Belarusian Wetland Settlements in Prehistory Wetland settlements in Northern Belarus

A significant area of Northern Belarus is occupied by Paazerje (Lake Region), an area of diverse landscapes that joins hilly moraines, wavy planes, lowlands of prehistoric ice-age lakes, as well as numerous hollows filled by peatbogs and more lakes.
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   BELARUSCHAPTER 󰀶 Belarusian Wetland Settlements in Prehistory  Maxim Charniauski and Mikola Kryvaltsevich 6  Wetland settlements in Northern Belarus  A significant area of Northern Belarus is occupied by Paazerje (Lake Re-gion), an area of diverse landscapes that joins hilly moraines, wavy planes, lowlands of prehistoric ice-age lakes, as well as numerous hollows filled by peatbogs and more lakes. Aside from over 2,500 lakes, the region is also characterized by a rich river network, the main river of which, the Dzvina, empties into the Baltic Sea. The landscape of Paazerje is young; it was formed at the end of the last Ice Age. For this reason, the tall and steep shores of the Dzvina and its tributaries were not sufficient for prehistoric human occupa-tion. Thus, the settlements of the Stone and Bronze Ages were located mainly on lakes that were more suitable for fishing.Fluctuations in the water levels of the lakes, caused by climatic changes in  At3, Sb1 and Sb2, led to the flooding of many settlements during the second half of the 2nd millennium B.C. (Simakova 2000) Some of these settlements were sealed by layers of turf, which helped preserve a large number of both mineral and organic artifacts in the cultural layers. The excavation of such sites allow for the exploration of diverse aspects of the lives of ancient populations.The best known wetland settlements of Northern Belarus are the settle-ments of the Kryvina Peatbog, located at the border of the Beshankovichy and Sianno districts of the Vicebsk region (Fig. 1: I(6)). Aside from these sites, the peatbog settlement of Zacennie of the Lagojsk district, Minsk region, has been investigated (Fig. 1: I (5)). It is known that a complex of wetland sites similar to that of Kryvina was destroyed between the 1960’s and 1980’s as a result of industrial turf works in the Chashniki district (Lake Scierzhan). There is information regarding the discoveries of bone, horn and stone tools in the shore areas of Lake Okana (Lepel’ district), Lake Sin’sha (Rason dis-trict), Lakes Batoryna and Dzahil’skae (Miadzel’ district), Lake Sho (Glybokaje district), as well as at the peatbogs near the villages of Shashalauka (Talachyn district) and Sciudzianica (Miadzel district). It is important to note the collec-tion of around 100 Mesolithic bone and horn objects that were found near the town of Smargon (Grodno region) during a period of gravel recovery in a carrier on the floodplain of the Vilija River (Charniauski, Kalinouski 1972). Some results of archaeological investigation of the wetland settlementsZacennie.  This site is located on the left shore of the Cna River, on a wide peatbog near the villages of Zacennie and Lipki, Lagojsk district. Most of the material remains of this site belong to the Early Neolithic Narva culture. Some of the finds belong to Usviaty and Northern Belarusian cultures. At the site, an area of about 80 sq. m. was explored (Charniauski 1996; 1997 a: 194-198).   CHAPTER 󰀶 The cultural layer is 1.4m thick and is sealed by a dense layer of dark-green turf  which is up to 0.8m thick. The cultural layer is composed of a small-grained light-gray sand which has pockets of sandy dark-gray, reddish turf. Underneath several pockets of strongly decomposed dark-grey turf that are find free (about 10cm thick), there is a small-grained light-gray sand containing traces of humus with fragments of Early Neolithic ceramics. The following 14C dates qualify the layers that produced mainly Narva materi-als: 6425±60 BP (Ua-34617), 5895±55 BP (Ua-34616), 5625±40 BP (Ki-6214), 5450±75 BP (Le-960).The material culture of the site is represented by flint, horn, bone and ceramic objects, as well as stone and wooden items.The pottery of the Narva culture is represented by fragments of large wide-opened pots with gradually convex bodies, sharp and slightly rounded bases and somewhat narrowed rims that are about 30cm in diameter. The rims are generally outwardly bent, with a rounded cut. The pottery was manufactured from thick clay coils by means of off-set application. Organic additives and crushed shells were used to temper the clay and the pot surfaces were smoothed over using comb stamps.The ornamentation of the pottery is rarefied and is concentrated mainly in the horizontal belts of upper sections. The most typical decoration is composed of belts of rounded pits underneath the rim, and impressions made through the use of a thin and convex comb. Decorations of notches, simple stamps and pits are less com-mon. An off-set or vertical orientation of motif is very rare. Decoration to the edges and the interior areas of rims is also not very common (Fig. 2: 1-11). According to Mikhal M. Charniauski, the Early Neolithic ceramics from Zacenne appear similar to that of the Early Narva and carry the features and influences of the Early Neolithic Neman-Dnepr cultures specific to the Southern edges of the area (Charniauski 1997a: 196). Fig. 1.  Sites in Belarus, where wetland excava-tions were carried out (І – Full square), there is information about traces of wetland set-tlements (ІІ – Full cir-cle), single prehistoric artefacts in peat bogs, marshes and at the lake and river bottoms (ІІІ – empty circle).І. 1 – Kamen 8; 2 – Kuz-michy 1; 3 – Aziarnoye 2B; 4 – Voikavichy 1; 5 – Zacennie; 6 – set-tlements of the Kryvi-na Peatbog: Asaviec 1, Asaviec 2, Asaviec 3, Asaviec 5, Asaviec 7, Kr-yvina 1, Kryvina 2, Kr-yvina 3.ІІ. 1 – Liusina; 2 – Si-manavichy; 3 – Varat-sevichy; 4 – Snitava; 5 – Haradzets; 6 – Pa-host-Zaharodski; 7 – Sporava; 8 – Smarhon; 9 – Dziahili; 10 – Lake Scierzhan; 11 – Shasha-lauka.ІІІ. 1-Bulkava; 2-Brest; 3-Jamna; 4-Myshyt-sy; 5-Hrychynavi-chy; 6-Svayatsichy; 7-Dvortsy; 8-Damashyt-sy; 9-Dabuchyn; 10-Pruzhany; 11-Cha-piali; 12-Yunishcha; 13-Motal; 14-Urytskaye; 15- Chyrvonaya Slaba-da; 16-Roh; 17-Rudnia Zhurauliova; 18-Shchyt-sy; 19 – Lake Batoryna, 20 – Sciudzianica, 21 – Lake Sho, 22 – Lake Okana.   BELARUSCHAPTER 󰀶 Fig. 2.  Ceramik of Narva (1-11), Usviaty (12-19) and Northern Belarusian (20-32) cultures. 1-11 – Zacennie; 12-19, 21-23, 25-27, 30, 31 – Asaviec 2; 20, 24, 28, 32 – Asaviec 7.   CHAPTER 󰀶 Flint objects are represented by various types of leaf-shaped plated arrowheads, spear heads, trapezoids, lancet-shaped points, scrapers (dominant), cutters and cut-ting tools. The majority of the flint tools contain Early Neolithic features, and some- Late Neolithic.Bone and horn tools are represented by arrowheads, awls, horn mattocks, dag-gers, harpoons, adze-like chisels, elongated convex axes and unfinished muffs (Fig.3: 1-7).  The Kryvina Peatbog.  The settlements of the Kryvina Peatbog are evi-dence of the dynamics of the development and interaction of the cultures of Belarusian Paazerje: the Early Neolithic Narva, the Middle Neolithic Usvi-aty and the Late Neolithic – Early Bronze Age Northern Belarusian cultures. There are 10 sites in this region. Seven of them are peatbog settlements and one is partly covered with turf: Kryvina 1-3 and Asaviec 1–3, 5, 7 (Asavec 3 only partially). The settlements of Asaviec 2 and Asaviec 7 are among the most investigat-ed (Charniauski, 1997a: 202-204; Charniauski, 1997b, Chernyavskiy, 2008).  At Asaviec 2, about 400 sq. m. were opened. This site produced 14C dates between 4370±50 BP (Ua-34618) and 3350±60 BP. At Asaviec 7, 70 sq. m. was opened up and an additional 25 sq. m. was excavated to the depth of the ashes of the 1999 fire. The following 14C dates apply: 3770±90 BP (Le-8206) and 3250±75 BP (IGSB-877).The cultural layer of the settlements was srcinally sealed by a layer of turf that was up to 1.5 m thick. The thickness of the cultural layer reached 1.2m for Asavec 2 and 0.95m for Asaviec 7. The stratigraphy is very complex and depends on the area of excavation. There are layers of various densities of sand and turf, dense layers of bark, sandy lenses, complex anti-fire hearth matting with pine bark, sand, and ash pits. At the point of contact between the sealing turf and the cultural layer at Asaviec 2, there is an additional layer of multi-grained sand that is 1-10cm thick, formed by the washing away of the shoreline during the final flooding of the settlement. The sterile soil of  Asaviec 2 site is composed of clayish light blue mass, with lake sand under-neath it. The sterile of Asaviec 7 is composed of dense dark reddish turf.The cultural layer of the settlements is saturated by remains of the wood-en constructions that were possibly domestic in nature, and household build-ings. Sharpened posts of different diameters were discovered there (mainly in the form of fragments). They are mostly stripped of bark and are posi-tioned either vertically or at an angle. The diameters of the posts vary from 7 to 15cm. Several posts are unusually thick, up to 20-25cm in diameter. A reconstruction of the building would appear to suggest the existence of a tradition of rectangular house building with double-slanted ground-reach-ing roofs.Over a period of 8 years of excavation, the settlement of Asaviec 7 pro-duced over 26,000 fragments of ceramics (among which over 13,000 can be indentified), 1537 flint artefacts, 251 bone objects, 190 wooden and birch bark artefacts, almost 17,000 fragments of animal, bird, fish and human bone, numerous remains of forest and water nuts, amongst other plants, along with 7 amber items and 1 copper object.The cultural layer of the settlement of Asaviec 2 is even more abundant in archaeological material. Aside from the ceramic fragments that amount to roughly 50,000 pieces, the site produced over 2,000 flint artefacts, more than 1,000 bone objects, several hundred wooden and bark artefacts, tens of   BELARUSCHAPTER 󰀶 Fig. 3.  Bone and antler artifacts from peat-bog settlements. 1-7 –Zacennie; 8-32 –Asaviec 2.
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