Lake Dwellings, a class of prehistoric habitations existing in some form in various parts of the world, but found in greatest perfection and most thoroughly explored in Switzerland. In Scotland and Ireland they are called cran-noges. They are of two kinds, fascine dwellings and pile dwellings. The former were built on a foundation of reeds or tree steins, woven together in horizontal layers alternated with layers of clay or gravel, the whole mass sunk in the water and kept in place by a few stakes or piles. The pile dwellings were built on platforms supported by piles driven deeply into the lake bottom, but projecting above the water. Though the fascine dwellings were the simpler, they were not necessarily the more ancient; the explorations in Switzerland show that they were commonly used in the smaller lakes, and where the bottom was too soft to hold a mass of piles firmly, while the pile dwellings were invariably constructed in the large lakes, where the waves would have swept away a foundation of fascines.
Lake dwellings date back to the stone age, and are still in use in some parts of Russia, in Borneo and other islands of the Malay archipelago, and in central Africa. Herodotus relates (book v., 16) that certain tribes of Paeonians lived in pile dwellings on Lake Prasias in Thrace, and as these were connected with the shore by a single narrow bridge, they defied the troops of Darius when their kindred tribes were led away into Asia. Each family had its own hut, with a trap-door beneath, through which they fished by letting down a basket. The infant children were tied by the foot with a cord, to prevent their falling into the water. Hippocrates records that the colonists of the Phasis lived in reed huts in the middle of the river. Certain Assyrian bass reliefs represent inhabited artificial islands formed of woven rushes. Venezuela received its name (little Venice) from the Spanish discoverers because of the houses built on piles in the lagoon of Mara-caibo. The lake dwellings of extinct peoples represent all stages of civilization from the age of stone to the dawn of the iron age.
Those of Lake Moosseedorf, Switzerland, are supposed to be the oldest, and those of Ireland the most recent. - In 1829 an excavation on the shore of Lake Zurich at Obermeilen revealed the existence of ancient piles and other antiquities, but no extended examination was made. The winter of 1853-'4 in Switzerland was one of extraordinary drought and cold; the rivers shrank to their smallest dimensions, and the level of the lakes was lower than had ever before been known. The inhabitants on the shore of a little bay between Obermeilen and Dallikon took advantage of the low water to extend their gardens by building a wall and filling the space back of it with mud dredged from in front. The dredging brought to light the heads of a system of piles, great quantities of stags' horns, and several ancient implements. Dr. Ferdinard Keller followed up this discovery, and similar remains of prehistoric villages were found in Lakes Zurich, Constance, Geneva, Bienne, Neufchatel, Morat, and several of the smaller lakes of Switzerland. From 20 to 50 settlements have been explored in each of the larger lakes; and immense numbers of implements of horn, bone, stone, bronze, and pottery have been found, with a few of gold, wood, and iron, mingled with bones of animals, and in a very few cases human remains.
The most perfect example of a lake dwelling of the stone age was in the little lake of Moosseedorf, near Bern. The water was artificially lowered 8 ft. in the winter of 1855-6, which revealed a settlement at each extremity of the lake; the one at the eastern end was most thoroughly examined. The piles had been driven irregularly, the mass forming a parallelogram 55 by 70 ft. They were stems of oak, birch, fir, and aspen, from 5 to 7 in. in diameter, some being split and some still retaining the bark. The remains of a bridge which had connected the settlement with the shore were found. The superstructure had apparently been destroyed by fire, only portions of the charred wood remaining. The implements were found, not in the mud of the ancient lake bottom, but in a stratum next above it, now called the relic bed, consisting of loose peat, gravel, clay, wood, and charcoal, from 5 in. to 2 ft. thick. Many of the heaviest implements were near the top of the bed, and many of the lightest near the bottom. Among them were a harpoon of stag's horn, a flint saw fastened with asphalt in a handle of fir wood, needles made of boars' teeth, awls, knives, pincers, chisels, and arrow heads of bone, fish hooks of boar's tusk, and a comb of yew wood.
There were also numerous bones of animals, some of which bore the marks of stone axes and saws; a few fragments of pottery, some incrusted with soot; linseed, and burnt wheat and barley. Every hillock in the marsh land around this settlement is full of chips and flakes and unfinished instruments of flint. The lake dwellings situated in what are now peat moors offer in some respects a better opportunity for investigation than those which are still under water. The best specimen of this kind was discovered in 1858 at Robenhausen near Lake Pfaffikon, in the canton of Zurich. The space covered with piles is an irregular quadrangle containing nearly three acres, which must have been about 2,000 paces from the ancient western shore of the lake in which it stood, and about 3,000 from the eastern; the piles of a bridge connecting it with the latter still remain. The piles of this village, numbering about 100,000, were of oak, beech, and fir, some of them being split, were 10 or 11 ft. long, sharpened with stone hatchets, and driven in from 2 to 3 ft. apart. The platform was made of cross timbers and boards, fastened to the piles with wooden pins. The outermost piles were bound together with hurdle work.
Investigation revealed three systems of piles, one above the other, indicating different periods of habitation. The piles of the two lower systems are round stems of soft wood, those of the uppermost split trunks of oak. Here were found mealing stones, hearth stones, wheat and barley, 8 lbs. of bread, burnt apples and pears, beech nuts, acorns, cherry stones, flax, cords, nets, mats, and woven cloth of bast and of flax, an abundance of broken pottery, many flint weapons, tools of horn and bone, several implements of maple wood, two or three long bows such as are still used by the South sea islanders, and a canoe 12 ft. long, l 1/2 ft. broad, and 5 in. deep. The relic bed is 3 ft. thick. It is conjectured that the settlement was inhabited for many centuries, and that the first two structures were destroyed by fire, as the heads of the piles are charred and quantities of charcoal are found in the relic bed. The direction and arrangement of the masses of charcoal suggest that at least one of the fires occurred during the strong south wind (Fon) by which at some time nearly every town in Switzerland has suffered.
Almost the entire shore of the Untersee was lined with lake dwellings; those at Wangen have been most carefully explored and have yielded a greater abundance of articles than any other. Here were found numerous spindle whorls of clay, charred flax in all stages of manufacture, baked bread, and nearly 100 bushels of grain. Fascine structures are found at Niederwyl and Wauwyl. In the former split stems and boards were largely used, and some of the beams were mortised. There is no trace of burning. At Nidau-Steinberg, on the lake of Bienne, is a lake settlement in which have been found manufactured articles of wood, horn, bone, clay, flint, bronze, iron, and gold. It is especially rich in bronze relics, consisting of hatchets, knives, sickles, spear heads, chisels, pins, needles, fish hooks, rings, and wire. The articles of iron include spear heads and two curved plates riveted to a piece of wood between them; the articles of gold are a corrugated plate and a spiral of square wire. Some of the piles in this settlement are 10 in. in diameter, and were sharpened by the action of lire. Much of the pottery found here was unbroken, and some of the vessels were very large. At Morges the moulds for casting bronze hatchets were found.
But in none of the lake dwellings is there any evidence of the use of the potter's wheel. The only one of the Swiss lake dwellings which bears the distinctive characters of the iron age is at Marin, on the lake of Neufchatel. Here were also found rings, balls, and beads of glass, colored blue and yellow, and portions of eight human skeletons, including one skull. The number of iron weapons and implements found here is very large, and many of them are ornamented. Dr. Keller declares that "these ornamentations do not show the least relation to the Celtic implements which have come to light, and quite as little to those of Roman origin." He believes that the swords and lance points came from the workshops of Gaul. - Various attempts have been made to estimate the age of these lake dwellings, the form and size of the superstructures, and the number of inhabitants; but the figures obtained are largely the result of conjecture, and have very little value. Nor is it certain what was the exact reason for building on the water instead of on land. Protection from hostile tribes, safety from wild beasts, and convenience for fishing have been suggested, but are far from satisfactory.
It seems pretty clear that they were not merely temporary abodes, that domestic animals as well as human beings were housed in them, and that some of them were abandoned without being burned. The scarcity of human remains is an enigma to archaeologists, and not the slightest clue appears as to the manner in which the lacustrians disposed of their dead. Dr. Oswald Heer, in his work on the plants of the lake dwellings, says they show connection with the countries of the Mediterranean, but none with eastern Europe. The cereals were identical with those of the ancient Egyptians. The fauna of the lake dwellings includes a large number of fishes and birds still common to the country (but with no trace of any domestic fowl), and the bear, the dog, the ass, the ibex, the sheep, the cow, the hog, and other large animals, many of them belonging to extinct species. Since the discovery of the lake dwellings of Switzerland, similar structures have been found in Italy, Bavaria, Saxony, the French Jura, and other parts of Germany and France, and in Denmark. - The first discovery of crannoges in Ireland was made by William R. Wilde in 1839, near Dunshaughlin, county Meath. The lake of Lagore being drained, a circular mound 520 ft. in circumference, which had been known as an island, was seen to be of artificial construction.
Oak piles had been used, mortised into planks laid fiat on the bottom of the lake, and strengthened with cross beams. Some of the piles were grooved to hold panels which were driven down between them. The space within was filled with peat intermingled with bones of horses, asses, deer, sheep, goats, dogs, and foxes, and contained a large number of ornaments, weapons, and utensils of wood, bone, stone, bronze, and iron; 150 cart loads of bones were taken out. The ancient annals of Ireland relate that the island in Lake Lagore was plundered and burned by a hostile chief in 848, and that the buildings were pulled down by Norse pirates in 933. More than 50 crannoges have since been discovered in Ireland, and as many in Scotland. The latest discovery in Scotland (1871) is in Loch Etive, a platform 60 ft. in diameter, with a dwelling 50 by 28 ft. No essential difference of construction has been noted between those of the two countries. - See Keller, Die Pfahlbauten in den Schweizer-seen (3 vols., Zurich, 1854-'60; English translation, London, 1866); Troyon, Habitations lacustres (Lausanne, 1860); Rutimeyer, Die Fauna der Pfahlbauten (Basel, 1861); Schaub, Die Pfahlbauten in den Schweizerseen (Zurich, 1864); Heer, Die Urwelt der Schiceiz (Zurich, 1864-'5; English translation, "Primeval Life in Switzerland," London, 1874), and Die Pflan-zen der Pfahlbauten (Zurich, 1865); Lyell, "Antiquity of Man" (London, 1863); Lubbock, " Pre-Historic Times" (London, 1869); and "Palafittes of the Lake of Neufchatel," by E. Desor, in the Smithsonian report for 1865.
Bone, Flint and Wooden Implements from Moosseedorf. - 1. Knife of boar's tooth. 2. Bone chisel. 3. Bone knife. 4. Bone awl. 5. Flint saw. in handle of fir wood. 6. Harpoon of stag's horn. 7. Comb of yew wood. S. Wedge of fir wood. 9. Fish hook of boar's tusk. 10,11. Needles of boar's tusk.
Bronze Implements from Unter Uhldingen. - 1. Sickle. 2. Pin. 8. Fish hook. 4. Socketed celt 5. Knife. 6. Lance point. 7. Pin.