Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps
Unique witnesses of prehistory
The “pile dwellings” are remains of prehistoric settlements in lakes and marshes around the Alps. The serial property includes 111 sites in six countries (CH, D, F, I, SLO, A) and 56 of them are located in Switzerland. The artefacts – organic materials such as wood, textiles, plant remains and bones provide fascinating insights into life around 5,000 to 500 B.C. Many finds are difficult or impossible to access as they are underwater, on the shores of lakes or in marsh areas. This makes their exhibition in museums even more important, such as at the Laténium near Neuchâtel, where you can gain a detailed impression of the lives our ancestors led. Cultural Heritage since 2011.
The late Bronze Age was a flourishing period or piledwelling settlements. The settlements grew in size and the villages remained in the same location for longer periods, in some case up to 100 years. Numerous amber and glass beads, finely decorated ceramics, elaborately crafted clothes pins and engraves bracelets have been found, indicating an increase in wealth. All this came to an abrupt end as a result of a cold phase that began in 850 BC. Thanks to the preservative properties of wetland soils and to scientific research, excavations have yielded an extraordinary wealth of information about prehistoric populations. These archaeological sites must be protected, for they have certainly not yet revealed all their secrets. They are not easy to visit because they are often lying at the bottom of lakes or buried underground. The most significant archaeological finds can however be seen in museums and parks.
Did you know?
• Along our lakeshores, Neolithic people contributed to the extraordinary global expansion of cultivated wheat, which now covers more than 2.25 million km2.
• The first environmental damage occurred in the time of the pile dwellings over 5,000 years ago with the mass deforestation of woodland areas for farming.