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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Prehistory and Ancient History of Latvia

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The territory of Latvia began to free itself from the glacier around 14000 B.C. however, only in about 9000 B.C. here the first settlers appeared, as can be seen from the findings of artifacts of the Kund culture, on the basis of which the Narva culture subsequently formed. The settlers did not remain all the time in one place, they moved closer to animals and water. The Mesolithic site includes the sites of Zveynieki, Kirsva.


Around 5000 B.C. here came the tribes of spur-and-pottery ceramics (whose descendants were historical Livs)

Around 3500 B.C. a new wave of migrants arrived – it was a culture of battle axes, whose speakers apparently spoke one or more Indo-European languages. Monuments of culture of corded stoneware and boat-shaped axes in Latvia are known mainly along the coast. In the settlement of Abora 1, the basin of Lake Lubans discovered six graves (Lohse, 1979). On the burial ground of Zveynieki, located on the northern shore of Lake Burtnieks, six graves were discovered at the mouth of the Ruya River. The cemetery in Krejci, located in eastern Latvia, contains six graves (Zagorskis, 1961). In general, the culture of battle axes was more likely a supercultural phenomenon that united various peoples, as it covered a vast territory and often overlapped with other archaeological cultures. The carriers of the culture of battle axes mingled with the local population, and part of it was forced out to the north. It is impossible to reliably judge the nature of the relationship of the culture of battle axes with the local population. For the final phase of the existence of the Baltic burial ground of Zveynieki II, there are burials with amber in their sockets and clay masks on their faces, dating back to 3450–3150 B.C. (Denisova, 1996). In the parking lot of Purvciems in the Talsi district (the end of the 3rd millennium – the first half of the 2nd millennium B.C.), ash, fragments of pottery and small articles of flint and amber were found. Clay human figures are probably associated with the cult of ancestors. The Icha Park, located not far from Lake Lubanas, existed from the end of the 3rd millennium to the beginning of the 1st millennium B.C.

Bronze Age

From III thousand B.C. protobalts, carriers of the culture of shaded ceramics , began to settle here. They brought agriculture. This has been proven by radiological analysis of the age of cereal pollen, which is found in sacred stones.

Dorim Iron Age

The Finno-Ugrians, who settled in the territory of modern Prussia, Lithuania, Latvia and Russia up to the Balts, were engaged in fishing, hunting and gathering. The Balt tribes cultivated the land and eventually forced the Finno-Ugrians to the sea. The Romans had indirect information about the Baltic region, since they imported amber from there, which was transferred to Rome along one of the Amber routes. Baltic amber is also found in Persia and Hindustan. In his work “Germany”, the Roman historian Tacitus mentions Aestians, who grew wheat and collected amber. Despite the apparent similarity of the name with modern Estonians, most of the modern authors consider these Estians to be protobalts.

Roman Iron Age

The Western Balts were little affected by the massive migration flows in Europe in the first centuries A.D. especially during the Great Migration. The Balts were relatively isolated until the Slavs, who, following the course of the rivers of Russia towards the northwest, laid down settlements, in the place of which Polotsk, Pskov and Novgorod later emerged, which became the centers of the principalities. The Slavs organized attacks on their neighbors, the Balts, especially the Latgalians, in order to capture the slaves and receive tribute. Therefore, the territory inhabited by the Balts narrowed from Mozhaisk near Moscow to the present borders. The Balts built about 500 wooden castles only in Latvia. Between the locks were signal hills. This indicates a developed system of communications and territory control.

Early Middle Ages

Since the beginning of the new era, the territory of Latvia has become a trade crossroad from west to east and south – the route from the Varangians to the Greeks. It is one of the ways, well known to early medieval chroniclers, stretched from Scandinavia to the Byzantine Empire and passed through Latvia along the Daugava River, which led to the territory of ancient Russia.

But the most important trade routes were the amber trails, starting off the shores of the Baltic Sea. In this way, amber got to Europe, Persia and India. Up to the Middle Ages, amber in some regions was valued more than gold.

A large-scale political organization did not exist. The Balts in Latvia were divided into 4 major tribes:

Latgals and / or Letts are the most developed socioculturally and the most numerous. From them comes the name of Latvia,
Curonians, known as the “Baltic Vikings” because of their belligerent lifestyle and predatory raids on neighboring tribes. The Duchy of Courland was subsequently named after them.

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