Reconstruction of Lake-Dwellers House and Fence

In the 1800s the water level of Lake Neuchâtel was lowered about ten feet exposing a forest of wood poles sticking out of the lake mud. These poles were a mystery until many years later archaeologists deduced that they were driven into the dirt and mud by lake dwellers who lived on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel thousands of years ago. The poles were what remained of pilings from which were suspended homes made of wood, mud and thatch. These villagers and people in similar villages along the lake shore came to be known as the Cortaillod Civilization. Like their predecessors on the Jura and the plateau they were hunters, but they also raised goats, cows, pigs, sheep and dogs. They planted grains and formed good quality earthenware bowls, pots, plates, lamps and spoons. They were the first known farmers to the region around present day Hauterive-Champreveyres. These farmers lived over 5800 years ago, and today's farmers continue to plant their crops along the shores of the lake.

Most of what has been found of the Cortaillod Civilization is the result of underwater archaeology and highway construction. The level of the lake waters was lower than it is today. The lake dwellers built their homes on these stilts made of oak on the shore of the lake. Over the centuries the lake waters rose, and the stilts of the houses of the long-departed inhabitants was inundated. The fact that the stilts were made of oak and the lake waters soaked the pilings preserved the wood. The exact age of each piling is determined by reading the tree rings and comparing these rings with other trees of known age.

Lake-Dweller House on Stilts, Reconstruction


Stilt Foundations

Eventually the level of the lake rose. Underwater archaeology revealed the remains of the house stilts of the lake dwellers. But many more centuries of material remains, before and after the time of these first farmers, were unearthed during the construction of Motorway N5. An enlightened piece of Swiss legislation in 1961 required highway construction funds to be used on the recording and retrieval of archaeological finds exposed during new highway construction. The results are a treasure of information and artifacts of the people of the lake and Jura area near or in the present towns of Auvernier, Neuchâtel, Hauterive and St-Blaise dating back from 11,000 B.C. - from the first hunters in the area to the first farmers and later the first metal workers.

A reconstruction of a lake dwelling and artifacts spanning thousands of years are found in the new Laténium, parc et Musée d'Archéology (Latenium, Park and Archaeology Museum).


Model of Stilt-house Village, Latenium, Parc and Archaeology Museum