Andrea Vianello

Archaeologist

THE ECONOMY OF THE NEOLITHIC POPULATION OF LAKE LUBANS WETLAND AND THE PALEOHYDROLOGICAL REGIME OF THE LAKE

Dr Ilze Loze (University of Latvia)


Lake Lubans Wetland, with the largest lake in Latvia in the centre of it, occupies the area of 100,000 ha (with contour lines from 92 to 97 metres). Nine rivers flow into Lake Lubans and only one river flows out of it, which channel the waters to the River Daugava - the largest river in the Eastern Baltic.

The wetland was inhabited during the Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Eneolithic periods. Seven cultural periods can be recognised, for which 90 radiocarbon dates have been obtained.

The paleohydrological region of Lake Lubans occupies the area of only 80,7 km2, starting from the PB until the AT climatic period, morphed gradually with the lake water surface declining from 95 to about 90.3 metres. In the AT2 climatic period the water masses of Lake Lubans vacated large areas of height between 92?93.5 m that were previously submersed, while the lake surface covered the present area. Exactly at that time large population masses from the north-east flowed into the flat plain around the lake. Eventually, the number of settlements in Lake Lubans Wetland increased significantly. New populations settled near the river beds and shores of ancient rivers and lakes.

The archaeological excavation carried out in the area has identified 18 settlements (especially the multi-layer settlements of Zvidze and Abora), which show the beneficial influence of the wetland on the local economy. There was rich game fauna: more than a half of hunted animals were Sus scofa and Alces alces. There was a rich choice of fur animals (Castor fiber, Meles meles, Martes martes, Lutra lutra ) that accounted in some places for 13-20% from the number of hunted individuals. Already in the Middle Neolithic the number of cattle in the Zvidze settlement was larger than the number of hunted aurochs.

Mallard, pintail, gadvall, green-winged teal, tufted duck etc. dominated among the nesting birds.

The lake was rich in fish, the largest 10-13 year-old pikes reached the length of 1.30 m and the weight of 20 kg, but perch were consumed in such quantities that layers of fossilized scales formed around the hearths.

Hordeum crops were grown starting from the Middle Neolithic, and Triticum appears in the Late Neolithic (Zvidze).

Apart from these evident priorities concerning food supplies, there was a lack of some local raw material resources in Lake Lubans Wetland - namely, high quality flint and shale. There were no local amber resources either. However, the large waterways - Aiviekste and Daugava - ensured the communication with those who gathered amber on the Litorina Sea shore. Amber was obtained by exchanging it with furs, then it was taken to Lake Lubans Wetland where amber-processing workshops had formed. The inhabitants of this region kept the secret of making exquisite amber ware and took care of the artisans. People from the region set off on the long journey to the Daugava, the Upper Volga to exchange amber for flint. The latter was an indispensable resource..

The use of high-quality flint tools in deforestation activities is attested by commercially made hook-shaped hafts of axes with barrel-shaped holders. Wooden mattocks, spades, hunting tools (bows and arrows) and fishing tools (fish baskets) as well as everyday utensils (swingles and clubs) provide additional information about the activities of the inhabitants.

Despite at least three (in the first half of AT1, and in Sb1 and Sb2 climatic periods) significant changes in surface of Lake Lubans occurred in the course of thousands of years, the population of Lake Lubans Wetland remained stable. The indigenous population moved to other places within the wetland when necessary, adapting to the new conditions.

The Eneolithic culture brought a wave of new types of ceramics in the upper strata of these settlements; it is the last period of occupation. Already in the SA1 climatic period, the waters of Lake Lubans rose over the 92 metre, and this prevented the inhabitants to dwell on the wetland. This was followed by major floods during autumn and spring, which afflicted the local for centuries, making the area hostile to human occupation.


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