EXARC Members Archaeological (Open-Air) Museums

Araisi Ezerpils Archaeological Park (LV)

Member of EXARC since

At Āraiši Ezerpils Archaeological Park you can discover and explore dwellings from Stone Age to Middle Ages. There are reconstructions of Stone Age huts and a Bronze Age building that are built according to research data from excavations in Latvia and North-Eastern Europe. The main object in is the reconstruction of a Viking Age lake settlement in its original location – on a small island in Lake Āraiši. Right next to the reconstruction, there are original Medieval castle ruins built by the Teutonic Order in the 14th century.

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The main object of the archaeological park – Āraiši lake dwelling – was re-discovered by archaeologist, Dr. hist. Jānis Apals. In two periods of excavations (1965-1969; 1975-1975) a well preserved, fortified settlement of the ancient Latgallians was uncovered. Āraiši lake settlement represents a rare type of Viking Age (dated to the 9th and 10th centuries) settlement unique to the historical region of Vidzeme in Latvia: only 10 such lake dwellings are known thus far. The wet conditions had preserved log building remains up to seven logs high and the excavations yielded a multitude of unique artefacts made from wood and other organic materials that do not survive in other conditions. The excavations provided a detailed picture of Latgallian material culture, everyday life and building techniques during the Viking Age. Therefore the idea was born of recreating the lake settlement in its original scale and context as an open-air archaeological museum. The earliest and best-preserved building phase, from the middle of the 9th century, was chosen as the basis for the reconstruction. An experimental reconstruction was built using replicas of the original tools. Since then, the goal of Āraiši Ezerpils Archaeological Park has been to keep the ongoing reconstruction works as close as possible to the original idea of experimental archaeology approach of J. Apals. The reconstructed Āraiši lake dwelling exhibits a high degree of historical accuracy.

Guided tours by professional guides wearing reconstructed costumes and using replicas of objects and tools that were found in the excavations are available, but the archaeological park can also be visited in a self-guided fashion. Educational programmes for different age groups with live activities are available for group visitors. In 2020 a new visitor centre has opened with an interactive exhibition dedicated to the discovery of the lake-dwellings and the daily life of the Latgallians with the original artefacts displayed. The archaeological park regularly invites living history groups, folklore groups and scientists (historians, archaeologists, biologists) for different events. Āraiši  Ezerpils Archaeological Park is seeking to become a centre of experimental archaeology and research in the field of lake dwellings – to organise regular scientific gatherings and research, re-enactment, educational and folklore events.

Annual Number of Visitors

57.250511, 25.283318