Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 341–354 | Cite as

Living in wetlands in the southeastern Baltic region during the Late Bronze to early Iron Age: the archaeological context of the Luokesa lake settlements

  • Elena Pranckėnaitė
Original Article


The prehistoric lake settlement tradition is spread far beyond the region of the Alps, and it has been known for a long time that lake settlements are not a characteristic of one particular area. The present paper presents the results of the first comprehensive, interdisciplinary investigations of such types of sites in Lithuania, the two lake settlements at Lake Luokesa (Luokesai ežeras). They were excavated with underwater archaeology techniques between 2000 and 2011. They are Late Bronze to early Iron Age transition (LBA–EIA) in date and were probably built and inhabited during a short period between 625 and 535 cal bc. The excavated archaeological material contains a wealth of well-preserved wooden architectural details and other organic materials. Therefore, the importance and unique character of these sites is beyond question. This paper gives an overview of the history of research on lake settlements in northeastern Europe. In addition, the archaeological material of the LBA–EIA settlements at Lake Luokesa is evaluated in the context of the other lake settlements in the southeastern Baltic region. Existing hypotheses and interpretations of the origins, development and use of the lake settlements of this region are discussed. All the investigations which have been done, including archaeobotany, palynology, dendrochronology and geoarchaeology, provide data for a well-grounded interpretation and reconstruction of the Luokesa lake settlements.


Lake settlements Lithuania Wetland archaeology Archaeological data History of research Types of construction 



The author thanks the entire Luokesa lake settlement underwater excavation group—M. Kvedaravičius, Z. Baubonis, R. Kraniauskas, G. Motuzaitė-Matuzevičiūtė—for providing the materials presented in the article. This article was prepared during a postdoctoral fellowship funded by the European Union Structural Funds project “Postdoctoral Fellowship Implementation in Lithuania”. I also thank the international part of the team, especially the scientific workers at IPAS, Basel University, for performing the interdisciplinary research—B. Pollmann, K. Ismail-Meyer, A. Heitz-Weniger, as well as N. Bleicher from the Dendrochronology Lab in Zürich. Also, I would like to express my great and sincere gratitude to S. Jacomet for coordinating the research and editing the manuscript. A part of the research was funded by Swiss National Foundation Project Number NF K-13K1-117893.


  1. Apals J (2012) Āraišu ezerpils. Latvijas vēstures institūta apgāds, RīgaGoogle Scholar
  2. Baubonis Z, Pranckėnaitė E (2012) The Luokesai lake settlements. In: Zabiela G et al. (eds) Archaeological investigations in independent Lithuania 1990–2012. Lietuvos archeologijos draugija, Vilnius, pp 392–394Google Scholar
  3. Baubonis Z, Kvedaravičius M, Motuzaitė G, Pranckėnaitė E (2005) Luokesų ežero II senovės gyvenvietė (Luokesa lake settlement 2). Archeol Tyrinėjimai Lietuvoje 2003:284–286Google Scholar
  4. Bleicher N (2014) Dendrochronological analyses of wood samples from a Late Bronze to early Iron Age site at Lake Luokesa, Lithuania. Veget Hist Archaeobot 23. doi: 10.1007/s00334-014-0463-1
  5. Bukowski Z (1965) Remarks on archaeological underwater research based on the example of a settlement in the lake Piłakno, Mrągowo district (north-eastern Poland). Archeol Pol 8:105–123Google Scholar
  6. Bukowski Z, Dąbrowski J, Dąbrowski M, Odoj R (1965) Wyniki podwodnych badań archeologicznych w jeziorze Piłakno, pow. Mrągowo, w 1962 roku (Results of underwater archaeological research in lake Piłakno, Mrągowo district). Spraw Archeol 17:94–113Google Scholar
  7. Čivilytė A (2008) Bronze- und Eisenzeit—archäologische Fiktion oder Realität? Zur Bedeutung der Metalle in den ostbaltischen Gesellschaften. In: Falkenstein F, Schönfelder M, Stäuble H (eds) Langfristige Erscheinungen und Brüche von der Bronze- zur Eisenzeit. (Beiträge zur Ur- und Frühgeschichte Mitteleuropas 51). Beier & Beran, Langenweißbach, pp 7–12Google Scholar
  8. Daugnora L, Girininkas A (2004) Rytų Pabaltijo bendruomenių gyvensena XI–II tūkst. pr. Kr. (Subsistence economy of East Baltic communities in the 11-2 millennium bc). Lietuvos Veterinarijos Akademija, KaunasGoogle Scholar
  9. Dolukhanov PM, Miklyayev AM (1986) Prehistoric lacustrine pile dwellings in the north-western part of the USSR. Fennosc Archaeol 3:81–89Google Scholar
  10. Dž Brazaitis (2005) Ankstyvasis metalų laikotarpis (Early metal period). In: Girininkas A (ed) Lietuvos istorija. Akmens amžius. Baltos lankos, Vilnius, pp 251–317Google Scholar
  11. Gackowski J (1995) Relikty zabudowy mieszkalno-obronnej osiedla nawodnego kultury kurchanów zachodniobałtyjskich w Mołtajnach, woj. Olsztyn (stan. 1): Charakterystyka planigraficzno-stratygraficzna zalegania struktur drewnianych i próba ich rekonstrukciji (Remains of the habitable-defensive structure of the lake settlement of the West Baltic Barrow Culture in Mołtajny, Olsztyn voivodeship (site 1): the planigraphical-stratigraphic characteristic of the occurrence of timber structures and the attempt of their reconstruction, in Polish). Acta Universitatis Nicolai Copernic Archeol 24:7–46Google Scholar
  12. Gackowski J (1998) Osiedla nawodne z Mołtajn i Pieczarek na tle osadnictwa Pojezierza Mazurskiego we wczesnej epoce żelaza (Mołtajny and Pieczarki lake settlements in the context of inhabitation of the Mazury district during the early Iron Age, in Polish). Dissertation, University of WarsawGoogle Scholar
  13. Gackowski J (2000) On the dating and cultural aspects of the West Baltic Barrow Culture lake dwellings. In: Kola A (ed) Studies in the lake dwellings of the West Baltic Barrow Culture. Wydawnictwo Universytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, Toruń, pp 9–63Google Scholar
  14. Galaunė P (1930) Lietuvių liaudies menas. Jo meninių formų plėtojimosi pagrindai (Lithuanian Folk Art). L.U. Humanitarinių mokslų fakultetas, KaunasGoogle Scholar
  15. Goslar T (2000) Absolute radiocarbon dating of the lake dwelling from Bogaczewo (Varmian-Masurian Voivodeship). In: Kola A (ed) Studies in the lake dwellings of the West Baltic Barrow Culture. Wydawnictwo Universytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, Toruń, pp 81–89Google Scholar
  16. Grigalavičienė E (1995) Žalvario amžius Lietuvoje (Bronze Age in Lithuania). Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidykla, VilniusGoogle Scholar
  17. Guobytė M, Satkūnas J (2011) Pleistocene glaciations in Lithuania. Dev Quat Sci 15:231–246Google Scholar
  18. Heitz-Weniger A (2014) Palynological investigations at the Late Bronze–Early Iron Age lakeshore settlement of Luokesa 1 (Moletai District, Lithuania): a contribution to the Middle–Late Holocene vegetation history of the south-eastern Baltic regions. Veget Hist Archaeobot 23. doi: 10.1007/s00334-014-0456-0
  19. Heydeck J (1889) Die Pfahlbauten im Szonstag- und Tulewo-See. Sitzungsberichte der Altertumsgesellschaft Prussia 14:127–237Google Scholar
  20. Heydeck J (1909) Pfahlbauten in Ostpreussen. Sitz Altert Prussia 22:194–202Google Scholar
  21. Hoffmann MJ (1999) Źródla do kultury i osadnictwa południowo-wschodniej strefy nadbałtyckiej w I tysiącleciu p.n.e (Sources of culture and inhabitation of the south-east Baltic Sea region in the first millennium bc, in Polish). Rozprawy i materiały Ośrodka Badań Naukowych im. Wojciecha Kętrzyńskiego w Olsztynie 177. Ośrodek Badań Naukowych im. Wojciecha Kętrzyńskiego w Olsztynie, OlsztynGoogle Scholar
  22. Ismail-Meyer K (2014) The potential of micromorphology for interpreting sedimentation processes in wetland sites: a case study of a Late Bronze–early Iron Age lakeshore settlement at Lake Luokesa (Lithuania). Veget Hist Archaeobot 23. doi: 10.1007/s00334-014-0459-x
  23. Keller F (1866) The lake-dwellings of Switzerland and other parts of Europe. Longmans, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Koivisto S (2011) Prehistoric wetland archaeology in Finland: sites and settlement in changing environment. In: Pranckėnaitė E (ed) Wetland settlements of the Baltic: a prehistoric perspective. Center of Underwater Archaeology, Vilnius, pp 31–55Google Scholar
  25. Krąpiec M (2000) Dendrochronological analysis of wood from selected lake dwellings of the West Baltic Barrow Culture. In: Kola A (ed) Studies in the lake dwellings of the West Baltic Barrow Culture. Wydawnictwo Universytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, Toruń, pp 65–79Google Scholar
  26. Kriiska A, Roio M (2011) Prehistoric archaeology of wetlands in Estonia. In: Pranckėnaitė E (ed) Wetland settlements of the Baltic: a prehistoric perspective. Center of Underwater Archaeology, Vilnius, pp 55–75Google Scholar
  27. Łapo MJ, Ossowski W (1994) Osiedla nawodne kultury kurchanów zachodniobałtyjskich na Pojezierzu Ełckim i w Krainie Wielkich Jezior Mazurskich w świetle ostatnich badań weryfikacyjnych (The latest research of lake settlements of West Baltic Barrow Culture in Ełk and the Great Masurian Lake districts, in Polish). Barbaricum 3:73–78Google Scholar
  28. Łapo MJ, Ossowski W (1995a) Badania weryfikacyjne stanowisk archeologicznych z wczesnej epoki żelaza na pojezierzu Olsztyńskim i pojezierzu Mrągowskim (Archaeological survey of early Iron Age sites in Olsztyń and Mrągowo lake districts, in Polish). Acta Universitatis Nicolai Copernic Archeol 25:43–53Google Scholar
  29. Łapo MJ, Ossowski W (1995b) Prace inwentaryzacyjne na osadzie z wczesnych okresów epoki żelaza w Bogaczewie, stan. 2, woj. Suwałki. Metoda i wyniki. (Archaeological survey of an early Iron Age site in Bogaczewo, site 2, voivodeship Suwałki. Methods and results, in Polish). In: Kola A (ed) Archeologia podwodna jezior niżu polskiego. Wydawnictwo Uniwersitetu Mikołaja Kopernika, Toruń, pp 43–52Google Scholar
  30. Łapo MJ, Ossowski W (2000) Weryfikacyjne badania osiedli nawodnych na wschodnich Mazurach, preprowadzone jesienią 1993 roku i wiosną 1994 roku (Archaeological survey of lake settlements in the East Mazury during autumn of 1993 and spring of 1994, in Polish). Światowit 2(43), Fascykuł B:128–138Google Scholar
  31. Łapo MJ, Ossowski W (2000b) Wyniki podwodnych prac inwentaryzacyjnych przeprowadzonych na reliktach osady nawodney w Rybicalu stan.1, „Jezioro Ryńskie“, gm. Ryn, woj. Warmińsko-Mazurskie (Results of underwater archaeological research of Rybicalu lake settlement 1, „Jezioro Ryńskie“, Ryn district, voivodeship Warmińsko-Mazurskie, in Polish). Światowit 2(43), Fascykuł B:139–146Google Scholar
  32. Larsson L (2011) Wetland settlements in prehistoric Sweden. In: Pranckėnaitė E (ed) Wetland settlements of the Baltic: a prehistoric perspective. Center of Underwater Archaeology, Vilnius, pp 7–29Google Scholar
  33. Lewis H (2007) Pile dwellings, changing lake conditions and sediment deposition: preliminary soil micromorphology study of cultural deposits from underwater sites at Lake Luokesas, Moletai Region, Lithuania. J Wetl Archaeol 7:33–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Luchtanas A (1992) Rytų Lietuva I tūkst. pr. m. erą (Eastern Lithuania in the 1st millennium before Christ, in Lithuanian). Liet Archeol 8:56–83Google Scholar
  35. Luchtanas A, Sidrys R (1999) Bronzos plitimas rytiniame Pabaltijo regione iki Kristaus (Distribution of bronze in the Eastern Baltic before the time of Christ, in Lithuanian). Archeol Litu 1:15–55Google Scholar
  36. Mackiewicz A (1984) Zagadnienie tak zwanych osiedli nawodnych na obszarze ziem pruskich ze szczególnym uwzględnieniem kultury kurhanów zachodniobałtyjskich. Masters thesis, University of ToruńGoogle Scholar
  37. Malmer MP (1986) Aspects of Neolithic ritual sites. In: Steinsland G (ed) Words and objects: towards a dialogue between archaeology and history religion. (Instituttet for Sammenlignende Kulturforskning Ser. B, Skrifter 71) Norwegian University press, Oslo, pp 91–110Google Scholar
  38. Mazurkevich A, Dolbunova E (2011) Underwater investigations in Northwest Russia: lacustrine archaeology of Neolithic pile dwellings. In: Benjamin J et al (eds) Submerged prehistory. Oxbow, Oxford, pp 158–172Google Scholar
  39. Mazurkevich A, Dolbunova E, Maigrot Y, Hook D (2010) The results of underwater excavations at Serteya II, and research into pile-dwellings in northwest Russia. Archaeol Balt 14:47–64Google Scholar
  40. Menotti F (2001) The Pfahlbauproblem and the history of the lake-dwelling research in the Alps. Oxf J Archaeol 20:319–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Menotti F (2012) Wetland archaeology and beyond: theory and practice. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Menotti F, Pranckėnaitė E (2008) Lake-dwelling building techniques in prehistory: driving wooden piles into lacustrine sediments. EuroRAE 5:3–7Google Scholar
  43. Menotti F, Baubonis Z, Brazaitis D, Higham T, Kvedarvičius M, Lewis H, Motuzaitė G, Pranckėnaitė E (2005) The first lake-dwellers of Lithuania: Late Bronze Age pile settlements on Lake Luokesas. Oxf J Archaeol 24:381–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Motuzaitė-Matuzevičiūtė G (2007) Living on the lake and farming the land. Archaeobotanical investigation on Luokesai I lake dwelling site. Liet Archeol 30:123–138Google Scholar
  45. Motuzaitė-Matuzevičiūtė G (2008) Living above the water or dryland? The application of soil analysis methods to investigate a submerged Bronze–Early Iron Age lake dwelling site in eastern Lithuania. Archaeol Balt 9:33–46Google Scholar
  46. Munro R (1890) The lake-dwellings of Europe. Being the Rhind lectures in archaeology for 1888. Cassell & Co., LondonGoogle Scholar
  47. Okułicz Ł (1970) Kultura kurchanów zachodniobałtyjskich we wczesnej epoce żelaza (West Baltic Barrow Culture during the early Iron Age, in Polish). Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, WrocławGoogle Scholar
  48. Ossowski W, Łapo MJ, Krąpiec M (2002) Badania podwodne osady z wczesnej epoki żelaza w Dręstwie, stan. 34, gm. Banglów Kościelny, woj. Podlaskie (Underwater archaeological research of early Iron Age site 34 in Dręstwie, Banglów Kościelny district, voivodeship Podlaskie, in Polish). Badania Archeol Polsce Płn Wschod Zach Bialorusi Łatach 2000–2001:177–187Google Scholar
  49. Pollmann B (2014) Environment and agriculture of the transitional period from Late Bronze to early Iron Age in the eastern Baltic—an archaeobotanical case study of the lakeshore settlement Luokesa 1, Lithuania. Veget Hist Archaeobot 23. doi: 10.1007/s00334-014-0464-0
  50. Pranckėnaitė E (2011) Prehistoric archaeology of wetlands in Lithuania. In: Pranckėnaitė E (ed) Wetland settlements of the Baltic: a prehistoric perspective. Center of Underwater Archaeology, Vilnius, pp 93–113Google Scholar
  51. Pranckėnaitė E (2012) Ežerų gyvenvietės pietryčių Baltijos regione ankstyvuoju metalų laikotarpiu (Lake-dwellings in the south-eastern Baltic sea region during the early metal period, in Lithuanian). Dissertation, University of KlaipėdaGoogle Scholar
  52. Pranckėnaitė E, Baubonis Z, Kvedaravičius M (2010) Luokesų ežero polinė gyvenvietė I (Luokesa lake settlement 1, in Lithuanian). Archeol Tyrinėjimai Lietuvoje 2009:475–478Google Scholar
  53. Pydyn A (2007) The lake-dwellings and lakeside settlements of Poland. In: Barber J et al (eds) Archaeology from the wetlands: recent perspectives. (WARP Occasional Papers 18) Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh, pp 323–331Google Scholar
  54. Pydyn A (2010) Archeologizne penetracje podwodne strefy przybreznej Jeziora Powidzkiego (Underwater archaeological survey of the coastal zone of jezioro Powidz, in Polish). In: Pydyn A (ed) Archeologia jezioro Powidzkiego. Wydawnictwo Naukowe Universytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, Toruń, pp 16–39Google Scholar
  55. Pydyn A, Gackowski J (2011) Wetland archaeology of the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age settlements from Poland. In: Pranckėnaitė E (ed) Wetland settlements of the Baltic: a prehistoric perspective. Center of Underwater Archaeology, Vilnius, pp 113–149Google Scholar
  56. Pydyn A, Rembisz A (2010) Osadnictwo luności łużyckich pól popielnicowych w strefie brzegowej Jeziora Powidzkiego (Settlements of the Lusation Urnfield Culture communities of jezioro Powidz, in Polish). In: Pydyn A (ed) Archeologia jezioro Powidzkiego. Wydawnictwo Naukowe Universytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, Toruń, pp 99–130Google Scholar
  57. Rembisz A (2010a) Przedmioty użytkowe z osady z wczesnej epoki żelaza w Polanowie pow. Słupca, woj. Wielkopolskie, stanowisko 12 (z badań w latach 2004-2006) (Archaeological finds from the early Iron Age settlement Polanowo, slupca district, Wielkopolskie voivodeship, site 12, from the excavation 2004–2006, in Polish). In: Pydyn A (ed) Archeologia jezioro Powidzkiego. Wydawnictwo Naukowe Universytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, Toruń, pp 77–99Google Scholar
  58. Rembisz A (2010b) Przedmioty użytkowe z osady z wczesnej epoki żelaza w Powidzu, pow. Słupca, woj. wielkopolskie (stanowisko 16) (Archaeological finds form the early Iron Age settlement Powidz, Słupca district, Wielkopolskie voivodeship, site 16, in Polish). In: Pydyn A (ed) Archeologia jezioro Powidzkiego. Wydawnictwo Naukowe Universytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, Toruń, pp 41–77Google Scholar
  59. Roio M (2006) Investigation of underwater heritage in Estonia. In: Lang V, Laneman M (eds) Archaeological research in Estonia 1865–2005. (Estonian Archaeology 1). University of Tartu Press, Tartu, pp 301–310Google Scholar
  60. Roio M (2007) New interpretations of settlement remains in Lake Valgjärv of Koorküla, Estonia. J Wetl Archaeol 7:23–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Rossius KO (1933) Die sogenannten Pfahlbauten Ostpreußens. Praehist Zschr 24:22–95Google Scholar
  62. Stančikaitė M (2004) Gamtinės aplinkos kaitos ypatumai vėlyvojo ledynmečio ir holoceno laikotarpiu (Late glacial and Holocene paleoenvironment in Lithuania, in Lithuanian). Liet Archeol 26:135–148Google Scholar
  63. Stančikaitė M, Kisielienė D, Strimaitienė A (2004) Vegetation response to the climatic and human impact changes during the Late glacial and Holocene: case study of the marginal area of Baltija Upland, NE Lithuania. Baltica 17:17–33Google Scholar
  64. Tinner W, Lotter AF, Ammann B, Conedera M, Hubschmid P, Van Leeuwen JFN, Wehrli M (2003) Climatic change and contemporaneous land-use phases north and south of the Alps 2300 bc to 800 ad. Quat Sci Rev 22:1,447–1,460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Urtans J, Rains V (2003) Latvia. In: Djerw U, Rönby J (eds) Treasures of the Baltic Sea. A hidden wealth of culture. Swedish Maritime Museum, Stockholm, pp 103–112Google Scholar
  66. Wilke G (1997) Masurische Siedlungen am Seeufer und auf künstlichen Inseln mit Rostplattformen. Plattform 5(6):12–31Google Scholar
  67. Zolitschka B, Behre K-E, Schneider J (2003) Human and climatic impact on the environment as derived from colluvian, fluvian and lacustrine archives—examples from the Bronze Age to the Migration period, Germany. Quat Sci Rev 22:81–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology, Faculty of HistoryVilnius UniversityVilniusLithuania

Personalised recommendations