For archaeologists, Lake Peipsi emerges as goldmine

Riin Aljas
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Photo: Liis Treimann / Postimees

«The entire edge of Peipsi is filled with them!» yells University of Tartu lab archaeology professor Aivar Kriiska, excited about toil by archaeologists Maili Roio and Andri Baburin since 2012 yielding items at Lake Peipsi dating back thousands of years. All in all, ten settlement areas have been mapped by Ms Roio.

The last time shore of Lake Peipsi – though in the moist soil at lakeside, ancient items are preserved excellently – was archaeologically excavated over half century ago. That’s what lack of money will do. Now, the native Ms Roio has discovered that her homeplace has been inhabited for millennia with remarkable traces left behind.

While for the untrained eye, rare finds may be difficult to detect, fishermen have been faithful to take the occasional Stone Age ancient tools and hunting devices of bone they have caught in their nets.

While creeks entering Lake Peipsi were dredged during the low waters in summer 2015, the findings especially abounded.

After initial observations, Ms Roio and Mr Kriiska think the items found date back to 5000 – 1500 BC. The tools, not limited to being old, contain some choice morsels.

«The bone material remarkably preserved due to the moist soil, we will gain knowledge on hunting animals, fish, and the tools to catch them. Organic things are rarely preserved and therefore the more valuable,» said Ms Kriiska.

While in-depth analysis is pending, Mr Kriiska and Ms Roio are already able to tell us that the lakeside was actively inhabited in Stone Age. Among other things, the eating habits may be studied as many pottery shreds still come with visible burnt layer.

«Among other things, analyses of findings elsewhere in Estonia point to fish soup,» says Mr Kriiska and smilingly admits he likes the stuff himself.

Not limited to revealing bits and pieces of everyday life, the ancient items provide insight into broader issues like changes in the coast line. In time, the findings will be available in museums, for those interested to come and see.