Lake-castle Āraiši: lessons for a modern man

Since ancient times, man has been connected to water and adapting it to his needs.

The relationship between man and the lake is the subject of legend. In ancient times, lakes were said to fly through the air in search of a place to land. If someone guessed the name of a lake, it would immediately go down, flooding everything in its path – houses, churches, cattle, people. Only those who guessed the name of the lake were able to get out on dry feet.

This is also the story of Lake Āraiši, home to Europe’s only reconstructed Late Iron Age cluster dwelling, known as the Lake Castle.  Here, in Āraiši there was a man, a scientist who was able to uncover the secret of the lake. This was the lake explorer and reconstructor, the archaeologist Jānis Apals.

It turned out that the water of the lake had patiently preserved the human legacy from ancient times. Ten seasons of archaeological excavations (1965-1969; 1975-1979) revealed a permanently inhabited fortified dwelling, similar to communal mounds, built in the lake for protection.

The lake castle and the artefacts found gave an insight into the material life and adaptability to water of the people of the time. The dwellings were built on a flooded island – first a grid was built and filled with soil, then a log foundation was constructed on which the houses themselves were built, ensuring that the buildings remained dry and intact when the water level fluctuated. For the people of the lake castle, the lake provided a safe haven, a means of transporting building materials and a source of food. Later, the lake proved to be a valuable repository of cultural heritage and ancient knowledge.

With climate change, flood risks, groundwater changes and water level fluctuations are increasing and posing hazards, so it would be relevant for people today to be able to adapt their living spaces to the water and perhaps identify cultural heritage that can provide inspiration or reveal useful skills for today’s challenges.

 

Eva Collier

Head of the Archaeological Park of Lake Āraiši

 

Dr.hist. Jānis Apals (1930-2011)
The first hydroarcheologist. Honorary doctor of Latvian academy of Sciences.

Lake-castle Āraiši

Cesis district

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