London, June 27 : An archaeological dig has moved back the first known human occupation of Paris to about 7600 BC, which is more than 3,000 years older than earlier thought.
The find suggests that Paris was first settled in the Mesolithic period between the two stone ages.
According to a report in The Independent, an area about the size of a football field on the south-western edge of the city, close to the banks of the river Seine, has yielded thousands of flint arrowheads and fragments of animal bone.
The site, between the Paris ring road and the city's helicopter port, is believed by archaeologists to have been used, nearly 10,000 years ago, as a kind of sorting and finishing station for flint pebbles washed up on the banks of the river.
Once the dig is complete, the site will be occupied by a plant for sorting and recycling the refuse generated by the two million Parisians of the 21st century.
"You could say that we've come full circle," said Benedicte Souffi, one of the two archaeologists in charge of the site.
"Our ancestors were sorting rubbish from usable objects here in 7600BC. We are going to be doing much the same thing on a more elaborate scale. Maybe, there is a lesson there," he added.
The oldest previous human settlement discovered within the Paris city boundaries dates back to about 4500BC - a fishing and hunting village beside the Seine at Bercy near the Gare de Lyon railway station.
The new exploration - by Inrap, the French government agency for "preventive" archaeology on sites where new building is imminent, pushes back the history of the city to the mysterious period between the Old and New stone ages.
The site in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, about a mile from the Eiffel Tower, has been preserved by silt from the frequent flooding of the Seine.
Archaeologists believe that it was used for many centuries during the Mesolithic period, perhaps for periods of only a few weeks at a time, as a place to prospect for, and sort out, flint pebbles for cutting into arrowheads.
The dig has also unearthed larger instruments made from granite.
They include an almost perfectly round hand-held pounder the size of a billiard ball, and long stone blades, possibly used for making arrow shafts or scraping animal skins.
Evidence on the site suggests that it remained in use as a human settlement, on and off, until the iron age, from 800 to 500 BC.