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By D. I. BUSHNELL JR
During the winter of 1853, as a result of the extremely low stage of the water of the Lake of Zürich, much of the bottom of the lake along the shores and in the shallow bays was exposed to view. In places groups of piles were noticed extending above the mud and sand. An examination led to the discovery that these had been the supports of ancient habitations, and search among them brought to light many implements and weapons of prehistoric origin. This led to the examination of the shores of other lakes throughout Switzerland, which resulted in the discovery of numerous ancient sites, including many on the lakes of Geneva, Morat, Bienne, and, probably the most important of all, Neuchâtel.
It soon became known that there were made “stations," dating from both the Stone and the Bronze age, on the margin of the Lake of Neuchâtel, but the depth of water made it very difficult to explore them, consequently very little work was done until some years later. Six years after the discoveries on the Lake of Zürich, while a railway embankment was in process of construction near the village of Concise, on the southwestern shore of Neuchâtel, the dredging of sand and mud from the bottom of the bay brought to the surface many implements and utensils as well as vast quantities of broken piles, revealing the site of an extensive settlement. The great number of objects recovered at that time and also as the result of subsequent explorations, now preserved in various collections and museums in Europe and America, are evidence of the importance of the settlement in prehistoric time. Concise has since
AM. ANTH N. S., 8-1.
become one of the best known of the many stations on the Lake of Neuchâtel.
In 1877 the construction of a canal and the changing of the outlet of the lake resulted in the permanent lowering of the water more than three meters. This caused many more sites to be exposed, and the great number of objects collected at that time is beyond conception.
According to the Swiss archeologists there are on the margin of the Lake of Neuchâtel:
44 stations of the Stone age (Neolithic),
I station of the Transition period (Eneolithic),
24 stations of the Bronze age,
I station of the the Iron age,
making a total of seventy stations on a single lake a little more than twenty miles in length. But in reaching this conclusion they seem to have counted as distinct sites what appear to be only parts of a large settlement. For example, in the bay of Auvernier they counted four stations within a space of about 700 meters, yet it is evident that these were contemporaneously occupied and should be considered rather as parts of one village. The separation of a settlement into groups of habitations would be a natural precaution against fire, especially when the huts were constructed of wood and the coverings of thatch.
The stations of the Bronze age were built over deeper water and at a greater distance from the shore than were those of the earlier or Stone age. This is attributed to the possession of better tools, which enabled the builders to procure more easily the necessary piles; but it may also have resulted from necessity-to insure greater protection against attacks from the shore. The settlements during the later period were erected over five or six meters of water. Now, considering the piles to have extended about two meters above the surface of the water and to have been driven a meter or more into the sand or mud bottom, their total length must have approximated ten meters. Even with the improved and better implements, the construction of a platform covering several acres, upon which were erected the habitations, must have been an extensive undertaking. At that time a dense oak forest covered all the
hills and valleys and extended to the shores of the lakes. Probably the clearing made by the cutting of timber for the building of a village afterward served as the garden spot for its inhabitants.
As a result of the lowering of the lake level, the earlier or oldest sites, which were built in comparatively shallow water a short distance from the shore, are now high and dry. Many piles may yet be seen, some on shore but more along the margin of the water. In the bay of Auvernier, at a distance of from 10 to 20 meters from the shore, they may be counted by the score. It is an interesting fact that since the lowering of the water the vegetation that has sprung up along the lake shore is more luxuriant on the sites of the ancient settlements than elsewere.
The Stone and Bronze stations occur along the entire shore line, no part of it being occupied solely by the sites dating from one epoch. With the exception of a very few points the entire shore of Neuchâtel was well adapted to the purpose, the water being rather shallow for quite a distance from the shore. For the greater part the bottom is sandy, though in certain localities there are large glacial bowlders.
The only known settlement on the shores of Neuchâtel during the latest or Iron age was situated near the northeastern end of the lake, at the end of the water course known as La Tène, leading to the Lake of Bienne. The greater part of the site, which was rather extensive, has already been explored and many objects, including weapons and ornaments, utensils and implements, have been recovered. A very interesting collection is preserved in the museum at Neuchâtel, while other specimens have gone to enrich various collections in Europe and America. The material from La Tène was described by Vouga in 1885,1 and in the following year by Dr. Gross. Both works contain many plates showing the most important of the numerous interesting objects discovered on the site prior to that time.
Like the settlement on Neuchâtel, the only known village during the Iron age on the shore of the Lake of Geneva was situated at the outlet of the lake, on the site of the present city of Geneva.
1 Les Helvètes à la Tène, Notice Historique, par E. Vouga, Neuchâtel, 1885. 2 La Tène: Un Oppidum Helvète, par Victor Gross, Paris, 1886.
The selection of these sites may have been a coincidence, but they were probably chosen for a definite reason.
THE STONE Age
The stone implements, weapons, and ornaments recovered from the numerous sites on the Lake of Neuchâtel show in many cases a high degree of workmanship. The majority of the polished implements appear to have been made from natural pebbles, the hardest and toughest variety of stone being selected for the purpose. The theory is still held by certain Swiss archeologists that all the jade or nephrite used in making implements was brought from Asia. Nothing however could be more out of reason, for pebbles of nephrite have been found along the foot of the Alps. Nephrite is but one of the many hard materials used in the making of implements, and probably in no part of the world was a greater variety utilized.
As the southern part of the Lake of Neuchâtel belongs to the canton of Vaud, the majority of the objects discovered on the stations in that section have been deposited in the Musée Cantonal Vaudois in the city of Lausanne. The collection is very rich and complete, especially in implements of bone and stone remaining in the original handles of wood or antler - in some cases a combination of both. Of particular interest is a series of celts hafted in wooden handles. These may be separated into five distinct types: In the first and most primitive the celt is set directly into the wooden handle; in the second there is a short socket or foreshaft of antler between the celt and the handle; in the next type the celt is set into a section of antler perforated to allow the handle to pass through; while in the fourth type this is reversed, the antler foreshaft passing through a perforation in the handle. In some cases a large piece of antler served as the handle, the celt being set directly into it; this may be considered as the fifth and last type.
The first two are the more common types; the third is one of the rarest in Switzerland, although it occurs in France and elsewhere in central Europe.1 Four forms of the first type are shown in figure I, from sketches made by the writer from specimens in
1 Sir John Evans, Ancient Stone Implements, p. 161.
the museum at Lausanne. The handles average about 500 mm. in length. These specimens are of special interest as suggesting the method employed by the Indians of North America in hafting similar implements. That most interesting and probably unique specimen now preserved in the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, is similar to form c in figure 1. It was found in the bed of a brook near Thorndale, N. Y., in 1850. The wooden
handle was probably thick and heavy, terminating in a large knob;
- Four forms of the first type of mounted celts.
but during the many years it lay under water the wood gradually wore away until it assumed its present shape, as shown in figure 2.1
Large celts mounted similar to form A are now used by the Guayaquil Indians of Paraguay, while form в closely resembles the mounted battle ax of the Kaingaud Indians of Brazil. Examples of both are in Professor Giglioli's collection in Florence and have already been figured and described by him.2 A similar form of hafting is used by the natives of New Guinea. We may assume that in America the celt was mounted as an ax and not as an adz.
1I am indebted to Mr Harlan I. Smith, of the American Museum of Natural History, for a photograph of and information concerning this specimen.
2 Internat. Archiv für Ethnog., suppl. zu Bd. ix, 1896, p. 25.