9,000-year-old wells found in central China

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Archeologists have discovered six wells dating back some 9,000 years in central China's Henan Province.

The wells in Xiping County are the oldest ever discovered in China, said Wei Xingtao, deputy head of the provincial archaeological research institute.

"The discovery pushes the origins of China's wells back over 2,000 years," he said. "The invention of wells was of great significance as it freed people from their reliance on rivers for water."

Previously it was believed that wells first appeared along the Yangtze River some 6,000 to 7,000 years ago in the late Neolithic period.

Five well-preserved pottery pots used to carry water were discovered inside the wells.

Wei said the pots all have ears, through which a string can pass through, allowing people to fetch water from above the wells. This contributed to the confirmation of the discoveries to be wells.

"The people probably dropped the pots accidentally into the wells while fetching water," he said.

The wells are up to 5.2 meters deep, some with stairs. Archaeologists believe that the stairs allow people to fetch water from a greater depth or recover a pot that has dropped into the water.

Wei said a further study is under way, "Why were the wells dug here? What were they used for? Irrigation? Drinking water? Or water for making pottery? These are questions yet to be answered."

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