A keen look into the past: the archaeology of lakes and bogs in Russia and Switzerland

Prehistoric archaeology is a scientific discipline characterized by a pronounced interdisciplinarity. It deals with early human communities using modern scientific methods of analysis. The conservation conditions in archaeological sites are of fundamental importance for research. Of particular relevance are sites that favour the preservation of organic finds. These materials are generally not found in archaeological sites on well-ventilated terrestrial soils. In underwater sites of lakes and rivers or in water-saturated sediments of bogs, however, organic materials are preserved for thousands of years. In Switzerland and Russia, the investigation of archaeological sites under water in lakes or in water-logged sediments of fluvial landscapes and bogs has a long research tradition since the 19thcentury.

In the Alpine Space, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites "Prehistoric Lake Dwellings around the Alps" include a selection of 111 of the almost 1000 known archaeological lake-dwellings in six countries around the Alps (Switzerland, Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia). These are the remains of prehistoric pile-dwelling settlements dating from 5000 to 500 B.C. Thanks to the extraordinary wealth of finds, these sites provide precise and detailed insights into the world of the early farmers of Europe - their everyday lives, agriculture, animal husbandry and technical inventions. Due to the extremely precise dating of wood remains and wooden architectural elements (dendrochronology or tree-ring dating), complete prehistoric villages and their spatial development can be traced over a very long period of time. In Russia, in numerous lakes and bogs in the north-western part of the country, comparable prehistoric settlement remains have also been preserved in large numbers. In terms of conservation conditions, they can be compared very well with the sites found in the Alpine Space. However, while the southern sites were mainly inhabited by agricultural communities, in the north-western regions they were societies that practised a combination of hunting, fishing and cultivation.

The project aims to communicate the great scientific potential of archaeological sites in lakes and bogs to students from Russia and Switzerland. Two preparatory workshops will be held in Switzerland and Russia and a summer school in Russia. The courses are intended to introduce methodological principles and practical skills. Above all, however, an exchange across language borders is intended to overcome the boundaries of previous research traditions. Archaeological research in the Alps and north-western Europe, which has so far been largely isolated from each other, is to be enriched by the involvement of students and experienced researchers.

The aim of the project is an exchange of experience in order to overcome the previous limits of paralell research. To achieve this aim the following events are scheduled:

  • Workshop 1: Archaeological material from prehistoric peat-bog sites: New aspects of material analysis, technology and conservation (Venue: The Hermitage State Museum, Saint-Petersburg, Russia).
  • Workshop 2: Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps: UNESCO World Heritage since 2011. Background information on the nomination process and what other European regions can learn from this process (Venue: University of Bern, Switzerland).
  • Summerschool: Archaeology of peat-bog sites (Venue: Archaeological sites near Serteya, Smolenskaya Oblast, North-Western Russia).



Prof. Dr. Albert Hafner
University of Bern
Institute of Archaeological Sciences

General curator Andrey Mazurkevich, General curator
The State Hermitage Museum Saint Petersburg
Department of Archaeology of Eastern Europe and Siberia


Igor Garbuz
Saint-Petersburg State University
Department of Archaeology