Document of the Memel district

A Neolithic hoard from the Nidden area?

by Christine Reich

The document presented here is a photo plate from the file on the site "Gegend von Nidden, Kr. Memel". Nidden (today: Nida, Lithuania) is a village in the northern part of the Curonian Spit. In addition to the lagoon and the Baltic Sea, the landscape of the spit is characterised by forests and shifting sand dunes. In particular, the Hohe Düne (Parnidis Dune), which lies next to Nidden, is a prominent elevation. Due to silting up, the village had to be relocated more than once in modern times.

Photo plate from the file "Gegend von Nidden, Kr. Memel" (PMA_1269_01.pdf: page 12). © Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

The photo panel is entitled "Kurische Nehrung [/] bei Nidden". Under the affixed photo there is a short description: „Das Bild stellt 9 im Kreise herumgelegte [/] Feuersteinmesser dar, in deren Mitte sich [/] ein kl.[eines] dicknackiges Beil ohne Schaftloch [/] aus weißem harten Kalkstein befindet. [/] Die Feuersteinmesser sind mit der Längs-[/]achse nach der Mitte hin gerichtet, die Gegen-[/]stände sind gerade herausgeweht worden.“ [The picture shows 9 flint knives laid out in a circle, in the middle of which is a small axe without a shaft hole, made of white hard limestone. The flint knives have the longitudinal axis towards the centre, the pieces have been blown straight out]. In the bottom right corner of the panel it is noted that the photograph was taken by Mr Fischer „nach einem Bilde, das Lehrer [/] Sonntag brachte“ [from a picture brought by teacher Sonntag] in July 1937.

On the preceding, typewritten sheet in the file, director of the museum Wilhelm Gaerte explains in more detail how the photo came to the museum. According to this, on 6 July 1937, the teacher Sonntag brought „eine Photographie, die Hauptlehrer Fuchs, Nidden, z. Zt. Memel, Ferdinands-Platz-Schule beschäftigt, gemacht hat.“ [a photograph taken by the senior teacher Fuchs, Nidden, currently employed in Memel, Ferdinands-Platz-Schule]. It goes on: „Herr Fuchs hat die Aufnahme bei Nidden auf einer Düne gemacht, auf der die Gegenstände gerade herausgeweht waren. Die Stücke lagen auf fester Düne, über die die Wanderdüne hinweggegangen war. Herr Sonntag selbst hat dies von Herrn Fuchs in Nidden persönlich erfahren, dass an der Lagerung nicht zu zweifeln ist.“ [Mr Fuchs took the photograph near Nidden on a dune where the objects had just blown out. The pieces were lying on a firm dune over which the shifting sand dune had passed. Mr Sonntag himself learned this personally from Mr Fuchs in Nidden, that there is no doubt about the position].

If we follow the photo or the description, we would probably have a hoard here because of the arrangement of the finds. Today, none of these pieces can be found in the Prussia collection in the Museum for Pre- and Early History in Berlin. Since no inventory numbers were noted on the documents, it is possible that the artefacts never reached the Prussia Museum in Königsberg. The feature also remained unpublished.

Enlarged detail of the photo panel. © Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Even if you enlarge the photo, you can hardly make out the shapes of the flint blades. The axe with a thick butt is not particularly large. Modern excavations in the 1970s at the "Fünf Hügel" site in Nida, which uncovered numerous settlement features, revealed over 90 axes, usually no more than 10 cm long (Rimutė Rimantiėne, Die Kurische Nehrung aus dem Blickwinkel des Archäologen [Vilnius 1999] pp. 69-70, fig. 24). Probably the unusual feature can be assigned to the Neolithic Haffküstenkultur (Agnė Čivilytė, Die Funde der Steinzeit in Litauen und ihr kultureller Kontext. In: Die vor- und frühgeschichtlichen Funde aus Litauen. Bestandskatalog 12 [Berlin 2013] pp. 39-43).