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The archaeological layers uncovered in Vilnius also unveil artefacts from earlier historic periods, such as stone objects from the Stone and Bronze ages. So far, research of these artefacts has not been sufficiently developed, as researchers mostly concentrate on the genesis of the Vilnius castles and the city itself, while artefacts from earlier periods are mentioned only in overview-type articles. In order to highlight research of the very earliest epochs of Vilnius' development, in this virtual exhibition we are presenting the polished stone artefacts that are part of the collections of the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, found during excavation of the Vilnius Lower Castle's residence of the Lithuanian grand dukes and its surrounds.
The Lower Castle territory lies within the Vilnius Ridge zone of the north part of the Medininkai Highland, meaning its relief was affected by the last glacial moraine erosion and the later erosive impact of the Vilnia and Neris river valleys. The flowing rivers surrounding the ridge southwest of the present-day Vilnius Upper Castle hill (henceforth – Castle Hill) formed a cape of dry land around 180 m long and 30–40 m wide. Its steep slopes used to reach approx. 6 m. That is often why it is also referred to as a highland so as to stress that this cape rises from a damp river valley and was thus a convenient place for settlement. According to mythological data, this location is associated with the legendary Lithuanian duke Šventaragis, while the Vilnia River valley lying south of the highland is called Šventaragis Valley. A settlement had already been established on this land (at the foot of Castle Hill), the site of the current Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and the Cathedral, at the beginning of the first millennium. Testimony of this settlement are the odd metal and glass artefacts and a coin from the Holy Roman Empire found by the foothills. In the second half of the first millennium, an ancient settlement continued to exist both on the Upper Castle hill clearing and on its southwest foothills – on the afore-mentioned highland, or cape. Cultural layers from these sites contain rich deposits of modelled smooth and rusticated pottery and spindles. The polished stone artefacts also found in this territory show that the site could have been settled much earlier.  
The collections of the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania contain 13 polished stone artefacts. These are 6 hafted axes (or fragments thereof), 5 axes (or fragments) with a hole left for the shaft (of these, one is a double-sided axe) and three stone maces. Three axes and a faceted mace were discovered above the natural ground layer and are considered as being found in their initial position, i.e., where they had been dropped. Other artefacts were found in human-made layers from the 14th–16th centuries. Two stone maces are considered incidental finds. One axe showed obvious traces of secondary use – a groove was carved on both of its sides. It is believed the groove was intended for tying some twine around the tool.
All of the artefacts were produced from locally sourced boulders. Diabase (dolerite), diabasic (uralithic) porphyry and gabbro-diabase dominate, two artefacts are made of basalt and one from brown quartzite.

Material compiled by Gintautas Striška

Published:: 2023-02-23 17:13 Modified: 2023-02-24 10:24
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