Pašvitinys environs from 3rd millennium BC to the 18th century (archaeology data)

Ernestas Vasiliauskas

Pašvitinys environs are not rich in archaeological monuments. Stone axes and remains of a settlement in Aukštadvaris enable to suppose that people visited this area during the Neolithic–Early Metal period. There are no data about permanent settlements of that time.

Pelaniškiai hill-fort with a forework is the best known archaeology monument in the environs of Pašvitinys.

Human population got denser only in the 5th–18th centuries as the finds in the 5th–11th c. burial sites of Pašvitinys, Pelaniškiai and Aukštadvaris showed. At that time, dead used to be buried not burnt in laminar graves and seen off to the beyond with adornments, work tools and arms. It was the Žiemgalian (Semigallian) tribes which left these burial sites.

If compared to the environs neighbouring the Pašvitinys area, the latter lacked monuments at those times. The reason is that the western part of the region was an uninhabited wilderness dividing the Semigallia into the East and West parts with the Virčiuvis River (starting in the environs of Pašvitinys) and being the old boundary between them. From the end-16th to 18th centuries it separated the then powiats (neighbourhoods) of Šiauliai and Upytė. This indicates that this area has not been good for living in prehistoric times, and intensive use of lands here began only in 16th–18th centuries.

The eastern part of the present-day Pašvitinys area, according to positions of archaeological monuments in the Eastern Semigalia–Upmalė Plonė land, belonged to a small district of Šiurpė (Serpen) castle (cited in 1259) with its centre thought to have been in Pelaniškiai hill-fort.

According to the geographical position, concentration of archaeology monuments and specificity of finds, the centre of the Plonė land could be in the environs of Žeimelis–Steigviliai, which were at important trade routes. Toponymy also indicates the occurrence of a centre in the 16th–18th centuries here, i.e., Plonėnai–a church, settlement, manor called Didieji (Great) Plonėnai and a folwark called Baltieji (White) Plonėnai–east of Žeimelis on the left bank of the Plonė River at the intersection of roads from Žeimelis, Saločiai, Linkuva and Bauskė.

South and south-westwards from the present-day Pašvitinys town there was an intertribal wilderness with the Mūša River running across it and separating an anonymous Semigallian land in the Kruoja River basin (its centre could be at the Paliečiai hill-fort (?) now smoothed out, which was called Turinkalns at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries). West of Pašvitinys there was Sidabrė–one of West Semigallian lands.

Pašvitinys environs are sparse in burial monuments and old settlements, however, there are rather many ritual stones, mainly with sharp-bottom bowls (at Pelaniškiai hill-fort and villages of Binėnai, Gegiedžiai, Miciūnai, Pašvitinys, Pociūnai, Sodeliškiai and Sosdvaris). Several “devil’s stones” are also noted in Ąžuolynė and Krembliai, a Devil’s Chair in Velniobala, Titoniai Village, in the forest of Buletiškis.

Across the environs of Pašvitinys, in 11th–13th centuries, there lay an east–west road of local significance from Sidabrė towards Tričiai hill-fort that was the centre of the Guostagalis castle district (now Linkuva Neighbourhood).

After the crusades ended, at the end-15th century, the land’s population had to be thinned, but not all people moved, since there are no data showing about the battles there in the south-eastern part of Semigallia. This is confirmed by linguistic data. In the 14th–17th centuries the area was colonised by people from Aukštaitian Upytė powiat (district) that contains the Pašvitinys area.

The population of the land began growing only from mid-18th century due to several reasons. In 1435, the troops of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Sigismund Kęstutaitis defeated the Livonian Order during the Battle of Pabaiskas (Wilkomierz). After this, calm settled in the northern part of Lithuania and had to boost populating the area. According to distribution of barrows in the 16th century and especially from its second half to the 17th century, the southern part of Semigalia seemed to be densely populated. From this period there is only one less explored old (16th–17th c.) barrow of Aukštadvaris–Gudeliai and burials in Pašvitinys church-yard. 

In 2005–2006, the first archaeological exploratory investigations enabled to suppose that the township of Pašvitinys and its first church built in 16th–18th centuries were developing in the same present-day site.

The township of Pašvitinys was not important trade and craft centre of North Lithuania in the 16th–18th centuries; this is confirmed by the fact that there was not a single coin treasure found in its environs. Joniškis, Žeimelis and Linkuva were the main towns and settlements of the region at that time. And the roads crossing Pašvitinys played no role in foreign trade. The township was the intersection of local roads going from Linkuva, Joniškis, Šiauliai and Žeimelis.