In the 12th century, the Curonians dwelt in the east Baltic region between the Rīga area in the north and Klaipėda in the south. They reached the peak of their economic, political and cultural achievements in the 11th century and the first half of the 12th century. The roots of piracy as a phenomenon have a social character. The most active period of the Curonian Vikings begins in around the mid-tenth century, and lasts until the arrival of the Germans in the 13th century. The well-organised piracy of the Curonians became dangerous to navigation on an important maritime trading route along the east Baltic coast. The Curonians attacked traders’ boats, robbed coastal churches, devastated Danish and Swedish coastal areas, and even stayed for a while. In the times of the Teutonic Order, in periods of diplomatic and military conflict or trading competition, even officials did not avoid robbery at sea. The Palanga coastal population used to plunder shipwrecked boats, and went marauding in coastal waters until the middle of the 18th century.
Volume 14 (2010): Underwater Archaeology in the Baltic Region, pp. 28–46
The article presents the latest data on ships sunk in Lithuanian territorial waters of the Baltic Sea obtained during archaeological research conducted by the Underwater Archaeology Group of Klaipėda University. The article contains detailed descriptions of the ways these ships were wrecked as found in historical sources from the 14th to the early 20th century, the localisation of newly found remains of wooden ships, data of their study and possibilities for dating them.
Built in 1252 by the Livonian Order and later passed over to the Teutonic Order, the Klaipėda castle (German – Memelburg) was the northernmost castle of the Order in Prussia. For both geographical and political reasons, it was separated from the hinterlands of the Order’s state, making its survival strategy here specific. This article analyses the zooarchaeological material found during the 1997-1999 archaeological excavations and dated to the 14th-17th centuries. The analysis of the historical data and zooarchaeological material showed that in the 14th-17th centuries, the inhabitants of the Klaipėda castle (the Order’s brothers, their servants, the outwork’s artisans, and the townspeople who hid in the outwork) reared and slaughtered domesticated animals, hunted large game and consumed its meat, processed cheese, ground grain, drank mead and ale. The bulk of the meat consisted of beef, mutton, and pork, as well as goats’ meat starting 1434. An examination of the species and number of bones of domestic and wild animals in Klaipėda’s castle shows that in all of the Klaipėda castle time periods analysed, differences were found between the historical source information and the zooarchaeological collection. Domestic animal bones dominated in the latter, especially that of ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats); pigs comprised the second group according to quantity. The growing quantity of small ruminants (sheep, goats) starting 1434 also is reflected in the zooarchaeological material; from the 16th to 17th centuries, the number of bones of these animals doubled. The amount of riding horses markedly grows in the inventory books starting the middle of the 15th century, and this also is confirmed by zooarchaeological material. When comparing the results of the zooarchaeological material’s analysis with the known 14th-16th century inventories of Klaipėda’s castle in which there are data regarding the domestic animals (cattle, sheep/ goats, horses, pigs) reared for the castle’s needs and the food eaten by the castle’s inhabitants, changes are observed in the faunal species and amounts of the zooarchaeological material that post-date 1521, when 31.25% consists of pig (Sus suis) bones, while the number of species and bone counts of large wild animals (aurochs/ European bison, elk, red deer) and fur-bearing animals (beaver, bear) grows significantly (from 5.5% to 22.92%). Various kinds of fish caught in the sea near Klaipėda and in the Curonian Lagoon held an important place in the diet of the castle’s garrison. Fowl comprised only a small part of the food.
Volume 8 (2007): Weapons, Weaponry and Man (In memoriam Vytautas Kazakevičius), pp. 310–320
The Baltic traders’ stimulation for trading with foreign countries was caused by the shortage of iron, the necessity to obtain good arms, salt, metals for bronze manufacturing, and silver. Apart from traditional goods, like slaves, furs and honey, traders from Scandinavian and west Slavic centres were interested in rye, horses of local breeds, and Baltic ornaments. Aquatic routes up and down rivers were convenient and fast in winter. In Viking times, traders could reach the neighbourhood of Kaunas, trading there for several days, and get back to the Baltic Sea in about 20 days. Navigation away from Kaunas upstream included dugouts, primitive flat-bottomed boats and even rafts. Sailing up and down the river can be proved by information about sailing in Crusaders’ times (13th and 14th centuries). Travelling in foreign territories was dangerous, so traders were usually armed. Arms were discovered in about 60% of the so-called “traders’ graves” of Lithuanian coastal cemeteries.