Scientific cooperation between Eastern Europe and Switzerland (SCOPES 2013-2016)

Expedition 2015 in North-Western Russia

In the framework of this Network several jointly organized central events are scheduled on the territories of members. The first one has just passed and concerned field-workshop “Prehistory and underwater archaeology in Russia. Methods, history and perspectives of underwater archaeology”, which was conducted by North-Western archaeological expedition of The State Hermitage Museum in archaeological micro regions near the Serteya River (Smolensk region (North-Western Russia)) and the Sennitsa and Usviaty lakes (Pskov region (North-Western Russia)). Here, not far from Smolensk city, in the 4th-3rd millenium BC pile-dwellings existed, located nowadays under water and in peat bog. They became known only 50 years ago due to researches conducted by A.M. Miklyaev and further by A.N. Mazurkevich. Researchers, PhD-students and students from Switzerland, Russia, France, Macedonia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus took part in this field-workshop organized from the 10th to 16th August 2015. Lectures made by Albert Hafner, Yolaine Maigrot (Trajectoires UMR 8215, Université de Paris 1-CNRS, Paris), Andrey Mazurkevich, Goce Naumov, Valentina Todorovska, Pavel Shidlovsky, Elena Pranckenaite (Center of underwater archaeology, Vilnius), were devoted to underwater archaeology and investigation of Neolithic sites, located under water and in peat bogs. Several subjects were represented: underwater investigations conducted in Lithuania, pile-dwellings in Eastern Europe and Switzerland, archaeological underwater prospections in Macedonia. Part of the papers concerned ancient artefacts presentation – ancient clay figurines and clay models of houses known in southern Europe during Neolithic time, and bone tools distributed in North-Western Russia in the 3rd mill BC. In order to conserve all these unique finds, a very long and difficult restoration and conservation is always needed, which features were represented in the presentation made by Natalia Vasilieva, conservator of The State Hermitage Museum.

The central part in the field-week was devoted to excavation of the site Serteya II, which has a great potential for different archaeological researches. The site occupies a big area, part of which located under water, part – in the peat bog with excellent mode of preservation of wooden constructions and artefacts. Besides remains of pile-dwellings, pottery, flint tools, amber and teeth pendants, in the geological trench made by Petr Kittel remains of two human bodies were found. This is the first such finding made in this region. They were placed on wooden branches and if it was a burial or an accident that occurred six thousands years ago has to be determined. During the field-workshop other archaeological sites located in neighboring regions were also visited, among them site Usviaty IV with findings of anthropomorphe figurines and a rich collection of animal bone and wooden figures and sites on the lake Sennitsa where a Neolithic ski was found. This was the first seminar in a series of conferences, workshops and archaeological training courses organized in the different member states of this network.

Neenawa Scientific Meeting “Prehistoric Wetlands and Lakes: bringing forward dendrochronology in archaeology”

The latest advances and challenges in wetland archaeology were presented in NEENAWA Scientific Meeting, held on the 11-17 May 2016, with the contribution of more than 20 participants from Switzerland, Russia, Ukraine, France, Holland, Greece, Lithuania, Slovenia and Macedonia. Numerous prehistoric sites from East, Central and Southeast Europe were elaborated with particular focus on the pile dwellings, chronology, networks, agricultural societies, underwater archaeology, wetlands, inland waters, wooden structures, house models, bone tools and conservation. Special session with workshops on dendrochronology was performed in order to introduce thoroughly the benefits of this scientific method and its incorporation within wetland archaeology.

Expedition 2016 in North-Western Russia

Workshop in NW Russia “Wetland sites of North-Western Russia”

During 3-6 August 2016 a workshop was conducted in the framework of NEENAWA activities. Participants from Russia, Belarus, France, Poland, Denmark and Finland took part in this event. Participants prepared presentations about a variety of questions concerning wetland sites in Europe. Also they took part in archaeological excavations of the peat-bog and underwater part of the site Serteya II.

History of investigation of wetland sites in North-Western Russia

In the beginning of the 1960s The State Hermitage Museum created the program of investigation of Palaeolithic – Neolithic sites in North-Western Russia (Pskov and Smolensk provinces), headed by A. Miklyaev (since 1993 – by A. Mazurkevich).

In 1963 the first pile-dwellings on the territory of Russia, located in peat-bog and under water, were found here. Further prospections in the Upper Western Dvina River allowed finding more than thirty sites of this type. The first underwater excavations were undertaken in 1979 by the late A. Miklyaev on Lake Sennica in Pskov province. These discoveries led to the revival of underwater archaeology in the Soviet Union.

One of the most ancient ceramic sites dated to the 7th mill BC were found in this region, later in the 5th mill BC Linear Bandkeramik sites can be traced here. Pile-dwellings appeared in this region c. 3200 cal BC. Relation in material culture with Western Europe, Baltic region, the Balkans and the Volga region is evident. It is not surprising as this region is situated at the watershed of three main rivers of Eastern Europe: the Volga, Dvina and Dnepr. This is the intersection of main water-ways and, consequently, of people and their cultures.

Materials for field-trip Serteya 2015

History of investigation of wetland sites in Switzerland

The exploration of archaeological sites in the lakes of Switzerland started in the 19th century. In the year 1854 Swiss Archaeologist Ferdinand Keller interpreted fields of piles in the lake of Zurich to be remains from a prehistoric platform for a village, he called them “Pfahlbauten” (pile-dwellings in English). In the same year, on the 22 of Mai 1854, probably the first archaeological dive ever was made in the lake of Geneva by Morlot (see the painting). In the late 19th century pile-dwellings were found in all parts of Switzerland and became an important element of the national identity.

Over time, many inventions (Aqualung, dry-suits, water jet-pipes etc.) allowed the possibility to professionally study sites underwater. Since the 70s of last century specialised archaeological dive-teams work closely together with results from natural-science. Tree-ring dating (Dendrochronology) of the piles from underwater sites allow close dating and show the dynamic processes in prehistoric-villages.

History of investigation of wetland sites in Macedonia

Wetland archaeology is relatively new discipline in Macedonia although excavation in marshy areas started in the 1950’s. This research was performed under traditional scopes of archeology without consideration of specific wetland features and the environment. The incorporation of new methods was initiated two decades ago when underwater archaeology was introduced, as well as more scientific approach in the exploration of the landscape and prehistoric settlements.

The first methodological excavation of wetland sites was initiated in Pelagonia in 1954, although there were surveys performed in the 1930s. The excavations in the following decades provided significant information of the tell-sites in this swampy valley, but not much on the environment. Nevertheless, in the 1970s numerous excavations and geological study wеre performed which indicated the abundance of tell-sites and water basins in the vicinity of Neolithic villages. In the following years interest for prehistory in this region decreased and for more than 20 years there was a gap in archaeological studies. However, few years ago a new initiative started with employment of most recent archaeological methods in research of tell-sites, as well as the incorporation of GIS, geophysical survey and paleobotanical analysis.

First excavation of pile dwellings was performed in Struga region where two prehistoric sites of this kind were excavated. With the gap of several decades such settlements were absent in archaeological research until 2000s when new sites in Ohrid and Dojran region were explored. In the same period underwater archaeology was introduced in Macedonia when dozen of pile dwelling settlements in Ohrid Lake were discovered and excavated. This provided entirely new understanding of lake side environment and intensified more thorough research of the sites and necessity for the implementation of new methods. In general, eight underwater and three ground pile dwellings are determined in Ohrid Lake region, two on Prespa Lake, one on the shore of Dojran Lake and approximately 120 wetland sites in Pelagonia. Majority of prehistoric villages in Pelagonia and Ohrid region had dynamic mutual network and established contacts with those in neighboring areas in Greece and Albania.

History of investigation in Ukraine