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Archaeological Park Āraiši

Location: N57° 15` 6.53", E25° 16` 57.5" | Website: amata.lv/araisu-ezerpils/

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Besides the castle molds and ancient towns in territory of Latvia, in 9-10 century there was another type of peculiar indurate place of residence – homes on the lake. They were located on lake islands, built on shoals or piles, which could be used for protection of women and children during the attack of an enemy, or it was used as a safe alternative living place for the part of community who was working with fishing.

The connection of past and today can be clearly seen in Āraiši lake dwelling site. Āraiši lake dwelling site was a populated, indurate ancient Latgali settlement on island of Āraiši lake from 9th to 10th century. Āraiši lake dwelling site has been partly renovated, accompanied by archeologist Janis Apals, and up to today it is one of the most popular archeological tourism objects in Latvia. The settlement area was around 2000m2. It was built on a low, overflowing island about 50m from the coast, and it was indurate similar to the castle mound.

Living buildings had been located in the centre of the island, and economic structures were built behind them. Each side of the buildings was indurate with protective fence. The settlement with the coastwas connected by a paved dam.

Judging by the finds, citizens of Āraiši lake dwelling site were occupied with agriculture and cattle breeding. Transhumance, hunting and fishing also was an important part of the economy. 

***Legend about the sunken castle ***

Latvian legends are telling that on the place where now the small island is, a castle has sunken down in Āraiši lake, and when the time is clear, it is possible to see the castle remains at the bottom of the Āraiši lake. Fishermen were avoiding to fish near the island because the nets are catching on the old wooden piles.   


Āraiši stone castle located near the dwelling site was auxiliary castle of Cesis order commandery. The oldest mention of Āraiši name can be found in history of 1410, but Āraiši as castle was first called in 1438. Also archeologist J. Apals recognized that the initial time of the castle population could be 14th century, which is shown by the coin deposit which was found on site.

Because of the Livonian war, Āraiši are appearing in documents of the second half of the16th century. In 1561 Āraiši got into property of king of Poland and became the centre of the trade manor.

Since the second half of the 16th century, second description of Āraiši appears in documents – Old Cesis (Stara Kies). The appearance of this name made misunderstanding between historians during the later centuries about the fact where are Cesis origins located. Newest archeological studies in Cesis show that the oldest before German population in territory of Cesis city are connected with so called Riekstukalns castle mound which is located besides Cesis stone castle.