updated 11/29/2005 9:31:34 AM ET 2005-11-29T14:31:34

Archaeologists in northern Greece have uncovered traces of two prehistoric farming settlements dating back as early as 6,000 B.C., the Culture Ministry said Monday.

The first site, located on a plot earmarked for coal mining by Greece's Public Power Corporation, yielded five human burials, as well as artifacts including clay figurines of humans and animals, sealstones, pottery and stone tools.

The ministry said the one-acre site near Ptolemaida, some 330 miles northwest of Athens, had been inhabited for a short period during the early Neolithic era — between 6000 and 5500 B.C.

"(The discovery) will help us solve problems regarding prehistoric social structures ... as the area saw a gradual introduction of farming techniques over at least five millennia," the ministry said.

Some 25 Neolithic settlements have been discovered in the area.

The ministry said a second, smaller site, also dating between 6000-5500 B.C., was excavated near Grevena, some 260 miles northwest of Athens.  Archaeologists found a number of rare figurines in the settlement, which contained a workshop for producing stone tools.

The first traces of human settlement in Greece date to at least 40,000 B.C.

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