Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps
Extraordinary witnesses of daily life in prehistoric times
This serial World Heritage property consists of 111 individual pile-dwelling settlements located in six alpine countries (D, F, I, SLO, A, CH), 56 of them in Switzerland. Submerged in water, perched on the shore of a lake or hidden in marshes, many of the findings are difficult to access. These archeological treasures provide a fascinating glimpse of the period between 5000 and 500 B.C. The best way to experience them is to visit one of the museums, such as the Laténium near Neuchâtel, a recipient of the Council of Europe Museum Prize. 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 pollution can be traced back to the age of the pile-dwellers – more than 5,000 years ago.