By Ieva Pigozne-Brinkmane
euroREA, Vol.2 (2005)
Introduction: “Senas vides darbnica” (Ancient Environment Workshop, AEW) was founded in Riga, Latvia, in 1999. It is a non-governmental self-financed organisation that functions as an experimental archaeology group. Our aim is to study and reconstruct the environment and everyday life of the ancient Balts at the turn of the first and second millennia AD. AEW studies the sources (reports from archaeological excavations, artefacts, their reconstructions, scientific research on ancient buildings, tools, costumes, food, etc.) and puts into practice the ancient knowledge and techniques in order to recreate the life of peasants and craftsmen in the Late Iron Age which in the Latvian territory corresponds to the 9th-12th centuries. AEW is in the process of reconstructing an encampment where for six summers the participants have tried to live like the ancient Balts. Four dwelling-houses and several household buildings have been constructed in the encampment. The total number of necessary household items has gradually increased and the experience gained has contributed to a better understanding of the living conditions of that particular time. One of the bigger projects in 2003 and 2004 was the building of a bread oven and baking our own bread. The team who contributed to the building of the stove consisted of 8 people, all professional craftsmen of different kinds, including two potters.
The construction of our stove was based on the research of the stoves from Salaspils Laukskola I and II settlement by archaeologist Anna Zarina. According to the information gathered from the archaeological excavations made in Latvian castle mounds and settlements of the Late Iron Age, ovens start to appear in the 10th century, and in the 11th and 12th centuries the proportion of open hearths and ovens is respectively 80% and 20%. A greater part of the ovens were constructed from stones and served to heat the houses, while clay stoves and stoves of mixed clay-stone structure were used also for food preparation, including for baking bread. Baked leavened bread appears as a consequence of a greater amount of grain available, as now not only wheat and barley, but also rye (introduced in the 9th-10th century) was used for making grits, porridge, flatbread and leavened bread.