Archaeological collection

The Bandužiai burial ground

In the museum’s collectiondiscoveries made during the exploration of the Bandužiai burial ground are stored. The burial ground is situated in the former Bandužiai village south-east of Klaipėda. The burial ground was already known before the war. In 1935 it was explored by E. Nauburas. Records from 1931–1939 of the Klaipėda Regional Studies Museum (now the History Museum of Lithuania Minor) include 101 items from the Bandužiai burial ground. Most of these exhibits, however, were lost in the war. It is thought that 6 items from the Bandužiai burial ground still remain. These are a brass necklace with a pendant and a loop from 7th–9th c AD, an arched brass clasp with poppy flower-shaped points from 8th–9th c AD, a brass horseshoe-shaped clasp with animalistic-motive butts, a brass horseshoe-shaped clasp with star butts from 10th–13th c AD, a brass enamelled bridle sheath from 2nd c AD and a brass enamelled round-shaped clasp from 2nd c AD.

Bronze arched brooch with poppy head shaped ends from 8th–9th c. Photograph by K. Demereckas Bronze arched brooch with poppy head shaped ends from 8th–9th c. Photograph by K. Demereckas

The items collected during 1974 reconnaissance expedition organised by the Lithuanian History Museum and led by Dr. L. Vaitkunskienė, are also deposited in the museum. 
Systematic research of this burial ground began in 1985. The research was carried out by the Lithuanian History Museum under leadership of the archaeologist Jonas Stankus. The discovered burials and cremations span all the three Iron Age periods, early, middle and late in 1st–13th c AD. The Bandužiai burial ground is the cultural heritage of the Curonian tribes and includes features from the culture of the Skalviai tribes. 
The museum archives include 879 various brass and iron ware items, jewellery, work tools, household items, weapons and coins. 
In the headwear jewellery collection worthy of notice is the best-preserved headwear found in a woman’s grave consisting of 12 rows of yellowish enamel beads strung upon thin brass wires. Neck jewellery items include different brass withes with a loop, tapered ends, and double-arched box-shaped neckwear with an arch. Also of interest are the bead necklaces, strings made up of amber, enamel and brass beads strung in different modes. 
The collection has many items of the brooch jewellery with different types of arched clasps. Noteworthy is a silver arch-shaped ring clasp of 5th–8th centuries, as well as different types of horseshoe clasps. Included in the collection of brooches are barrel-shaped, ring-shaped, stick-shaped, cross-shaped, and round-headed pins. Outstanding in the entire collection is an impressive brooch from a woman’s grave No. 74. It consists of 2 rosette pins with crescent and square-shaped pendants. The surface of all the pendants was covered with thin tin plates. The piece weighs 1120 grams. The pendants shape and tracery elements are characteristic features of other similar Baltic jewellery. However, this pendant set is unique. A similar set of jewellery has not been found in the Baltic Sea basin. 
An ornate brooch has been found in the woman’s grave No. 85. It is made of 26 bell-shaped pendants. 
Hand jewellery with different type bracelets and rings. 
A large part of the collection consists of work tools, household items, details of a warrior’s outfit and horse bridle. These include various iron knives, scythe fragments, axes, gouging tool, miniature hatchets, whetstones, awls, razors, flints, cylindrical locks and a key, earthenware, scales and weights, spindles, weaving tools, sheathing of a drinking horn, stirrups, spurs and bit. It is important to note the funeral items of an artisan buried in grave No. 33 which contains: a broad-bladed battle axe, a semi-manufactured pin, a broken adorned brass staff and twisted brass wires. 
A major share of the findings from the Bandužiai burial ground is made up of weapons found in the later pyral burials (11th–12th c). In grave No. 43 B a well preserved double-blade sword has been found whose total length is 99 cm. Also impressive are the bindings of the sword sheathes, tulip-shaped, cast and ornamented. 
Weapons are represented by the battle-axes. They are of various types, including casing, mounting spearheads and iron shield casings.

The Vidgiriai burial ground

In the museum possession are items collected during archaeological explorations of 1986 and 1987 headed by archaeologist Valdemaras Šimėnas in the Vidgiriai burial-ground. The Vidgiriai burial located in Šilutė district dates back to the mid 5th–6th centuries. The dead were buried with abundant and expensive funereal items. In the men’s graves there were many weapons, mostly spearheads. The graves also contained many battle knives or daggers as well as horse and horseman’s outfit, spurs and bits, many items of jewellery, and tools such as scythes, spindles, and awls. Women’s headwear is especially interesting and distinctive, such as those made of bucket-shaped silver tin or cylinder filled with wax. The head top was adorned with rod-shaped iron pins. Grave No. 11 contained a massive arch-shaped brass clasp in the form of an animal leg. Commonfindings were amber bead pendants worn on the waist and hands. Grave No. 2 was distinguished for the silver jewellery it contained. Archaeologists found a unique gilded silver clasp with animal motives ornamented with blackening techniques. Other silverware of the Vidgiriai burial ground included luxury items such as a silver plate of a star-shaped clasp, fragments of silver necklaces, and silver bracelets and their fragments.

Crossbow fibulas. 5th-6th c AD. Silver, gold. Vidgiriai burial ground, Pagėgiai district. Photograph by K. Demereckas Crossbow fibulas. 5th-6th c AD. Silver, gold. Vidgiriai burial ground, Pagėgiai district. Photograph by K. Demereckas

The Užpelkiai burial ground

The museum collection contains findings collected during archaeological explorations of 1991–1996 in the Užpelkiai burial ground of the Kretinga district headed by archaeologist Audronė Bliujienė. The burial ground dates from the 4th–6th centuries. The plentiful collection of archaeological finds includes a variety of jewellery such as clasps, necklaces, bracelets, brass and silver rings, pins, and tools: whetstones, axes, scythe fragments, weapons with different type of spearheads and accessories of the horse bridles such as bits. The Užpelkiai burial ground is distinguished for the abundance of amber ware. In the burial ground number of Basonia type amber beads, amber pendants, a piece of natural amber amulet were discovered. In a woman’s grave No. 86 two amber strings of beads were found with a total of 19 beads.

The Baitai burial ground

The old Baitai graveyard situated near Dovilai in Klaipėda district has been known since the end of the 19th century when A. Bezzemberger and E. Scheu conducted reconnoitring explorations here. In 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1995 archaeological research of the Baitai burial ground was carried out by the Lithuania Minor History Museum and the expeditions were lead by archaeologist Rasa Banytė. Finds collected during these expeditions are included in the collections of the museum. The burial ground dates back to the 3rd–5thcenturies. A variety of jewellery was in the burial ground such as clasps, bracelets, and strings of beads, necklaces and their fragments, miniature pots, household items. Of interest are amber articles discovered in 1989, 1990 and 1993 in the flat graves with stone wreathes dating from the 4th–beginning of 5th c. Among them is a mushroom-shaped amber pendant from a woman’s grave (No. 2) and insect-shaped amber pendants found in a boy’s grave (No. 4) and in a symbolic horse grave (No. 22).

Medieval settlements and burials of Palanga

Research into the Palanga medieval settlements was begun in the year of 1976 when the former Archaeological Department of the Monument Preservation Institute commenced excavations in the site of Birutė Hill under leadership of V. Žulkus. The exploratory archaeological investigations were conducted in connection with preparations for the chapel renovation and new layout of the hill site. After that the so-called “Palangos ekspedicija” headed by V. Žulkus started activities. Until 1989 the expedition worked under auspices of the Monument Preservation Institute and in 1990 it was organised by the Lithuanian Culture Fund club “Budys”. In 1991 it was managed by the Lithuania Minor History Museum, and since 1993 organisation has been carried on by the Klaipėda University West Lithuanian and Prussian History centre. The collection of the History Museum of Lithuania Minor includes the material gathered in Palangos Žemaičių hill in 1990, 1991. A major part of the collection is represented by modelled ceramics, cylindrical earthenware weaving weights, stone weights, amber ware, and stone whetstones. Among the jewellery could be noted flat angle brass clasp from grave No. 46, as well as numerous horseshoe clasps, and different types of rings. 
In the museum collection there are also materials found during explorations of Birutė Hill in Palanga carried out in 1977, 1990, 1993 and from Palanga settlement II in 1987, 1988, 1989

The Old Žardė settlement

The museum includes archaeological findings collected in the Old Žardė settlement in the years of 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1999. In 1990, 1991 the research was conducted by the archaeologists of the Klaipėda Restoration and Designing Institute headed by Jonas Genys. Since 1993 the research has been conducted by the History Museum of Lithuania Minor and the expeditions have been headed by the director of the museum Jonas Genys. 
Archaeological findings from the Žardė settlement contain numerous fragments of ceramics from the 10th–13th centuries. Pot fragments adorned with horizontal rings in wave patterns are dominant, and part of the ceramics is of imported origin. The pottery ceramics feature rich ornamentation with woven lines, oblique cuts and waves. Especially rare are fragments adorned with a line of triangle depressions and a wave on top of the edge. Among other findings a tapered loom weight, casting crucible, ship iron rivets, stone whetstones, and an earthenware loom weight stand out. Jewellery includes a barrel-shaped enamel bead with "eight-shaped" and three cell ornament, flat pressed ball shaped blue glass bead, brass horseshoe clasp with thickened butts, flat cross-shaped brass clasp, several brass spirals

Collection of Klaipėda Old Town findings

The museum funds include over 27,000 archaeological findings discovered during the exploration of Klaipėda Old Town. These are findings from various places, the largest among them being the following: Klaipėda Castle site, the Theatre square, site adjacent to Tomo St., Didžiosios Vandens St., Vežėjų St, Žvejų St., Sukilėlių St., the suburbs of Friedrich, Vitė and Krūmamiestis and other old town premises. Findings have been accumulated since 1974 and Klaipėda Old Town has been explored by the following archaeologists: dr. V. Žulkus, dr. J. Genys, E. Paleckis, R. Sprainaitis, D. Elertas, R. Banytė, V. Bračiulis, R. Bračiulienė. The oldest finds from Klaipėda Old Town date as far back as 14th–15th centuries. Ceramics from these centuries are baked in reduction environment, and the prevailing décor is a circular geometric pattern. In the layers dating from the 15th century finds of the so-called white (Rhine) ceramics have been uncovered, the bases of which were decorated with wave patterns. Also of interest is a merchant’s stamp found in Žvejų street (15th c) and book mark from the Klaipėda Castle site. There are a number of forged iron nails – about 300 pieces, rivets used in constructions of vessels, fishermen’s boats and other wooden constructions. Work tools dating from the second half of the 14th c include a massive brass cast, a knife blade, a fragment of brass foundry lattice, portion of a double-sided stone mould, and unfinished articles from horn. The number of earthenware weights for nets found on the Klaipėda Castle site reaches as many as 16 and one of which is of cylindrical. In the castle site a silver coin of 1,1 cm diameter coined in the City of Torn at the time of Vinrich von Kniprode, the Great Master of the Order (1351–1382) was found. Bone and horn articles include two scorched fragments of a bone comb and several treated bone and horn billets. A rare finding is a die discovered for the first time in Lithuania. It is made of horn and is shaped in a flat-cylinder. There are several jewellery pieces from the castle site as well and these are findings peculiar to the Baltic people – horseshoe-shaped clasp with broad butts and a ring. Weaponry includes spearheads: in the 14th century layers as many as 266 items have been found. One of them is bulky – 13 cm long. The museum deposits also include stone cannon balls discovered on the castle site as well as samples of architectural ceramics: shaped bricks, trough ridge and flat tiles, etc. The most valuable finding from the Klaipėda castle site is a Renaissance gold ring with a diamond. 
The collection includes of variety of types of stove tiles and fragments with interesting ornamentation found in Klaipėda Old Town dating from the 16th century. Each tile sort (flat, cornice, frieze, cartouche-shaped, crown-shaped, etc.) is characterised by an original ornament. The oldest ones are flat tiles with square depressions adorned with trelage and symmetrical stylised floral ornament (end of 16th–17th c). There plenty of flat tiles adorned with floral and architectural motives (end of 16th–18 c), flat unglazed tiles with depressed interior adorned with stylised floral motive (with a flower buds in the centre), flat tiles adorned with "carpet" – floral ornament (mid 17th c). Also interesting are tiles found around Theatre square, and Didžioji Vandens street dating from the 16th century – decorative plates adorned with figures, portraits, and biblical subjects. Worth mentioning is a cornice unglazed tile of the 16th c from Theatre square which is adorned with heraldic motive. 
The museum has samples of renovated ceramics of the 16th century – pots, pans, jars, pots on legs, a drinking vessel, an impressive decorative vase-decanter made of black ceramic in the first half of the 16th century. 
From the later layers of Klaipėda Old Town (18th–19th c) great numbers of ceramics samples (some of the vessels have been restored), glass bottles, tools etc. have been collected. Well-preserved bowls with interesting décor have been found on the site between Tomo, Didžioji Vandens and Vežėjų streets. The bowls are agobed, glazed, adorned with oval spheres and stylised floral ornamentation. Of interest is a bowl/plate adorned inside with white angobe rectangles, triangle ornaments, glazed in green, diameter of the plate is 34 cm. The plate has been restored. Among more valuable findings from the aforementioned site are three chamber pots of stone, glazed on the side adorned with a blue glaze floral, heraldic motive. These are dated from end of the 18th c. 
Quite a few fragments of Dutch smoking pipes made of kaolin clay have been unearthed in the layers dating from 18th century. Several hundred pipes and their fragments have been discovered in Klaipėda. There are bowls of different sizes and types and huge number of shaft fragments. The bowls are adorned with fine circular rectangles or depressions. The sides are even or adorned with relief leaf-shaped elevations. The pipes are adorned with circular indented diamond, square, circle, relief stylised floral patterns. Dutch-made pipes from the middle of the 18th century bear the inscription "Werwesse Gouda" on the shaft and those with the inscription "Fabrique Rostin" date from the second half of the 18th century. 
These findings collected during the exploration of Klaipėda Old Town nicely supplement the museum exposition.