About Kernave Archaeological Museum
The Kernave Archaeological Museum is the museum of the UNESCO-listed Kernave archaeological site in eastern Lithuania. The museum houses artefacts excavated from Kernave as well as offering an overview of the history of the site.
History of Kernave Archaeological Museum
Kernave is a small town located on the right bank of the Neris River, 35km from Vilnius, Lithuania. The Kernave State Museum-Reserve of Archaeology and History was established in 1989 as a way of recording and protecting the historical Kernave Archaeological Site. The protection zone territory is large, including the entire town of Kernave and its surroundings and covering a whopping 194 hectares with a reserve of 122 hectares, and a protected natural landscape of 2,345 hectares.
Kernave was an important feudal town in the middle ages which was then destroyed by the Teutonic Order in the late 14th century, though the site remained in use until modern times. The area represents an exceptional testimony to around 10 millennia of ongoing human settlements in this region.
Situated in the valley of the River Neris, the site is made up of a complex network of archaeological properties, encompassing the town of Kernave, forts, some unfortified settlements, burial sites and other archaeological, historical and cultural monuments from the late Palaeolithic Period to the Middle Ages. The site demonstrates examples of ancient land-use as well as the remains of five large hill forts which were part of an enormous and impressive defence system.
Though archaeologists have been working in Kernave for over 20 years, they have only researched some 2% of the protected site, and report that there is enough work to last another 100 years. The Museum of Archaeology and History already contains some 16,000 items that represent the various historical periods of the site.
Kernave Archaeological Museum today
The Kernave Archaeological Site Museum is noted for its forward-thinking ‘living archeology’ focus, holding its famous annual festival in July that uses materials sourced during the excavation process to demonstrate and practice making different items that have been discovered at the site.
The museum itself is like a time machine, showing visitors via interactive touch screens what the territory looked like when glaciers had drifted away, when the first hunters arrived, when settlers first started to develop farming techniques, and when the site began to rapidly grow in size and prominence during the Middle Ages. Visitors can also understand how the archaeological process works, seeing real photographs that depict everything from digging up turf to preserving precious finds.
Getting to Kernave Archaeological Museum
Kernave is a 46 minute drive from Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius. The area is also a favourite of hiking enthusiasts, who state that walking round the site takes on average 10,000 steps, which the site recommends as an amount required to take in the full historical grandeur of the location.