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Bronze Age village found under Swiss lake

A diver brings a piece of stilt to the surface (April 22, 2021) Keystone / Urs Flueeler

Archaeologists have, for the first time, found traces of a Bronze Age lakeside village under the surface of Lake Lucerne. The find shows that the city of Lucerne area was already populated 3,000 years ago.

This is 2,000 years earlier than previously thought, researchers said on Thursday.

Traces of a pile dwelling (or stilt house) village came to light while laying a pipeline in the natural harbour area. The remnants were found by underwater archaeologists around four metres below the water surface.

A diver in Lake Lucerne
A diver from Zurich’s unterwater archaeology department at work in Lake Lucerne Unterwasserarchäologie UWAD Zürich/Canton Lucerne

“This finally confirms the theory that, in earlier times, the Lucerne lake basin was a suitable settlement area,” a canton Lucerne statementExternal link said.

Proof of settlement

Archaeologists had been looking for proof of settlement for some time, but had been hampered by a thick layer of mud at the bottom of the lake. Work on the pipeline however revealed around 30 prehistoric wooden piles or stilts and five pieces of pottery.

The wood and pottery have been tested and dated to the late Bronze Ages, so around 1,000 years BC.

An artist s impression of life at a Lucerne area stilt village
An artist’s impression of life at a Lucerne area stilt village Joe Rohrer/Canton of Lucerne

The find coincides with the 10th anniversary of prehistoric lakeside pile dwellings in Alpine countries – including in Switzerland – being given Unesco World Heritage Site status.

In all, 111 of the most important sites in six countries have gained the label. Of these, 56 are in SwitzerlandExternal link.

Unesco describes the groupExternal link of dwellings as “one of the most important sources for the study of early agrarian societies in the region”.



Life on stilts

This content was published on Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy and France have successfully campaigned to have 111 of the most important lakeside pile dwellings in the Alps designated World Heritage sites. Of these, 56 are in Switzerland.

Read more: Life on stilts


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR