished professor of Arts and Sciences in Classics and director of the Tree-Ring Laboratory, used a form of carbon dating called "wiggle-matching."
According to the study, the technique allows scientists to precisely date wooden artifacts with tree-ring sequences – even when there are no available continuous tree-ring sequences for the particular species or geographic area – by matching the patterns of radiocarbon isotopes from ancient wooden artifacts' annual growth increments, or tree rings, with patterns from datasets found elsewhere around the world.
The study, published in the Science Daily scientific journal, noted that the Noceto Vasca Votiva was a massive undertaking for its era requiring extensive labor to excavate the pool's site and to drag timber to its uphill locale. The study also provided theories around the pool's purpose.
The infinity pool was not used as a reservoir according to researchers, given its rather inaccessible position, neither was it used for irrigation. The evidence suggests the structure was part of a supernatural water ritual, as Manning's team noted that several objects including ceramic vessels and figurines were discovered deposited inside the tanks.
The pool's smooth architecture, which also gave it some qualities of modern "infinity pools," was probably also the result of spiritual reasons according to Manning.
"It's tempting to think it was about creating a reflective surface that you can see into, and where you put some offerings, but you're also looking at the sky above and the linking of land, sky and water (rain)," Manning told Science Daily.
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