Page last updated at 09:25 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 10:25 UK

Stone Age wells found in Cyprus

Researcher in Stone Age well near Paphos
It is not known how a human skeleton came to be in this well

Archaeologists have found a group of water wells in western Cyprus believed to be among the oldest in the world.

The skeleton of a young woman was among items found at the bottom of one shaft.

Radiocarbon dating indicates the wells are 9,000 to 10,500 years old, putting them in the Stone Age, the Cypriot Antiquities Department says.

A team from Edinburgh University has found six such wells, near the coastal town of Paphos. They are said to show the sophistication of early settlers.

According to Thomas Davis, director of the Nicosia-based Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute, "the fact that they were using wells and that they tapped into the island's water table shows heightened appreciation for the environment".

The latest five-metre (16-foot) shaft to be discovered had small natural channels in the bedrock at the bottom, confirming it was a water well.

In addition to a poorly preserved young woman's skeleton the silted-up well contained animal bone fragments, worked flints and some stone jewellery.

The wells were unearthed by an excavator at a construction site.

They date from the time that permanent settlements first appeared in Cyprus, the Associated Press news agency reports.

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