I love when Christianity and wood science intersect and this occurred as I read a recent paper about the recent discovery of an ancient well. Researchers at the Czech Republic’s University of Pardubice have discovered a 7,000-year-old well in Eastern Europe. They believe it is the oldest wooden structure remaining on Earth! The results show that the oak trees used to build the well were cut down between 5256–5255 BC. It is interesting that the corner posts were made of previously felled trunks, namely from the trunk which had been cut in the autumn or winter 5259 BC or the winter of early 5258 BC, according to Michal Rybníček with the Department of Wood Science of the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology, Mendel University in Brno, Czechia.
The structure of the well consisted of four corner posts with longitudinal grooves at an angle of 90 degrees. The boards were recessed in seven rows above one another. Ground plan dimensions of the well were 80×80 cm, and the total height reached 140 cm.
The researchers indicated that it is impressive that these early farmers, who only had tools made of stone, bone, horn, or wood, were able to process the surface of felled trunks with utmost precision.
It was noteworthy to me that the wood had not decayed. However, since it was submerged in water, decay fungi and wood degrading insects were not able to attack due to the lack of available oxygen. This is the same reason that log yards at large sawmills operate large water sprinklers. The goal is to saturate the wood and create an anerobic environment to prevent wood decay.
Another interesting aspect of this discovery is how can the wood be dried without damage. The researchers are developing a process to dry the wood and preserve it without deformation using sugar to reinforce the wood’s cellular structure.
As I read the press release, my mind wandered to John 4 and images of Jesus with the woman at Jacob’s well. I realize that this well is not Jacob’s well, but still my mind was drawn to one a profound exchange that our LORD had with another person regarding the water in the well and the living water found in a life lived in Him. I too have drank water from a well but prefer the living water that my church provides each Sunday as a part of weekly Holy Communion. We are able to touch our fingers into the water, make the sign of the cross on our forehead, and remember our Baptisms.
Christian baptism is one of two ordinances that Jesus instituted for the church. Just before His ascension, Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20). These instructions specify that the church is responsible to teach Jesus’ word, make disciples, and baptize those disciples. These tasks are to be done everywhere (“all nations”) and until “the very end of the age.”
No, this well is not Jacob’s well, but perhaps it will cause others to think about the exchange that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. We would all be blessed to accept His living water.
Todd Shupe is the President of Wood Science Consulting, LLC. He is a a well-recognized expert on wood preservation, insects and fungi, wood decay and degradation, and wood species identification. He has a broad background in new product development, quality management, and marketing and sales in both the public and private sectors. For more information please visit DrToddShupe.com.