THE LAKE DWELLINGS OF SWITZERLAND.*
ORDINARY readers need not be alarmed at the apparent bulk of this work. It is a massive volume, to be sure, but one-half is filled with plates, and the other half with information stated in the briefest and clearest style consistent with the necessary com- pleteness, and filling when all is said little more than 400 clearly printed pages. Dr. Ferdinand Keller, whose work Mr. Lee has translated, evidently holds the somewhat unpopular notion that theories should be based upon data, that the more numerous the facts and the more carefully they are sifted the more likely is the ultimate conclusion to be correct. Aided, therefore, by his position as President of the Antiquarian Society of Zurich, he has accumu- lated, analyzed, sifted, and condensed all manner of reports upon the lake dwellings of Switzerland and Northern Italy, until his book is a mine of information for theorists, and he feels enabled to offer his own somewhat disappointing conclusion. He does not assign to the lake dwellings any unfathomable antiquity, does not think that they prove much or indeed anything as to the creation of man, but confines himself to two main points, both very important to our knowledge. It is, he says, impossible to find any evidence for assigning any of the lacustrine villages to any century or group of centuries, there being absolutely no data for such a decision. All that is certain is that they are of " very high antiquity," so high iu the older settlements that their first inhabitants had not discovered the use of metals, but used, like the Mexicans, tools of stone, flint, serpentine, and nephrite or " green slate," and that the same race became civilized up to the point of employing bronze, and ultimately iron. A fixed date the Doctor nowhere gives, but from notices scattered throughout the volume we imagine he considers they had been long in existence when the inhabitants by unknown means opened a communica- • The Lake Dwellings of Switzerland. R7 nr. Ferdinand HOW. Translated by J. E. Lee, F.8.A. London: Longurans.
tion with the Phoenicians, importing among other things " glass beails."
The lake settlements as yet discovered are found on most of the Swiss lakes and some of the northern lakes of Italy, and the main design of all seems to have been the same. They were settlements formed by tribes not absolutely " lacustrine," but also living on the mainland, who deliberately chose these situations as at once safer and more convenient than the shore. The safety sought was, it is probable, from hostile men. Dr. Keller once believed that the founders feared wild beasts, but he has seen reason to abandon that idea. " When we speak of ravenous beasts in the Alpine regions, we can only refer to bears, lynxes, and wolves ; for no mention is made in history of any others, and these are the only animals of the kind whose remains are found either in the lake dwellings or buried in the soil. Now, I have searched in vain in the oldest written chronicles of our country for any instance in which a man has been seized by one of either of the two first-named animals ; and with respect to the third, Conrad Gessner expressly declares that the wolf, so long as his usual sustenance does not fail him, will not venture to attack men ; and Stumpf, who wrote in the middle of the sixteenth century, says that fewer wolves are found in the Alpine moun- tains and Helvetia than in any other country of Europe, for if they came, as was probably the case, from Lombardy or the German countries, they would not be of frequent occurrence." Clearly the builders were flying from something, or they would not have taken the immense trouble involved in the construction of a settle- ment in the water, and the natural fear of man is undoubtedly man. The lake villages were in fact refuges, fortresses, the places selected by weak tribes, or clans, or families far themselves and their herds as most capable of defence, just as—probably from some change in the art of war, of which we know little or nothing, but which may have been a discovery in architecture—the hills afterwards were. There was a period, that is, in the history of man in Switzerland in which an island was the safest refuge, so much the safest as to warrant and repay enormous and protracted toil. Man seeing that produced islands, the precise thing no animal did or could do, such a work being impossible without accumulated knowledge. The process was an easy and yet a thoughtful one. The tribe or fragment of a tribe resolved to create an island first picked out some convenient spot, and dis- played in this matter, thinks Dr. Keller, somewhat high intel- ligence.
"The settlers appear to have considered a sunny shore in some mea- sure protected by hills and promontories from storms and the action of the waves, as a peculiarly favourable locality for erections of this nature. A pleasant bay, opening to the south at the foot of well wooded hills abounding in game, must have been thought particularly inviting. But as even the earliest settlers were not only fishermen and hunters, but also shepherds and agriculturists, as may be proved by the remains of domestic animals and the stores of grain found in the ruins of their dwellings, we may conclude that the neighbourhood of good pastures and tillage land materially influenced them in choosing the sites for their habitations. A second indispensable requisite was a lake shore tolerably broad, but not very deep, chiefly composed of what is called in Switzerland weitfii-grand,' blancfond,' and in English shell marl, so that piles driven into the lake bottom might project a few feet above the surface even at its highest level. The ground must neces- sarily have been of a muddy or gravelly nature, for piles could not have been driven in where the locality was rocky. According to the slope of the shore and the extent of the shell-marl, the lake dwelling was placed farther from or nearer to the land, frequently, however, so close to it that access might be obtained by a bridge or stage from two to three fathoms long. The piles which were used for the substructure of these dwellings were straight stems, from 4 to 8 inches thick, of the kinds of wood growing in the neighbouring forests, viz., oak, beech, fir, pine, and birch. The trees having been felled either by means of fire or with the atone hatchet were used either whole or split, some with the bark on some peeled, and in order to facilitate the driving they were sharpened at the lower end either by fire or by the stone axe above referred to. The pile-driving, which necessitated the use of a raft, was effected by means of heavy stones and ponderous mallets, many of which have been found. There can be no doubt that the piles were placed, not at random, but according to a regularly arranged plan, and as there is hardly a case in which the superstructure of any of these dwellings yet remains, so in like manner the original arrangement of the piles can very seldom be made out. They appear above the lake bottom like the remains of a forest snapped off by a storm or destroyed by an avalanche. When the piling was finished, which of course was of greater or less extent according to the number of the colonists, the outermost piles, at least in some cases, either to prevent the splashing of the water under the future abodes or for the sake of catching fish, were securely wattled together with twigs. Then came the equally difficult and laborious task of making the plat- form on which the huts were to stand, and which had also to be large enough to carry on many different operations. To accomplish this, stems or trunks 10 or 12 feet long had holes bored in them at both ends, and they were then fastened with wooden pins on to the heads of the upright piles which had been previously brought to a level. Trunks of firwood 5 or 6 feet long were then split into boards about 2 inches thick and fastened with wooden pegs into the framework, and thus formed a solid even platform." The space covered with this platform was often 100,000 square feet in area, connected with the mainland by a causeway on piles, floored with cross-beams, strewn with gravel, palisaded, and covered with huts, which Dr. Keller, we think on somewhat imperfect evidence, decides to have been rectangular, which were probably closely packed together, — though this is only certain at Niederwyl, — but which allowed space for the cattle, the great wealth, as we may reasonably conjecture, of the people. That the lake men ate them and did not depend entirely upon fish, as was for a moment supposed, is certain, though it is most probable from a singular piece of evidence that their food was insufficient. All the marrow bones found have been picked—a proof that the tribes thought it important to leave nothing eatable uneaten. At the same time they were hunters and fishermen, making bows, spears, and nets, and had some rudi- mentary knowledge of agriculture, that science which of all others most provokes speculation. What taught the early races the fact, antecedently so improbable, that if the earth were scratched and seed put in it, the seed would come up thirtyfold ? They could see the beasts and the fishes, indeed animals have the power of seeing and seizing them. But what taught man, and man only, that buried seed would live again, and that if the earth were scratched first the new life became more probable ? The lake-dwellers had either discovered this or brought the knowledge with them from Asia, for they raised wheat, and barley, and flax.
"In every lake dwelling are to be found stones for braising and grinding grain, or what are called corn-crushers and mealing stones, the very grain itself has been found at Meilen, Moosseedorf, and Wangen, nay, even the very loaves or cakes in their original form ; and we there- fore recognize the colonists as agriculturists, and see them advanced to a grade of civilization when men formed permanent abodes, and secured for themselves a peaceful neighbourhood and social order. Tho tilling of the ground must indeed have been simple in the highest degree, and have consisted merely in tearing it up by the means of inefficient tools made of stags' horns (see Plate XCIV., fig. 3), or with crooked branches of trees, as is now done in North America. But the products obtained by imperfect tillage from the cultivated ground, which would have to be enclosed by hedges as a protection against wild animals, are of a quality which is not surpassed by the best of the present day."
They made weapons of flint—though flint hatchets are not found in Switzerland—canoes of logs, earthenware utensils " ornamented" by digs of the finger into the clay, bows, arrows, and generally most tools which can possibly be prepared of bone. They were in fact about as far advanced as the lower savage races of modern days, but then arises the grand point of difference. Dr. Keller believes, and gives masses of evidence for his belief, that the people who used flint, and bone, and bits of wood gradually became acquainted with bronze by importation, and that the new material superseded the old, to be superseded in its turn by iron. They also improved their pottery, though never up to the early Etruscan point, and at last found themselves strong enough, either from the increase of peacefulness or from greater mastery of building material, to quit the lakes altogether, abandoning their water villages when- ever they were burnt clown,---fire, as appears from the remains, being the universal agent of destruction. We cannot follow Dr. Keller through his proofs, though they certainly appear to our minds conclusive in the existing condition of knowledge, but must content ourselves with extracting his synopsis of results :—
" As no national distinction can be proved between the dwellers on land and the dwellers on the lakes, so in like manner no serious doubt can arise as to the identity of the people who first made use of stone celts, then made implements of bronze of admirable quality, and lastly, forged its weapons and tools out of iron. The difference of material used for the various implements marks the epochs which follow each other imthe development of quo, and the same race, not the degree of civilization of different peoples. An interruption of the civilization which was gradually advancing, the entrance of a foreign element, is not observable if we examine the monuments still remaining, amongst which we may especially mention the burial-places, and the various implements of the pre-Roman time. In the very same graves and tumuli implements of stone and braze, precisely alike in form, have been found lying together, and the same remark will apply in other graves to implements of bronze and iron. The products of the potter's art also are seen, with all their characteristic peculiarities, through all the stages of their development, and form links in the outward pheno- mena of the different periods."
Thus, then, stands the theory in Dr. Keller's judgment. A branch of the Celtic people who were the earliest possessors of Central Europe built villages on piles in the lakes, not as temporary refuges and not as habitations for a particular caste, but as safe places in which they intended to live, and did live, and gradually became civilized, in part by contact with an outer world, in part by self-development, until shortly atter the introduction of iron they found they could abandon dwellings so isolated, and involving such great and annoying labour in construction. Each step of this view he fortifies by careful descriptions and by numbers of draw- ings. Take, for example, the account of Nidau, the settlement in the Lake of Bienne, which of itself is sufficient to raise a strong presumption in the correctness of Dr. Keller's theory, Nidau being a village where remains of stone, of bronze, and even of iron are found in profusion and together. They have been studied with a loving care, of which one curious example must suffice. Among them are numbers of clay rings. " These rings are made of clay mixed with little stones and pieces of charcoal, but they are imper- fectly burnt, and very little care has been bestowed upon them ; they vary in external diameter from 3f to 9i inches ; the hole in the middle is from 7 lines to 2f inches wide, and the thickness of the ring itself varies from 1 inch to upwards of 2 inches." The antiquaries were greatly puzzled as to the use of these rings, and were inclined to settle that they were net-weights, when it was noticed that most of the pipkins had no bottom, but were spherical, and these carelessly made rings were intended as stands to keep the spheres upright. So minute has been this kind of inquiry that it is possible to deduce from Dr. Keller's collections a nearly com- plete account of the habits, arts, difficulties, and civilization of the lake tribes, and even to form a guess at a superstition prevalent among them—a belief that a crescent moon formed of stone or clay and placed outside their dwellings averted sickness,—a possible explanation of the belief still extant in country districts that a horseshoe nailed over the door averts the danger of witchcraft. To all who care for minute facts carefully arranged about a compart- ment of history but just opened, we can recommend this carefully edited volume.