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Šventoji


The Šventoji archaeological complex, NW Lithuania, is famous due to wetland sites that usually produce astonishing pieces of every day and ritual life and propose very favorable perspectives for interdisciplinary paleoenvironmental studies, such as several other Neolithic lake regions in SE Baltic, i.e. Sārnate, Kretuonas, Lubanas and Biržulis. Looking from a coastal perspective Šventoji sites can be recognized as a part of circum-Baltic seal hunters' and fishermen's community which have been managed with diverse and abundant coastal food resources during 4th and 3rd millennium cal BC.

The Šventoji archaeological complex was discovered during drainage works in 1966 by M. Balčius and R. Rimantienė. More than 40 archaeological sites were discovered and some of them were extensively investigated uncovering an area of ca 14,000 m². Šventoji sites are situated on the banks, littoral parts and beds of a former fresh water system comprised of estuary channels and shallow lagoonal lake. The sites were interpreted as dwelling sites, refuse layers, fishing stations and possibly pile settlements (e.g. Šventoji 6). They were dated to  3700-1800 cal BC with an exception of a single Bronze Age site 41B (1260-910 cal BC).

A lot of them are wetland sites with well preserved organic materials found at waterlogged lake sediments (gyttja). Great amounts of pottery as well as wooden and bone fishing equipment were uncovered during excavations. Remains of intensive amber processing became also evident. Large scale seal hunting and fresh water fishing was inferred in a contrast to a very few signs of farming economy in Šventoji region during the Neolithic. Two very fundamentally different cultural traditions were recorded in pottery making during 4
th millennium cal BC there, i.e. the so-called Bay Coast/Globular Amphorae and Narva ceramics. The elaborated style of Bay Coast ceramics highlights early contacts with farming communities and great internal power of innovation that emerged under conditions of plentiful food resources, large coastal communities and developed social contacts.

Today the cultural layer is highly deteriorated due to ploughing and water table lowering at most of dwelling sites (e.g. Šventoji 6, 23 and 26). However, bone and wooden artefacts are still well preserved in the waterlogged gyttja of former water beds.

Excavations of Šventoji 9 site by R. Rimantienė in 1972. Archive of Lithuanian institute of history, No. 38915

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