Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

Reconsidered Late Mesolithic and Early Neolithic of the Lithuanian Coast: The Smelte and Palanga sites/Uus Pilk Leedu Ranniku Kiviaega: Smelte Ja Palanga Asulad

Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

Reconsidered Late Mesolithic and Early Neolithic of the Lithuanian Coast: The Smelte and Palanga sites/Uus Pilk Leedu Ranniku Kiviaega: Smelte Ja Palanga Asulad

Article excerpt


Middle and Late Neolithic (4200-2000 cal BC) of the Lithuanian coast are well known because of dozens of sites that have been investigated and are still being investigated in the environs of the Sventoji settlement as well as on the Curonian Spit. On the contrary, very few Late Mesolithic (7000-5300 cal BC) and Early Neolithic (5300-4200 cal BC) sites have been discovered so far and even those few sometimes have been mistakenly been attributed to other periods because of lack of radiocarbon dates. The most famous Lithuanian Stone Age archaeologist Rimute Rimantiene in her monograph devoted to the Sventoji Neolithic sites wrote that Early Neolithic sites are drowned or buried deeply under marine sand because of post-glacial sinking of the land (Rimantiene 2005). Today we know that at least for Lithuania's northern coastline it was not an absolute truth.

The aim of this publication is to present archaeological finds and radiocarbon dates from little-known Late Mesolithic and Early Neolithic Lithuanian coastal sites--the Smelte site (Klaipeda city) and the Palanga site (Palanga city) (Fig. 1). Both sites were discovered during constructional and drainage works during the 3rd quarter of the 20th century. Right then and also some time after the discovery both sites were severely or even totally destroyed by urbanization. Today, field research seems to be especially complicated at both sites. Short excavation reports, museums' inventories, and artefacts themselves--almost exclusively bone and antler tools were the main sources for this study. Direct AMS [sup.14]C dates together with the recent information about the Baltic Sea coastlines enable us to overcome some shortcomings caused by poor field documentation and to put the Palanga and Smelte sites into most probable chronological, palaeogeographic and cultural contexts of the southern and eastern Baltic Sea area.

All dates in this study were calibrated by using OxCal 4.2 software (Bronk Ramsey 2009) and IntCal13 atmospheric curve (Reimer et al. 2013). Dates were discussed with 68.2% probability when calibrated.

The Palanga site

The Palanga site is among the first Stone Age sites in Lithuania where scientific archaeological excavations took place. It was discovered in summer 1958 during canalizing the Rqze River in Palanga city, coastal Lithuania. Workers found many animal bones as well as large pieces of unworked amber and reported the finds to the Lithuanian Institute of History. Preliminary revision of excavated material by professional archaeologists identified a bone arrowhead and several other worked bones. Then rescue excavations were launched on the presumably Mesolithic site. It took 12 days to excavate an area of 105 square metres. Excavations were complicated due to ground water because trenches were situated just within and beside the river bed. They were led by two young archaeologists--Ona Navickaite-Kunciene from the Lithuanian Institute of History and Marija Vaitkunskaite-Banikoniene from the Kretinga local museum. Stone Age was not the main interest for either of the women. Today only a short report about the excavation exists in the Lithuanian Institute of History (Navickaite 1958). It consists of a general description of the excavation, stratigraphy and artefacts, and also contains several photos of the artefacts and Kalju Paaver's report on the bones of the various species. Unfortunately, it seems that photography was not used during the fieldwork. Just a year after the excavation another Lithuanian archaeologist Pranas Kulikauskas made an attempt to interpret and evaluate the finds. Already then Kulikauskas drew attention to the scarcity of information available. However, at the same time he recognized the importance of bone and antler tools, attributing them solely on typological background to the Mesolithic and the Early Bronze Age (Kulikauskas 1959). Finds from the Palanga site were later described or referred to in many subsequent publications (e. …

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