A symbol carved on a tree trunk from the Holocene Elbe sediments: the oldest so far known record.

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The discovery of a carved symbol on a waterlogged tree of the six–ninth century AD shows to be the earliest mark on a living tree that has so far come to light. It was found during the examination of fossil tree trunks in a sand and gravel pit on the bank of the Labe (Elbe) river, near Čelákovice (central Bohemia, Czech Republic). Given its rarity, an obvious interpretation remains elusive; therefore, it appears necessary to review a wide range of possibilities from analogies ancient and modern. Symbols on trees have been used to mark trails, the ownership of land and resources, and all manner of votive moments from superstitious sign-making, worship of a god, thanks for a successful hunt or the memory of a loving tryst. Besides the finds itself, the novelty consists in methodology. The symbol was found “naturally buried” by a large irregularly-shaped piece of the outer, young wood that originated on a healed “scar”. Search of such objects has never been done before.

Radek Mikuláš, Geologický ústav AVČR v.v.i, Dagmar Dreslerová, Archeologický ústav AVČR Praha v.v.i. (mikulasatgli [dot] cas [dot] cz, dreslerovaatarup [dot] cas [dot] cz)