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Intangible heritage of Lithuania also is considered as outstanding value to world heritage. Cross-crafting and its symbolism as unique cultural tradition without analogues in the world in 2001 were acknowledged as intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
Very specific cross-crafting tradition and symbolism of it started to develop in 15th century, when Lithuania, the last pagan country in Europe, officially and entirely became catholic country. New ides of Christianity and antique local pagans’ traditions for long time were very closely related in local people mentality. This dualism obviously was reflected in cross-crafting tradition, where can be found symbols of both religions.
Later, with incorporation of Lithuania into the orthodox Russian Empire in the 19th century or under Soviet regime in the 20th century, typical wooden Lithuanian crosses became the symbol of national and religious identity. The crosses for centuries are placed on roadsides, at the entrance to villages or in some places extremely important, o symbolical meaning to particular community.
Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture
Work in the Vilnius district was initiated by Tenner in 1816 for the purpose of mapping, but that same year, Struve started working on a far more ambitious geodetic project in Livonia (an area covering the present territories of Estonia and Latvia). The entire project lasted from 1816 to 1855 and, making use of all the earlier work, extended over an unprecedented distance from north to south. It was dubbed the Struve Geodetic Arc in honour of the man who supervized the entire venture.
The Struve Geodetic Arc is no doubt one of the most unusual sites ever to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. The physical site is, in fact, composed of the small, durable traces of a chain of survey triangulations which, when completed, extended over 2,820 kilometres from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, crossing the territory of ten different countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russian Federation, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
The original Arc consisted of 258 main triangles with 265 main station points - eight of which were determined in the Baltic countries.
The determination of the Earth's form and size has been one of the more vexing problems of Antiquity. Since around 500 BC it had been supposed that the Earth was not flat, but roughly spherical in shape and in the third century BC a surveying technique and theory for determining the size of the Earth was elaborated by Eratosthenes. This method remained in use until the era of satellite geodesy.
Eratosthenes' theory, using the measurement of length and angles based on observation of the stars, did allow scientists to determine the approximate size of the Earth, but the measurements themselves were still not accurate, mainly because of problems of method and equipment. For a more accurate determination of the Earth's radius, precise geodetic observations were needed and the method of triangulation elaborated by the Dutch geodesist V. Snellius in 1615 was subsequently applied, allowing
scientists to determine more exactly the shape of the Earth (but still not its size).
During the first half of the nineteenth century, however, instruments and methods for measuring improved considerably and new measurements of the Arc were undertaken. These measurements, which were extraordinarily complex and delicate to make, finally provided reliable information both on the Earth's ellipsoid form and on its size.
The Struve survey thus helped to determine the shape of the Earth and its size and played an important role in the development of accurate topographic mapping. The World Heritage nomination includes thirty-four of the original station points, with different markings - ranging from a hole drilled in rock, to an iron cross, cairns, or obelisks built of masonry.
The Struve Geodetic Arc was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2005 as a transnational site. The ten countries which shared the task of preparing the nomination now also share the responsibility for its management.
Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture
To recognize the unique interaction between people and the environment, as well as the combination of the natural and the cultural heritage, the Curonian Spit, a transboundary site, was inscribed in 2000 as a cultural landscape on the World Heritage List. By presenting the nomination, the two governments of Lithuania and of the Russian Federation re-stated their commitment, on the international level, to protect the Spit from destruction by the forces of nature and occasionally by human activity.
A first-time visitor to the Curonian Spit is offered an inspiring view: majestic sand dunes, rising up to 67 metres and, literally, emerging from the blue depths of the sea. The Curonian Spit (Neria curonensis) - a 98-kilometre long peninsula, washed by the Baltic Sea on the west and separated from the mainland by the Curonian lagoon to the east, is a superb example of the fine balance between human activity and nature, a masterpiece of functional landscape design on a massive scale. To contemporary human beings, confident in their supremacy over nature, the story of the Curonian Spit teaches a sober lesson. The Spit (with a total area of 180 square kilometres), only 370 metres wide at Šarkuva (now Lesnoe) and never exceeding 3.8 kilometres in its greatest width, at the Horn of Bulvikis, was sculpted by winds and currents about 5,000 years ago. Archaeological findings (especially noteworthy are those of the Lithuanian archaeologist Rimutė Rimantienė) indicate that the peninsula was inhabited at the end of the Neolithic period. Still more numerous finds date from the third and second millennia BC. The forebears of the Baltic tribes are believed to have settled between the parabolic dunes where they could fish and find shelter from the winds.
Today a sun-lit view of wooden farmsteads nestling at the foot of the dunes strikes the visitor as the very image of Arcadia - and yet, it is a very fragile one. Roughly two centuries ago ill-considered human activity destroyed the natural vegetation leaving entire fishermen's villages exposed to windblown sand. The Spit was saved only by a project extending over nearly one century that reintroduced protective layers of grass, shrubs and trees. This work continues to the present day, and will have to go on as long as people want this peninsula for themselves.
The Republic of Lithuania shares the Curonian Spit (the 52-kilometre long northern half), and the responsibility to protect it, with the Kaliningrad enclave of the Russian Federation.
Neringa, a paradise for fishermen
According to a Baltic legend, Neringa, a local girl who grew into a giant goddess, built a sand spit to protect the fishermen from the winds from the sea, and this name remains on the Lithuanian part of the peninsula. The indigenous Sambian and Kuršiai tribes, as well as the sixteenth-century German and Lithuanian settlers were predominantly fishermen and remained so until the midnineteenth century. Fishing was their trade and way of life and their sensibility was formed in close interaction with nature. The villages and towns of Nida, Preila, Pervalka, Juodkrantė, Alksnynė and Smiltynė have preserved the characteristic layout and architectural features of the nineteenth-century fishermen's settlements. Single-storey wooden structures, gable-roofed and thatched, painted brown, white and blue, and decorated with wood-carved weathervanes are not just pleasing to the eye; they also embody unique ethnocultural values and are protected as immovable cultural properties by the Lithuanian State.
Verdure reclaimed from sand
The biggest part of the Neringa (70.1 percent) is covered with forests, predominantly of pine and mountain pine, and numerous species, some rare and found only on the Spit, find a safe haven there. The 'bare' or 'grey' dunes can be seen in the natural reserves of Naglių and Grobsto; the shifting Parnidis dune, a landmark near the town of Nida offers a breathtaking view. Bare dunes are more numerous in the southern part of the peninsula of the Russian Federation. The peninsula is of some strategic importance (a transit road along the peninsula connected Kaliningrad, Klaipėda, Riga, Tallinn and Saint Petersburg) and it changed hands many times. The first dangerous blows to the vulnerable natural site were dealt by the invasion of the Teutonic Knights in the thirteenth century. In the wake of the Seven Year War, aggressive military and economic activity led to the deforestation and erosion of the peninsula. The unstable winddriven sand threatened to destroy the Spit and the lagoon.
Karvaičiai was one of fourteen fishing settlements buried under the sand in the eighteenth century. Letters and notes by the village pastor record the villagers' hopeless efforts to protect their dwellings from the sand that engulfed them. Digging was useless and they finally surrendered their homes, church, school and even their cemetery to the sands and resettled closer to the lagoon. The Hill of Karvaičiai between Preila and Pervalka marks the location of these dramatic events. Prompted by ingenious foresters, local people decided to contain the deadly winds and the sand. The idea to plant mountain pine trees on the dunes came from Wittenberg University Professor J.D. Titius and Danish dune inspector S. Bjorn. Another key figure in the project was G.D. Kuvertas.
A protective barrier of thick branches and poles was built along the coast at a distance of 50 to 60 metres from the sea to block the sand. The fencing was reinforced by the sand that piled up against it. At subsequent stages sea-matt was planted and shrubs started to grow. The surface of the sand dunes had to be covered in brushwood hurdles and clay or silt had to be added before grass would grow. After a few years, mountain pine imported from Denmark and Switzerland were planted on the dunes. The project was planned over several historical periods by the Prussian, then the German, and finally, the Lithuanian and Russian Governments. Painstaking work by local people, mostly women, should not be forgotten. Nowadays the care of this fragile landscape is entrusted to two national parks, the 'Kuršių Nerija' (established in 1991 in Lithuania) and its counterpart on the southern part, the Russian 'Kurshskaya Kosa' (founded in 1986). According to the specialists from the Kuršių Nerija National Park, the situation on the Spit is stable, yet maintenance of the multi-layered 'pie' of the 'foredune' goes on. The sand plain, called 'palve' stretching on the other side of the barrier, the mountain-like dunes of 'Didysis Kalnagūbris', and the 'horns' of land protruding into the lagoon (18.9 per cent of the area are strict nature reserves; 57.8 per cent cultural landscape reserves) also call for protection. As for the buried villages, they are now considered unique archaeological sites.
Protected site versus pleasure ground
'Neringa is a national treasure of Lithuania, and the Curonian Spit, as a World Heritage site, belongs to humanity', says Jonas Glemža, chairperson of the State Cultural Heritage Commission and an admirer of Neringa. 'I first travelled from Kopgalis all the way to Zelenogradsk in 1962', he recalls. 'At that time there were no asphalt paths in Nida'. The Republic of Lithuania pursues the goal of preservation and protection through a national park operating with a Management Plan since 1994. According to Rūta Baškytė, director of the Protected Territories Service at the Environment Ministry, the status of a national park (versus strict reserve) allows the reconciliation of protection with both cultural and educational tourism and recreational use. The town of Neringa (about 3,000 inhabitants) also enjoys the status of a health resort, and this has multiple implications.
Applicable legislation and the National Development Plan prevent development of the Spit at the expense of protection and preservation goals; all the land is state owned and construction is strictly regulated. The plan does not make provision for any other connection of the peninsula to the mainland so the Spit can only be reached by ferry from Klaipeda (a lovely ride with an escort of seagulls). This naturally slows down the influx of people into the fragile area.
Yet the peninsula is also a lucrative beach location attracting private capital and urban development, under free market conditions that are relatively new to Lithuania. Although a lot of possible conflicts are precluded by zoning, according to Baškytė, some do arise in the settlements and beach area over infrastructure development and construction. Also, wealthy businessmen from the larger Lithuanian towns would like to make Neringa their summer residence.
'The current Management Plan does have the potential to address the needs of the local population. But it would really be impossible for all Lithuanians to have a summer residence on the Spit', Baškytė says.
Meanwhile, renovations and adaptations should not disfigure the architectural layout, the sense of proportion, volume and balance of the historical settlements. Preservation of the nineteenth-century vil-
las, built on the Spit when its recreational potential was discovered, is yet another task that the management must assume. To aid the state with its work of protecting and preserving this unique location, a new law on Protection of UNESCO World Heritage sites is being drafted. Jonas Glemža is convinced that the law will give additional impetus to the preservation of all World Heritage sites on the territory of Lithuania, and highlight cultural values by attributing direct responsibility for the site to the local government in their territory. The Commission has also decided to request separate funding for the preservation and management of the World Heritage sites and an increase in state funding for the Kuršių Nerija National Park.
Keeping it off the List of World Heritage in Danger
An additional threat to the Curonian Spit is the oil exploration and production in the Baltic Sea within 22 kilometres of the site (by LUKOIL Kalingradmorneft). This has raised concern about the environmental impact of this activity and has called for ecological security measures. These include a joint Lithuanian-Russian (post-project) environmental impact assessment (EIA), an environment monitoring programme and an intergovernmental agreement on prevention of oil and other hazardous substances pollution along with damage redress.
However, the process has been so lengthy that in 2005 the World Heritage Committee had to set a deadline for the two States Parties to prepare an agreement, failing which the Curonian Spit would be automatically inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
An action plan on the EIA was signed in January 2005, keeping the Curonian Spit off the Danger list, yet the completion of the EIA is falling behind the schedule and is expected only in the summer of 2006. The environmental monitoring programme was launched in late 2004 and is now being implemented. However, the agreement on pollution prevention and damage redress is still being discussed by the intergovern- mental group of the Lithuanian-Russian Experts' Commission. The agreement will form the legal basis for a joint crisis management plan in the Baltic Sea. The plan has been drafted and accepted by the specialists, but an agreement on procedures of damage redress still needs an intergovernmental negotiation.
Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture
To some Kernavė is the beginning of the statehood of the Lithuanian people, the cradle of the Baltic tribe. To others it is a Lithuanian Troy, the site of the most beautiful of all Lithuanian landscapes, radiating a special aura.
Nowadays the township of Kernavė, with barely 200 residents, rests peacefully on the bank of the Neris River 35 kilometres from Vilnius. Together with its surroundings and all its visible and invisible natural and cultural treasures it is a State Cultural Reserve and a UNESCO protected archaeological site, a property attesting to the evolution of settlements in the Baltic Sea region between the ninth millennium BC and the Middle Ages and one of the crucial periods in the history of Europe - the arrival of Christianity among the last pagan communities in Europe.
A life that never stopped
Kernavė is comparable to other archaeological sites in Europe: Birka and Hovgården in Sweden, or Biskupin in Poland, where ancient peoples or tribes lived during well defined periods. Viewed against this background, Kernavė is an exception in that it has been inhabited for an especially long period and encompasses an unusually broad range of cultures. People were already living on this site 11,000 years ago and have never stopped doing so to this day. Additionally, the archaeological remains of the site have been particularly well preserved.
The most important element on the Reserve's territory is an impressive defence system, exceptional in northern Europe. It comprises a chain of five hill-forts with wooden fortifications which formed an integrated defence complex in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
At the foot of the hill-forts, in the 25-hectare Pajauta Valley, one of the most valuable territories in Lithuania from the archaeological point of view, a layer of deposits from the Neris River reveals ancient settlements of different periods (from a Stone Age settlement to a medieval craftsmen's town), several burial sites (from the eighth to first centuries BC and the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries AD) and a multitude of other archaeological vestiges. Upon exploration, the burial sites on the Kriveikiškio hill-fort also yielded valuable evidence: the funeral traditions and the discovery of waxed wrappings for the dead reveal not only the practice of the last pagan state of Europe, but also the influence of the neighbouring Christian lands.
From the hunters of the Palaeolithic era to the last pagans of Europe
Shrouded in myths and legends, Kernavė was first mentioned in reliable historical sources in 1279, in the account of a failed campaign of the Livonian Order in Lithuania. But people had lived in this area for many thousands of years before this event. The first inhabitants - the people of the Swiderian Culture, the hunters of the Late Palaeolithic period - arrived at Kernavė in the ninth to eighth millennia BC and set up a settlement in the Pajauta Valley, by the Neris River. Their activities are attested by flint arrowheads, broad blades used as knives, and scrapers of different shapes and sizes discovered during archaeological excavations. A warmer climate, vast hunting grounds in the vicinity and an abundance of fish in the river ensured that in the Mezolithic and Neolithic periods, people remained in the valley and established numerous settlements.
A Brushed Pottery Culture was evolving in the Neris River basin during the Bronze Age (from the second to first millennia BC). This was the work of the first eastern Balts who, in the long run, became the nucleus of all Balts.
During their heyday these people settled in hill-forts, and built pole-structure buildings with internal fireplaces. The inhabitants of the period left behind an exceptional monument in the Pajauta Valley - a necropolis, with burials of three types, in which cremated bodies were found in small pits, in clay urns or under piles of stacked-up stones.
The Iron Age or the Roman period - the first centuries AD - are known as the Golden Age of Baltic Culture. With the beginning of the smelting of iron from bog ore and the use of iron in making agricultural implements and weapons, the material culture developed rapidly. Agriculture and animal breeding became the main activity of the people and population increased in the fertile Pajauta Valley.
Fortifications were built on the hills and were connected with the settlement by a secret road leading across the marsh - the oldest hard surface road found in Lithuania. The trade relations with the Roman Empire and its provinces at the time is proven by a silver denarius of Marcus Aurelius dating from 161-162 and a fragment of imported glass. In the fifth to eighth centuries, during the Great Migration, the inhabitants of the Pajauta Valley found themselves under frequent attack and were forced to move to hill-forts which became increasingly important for their defence value. In a complex ethnocultural process the Baits split into separate tribes, and the new East Lithuanian burial-mound culture, which emerged through this process, was a direct ancestor of present-day Lithuanians. At that time Kernavė became a significant Lithuanian centre, whose population would later, together with those of Vilnius and Trakai, form the nucleus of the Lithuanian peoples in the Neris River basin.
The Middle Ages were of special importance in the history of all of Lithuania and Kernavė, which, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, was acquiring urban features. Under the Grand Duke Traidenis (1269-82), it became one of the vital economic and political centres of the Lithuanian state. The main ducal residence was established on the Aukuro hill-fort, whose steep slopes rose to a height of 13 to 14 metres. A defence castle which once stood on the Mindaugo Sostas hill-fort is attested by numerous archaeological findings including remains of a wattle and daub defence wall, fragments of burnt down wooden buildings, weapons, jewellery, splinters of pottery and fragments of various household items. On the Pilies Hill, craftsmen occupied the largest residential quarters called the Upper Town of Kernavė.
Artisans employed by the Grand Duke's castle also lived there.
The Lower Kernavė, which spread across the Pajauta Valley, was a medieval town of artisans and traders with a population several times more numerous than that of the present-day Kernavė. It had a network of streets and every fenced-in homestead had two or three outbuildings in addition to the main dwelling. The medieval Kernavė was known for its crafts and was also a noted trade hub with links to Kiev in Russia and even to western Europe and the Near East. The rich numismatic collection of the museum boasts not only coins of different lands and treasures of the Lithuanian bars of silver, but also all the earliest Lithuanian coins known to this day.
Kernavė was plundered on many occasions. After the attack by the Teutonic Knights in 1390, when the town was totally destroyed and the retreating residents burnt down the castles, life which had thrived in the Pajauta Valley for thousands of years came to a stand-still. Nevertheless, the area has remained populated to this day - the inhabitants moved to the upper terrace, leaving the traces of their centuries-long culture underground for safe-keeping.
UNESCO World Heritage: a protected site
Although life in this valley has continued, the cultural strata in Kernavė remained unscathed and have preserved invaluable information about the Lithuanian past together with vivid traces of the lives of the townspeople. The ancient capital of Lithuania never recovered the economic and political might of its past, nor had any effort ever been made to restore the medieval town of artisans. No activities were pursued in the area that could damage it, with the exception of agriculture which only impacted on the surface layer of the ground. It was almost six hundred years later when archaeologists rediscovered the town of Kernavė. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the site attracted researchers interested in Lithuania's past, yet the impressive historical panorama of the site was only discovered thanks to methodical archaeological excavations initiated by Vilnius University in 1979. In 1989, the Kernavė State Museum-Reserve of Archaeology and History was established together with protection zones on territory covering 194 hectares with a reserve of 122 hectares, and a protected natural landscape of 2,345 hectares. The protection zone includes the entire town of Kernavė and its surroundings.
The archaeologists who have been working in Kernavė for over twenty years say that enough work remains for another hundred years. The Museum of Archaeology and History of the Kernavė Cultural Reserve already contains over 16,000 items representing all the historical periods of the site. And although only 2 per cent of the cultural reserve territory has been researched, it suffices to confirm beyond any doubt that Kernavė is a unique archaeological and historical property, not only in respect to Lithuania but also to Europe as a whole. This was decisive in determining the World Heritage Committee to inscribe this Cultural Reserve on the World Heritage List.
World Heritage listing has already given a positive impetus - for drafting legislation on the protection of the Reserve, managing its territory (with EU funds in cooperation with the Government of Lithuania), and developing a tourist infrastructure. After reconstruction, the museum's exhibition space will expand from 200 square metres to 800 square metres, while the number of items displayed will increase twofold. The entire territory will be geared to the ever growing influx of visitors. A long-term archaeological scientific research programme is also of vital importance, focusing not only on excavations, but also on other types of research (photography, biological analysis and geodetical survey) by which intrusion into the cultural stratum is reduced to a minimum. The steep slopes of the hill-forts had suffered from erosion and required special attention. In order to stabilize their condition, while physical measures are applied, efforts are also being made to speed the restoration of natural conditions at the bottom of the valley, particularly in the marshes. This natural regeneration process which improves the survival rate of the organic matter and other historical remains lying in the subterranean strata, began when the amelioration systems used in the Soviet times were discontinued.
Kernavė: a living archaeological site
Since 1999, the Days of Living Archaeology have been held annually in Kernavė - a festival which introduces prehistoric crafts such as archaic rough pottery, flint and amber processing, production of Neolithic amulets, archaic spinning and weaving as well as crafts of the Early Middle Ages: jewellery making, coin minting, weapon making, cooking, etc. The festival presents all the crafts whose tools or artefacts have been discovered in Kernavė during excavations and deposited in the Reserve's Museum of Archaeology and History. All participants must satisfy one precondition: to use only natural materials and authentic, reconstructed tools. During the festival the production process is reconstituted and demonstrated to visitors - it is not the result, but the process itself that is important.
Each year new elements are added to the festival - the material is provided by the continuous archaeological excavations in Kernavė. In recent years the festival's organizers have been trying to assemble different crafts in one courtyard - with all the elements of daily routine at a particular period, thus giving a better idea of the culture of that time.
The original Kernavė craftsmen used to provide one another with everything that was needed. The present-day artisans of experimental archaeology recreate the same community exchange model on a small scale - women wear copies of decorations made by jewellers; smiths reconstruct working tools using ancient methods; weavers make the fabric for clothing using thread spun out of nettle and hemp fibres in the prehistoric manner; while curriers make footwear of archaic design which shows that Lithuania was in no way an isolated state - footwear of similar design was found throughout Europe.
Another festival which has been held in Kernave' for nearly half a century is celebrated during the shortest night of the summer, which Lithuanians call the Rasos. At sunset and throughout the night people in the Pajauta Valley light bonfires, dance around them and sing, float wildflower wreaths down the Neris River, search for the fern flower and worship the rising sun. These pagan rites of the solstice, revived by university students during the Soviet era, not only awakened a sense of national affinity, but also expressed resistance to the authoritarian regime of the time. Now it is one of the most popular pagan festivities which, together with the Feast of St John, are celebrated throughout Lithuania.
The archaeological site of Kernavė reflects all the cultures that ever existed on this site and this broad chronology of artefacts helps one to understand the prehistory of the entire region. Rich medieval heritage offers a unique example of the characteristic urban culture of the last pagan state in Europe. Kernavė was one of the main political and economic centres of the Lithuanian State, whose ancient pagan culture was influenced by European Christian traditions. The artefacts of the medieval heritage of the site present themselves as a harmonious whole of elements drawn from Orthodox, Catholic and pagan cultures.
Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture
In 2003 to Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity was inscribed the Baltic song and dance celebrations – multinational masterpiece and common heritage of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
The tradition of these large-scale celebrations started at the end of 19th century in Estonia. In those times, when Estonia and all Baltic states were incorporated in Orthodox Russian Empire, traditional songs and dances become way to express national identity and intentions to restore independence.
The Baltic Song and Dance Celebrations are held every fifth year in Estonia and Latvia and every fourth year in Lithuania. The traditional festivals run on several days, gather together as many as 40,000 singers and dancers. Most of the participants of the Baltic Song and Dance Celebrations belong to amateur choirs and dance groups.
Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture
Visit Lithuania invites you to join
90th Anniversary Celebration
Lithuanian Song Celebration is an overall national cultural phenomenon and a continual purposeful creative process spiritually equal to ancient Greek Olympic Games.
It’s tradition praises individual’s creative self-expression, vitality of the national culture, love for the homeland and solidarity of its people.
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