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Grobina Archaeological Ensemble site management discussions

Landward Research Ltd were invited by South Kurzeme Municipality and Latvijas Universitāte to contribute to discussions regarding the potential nomination of the Grobiņa archaeological ensemble for inscription on the list of World Heritage Sites. Kenneth Aitchison was interviewed by Latvian TV channel, TV Kurseme, about the initiative.

Grobiņa archaeological ensemble is situated in the western part of Latvia not far from the Baltic Sea and City of Liepāja, in the territory of Grobiņa town and its vicinity. The first inhabitation of Grobiņa is connected with the Stone Age, later in the first millennium AD Grobiņa became a centre of the West Baltic tribe Curonians.  In the 7th century Norsemen appeared in Grobiņa. They developed in Grobiņa and its vicinity agrarian and international trade settlements. At that time Grobiņa was connected to the Baltic Sea by the Ālande River. The Norsemen communicated with local Curonians and established a peculiar form of ethnic symbiosis represented in artefacts, dwelling sites and burials. Up to the 9th century AD an important Norsemen, Viking and Curonian proto-urban settlement existed in Grobiņa. Grobiņa’s position close to the Baltic Sea, along Ālande river, made it an area that was easily accessible by water. Furthermore, the rich soil meant the area was excellently suited for extensive agricultural activities which could sustain a growing population, not only of the local Curonians, but also the new Scandinavian settlers.

The co-existence of Norsemen and local Curonians has been represented in archaeological findings in flat burial sites (Smukumi, Priediens, Atkalni), burial mound sites (Priediens, Pormaļi) and hillfort Skabārža kalns with its settlement. In Priediens burial mound site a picture stone was discovered, which is the only such finding outside the territory of Scandinavia. Probably Grobiņa was mentioned under the name of as Seeborg in  854 in the Chronicle of Archbishop Rimbert Vita sancti Ansgari, where the raid of the king Olaf to Curonian territories was described. It is possible that the Norsemen and Vikings are connected with a wider agrarian territory around Grobiņa. Since 1929, archaeological investigations have been performed in Grobiņa.

The present burial grounds occupy a large territory on the outskirts of Grobiņa and form a natural background for Grobiņa as urban settlement. The burials are situated in the oldest part of the town, where the hillfort and settlement on the banks of Ālande river are also located. The territory of the settlement is partly covered by the buildings of Grobiņa, but other parts are accessible for archaeological excavation and other investigations. The open agricultural landscape is partly intact, even if the burial grounds of Pūrāni and Priediens are partly covered by trees and scrub and no longer as open as during their time of construction. Furthermore, natural erosion and continuous agricultural activities have contributed to a levelling of the surface of the burial grounds of Priediens and Atkalni. Read more about the site here:

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