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Project 09.3.3-LMT-K-712-01-0171

The research project
Man and the Baltic Sea in the Meso-Neolithic: Relict Coasts and Settlements below and above Present Sea Level. ReCoasts&People
(No. 09.3.3-LMT-K-712-01-0171)

Between 2017 and 2021, the Institute of Baltic Region History and Archaeology at Klaipėda University is conducting the research project ‘Man and the Baltic Sea in the Meso-Neolithic: Relict Coasts and Settlements below and above Present Sea Level. ReCoasts&People’, led by Professor Vladas Žulkus. The project is funded by the European Social Fund, as part of the programme ‘Improvement of Researchers’ Qualifications by Implementing World-Class R&D Projects’ No 09.3.3-LMT-K-712 by a grant (No 09.3.3-LMT-K-712-01-0171) from the Research Council of Lithuania.

The research is divided into two main stages: underwater studies of submerged Prehistoric landscapes and human settlements, and Stone Age settlement research in the current coastal zone of Lithuania. Underwater research has already provided results. At depths of 11 to 30 metres off Juodkrantė, well-preserved pine tree stumps and deposits of peat layers, indicating a former freshwater lake basin, have been found and dated to the end of the Younger Dryas to the Atlantic, ca. 9700 – 5600 cal BC. The Atlantic period is also represented by submerged oak trees. Traces of submerged human settlements have also been found. Possible Middle Mesolithic fish weirs have been uncovered near Klaipėda, and a T-shaped antler axe, dated to the Atlantic, was washed up on Melnragė beach. The underwater research is being carried out by the vessels Brabander and Mintis, which have modern equipment necessary for underwater archaeology.

The research off the coast is already successful and has provided new information on the first post-glacial settlers here. In 2018, fieldwork concentrated on the sites of Aukštumala peat bog, on a former lake island. Along with two already-known sites, a third one was identified, and archaeological material suggests that this island was probably inhabited at the very beginning of the Yoldia Sea stage in the Early Mesolithic, ca. 9500 – 9000 cal BC, and should be ascribed to the eponymous Swiderian culture technology. Use-wear studies of flint artefacts suggest that people pursued various activities around the island, such as chopping wood, hunting and processing animal or fish carcasses. Excavations have shown that the sites provided specialised spaces on the site, one of which was identified as lithic knapping location on site 3.

Underwater and inland surveys are supported by various interdisciplinary studies that provide more information about ancient landscapes and the peoples who settled them. The project is supported by geological and palaeo-environmental studies, geochemical and zooarchaeological research, and the DNA analysis of submerged trees. This project is unique in the East Baltic area, and the results will be the basis for future studies of submerged Prehistoric landscapes.