Ramygala: the oldest past of the region

Ilona Vaškevičiūtė

Ramygala is a town in Panevėžys District at the Panevėžys–Kėdainiai highway, 24 km south of Panevėžys. The town lies on the left bank of the Upytė River. The name of Ramygala in historical sources is mentioned from the 13th century (Remigale). Its first population, however, inhabited this area significantly more early. At the end of Late Palaeolithic, with climate warming and irreversible retreat of ice cover northwards, the first hunters came here following the grazing reindeer herds. They seemed to stay here temporarily, but later in Mesolithic they lived here more constantly. From that time we can start the count of Ramygala's history. The goal of the present paper is to unearth the prehistory of Ramygala area basing on archaeological material and museum artefacts, to analyse how this region had been inhabited in the course of time, to systemise the remained archaeological monuments, and to assess their significance for disclosing the old past of this land.

The environs of Ramygala had been populated only during the Mesolithic (from 8th to 5th millennium BC ). This is obvious from the Mikališkis campsite dates as the Mesolithic. This camp seems to belong to the Mesolithic Nemunas culture, thus it could be the northernmost monument of this culture. The end of the Neolithic and beginning of the Bronze Age is reflected in stone hatchets found in the environs of Ramygala and Masiokai Village; they are dated as from the end of the 3rd millennium to the Bronze Age (Figs. 1–4).

Ramygala area is a bit richer in Iron Age monuments. Although there are no mounds, and no settlements of that period are detected, but there are 9 burial sites detected: Aukštadvaris, Drulupis, Gabulai, Griniūnai, Naujadvaris, Rimaisiai, Pašiliai, Uliūnai and Užkalniai (Figs. 5–18). These burial monuments directly witness that the Ramygala area has been already densely populated at that time. Only some burial sites, such as Griniūnai, Rimaisiai and Uliūnai, had been investigated, and exploratory research has been done in the sites of Pašiliai and Užkalniai. Other ones are known only from occasionally found artefacts and exploratory expeditions. The burial site of Griniūnai is a monument left by the Aukštaičiai tribe. In a 912 m2 plot investigated, 36 non-cremation graves and 2 cremation burials have been detected. After the artefacts found the burials are dated as from 3d/4th to 6th century. The latest burials are cremation graves. This burial site showed that the cremation tradition in the 6th century has already spread northwards and reached the southern part of the present-day Panevėžys District (Figs.19–46).

People and horses would be buried in the Rimaisiai burial site. Five graves of cremated men and one fireplace were found in its northern part, while 12 graves of horses buried in inhumation way were in the southern part. According to shroud the burial site is dated as the 9th-10th centuries. Obviously, only a part of these burials is found and investigated (Figs. 47–52).

In the Ūliūnai burial site, a 3600 m2 plot is studied, where 70 inhumation burials of the community members which lived there in 16th-17th centuries have been found.

Thus, the area of Ramygala lies in an environment friendly for humans to live. There are conditions (it must be assumed they were) favourable for economic development of communities of different historical periods, starting from possessive economy and ending with productive economy. Late Palaeolithic people had good conditions for hunting on reindeer; Mesolithic and Early Neolithic communities could be well provided with food from the forests growing in the plain valleys. During the Middle Neolithic, the productive economy started to develop due to favourable conditions for agriculture and livestock farming.