|RESERVE – ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE
||Kernavė is one of the most
important and the most interesting monuments in Central and Eastern
Europe from the archaeological point of view. The first inhabitants
settled here as soon as the glaciers retreated around 12000 years ago.
Since then the settlers have never left Kernavė. People were born,
brought up here; they worked and fought, died and were buried here.
Therefore, in the compact territory of 196,2
ha over 40 monuments from different periods have been found and
examined more or less thoroughly (over 8000 sq. m. of land have been
explored). This gives us a chance to revive not just separate periods
of our prehistory, but also reconstruct the whole development of life
style and burial customs in the region. Most of the excavated sites in
Kernavė remind a big pie divided by cultural layers of different
periods. Each layer of this pie is an invaluable page of Kernavė
Professional archaeological researches started in
1979 after the fall of the eastern slope of the Mindaugas Throne
hill-fort (headed by Assoc. Professor P. Kulikauskas, A. Luchtanas,
Vilnius University). The cultural layers of the 4th -14th centuries
were discovered. In 1979 a part of the settlement located on the
northeastern side of the Lizdeika hill-fort foot was examined (middle -
second part of the I millennium AD).
||Since that time archaeological excavations
were carried out in Kernavė each summer. In 1980-1982
archaeological research of the Mindaugas Throne hill-fort was continued
and accomplished (a joint expedition of the Academy of Science and VU,
headed by R. Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė). In 1981 excavations of the Late
Iron Age burial mounds, located 2 km. northwest of Kernavė, were
started (headed by P. Kulikauskas, VU).
In 1983 another three burial mounds were
explored in the up-mentioned burial site (headed by A. Luchtanas, VU);
excavations of the Castle Hill - the greatest hill-fort in Kernavė -
were started (a joint expedition of the Academy of Science and VU,
headed by R. Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė); an unfortified Iron Age
settlement in open ground (1st -7th centuries), located 400 meters
south-west from the hill-forts on the first terrace above the
floodplain, was discovered (headed by A. Luchtanas); around 200 meters
eastwards from a mentioned settlement, close to the river Neris,
remains of the Stone Age settlement were discovered.
Since 1984 archaeological research was carried out by the
expedition of VU Department of History (headed by A. Luchtanas). In
1984 one more burial mound in Kernavė site of burial moulds was
explored (the beginning of the II millennium AD); a further examination
of the Iron Age settlement by the river Neris specified its chronology
more precisely - the 3rd -5th centuries AD.
In 1985 continuous research of the Castle Hill hill-fort
defined two main periods of its usage: the middle of the I millennium
and the 13th -14th centuries; under the archaeological supervision of
drainage work, a structure of a fortification element - a ditch,
dividing the Mindaugas Throne hill-fort and the Offering Hill hill-fort
was defined; a large number of the 13th -14th century artefacts were
discovered at the foot of the Offering Hill hill-fort.
||1986: upon discovery of
wooden road remains, stone pavings, knocked down timer parts,
archaeological research was started in the Pajauta Valley (carried out
for four successive years), in the territory that was barbarously
ruined during land melioration works.
The main purpose was to discover the
character, chronology, occupied territory of the monument.
A 60-130 cm wide cultural layer of the 13th
-14th century was uncovered in the Pajauta Valley.
A wooden track way stratigraphically lying
below is dated by the middle of the I millennium.
The research results gave an opportunity to
reconstruct the plan and partly reconstruct the street structure of the
medieval Kernavė town.
The town consisted of the Duke's Castle -
Residence (the hill of the Aukuras hill-fort) and fore hill-forts
protecting the castle (the Mindaugas Throne hill, the hill of Lizdeika
hill-forts) as well as two residential quarters of artisans and
merchants - an upper one, around 2 ha wide, on the Castle hill-fort,
and the lower one, 10-12 ha wide, in the Pajauta Valley.
Survey researches were continued in the
surroundings of Kernavė.
In 1987 a cultural layer of the 15th
-17th century was discovered and examined in the eastern edge of the
In 1989 around 100 m away from the river Neris, nearby
Mitkiškiai homestead, single flint artefacts from the Mesolithic
Period and cultural layer of the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age were
A flat burial ground with cremated graves covered with stone piles used
to cover this place in the Early Iron Age.
While exploring area 30 meters away from the river in the pine wood,
southwards from the Castle Hill hill-fort, flint artefacts from the
Neolithic Period, a household pit from the first centuries of our grace
and a mediaeval pit most probably used for ritual purposes - a possible
sacrificial offering place of mediaeval Kernavė- were discovered. Two
more settlements were discovered along the mouth of the Kernavė rivulet
around 1 km southwards from the hill-forts - a settlement of the
Neolithic and the first centuries AD period on the right side and a
Roman period settlement on the left side. Flint artefacts, breakstone
of the Neolithic period and the Early Bronze Age were discovered in the
area close to the river Neris. Eastwards from the latter settlements,
on the first terrace of the river Neris, fragments of brushed and rough
pottery were found. Examining the edge of the fourth terrace of the
river, approximately 0,4 km eastwards from the Lizdeika hill-fort, the
fifth hill-fort in Kernavė - Kriveikiškiai - dated 13th -14th
century, was discovered.
In 1989 the geography of archaeological research and volume of work
expanded when the local museum was reorganised into an independent
State Kernavė Museum-Reserve of Archaeology and History headed by
Vytautas Ušinskas, a candidate of historical science.
The status of a reserve (192,6) protected this unique complex of
archaeological monuments from further devastation - ploughing, land
melioration, construction. The Archaeology Department headed by
archaeologist A. Jankauskas was established, such archaeologists as D.
Vaičiūnienė, G. Karnatka, A. Kuzmickas were employed. 1991-2007 the
head of Archaeology Department was Dr. Assoc. Professor A.
Currently, archaeologists Dr. R. Vengalis and D. Baltarmiejūnaitė
work in the Scientific Research Department, the head of the
department is Dr. G. Vėlius.
During the period from 1989 to 1990 a museum expedition carried out the
researches on the site of old Kernavė churches (headed by A.
Jankauskas), in 1991 such excavations was headed by G. Karnatka. The
foundations of Kernavė church and a belfry built in 1739 and a chapel
built in the 16 century were uncovered. The church has been built on
the site of the 14 c. end - 17 c. graveyard.
In 1990 a settlement of the Roman Period located on the right
bank of the Kernavėlė rivulet, around 300 metres from the river Neris,
was explored (headed by V. Ušinskas). An iron-melting furnace
was discovered. The territory of Semeniškės village as well as
the northern part of Kernavė settlement were excavated without any
||During 1990-1991, 1993 the
research of settlements of different epochs and a burial groumd of the
Early Iron Age in the Pajauta Valley was continued (an expedition of VU
Archaeology and Ethnology Department, headed by A. Luchtanas). In 1991
a cultural layer of the Neolithic Period, III millennium BC, with a
number of flint artefacts were found in the area of the imaginary
Kernavė sacrificial offering place.
In 1992-93 a western part of the Offering
Hill hill-fort flat hilltop was explored (VU expedition headed by A.
Luchtanas). Stratigraphicaly three main settlement horizons and traces
of four fires were discovered. People settled on the hill-fort in the
1st century BC. A settlement of the Late Brushed Pottery Culture was
destroyed by fire. In the 3rd century AD a cultural layer horizon with
early rough pottery was formed. The 5-century castle was burnt down
during the enemy invasion. The hill-fort was settled intense again
during the period from the second part of the I millennium to the
beginning of the II millennium. In the Medieval Ages the Offering Hill
hill-fort became as the main Kernavė Castle, the Duke's residence.
Archaeologists came across the traces of a fire that appeared during
the period of the Crusader attacks in 1365 and 1390. Excavations were
continued in the Pajauta Valley (headed by G. Karnatka). In 1992 survey
research was carried out in Semeniškės village, also in the
southeastern part of the medieval town where the Roman Period pottery
and tillage traces of the very beginning of the year of grace were
discovered (headed by A. Kuzmickas). Hearthstones and a number of the
16-18 century tiles were discovered during the excavations of the 16-19
century manor place site in the eastern edge of Kernavė, located in the
place of the present Kriveikiškės village (headed by A.
||In 1994 the Early Iron Age burial
site and settlements of different periods in the Pajauta Valley were
explored again (VU expedition, headed by A. Luchtanas). The
stratigraphy of cultural layers is analogous to those examined before.
Some graves were found - two with cremation and one with inhumation
remains. The Kernavė burial ground, dated 13th -14th century,
discovered 100 meters north of the fifth Kernavė hill-fort -
Kriveikiškiai - was explored (headed by G. Vėlius).
Many rich inhumated graves with sumptuous imported
grave goods were found. This burial ground was examined until 1999
(except 1997) and in the 2002. The boundaries of the monument,
chronological frames - the middle of the 12th century – 1390 and
territory - were identified. When exploring the old churchyard of
Kernavė (with a plan to establish a panoramic spot surveying the
hill-forts), a southern edge of earlier examined 14th -17th centuries
graveyard was discovered. In 1995 excavations in the Pajauta
Valley were continued (VU expedition, headed by A. Luchtanas).
In 1996-1997 due to monument protection purposes, examination
of ancient settlement on the riverside that was about to be ruined by
household property was finalised (VU expedition, headed by A.
Luchtanas). The end of the Brushed Pottery Culture existence in the
region was specified and the beginning of a new culture featuring the
early rough pottery was defined - the turn of the 2nd -3rd centuries.
Cultural layers of the Stone Age Mesolithic and Neolithic epochs, also
the Old Iron Age and 13th-14th c. (almost ruined) were discovered. Two
more cremated graves of the Early Iron Age were found.
||In spring of 1998 melt-water
washed ashore the rivulet running 200 meters north of the Lizdeika Hill
hill-fort a number of pottery articles, cattle bones, dated 13th -14th
century. Archaeological research was started in order to find out the
nature, territory, precise chronological frames of the newly found
monument (Kernavė museum expedition, headed by A. Vaičiūnienė).
The research went on in 1999-2001. The
cultural layer of 13th -14th centuries reaching 2.7 m depth was
discovered under a 1.6-2 m wide alluvial stratum. A part of the
homestead yard was examined, fenced, a well was found. No buildings
have been discovered so far, yet but the culture layer is rich with
accidental artefacts of the 13th -14th centuries. This research proved
the fact that the medieval town of Kernavė was much greater than it was
believed before - homesteads were located all over the valley, on the
hill-forts, as well as on the fourth terrace above the floodplain.
In 2002 survey test excavations were carried out in the
Pajauta Valley, in the place of forthcoming renovate way (VU
expedition, headed by Dr. Assoc. Professor A. Luchtanas). Culture layer
up to 0,5 m thickness of the beginning of the I millennium AD was
discovered. In 2003 in the place of the above-mentioned way in
the Pajauta Valley over 2000 sq. m. have been explored (VU expedition,
headed by Dr. Assoc. Professor A. Luchtanas). The culture layers of 2nd
–5th centuries, the artefacts of Stone Age and 13th-14th c. were
In 2004 excavations in the Pajauta Valley were continued
(headed by R. Vengalis). In the eastside section of the renew way
culture layer of the 2nd-3rd centuries settlement, unique artefacts of
Roman period were discovered. Simultaneously, around 100 meters
northwards from Castle Hill hill-fort a culture layer of 14th century
homestead was detected. Researches (headed by D. Vaičiūnienė) revealed
that homesteads of medieval Kernavė enclosed town northwards from the
In 2005 the Upper Kernave town was
explored (13th-14th c.) (headed by dr. G. Vėlius). The cultural layer
of homestead with plenty of jewellery and leather ware was discovered.
In the second half of the 14th century in the territory of homestead
the iron from the local bog ore was produced. The remains of
iron-melting furnaces, a lot of slag’s and clay pipes which were
used for blowing air into the iron-melting furnace were discovered.
excavations in the Upper Kernavė town were continued (headed by R.
Vengalis). Area about 100 m northwestward from plots excavated in
1998-2001 was investigated. Investigations proved, that the territory
of upper medieval town in Kernavė was much wider than was initially
supposed. Though the cultural layer here was strongly disturbed, many
valuable artefacts were discovered. The traces of buildings, fences,
fireplaces, waste pits, postholes were revealed, many individual
findings, including one of the first Lithuanian coins – the
denarius of Jogaila, the Prague groschen, golden pin with bird-shaped
find of the year
In 2006, during excavations in the upper Kernavė
town, especially rare coin was discovered. The coin added numismatic
collection of the Kernavė‘s Archaeological and Historical museum.
On the head of the coin ruler with the crown is depicted, surrounded
with the dotted line and a fragment of inscription ...I
: ... . On the reverse a beast (lion) is depicted, above
which there is Tartarian sign (tamga) made of two interlaced hearts.
This coin is differentiated to Jogaila, supposedly it was coined
between the year 1387-1390. Such type of coins is one of the most
obscure amongst the first coins of the Great Duchy of Lithuania.
In 2008 excavations in the Upper Kernavė
town were continued (headed by R. Vengalis). The excavations were
carried on near the area excavated in 2006. Numerous finds (adornments
and tools), refuse pits, the remains of fences and possibly buildings
were unearthed in the quite small-scale area.
D. Baltramiejūnaitė headed the excavations in the area of the Old
Kernave town, not far from homestead, dicovered at 2004. Although most
of the cultural layer at excavated plot was stunted, pits, postholes
and some artefacts characteristic to the 14th century were revealed.
The settlement in the Pajauta valley, near the Kernavėlė rivulet was
investigated as well (headed by R. Vengalis). An iron-melting furnace
dated to the middle of the first millennium has been discovered here.
In 2009 excavations in Semeniškės
village located in the Pajauta valley were executed (headed by D.
Baltramiejūnaitė). The traces of 4th
century burial mounds with inhumation graves unexpectedly were
uncovered in the place of buildings under reconstruction. There was any
information about this monument till the excavation as the mounds
themselves were flattened out, only graves and the traces of ditches
under the initial surface have remained. The remains of 4 burial mounds
were uncovered – 3 of them contained single burial, 1 –
even 7. The bones of deceased were almost completely decayed, but
various items – neck-rings, temple ornaments, pins, bracelets,
rings, axes, spearheads, sickles, etc. – survived in better
condition. 2 cremation burials in urns were discovered near burial
mounds – they should be dated to the quite earlier period –
1st millennium BC.
implementation of the project “The development of the landscape
according to the data of archeology and natural history” which
Lithuanian State Science and Studies Foundation has funded, geophysical
survey with magnetometer was performed in the Pajauta valley. This
survey indicated various magnetic anomalies, which are in certain
places due to underground soil disturbances, iron or burned artifacts.
Small-scale archaeological excavations were carried out in the place of
some anomalies (headed by R. Vengalis). Waste-pits with numerous
artifacts from the 1st and the
beginning of 2nd millennium – potsherds, slag, burned clay, etc.
the excavations in
Semeniškės village were proceeded as well (headed by R. Vengalis).
monument – 14th century cremation burial-site was investigated in
place. This burial-site proved to be unique not only in Lithuanian but
in much broader context – burials were set in watercourse of
rivulet. Smashed pots, semi-molten bronze, iron, bone, glass adornments
were found among numerous cremated human bones.
continuing works from previous years, a hill situated to the West from
the Castle hill-fort was excavated (headed by D. Baltramiejūnaitė).
Excavations confirmed guesses that this hill was a part of the town in
13th - 14th centuries. Pits with multiple artifacts testify the
economic activity of the settlers. Most of the findings are fragments
of clay plaster, which was used to plaster inner walls of the wooden
building, as well as pottery fragments, knives, awls, whetstones and
slate spindle-whorls, imported from Russia. Much of food scraps –
animal and bird bones, fish-bones and scales and egg shells –
were found in those pits.
So, since 1979 archaeological research in Kernavė encompassed all the
cultures existing in this Baltic region over the period of 12 thousand
years. Different kinds of monuments were explored - fortified and
unfortified open settlements, hill-forts defensive fortifications, a
medieval town, a ritual place, a historical manor site, churches and
many more. The discovered burial monuments from different epochs
demonstrate the development of the perception of the posthumous world
in the country during different periods of the prehistory. The secret
of burial customs of Brushed Pottery Culture was revealed. The
development periods of these former existing cultures were specified.
The research of the medieval town and burial ground produced a lot of
invaluable information about the outset and development of towns and
Lithuanian statehood. A few links are still missing in the explored
chain of Kernavė archaeological monuments. Settlements from the Stone
Age have been discovered, but no burial grave has been found yet. In
case of the monuments from the period between the end of the I
millennium to the beginning of the II millennium AD, the situation is
quite opposite: a number of burial monuments - burial mounds - have
been found in the woods surrounding Kernavė, while a settlement with a
clear cultural layer hasn't been discovered so far. No research has
been carried out on the Lizdeika Hill hill-fort so far - what's hiding
in there? No definite specification has been made concerning the
localisation of the first Kernavė church founded by Vytautas. These are
a few questions that still miss answers so far.
The museum collections and display of discovered archaeological objects
in natural environment is one of the prerogative plans of the museum.
Present activity of the Archaeology Department and plans for further
research are concentrated on the unanswered questions from our
prehistory and also on a better public representation including
publishing, exposition development, on-site reconstruction. In order to
reach this aim, archaeological research should be matched with the
prospects of the development of the museum exposition.