Network in Eastern European Neolithic and Wetland Archaeology (NEENAWA)“

Institutional Partnership: Network in Eastern European Neolithic and Wetland Archaeology for the improvement of field techniques and dating methods.

Neolithic and Bronze Age wetland sites around the Alps (so called pile-dwellings, Pfahlbauten or palafittes in german/french) are of outstanding universal value (UNESCO-World Heritage since 2011). Typical sites are in lakes, rivers and bogs, dating between 5300 and 800 BC.

Around the Alps more than 750 sites exist, whereas Switzerland owns 430. Of common character is the perfect conservation of wood, textiles from plant fabrics and many other organic materials.
Larger quantities of sub-fossilized wood offer the possibility of high-precision dating by dendrochronology (actually more than 100’000 samples). Research in Pfahlbauten-wetland sites started in Switzerland in the mid-19th century. Large scale rescue excavations since the 1970ies and the evolution of underwater archaeology in the same period accumulated a thorough Swiss experience with these specific sites. Research in wetland sites is shared between cantonal institutions and universities and led to a worldwide unique accumulation of knowledge. Comparable sites exist outside of the Alpine area, but in smaller quantities. Regions like Russia (small lakes in NW-Russia) and Macedonia (medium size lakes in the boarder zone of Macedonia, Albania and Greece) have a high scientific potential; rivers in Ukraine are supposed to have the same type of sites.

The general aims of the proposed Institutional Partnership (IP) is to build up a scientific network in Neolithic and wetland archaeology and the transfer of knowledge from Switzerland, as one of the worldwide leading countries in this field, to the participating Eastern European (EE) countries. The further aims of the planned IP are to concentrate on an improvement of archaeological field techniques (mainly underwater archaeology/documentation under water/diving security) and dating methods. Dendrochronology is by far the most precise dating method available, but this method is not yet applied in Russia, Macedonia and Ukraine. The combined application of locally developed dendrochronological calendars and radiocarbon dating is most promising. All EE-sites have the potential to give new insights on the process of the Neolithisation of Europe.

To achieve the aims of the IP proposal several jointly organized central events are scheduled (field-week in Russia, strategic workshop in Macedonia, conference in Ukraine). Further a course to improve diving security is planned (European Scientific Diver course) and internships for participants from EE countries in Switzerland are proposed (dendrochronology/under water archaeology). To improve knowledge about EE archaeology, members of the consortium will teach a seminar at Bern University and a lecture tour in all four participating countries is scheduled. A major outcome is to establish close ties between a gender and age mix consortium that is willing to develop further research projects. Collaboration between Macedonia, Russia and Ukraine did never exist before in the field of archaeology and under the actual political circumstances close collaboration on the individual and scientific level is most desirable.