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Understanding Wetland occupation in prehistoric Europe


Wetland environments were often preferred for the location of permanent settlements in prehistoric times. This could be for many reasons: use of local resources, ease of erecting timber houses, or defence.

Such a pattern of lakeside settlement began early (4th millennium BC) in the circum-Alpine region of Europe, where it has been intensively investigated, especially because of its exceptional preservation of organic finds, and the opportunity to reconstruct its environmental setting and responses to environmental change.

Although lake-dwellings remained characteristic of settlement in this area for over three millennia, intensive study has identified several short phases of abandonment, interrupting an otherwise continuous pattern. After the 7th century BC, however, such lake-dwellings ceased to be built in this area, though just at this time they began to appear in other parts of Europe.

Here, they lasted only a few hundred years, and by the 3rd century BC, the majority of European settlements were built on `dry land. A key to this question comes from Lithuania, where a well-preserved lake village has recently been discovered on Lake Luokesas.

The importance of this settlement is not only that it was occupied exactly during this transitional period, but also because of its environmental and typological similarities to earlier central European lake settlements, and, most importantly, its trade links to central Europe. Hence it is possible to study the settlement from a central European perspective.

Since Switzerland is the leading centre of archaeological wetland research, the aim of this project is to use the state-of-the-art techniques developed at Basel University, to find plausible explanations for the wet-to-dryland cultural change in later European prehistory.

The project will answer crucial questions on wetland management and socio-economy in later European prehistory, endorsing, at the same time, multidisciplinary collaboration amongst European scholars

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