Prehistory of the Curonian Spit:

methodological aspect of complex researches


A project titled as 'Prehistory of the Curonian Spit: methodological aspect of complex researches' was implemented by a group of archaeologists and geologist in Lithuanian Institute of History in 2011 and 2012. It was funded by Research Council of Lithuania (grant MIP-025/2011). The Curonian spit is a narrow strip of sand dunes in coastal Lithuania famous for numerous Neolithic sites exposed by wind in 19th century. An idea of the project was to develop an effective and advanced methodology designed for archaeological survey and complex research at aeolian sedimentary environment.

7 research strategies have been applied in archaeological survey of areas south to Nida settlement, at Dead Dunes as well as between Alksnynė and Meškadaubis. GPR 2D profiling combined with test-pitting, systematic and unsystematic test-pitting, visual surface survey combined with shovel tests, unsystematic shovel testing, drilling with Edelman auger up to 4 meters depth, and boreholes with Macro-Core soil sampler up to 8 meters depth became techniques have been tested during project time. A number of shovel tests explored was 104, while 329 was for test pits and 3 larger trenches were also excavated. A total area of 413,82 sq. meters was excavated. Total length of 2D GPR profiles was 21,2 km. 24 boreholes with total core length of 87,9 m have been drilled and an area of ca. 60 ha has been surveyed visually. 8 Neolithic and Bronze Age site have been discovered during project time and the most effective archaeological survey strategies were defined.

A topographic map was created for Nida 1 site dated to 3500-2500 cal BC. Previous archaeological trenches have been localized precisely by GPR profiling, test-pitting and mapping of old trees. 3 segments of stratified cultural layer are of greatest value here. They were detected at distant parts of the site. An example is a paleodepression filled with aeolian sand with peaty or humous interlayers. It was excavated in more detailed way and several thousands of artefacts have been collected there. At the same time chemical parameters of critical importance to a preservation stage of archaeological remains were estimated, e.g. pH, oxidation-reduction potential and conductivity. An original ground water lowering and wet sieving system was constructed and tested. Plastic pjezometers attached to gasoline pump ensured comfortable conditions for examination of archaeological layer below ground water table. 12 conventional and AMS 14C dates have been obtained for various samples, diatom analysis has been performed, and soil samples for pollen analysis were collected from a stratified segment of the cultural layer. Site chronology became refined as well as time span when Narva pottery had been replaced by Pamariai (Rzucewo or Haffküstenkultur) ceramics was narrowed. Fresh water reservoir effect for the Curonian lagoon was estimated by dating food crusts adhered to pottery shards as well as charred plant remains within shards. Understanding of natural environment and paleolandscape was also updated according to newest litostratigraphical and paleoecological data. Today objectives for future research could be easily defined, most promising research areas are known and effective methodology is available.

First publications will appear in 2013.




© Gytis Piličiauskas 2013

Lithuanian Institute of History, Archaeology Department

Kražių g. 5, LT-01108, Vilnius, Lithuania