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Prehistoric pile dwellings to come to life with mobile app

Ljubljana, 31 October - To popularise archaeology among the general public, a Slovenian heritage centre has launched a project to make prehistoric pile-dwelling settlements, which are "hidden" under the Ljubljana Marshes, come to life with the help of digital technology.

Info points in the Ljubljana Marshes near the town of Ig informing visitors about the heritage in this area, including prehistoric pile dwellings.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA
File photo

The remains of a lake-settlement with homes built on wooden platforms and piles driven in the soggy ground in the wetlands south of Ljubljana were discovered in 1875.

Dating back to 3,900 BC, the pile-dwellings were included on the UNESCO World Heritage List together with another 109 from five Alpine countries in 2011.

Dimitrij Mlekuž, who runs the project at Slovenia's Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, says that contemporary approaches to heritage protection strive to make people feel archaeological heritage as their own, which is hard if they cannot see it.

He believes the Ljubljana Marshes are an excellent example of such heritage. "Where there were once pile dwellings, there are now meadows. The heritage put on the UNESCO World Heritage List is hidden under the soil."

The pilot project of visualising the heritage of Ljubljana's wetlands thus aims to make this piece of heritage "visible and tangible", Mlekuž told the STA.

The pile dwellings will be shown in a changing landscape through different periods of time, from the end of the Ice Age when the lake started disappearing and pile dwellings started being built on its banks to the present time.

Only fragments of the pile dwellings as excavated by archaeologists were known until recently. But new methods have enabled experts to see where and how houses were once located, and to grasp the scale of the settlement.

So by using a mobile phone or tablet, a visitor will be able to take a virtual walk to the Ljubljana Marshes to see what pile dwellings looked like 5,000 years ago.

A prototype application has already been developed, and graphic designers are now working on visual elements, which should be completed within a year, explains Mlekuž.

The application indented for archaeology lovers is also meant for tourists, locals and decision makers to give them a clear idea of what the heritage of Ljubljana's wetlands encompasses.

The national heritage institute was invited to the project by a partner in Germany's Dresden, which would like to make visible its mediaeval coal mine Dippoldiswalde.

It brings together eight countries, each taking part with its own piece of heritage. Mlekuž says the heritage involved is very diverse, ranging from sunken ports to mediaeval towns.

The VirtualArch project is funded from the EU's Interreg Central Europe programme and is slated for completion in 2020. It aims to show how digital technology can be used to bring hidden cultural heritage closer to people.

© STA, 2018