The unearthed past of Kriaunos and Obeliai environs

Gintautas Zabiela

The first data about the antiquities in the environs of Obeliai and Kriaunos come from the first half of the 19th century, but their systematic investigation began only at the end of the same century. Among the most successful studies, the excavations of Petrešiūnai hill-fort done by Liudvikas Kšyvickis [Ludwik Krzywicki] (1859–1941) in 1909–1910, as well as investigations of Velykuškiai and Mielėnai hill-forts carried on by Petras Tarasenka (1892–1962) in 1933 should be mentioned.

The oldest traces of human life in the area of Obeliai and Kriaunos reach the end of the Neolithic (beginning of the 2nd millennium BC). These are the boat-shaped axes, majority of which come from the Bronze Age (1500–500 BC) or even Early Iron Age (500–0 BC) and are related to the hill-forts of the prospering Culture of Brushed Pottery, where even 51 such axes have been found. There are eight such hill-forts in the area of Obeliai and Kriaunos. The hill-forts of the Brushed Pottery Culture existed by the 3rd century. Later some of them were abandoned, but others remained populated by the historical times (13th c.). In this case, the most abundant material has been obtained during the investigations of the Velykuškiai mound. In the Iron Age (1st–13th centuries) people lived also in non-fortified settlements. From the middle of the 1st millennium, the dead were buried in the mounds, only very few of which remained by now. In some cases, as the Degučiai findings, it is even difficult to determine the burial type. The distribution of the Iron Age archaeological monuments in the area of Obeliai and Kriaunos, if compared to the neighbouring areas, indicates the regional centre had been situated here. It was obvious in the 1st half of the millennium, but later, due to a sharp decrease in population in a wide region of NE Lithuania, its presence is more difficult to be detected. Nevertheless, the ethnical type of the population makes no doubts–this is the land of Sėliai (the Selonians).

The area deserted during the wars with the Livonian Order was repopulating from the beginning of the Modern Era (16th–18th c.). Some old cemeteries, manor places, coin treasures–sparse and less investigated–are attributable to this period. The material obtained contributes to the adjustment of some specific moments in the history of the area, less reflected in historical sources.