Asaviec

Asaviec

The lake region in Northern Belarus has evolved as a frontier environment since the earliest occupation. Far distances from any established Neolithic “strongholds” and the lacustral setting of the area led to the development of distinct forms of Neolithic-Bronze Age societies.

Near the village of Asaviec, Beshenkovich district, five Neolithic-Bronze Age settlements were found and partially explored North of a large turf massive. The initial settlement was situated on a lake shore. Variations in the water level forced the settlers to gradually move the village uphill. As a result of climatic and social changes, the settlements were abandoned and eventually covered by a thick layer of turf. This created an anaerobic environment, which led to excellent preservation of wood, bone and horn artifacts. During the Neolithic (4th mil.- 1st half of 3rd mil. BC), inhabitants of Asaviec settlements were mainly hunters and gatherers, as is demonstrated by the presence of numerous hunting and fishing gear, bone remains belonging to wild animals, bird and fish, as well as broken shell fragments, remains of fruits and berries.

During the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age, local populations began to experiment with agriculture and cattle herding. Many crushed human bone remains found in occupation layers of the settlements strongly suggest practice of cannibalism, possibly ritual in nature.

The Narva Culture, inhabitants of which occupied Asaviec micro-region during the Middle Neolithic Age, extended through Northern Belarus and South-Eastern Baltic regions. During the Middle Neolithic, due to the influence of migrating Finno-Ugric tribes, Usvetz Culture was formed on the foundation of Narva Culture. By the Late Neolithic, the Northern Belarusian Culture was created under the influence of migrating populations from the Dniepr River and Southern Baltic region. This culture remained in the Dvina Basin until the middle Bronze Age.

Excavations of Asaviec settlements exposed remains of wooden structures with interior hearths built on sandy platforms erected upon thick layers of bark. Larger exterior fire pits, meant for wood working and pottery firing, were also found. A great quantity of ceramic vessels, among them goblets, bowls and plates, showed a wide variety of styles of pottery making and decoration. Vessels with both flattened and pointed bases were used on site. While most pots were decorated by means of cords, stamps, pits and notches, some were ornamented with full intricate motifs, as well asanthropomorphic and zoomorphic shapes.

Over 600 bone and horn objects found in Asaviec to date make up over half of prehistoric bone tools unearthed in Belarus. Among them there are well preserved arrows and spearheads, knives, needles, axes, adzes, chisels, shovels, paddles, harpoons and miniature fish hooks. Stone and flint tools are also abundant. Arrowheads, flint blades and polished perforated axes were found. Asaviec settlements preserved a wide range of objects of prehistoric art. Among the unique artefacts, there are carved representations of water birds and people, wood and bone figurines of people, animals, snakes and birds, as well as amber and bone jewellery and pendants.