Dublin, August 21 : A find, which is being touted as the 'cradle of Berlin' - one of the oldest graveyards of the city that contains 2,300 skeletons, has uncovered evidence that the German capital is 45 years older than previously thought.
Since March, archaeologists have been at work at Petriplatz, Peter's Square, which served in the Middle Ages as the central square of Colln, Berlin's now vanished sister city.
The area was badly damaged during the Second World War and bulldozed out of existence by East German city planners.
Today, motorists race along the busy Leipzigerstrasse, a six-lane east-west thoroughfare, oblivious of the archaeologists only metres away behind their hoarding.
In one corner of the site, octagonal stone steps are the only reminder of St Peter's Church which once stood here.
Destroyed and rebuilt five times over 700 years, it stood as the heart of the settlement until it vanished for good in 1964.
It was in the ruins of the church that archaeologists found the first mention of Colln and Berlin in a church document from 1237.
That find was used as the basis for Berlin's 750th celebrations in 1987 - separate events in the still-divided city.
But, according to a report in the Irish Times, archaeologists have excavated a wooden beam from a cellar on the site, which, from the rings of the wood, can be dated to 1192 - making Berlin at least 45 years older than previously thought.
"It really is tremendous luck because today, it's so hard to imagine that this is where Berlin started," said Wilfried Menghin, a leading archaeologist in Berlin.
The team has turned up the foundations of a former school, fountains, a wooden plank dated 1212 as well as combs, pots, tools, coins and bottles.
The most spectacular find is in excess of 2,300 skeletons, including a large number of children, from the Petri church graveyard. They are being documented by age, sex and probable cause of death before being quietly reburied nearby.
"We've not just found the houses where some of the oldest Berliners lived, but the residents, too," said Claudia Melisch, head of the dig. "We had hoped at the start of our dig to give Berliners back a bit of their history. But what we have found is the cradle of Berlin," she added.