A defence installation of the developing Lithuanian state

A defence installation of the developing Lithuanian state

By Algardis Girininkas

Archaeologia Baltica, Vol. 8 (2007)

Abstract: The Rėkučiai defence installation is in the eastern part of Lithuania between two lakes in wooded country. The installation was comprised of a rampart and a ditch in front of it. This defence installation from the 12th and 13th centuries belongs to the most important fortified area of the newly developing Lithuanian state. It extended about 50 kilometres from east to west, and was built as a defence against the Polotsk-Pskov duchies and the Livonian Order. Analogous defence installations include Kovirke (“Cow Wall”), a lesser fortification within the well-known Dannevirke earthwork fortification complex, as well as the ramparts left by Prussian tribes.

Introduction: Since the oldest of times, people built various fortifi­ cations for defence purposes. The earliest enclosures in Lithuanian territory were fortifications known from Neolithic times. The first builders of hill-forts in the Middle Bronze Age used to enclose their settlements. Later, in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, ramparts built from tamped clay and earth and that encircled the fiat hilltops were constructed around the hill-forts. Already in the Roman Period, in the first cen­ turies ВС, from the Rhine to the Danube in Europe, the Romans built huge fortifications that consisted of a rampart beside a ditch and lookout towers. A fortification complex known as Dan­ nevirke emerged in the Viking period, along the bor­ der of present-day Denmark and Germany; its earlier phase was called Kovirke, and it was also comprised of ditches and adjacent ramparts. Al­ most all of the Late Iron Age hill-forts in Lithuanian, Latvian and former Prussian territory typically had frameworked ramparts, ie their foundations were tim­ bered. Usually ditches are found beside the hill-forts’ ramparts that made the ramparts higher or were a part of the defence installations. Isolated ramparts, found separately from hill-forts, have been discovered in Prussia, in Russian territory. One such defence installation was discovered and researched in east Lithuania, not far from the village of Rėkučiai. Girininkas and Scmćnas, as well as Zabicia, have written about this defence installation and the investigations. Having amassed more material on the Rėkučiai defensive rampart, a new research analysis, together with an account of its strategic importance in the developing Lithuanian state, is presented.

Click here to read this article from the Lithuanian Database of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Lithuania

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