3rd Workshop in Vooremaa & Kodavere parish, Estonia on Landscape Shapes

2016-05-28

Context

This study landscape lies on the Western edge of Estonia, by Lake Peipsi, which is the border lake between Estonia and Russia. The landscape is almost completely rural, only a few town-like villages exist. The habitation is sparse, in dispersed villages. This landscape region is interesting because it includes the lowlands of Lake Peipsi, the clayish-sandy agricultural soils of the southeastern Estonian plain, and relic land forms (elongated drumlins) left by the regressing ice cap. With the location by the lake system of Peipsi and Pskov it has been touched by the cultural influences of many passers-by who sailed along the lake system and made this landscape culturally and naturally diverse.

Summary

The aim of the last workshop in this study landscape was to conclude the previous ones and explain once again why we chose this landscape as one of the study landscapes for the project HERCULES. It took place on 28 May 2016, on a historical river/lake boat on Lake Peipsi, where we rode from the estuary of River Great Emajõgi to Kallaste, which is one of the harbors on the western coast of the lake.

With an overview of what we have been doing in the course of the project, in particular from the interviews conducted in the area (about the the home landscapes of the interviewees), but also from the a mapping project, the presentations were to explain how the landscape changes people and people change landscape. That it is not just people changing landscape, but landscape as such changes and challenges people who live there. A boat ride on Lake Peipsi (where even the most seasoned seamen get seasick) seemed an appropriate location to demonstrate landscape challenges as riding on the lake by boats has been one of the most important activities in the past in that area.

Results

The Estonian local workshop introduced a discussion about ancient harbor sites on the western shore of the lake, which was the subject of WP2’s analysis of the long-term history of the area. Feedback was collected from the boat men who talked about the importance of local knowledge about currents and winds in terms of being able to sail to and stop at different places. One of the main issues raised during the boat ride was, of course, living by the fourth biggest lake in Europe that appears almost like an inland sea such as the Baltic Sea. Deriving from that, boatride rules and conditions may be a little different in the Baltic Sea and Lake Peipsi than they are for example in the North Sea.

Waterway from the Baltic Sea (Finnish Gulf) to Lake Peipsi designed important historical trading centres during Viking Age and early Medieval period, and passed the city of Tartu, which used to be the most important trading centre of South-Estonia. In Kodavere, north of Tartu, archaeological material from 10th century onwards refers to some regional contacts in that area. The topography and location of archaeological sites also refers to landing sites that were important places in the landscape. The use of the lake and small inland water bodies has remained, but the landing sites have changed locations due to the land upheaval and the rise of the water level of Lake Peipsi. WP2 work tried to locate those older landing sites and see how settlement pattern has changed since the beginning of the end of the first millennium AD, and even look into the possible settlement pattern of the whole first millennium AD. To do that, it was very important to collect the knowledge of present-day seamen who know the essence of Lake Peipsi from the lake, not from the land. And although this experience may not be too special compared to seaman experience in other maritime countries, it helped to study the past of the landscape.

Therefore, the workshop in the lake gave an experience of how it was to pass quite a short way by the lake (about 20 km) with quite high waves and wind in a nutshell-like shape boat. As the wind was not from the “right” direction, it took very long time to pass that 20 km, and moving towards a harbor took a lot of effort from the sailors, and was a real Medieval experience.

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