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Understanding Wetland occupation in prehistoric Europe

Final Activity Report Summary - UWOPE (Understanding Wetland occupation in prehistoric Europe)

The possibility of comparative studies of two geographically so far apart, yet environmentally very similar cultural traditions such as the prehistoric (Late Bronze Age) lake-dwellings of the Baltic and those of the circum-Alpine region, has been achieved successfully thanks to an international and multidisciplinary approach to research. A close and thorough analysis of the extremely well-preserved remains of contemporaneous lacustrine settlements of the two above-mentioned regions has shed important light on wetland management in later European prehistory. Contrary to what previously thought, cultural change in wetland communities does not always depend on climatic variability. Climate change might have an initial triggering and destabilising effect, but the whole process of cultural transformation within wetland prehistoric groups is a much more complex combination of socio-economic factors, which often include external (regional as well as extra-regional) cultural influence.

The Late Bronze Age/Iron Age pile dwellings of Lithuania (Luokesas) were not isolated entities within a seemingly inhospitable wetland environment, but they had complex social interactions with local 'terrestrial' communities, as well as long-distance connection (trade) with central Europe. A similar cultural aspect was noted within the earlier and contemporaneous Late Bronze Age lacustrine communities of the circum-Alpine region. The fairly large geographical scale, which the project was based upon, has allowed us to detect that the Alpine region, because of its strategic geographical location, underwent a significant cultural change influenced from both, the north (the Baltic) and the south (the Mediterranean). This influence was conveyed to the region by an important long-distance trade route, which, through the Alps, linked the south-eastern Mediterranean to the Baltic. This dynamic process brought about cultural changes that influenced cultural decisions in managing the wetlands, first in a limited area of the Alpine region, than in the whole of Europe.

In addition to its positive scientific results, one of the most important achievements of the project was that through multidisciplinary and international collaboration, archaeology has managed to shed light on past wetland managements, which are vital to better understand present issues on the delicate handling of wetland environments. The wetlands (lakes, marshes, rivers, etc) are a vital part of the surrounding ecosystem, and our future well-being depends on how efficiently we take care of them. This project is a typical example of how we can improve our future by gaining a better understanding of the past. We have to be aware once and for all that cultural heritage does not only tell us where we come from, but also where we heading to!