We present a virtual exhibition dedicated to the archaeological research. Please press this link: https://tyrimai.kernave.org/ to visit it.
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.
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 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 revealed.
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. Luchtanas.
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 distinct results.
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. Jankauskas).
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 discovered.
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 hill-forts.
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 and clay pipes, which were used for blowing air into the iron-melting furnace were discovered.
In 2006 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 head etc.
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 2007 excavations of seeming place of a smithy in XIII-XIV c. Kernavė were continued (started in 2005). Area of 200 m² was excavated. Remains of one more iron smelting furnace were found as well as fragments of air vents, slag. It seems that in this place, in a wide area afar from the center of the town, the iron founders were working. Iron was produced from local bog ore.
Also exploratory archaeological excavations were done on the hill to the west form the Castle Hill mound. Before the territory was thought to have been uninhabited. However, storage pits with finds attributed to XIII-XIV c. Kernavė Town were found. The results of the research allow us to guess that the territory of the upper town of that period was not confined by moat of the Castle Hill but extended further to the west.
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.
In 2010, under the 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. have been detected.
In 2010 the excavations in Semeniškės village were proceeded as well (headed by R. Vengalis). Newly found archaeological monument – 14th century cremation burial-site was investigated in that place. This burial-site proved to be unique not only in Lithuanian but in much broader context – burials were set in watercourse of small rivulet. Smashed pots, semi-molten bronze, iron, bone, glass adornments were found among numerous cremated human bones.
In 2011 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.
In 2012 the place near the old church of Kernavė was excavated (headed by D. Baltramiejūnaitė). Features and artifacts of various periods, dated from the Stone Age till the beginning of 20th century were found.
31 graves belonging to the 15th-19th cc. churchyard cemetery were unearthed. The deceased were buried in western direction, with very few grave-goods, such as knives, pendants, coins, rings, etc.
40 features – postholes and pits – not related to the graveyard were detected as well. They are dated to 13th-14th and 16th-20th cc. The majority of findings in these features and cultural layer were potsherds, clay plaster and animal bones. There were discovered some rarer artifacts such as cylindrical locks, stone axe, flint flakes, fragments of adornments and ecclesiastical furnishing, 15th-17th cc. coins as well.