Bronze Age Autumn

Imagine: a shallow, marshy lake; a clear stream flowing into it; a village: a flock of wooden houses, covered with dried grass, standing on hundreds of stilts, driven deep into the marshy soil on the bank of a stream.

There are small gardens just behind the houses on the more solid ground; goats, sheep, and strange, small cows are grazing under a watchful eye of a kid.

The kid is wearing a woollen tunic that has seen better days, he’s bored and is aimlessly sharpening a stick with a piece of flint, only occasionally glancing at the peaceful herd. The flint – a high quality piece that came from the mountains far away in the north – is something he shouldn’t be playing with, so he quickly hides it in his pouch when his mother calls him for dinner.

The site as it looks today – from a kite. Four pile dwelling villages were discovered in this area, dated from 5th to 3rd millennium BC along the banks of active (river Ižica) and fossil streams that are still visible.

The father is also hungry; he’s been working at the smelter since before dawn; his leg hurts more than usual and the fumes make him dizzy. He’s worried – his eyes are not as sharp as before, and his headaches are getting more frequent and more painful He looks at the bronze dagger he’s just cast; it’s a piece he can be really proud of, and the big guy from the village beyond the hill will be pleased.

He’s a renowned metalworker in these lands; the tools and weapons he makes are hard, durable, and elegant – always fetching a good price and attracting customers from all across the lake and even beyond. His grandfather told him the secret of the ashes. His father died when he was still a baby, destroyed by the poison of the liquid bronze.

A shallow lake once covered the Marshes

The mother is happy – the family has gathered for the meal, chatting and eating, laughing and embracing, the table is full, for this summer and autumn were generous. The water nut was abundant this year – her daughters and her friends brought back one dug-out canoe full of it after another, the einkorn wheat harvest was exceptional; all the stores in the village are full, the winter will not be as terrible as the disastrous one a couple of years ago. The soft rays of the setting Autumn sun caress the land.

The centerpiece of the richly lined table is a roasted wild boar. Her oldest son caught it and he’s very proud of his deed. He’s not her little boy anymore: a tall, muscular young man sits at her table, an accomplished hunter, the strongest rower of the lake, a man of dreams of many girls. He will soon start his own family, and some fathers have already visited her husband to discuss alliances and dowries.

She looks at The Mother, a black clay figurine in the corner, with a prayer in her mind, and she feels The Mother winked at her: all will be good, all bad will pass, the future is in good hands – now eat and rejoice, for the Autumn on the lake is the time of plenty.

Thousand of Autumns have passed since. The lake has long dried up, the streams changed their courses, a thick black soil covered the villages on stilts..The statuette of The Mother is in the museum admired by visitors, the beautiful bronze dagger shines among others in the collection. Even that piece of flint is safely stored in a drawer, labelled Bronze Age flaked lithic tool, 3.500 B.C., Maharski prekop Pile Dwelling site

Clay statuette of a woman (?), Dežman pile dwellings site, 3rd millennium BC

The place where the village stood – now a part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps – is flat and soggy, covered in wetlands flora and cornfields. Nothing much is left there to see, the millennia have softly hidden the remains of a once bustling pile dwelling culture.

Like the villages from thousands of years ago, the modern town of Ig doesn’t venture much beyond the hard ground at the edge of the Marshes

Archaeologists have found dug-out canoes, daggers and statues, woollen fabric and bones of roasted wild boar, and thousands of stilts still standing where they were driven in the ground to create a foundation for the village, perfectly preserved in the anoxic wet soil.

Excavation of Maharski prekop pile dwelling site, 4th millenium BC

From the air the ancient streams crisscrossing the flat marshes can still be seen; on their banks people built their villages thousands of years ago, harvesting water nuts, herding animals, smelting bronze, fishing and hunting. They were growing up. falling in love, having babies, growing old, and dying here – on a now hidden landscape, a palimpsest over which Ljubljana Marshes gently formed to guard their stories.

Maharski prekop site today. The village was situated on the bank of the fossil stream at the bottom left

All kite aerial photos shot with Nikon P330 on The Venerable Blue rokkaku.

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