Neolithic Alpine pile dwellings officially join Unesco list next week

Original piles in Lac de Chalain, rive occidentale, with the reconstruction of a Neolithic dwelling in the bqckground (photo ©2011, P Pétrequin, Centre de la Recherches Archeologique de la Vallée de l’Ain)

NEUCHATEL, SWITZERLAND -Long before there were national boundaries in the Alps there were prehistoric pile-dwelling (or stilt house) settlements in what is today Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland, and next week the traces they left will be recognized internationally.

A group of 111 of these sites were named a Unesco World Heritage “site” 27 June and 9 September the official ceremony welcoming the new site takes place in Neuchatel, at the 10-year-old Latinium museum and research centre.

Switzerland, with 56 of the sites, is the lead country for the project to be recognized.

Unesco describes the sites:

“This serial property of 111 small individual sites encompasses the remains of prehistoric pile-dwelling (or stilt house) settlements in and around the Alps built from around 5000 to 500 BC on the edges of lakes, rivers or wetlands. Excavations, only conducted in some of the sites, have yielded evidence that provides insight into life in prehistoric times during the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Alpine Europe and the way communities interacted with their environment. Fifty-six of the sites are located in Switzerland. The settlements are a unique group of exceptionally well-preserved and culturally rich archaeological sites, which constitute one of the most important sources for the study of early agrarian societies in the region.”

The Latinium is holding a special public day 11 September, a Sunday, to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The museum park, which recreates this prehistoric world, is open seven days a week, with no entry charge.