Vaiguva environs pre-history

Mykolas Michelbertas

The remotest past of Vaiguva environs are witnessed by archaeological monuments the studies of which start at the end of the 19th c. The monuments and occasional finds enable to speak about the level the area had been populated during different periods.
The oldest traces of humans are attributed to the Late Palaeolithic (11th-9th millennia BC). At the Kalniškiai Mound, in 2007, there was a flint end scraper (Fig. 1) detected, which can be attributed to the Swiderian and Arensburg cultures. Were there Late Palaeolithic campsites in Vaiguva environs? To reply this question is difficult, but undoubtedly the people of that period used to come there.

There are more data about Vaiguva area population from the Early Iron Age or Roman period (1st-4th c. AD). Settlements and burial monuments of that period are also detected. One settlement was on the Kalniškiai Mound (Fig. 2). Here, a cultural layer with brushed ceramics was detected with clay plastering pieces and an oval rubber-stone. 

Burial monuments, barrows, are known in Perkūniškė and Tolišiai. Two barrows with graves of unburned body remains were investigated in Perkūniškė. Round stone ring remains were found in the barrows. The rings formed of various-sized stones were from 5.6 to 8.4–9.6 m in diameter. The Barrow I was found to contain 5 graves (Figs. 3 and 4), including 3 men and 2 children ones. The dead were buried as deep as 0.45–9.6 m, while men heads were directed northwards or westwards, and children’s northwards or southwards. The dead were buried with cerements. Men had socketed iron axes (Figs. 5:3 and 6:1), also a knife with a hooked backside (Fig. 6:5), socketed iron spearheads (Fig. 6:2,3) and brass ornaments–a neck-ring with knob-shaped terminals (Fig. 5:2), highly profiled crossbow brooch (Fig. 6.4) and a circular-head pin (Fig. 5:1). Children graves were found to contain an iron knife and an awl, brass ornaments–a neck ring with knob-shaped terminals, a brooch with a triangular foot (Fig. 7:1,2), a necklace made of beads with a pendant. There was also an occasional find–a bracelet of square section with rounded terminals (Fig. 7:3). The Barrow II was destroyed.

Chronology of the Perkūniškė barrow is related to the period of the 2nd c. and the beginning of the 3rd c.

Various artefacts from the destroyed Tolišiai barrow were taken to the museums, including socketed iron axes (Fig. 8:1), brass neck-rings with conic (Fig. 9:2), box-shaped (Fig. 9:3) and spoon-shaped (Fig. 10:4) terminals, brass coil pin (Fig. 9:1) and belt buckle with openwork coating (Fig. 10:3). Vaiguva-Tolišiai gave us also a convex band bracelet (Fig. 11) and three Roman coins, including a Faustina I sesterce coined after her death (in 141). The Tolišiai finds showed that there was a 2nd -4th c. barrow destroyed, where artefacts of Western Lithuanian and Roman import character were detected.

We have less data in the Vaiguva area from the Middle Iron Age (5th–8th–9th c.). This was the time when burial customs were changing–the dead used to be buried in separate graves. The Papilalis hill-fort seemed to have been inhabited at that time (Fig. 12) and the fortification works had been done for the first time.

This hill-fort was used most intensively during Late Iron Age, when there was a rampart formed at the top brink and a fosse was dug at the hill base, and the slopes were evened. A wooden castle seems to be there. The dwellers of the castle were buried in a nearby former gravesite, the position of which is not determined yet. The artefacts found at the surface contain brass ornaments: spiral rings, penannular brooches with cylindrical, polygon or animalistic terminals, a bracelet with tapering terminals. The chronology of the artefacts embraces the period of 9th–10th c.

The dead were further buried in Tolišiai gravesite. Museums had taken from this destroyed site such artefacts as brass penannular brooches with animalistic (Figs. 8:2, 10:1) and polygonal (10:2) terminals, fragments of portable brass balance (Fig. 10:3). The latter showed that merchants had lived in Tolišiai community. Some things found in Tolišiai have fire signs; since the dead were being buried here slightly or entirely burnt. Tradition of cremation of the dead started to be common in the 9th c.