Seaside Amber Treasures, Part 2: The Palanga and Šventoji Treasures in the Amber Museum
Last time, we introduced one of the pearls of Neringa with an interesting history – the Juodkrantė amber treasure. Today we invite you to go back to the mainland and take a tour around Palanga and Šventoji.
We believe that everyone knows the Palanga Amber Museum. Most of us have probably been there at least once in our life (if you have not done so yet, do so – how else you can advise your friends from abroad if it is worth visiting?). And if you have seen it, we would like to ask: how many amber treasures are stored at the Palanga Amber Museum? The correct answer is two – the Palanga and Šventoji treasures. And, unlike Nida, you can see original finds rather than reproductions of amber objects there.
The Palanga Amber Treasure was collected in 1905-1907 by Count Feliksas Tiškevičius, who found this collection of Neolithic and Iron Age objects while searching for amber in the seaside marshlands. The count donated part of the collection (about 149 items) to the Vilnius Friends of Science Society in 1908, and today most of these exhibits are kept at the Lithuanian National Museum. Furthermore, Tiškevičius’s archaeological amber finds were exhibited in Paris and in various museums in Lithuania until 1963, when 148 objects were moved to the Palanga Amber Museum, where you can see them today.
The Palanga treasure consists of exhibits that are supposed to have been discovered in the peat bogs of Palanga and Šventoji. Some of the works are typical for the Neolithic period: discs with dotted ornamented surfaces, buttons with V-shaped holes, tube-shaped blanks for necklaces and typical Neolithic pendants. One of them is unique in that it depicts a person and is very similar to the figurines of the Juodkrantė treasure. Along with the Stone Age items, an amber piece of unidentified origin and period is exhibited – a bowl-shell, which is amazingly like the Wessex Culture objects of the Brass Age found in Great Britain. The other items of Tiškevičius’s collection – various amber necklaces and spinners – are attributed to the Later Iron Age.
The Šventoji Amber Treasure
The Palanga Amber Museum also houses the smaller Šventoji treasure collection of 66 amber objects, which tells an interesting story about the Early, Mid- and Late Neolithic periods. These amber items, dating from thousands of years ago, were discovered near Šventoji in 1966, when Mikelis Balčius, a fisherman and ethnographer from Šventoji, informed scientists that he discovered amber articles and other archaeological artifacts in freshly excavated drainage ditches.
Archaeological excavations headed by the archaeologist Dr. habil. Rimutė Rimantienė continued for almost a decade. Within a few kilometres stretch between Palanga and Šventoji, 5,000-year-old campsites of the first seaside inhabitants were discovered. Here the famous 44-cm-long ritual stick made from horn decorated with a masterfully carved elk’s head was found. Collected amber articles and semi-finished items, various tools and items for work, fishing and rituals are a testament to the uniqueness of this community of fishermen and amber collectors. Most of the archaeological findings from Šventoji went to the Lithuanian National Art Museum located in Vilnius, but the amber objects can be seen in Palanga.
The Šventoji Amber Collection is unique in that beside the findings of certain geometric shapes and precise finishes characteristic to the Neolithic Narva culture, newer amber items have also been discovered. The changing taste of the people of the ancient seaside is evidenced by new types of jewellery found – almost untreated pieces of amber with drilled holes for suspension. According to Rimantienė, such amber objects became more popular only in the later settlements of the Coastal Culture period.
In 2013, archaeological excavations near Šventoji resumed. This time, archaeological excavations are carried out to the north from the mouth of the Šventoji River, and scientists have been pleased with the numerous findings that change our attitude to the history of the Lithuanian seaside. Thus, the story is not, in reality, frozen like an inclusion in amber – archaeologists keep working, and we will remember that museums are alive and continuously supplemented with new exhibits and stories.