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Slovenia's Prehistoric Pile Dwellings Discovered 140 Years Ago

Ig, 27 July - A hundred and forty years have passed since newspaper Slovenski narod published the news of the discovery of prehistoric pile dwellings in what is today the Ig municipality near Ljubljana. The site has since been protected as a cultural monument of national importance and included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Ig
A re-enactment of ancient pile dwellings in the Ljubljana Marshes, which are under UNESCO protection.
Photo: Tina Kosec/STA

Ig
An information table in the Ljubljana Marshes about ancient pile dwellings, which are under UNESCO protection.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ig
An information table in the Ljubljana Marshes about ancient pile dwellings, which are under UNESCO protection.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ig
An information table in the Ljubljana Marshes about ancient pile dwellings, which are under UNESCO protection.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ig
A re-enactment of ancient pile dwellings in the Ljubljana Marshes, which are under UNESCO protection.
Photo: Tina Kosec/STA

Ig
A re-enactment of ancient pile dwellings in the Ljubljana Marshes, which are under UNESCO protection.
Photo: Tina Kosec/STA

Ig
A re-enactment of ancient pile dwellings in the Ljubljana Marshes, which are under UNESCO protection.
Photo: Tina Kosec/STA

Ig
A re-enactment of ancient pile dwellings in the Ljubljana Marshes, which are under UNESCO protection.
Photo: Tina Kosec/STA

Ig
A re-enactment of ancient pile dwellings in the Ljubljana Marshes, which are under UNESCO protection.
Photo: Tina Kosec/STA

The article on the discovery of the pile dwellings was published on 28 July 1875. The "peculiar traces of the pre-historic times" were found by "landlord" Martin Peruzzi.

Peruzzi, or his workers to be more precise, stumbled on the remains of a lake-settlement with homes built on wooden platforms and piles driven in the soggy ground, dating back to approximately 3,900 BC, while cleaning shelves by a road on 17 July 1875.

Peruzzi subsequently notified curator of the Ljubljana County Museum Karel Dežman of the find.

Dežman linked the find to similar discoveries made in Switzerland in 1854 and a decade later in what is today Austria.

The discovery led to the first official archaeological excavation on the Slovenian territory.

The Ig pile dwellings, along with those found in Switzerland, France, Germany, Austria, and Italy, were put on the UNESCO World Heritage List in June 2011.

They feature 111 small individual sites around the Alps, built from around 5000 to 500 BC on the edges of lakes, rivers or wetlands.

The pile dwellings in Ig are now a part of the Ljubljana Marshes park, which will mark the 140th anniversary with a guided hike across the pile dwellings landscape in the autumn.

Visitors will be welcomed by guides at ten locations as part of the hike, providing them with information on natural and cultural assets of the region.

The educational hike will be complemented with an exhibition, presenting the Ljubljana Marshes in the time when pile dwellings were discovered there, Dežman's work and the excavations, Dejan Veranič of the institute managing the park has told the STA.

After opening in Ig, the exhibition is to move to the Ljubljana National Museum in February next year and later to other municipalities in the park.

According to Veranič, the park manager plans to set up a centre presenting the Ig pile dwellings as part of the Natura 2000 development project with the help of EU funds from the bloc's 2014-2020 budget.

As part of the celebrations of the 140th anniversary, a one-day festival dubbed Welterbefest will be organised together with the manager of the Austrian pile dwellings site on 29 August.

The anniversary will also be marked by a special stamp, featuring a photo of the Ljubljana Marshes and an envelope with an illustration of the pile dwellings and a motif of the 5200-year-old wooden wheel, found there.

The wheel, which is the oldest in the world, is on display at the Ljubljana City Museum, while many other finds from the site are a part of the National Museum collections.

Some of them will also be presented on 22 August, when the traditional annual festival dedicated to the pile dwellings takes place.

In 2016, the Ljubljana Marshes institute will chair the coordinating group of the six countries whose pile dwellings are protected by UNESCO.

The way of life of the settlers of the pile dwellings known in Slovenia as "koliščarji" ("kol" meaning a pile) is very much a mystery.

The idealist portraying of a happy life in a village in the middle of a lake has long been abandoned. Despite the numerous archaeological finds, experts are still puzzled by the life of koliščarji.

Perhaps the biggest mystery remains the reason why they persisted in the marshes for as long as 2,500 years.

Koliščarji, whose life expectancy was half shorter than it is today, lived off farming and cattle breeding.

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© STA, 2015