Kernave Archaeological Site - History and Facts | History Hit

Kernave Archaeological Site

Kernave, Vilnius County, Lithuania

The Kernave Archaeological Site contains the remains of early Lithuanian settlements as well as those of a medieval town.

Peta Stamper

13 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shuttershock

About Kernave Archaeological Site

The Kernave Archaeological Site houses the remains of the medieval town of Kernave in eastern Lithuania as well as remnants of habitation of the site dating back approximately 10 millennia. Many see Kernave as the site where Lithuania began and it is also the subject of legend and historic tales.

In 2004, the Kernave Archaeological Site gained UNESCO World Heritage status and is now a popular tourist destination.

Kernave Archaeological Site history

Inhabited since the 9th to 8th millennia BC, by the 12th and 13th centuries AD, the pre-Christian Kernave grew into a Christian feudal town defended by five imposing hill-forts, which can be seen there today together with many other monuments and ruins, such as burial sites. There are also the remains of the town itself, dating back to the 13th century.

The first mention of Kernave occurred in 1279 and many believe that it was the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania led by Grand Duke Mindaugas. During this period, Kernave was one of the most significant Lithuanian economic and political centres.

In medieval times Kernave suffered several attacks, including by the Teutonic Order in 1365 and another in 1390 which destroyed the town, it subsequently never being rebuilt.

Kernave Archaeological Site today

A good place to visit before going to the ‘living’ archaeological site is the Kernave Archaeological Museum, which gives an insight into the site’s history and displays artefacts found there. From there, head to site that consists of a replica street with three homes along it, surrounded by thick high fences.

Each yard represents a craft learnt about through archaeological research at Kernave: bone carving, jeweller and smith. The homes are also surrounded with buildings that would have been used as workshops or animal sheds.

Getting to Kernave Archaeological Site

Sitting just on the southern edge of town facing the Neris River, Kernave Archaeological Site is just off the 116 or 4717 roads bordering Vilnius and Kaunas counties. To Vilnius, it is a 50 minute drive via the A2 or a 1 hour drive to Kaunas.

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