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The everyday reality behind the iron curtain

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This presentation by Šarūnė Valotkienė (Vilnius University Faculty of Communication and the Department of Archaeology of National Museum of Lithuania) explores what a collection of images of archaeological excavations taken between 1948 and 1968 can tell us about every day life in Lithuania. The collection includes diaries and memoirs of Lithuanian archaeologists and a set of images taken on-site and off-site showing people working, posing and carrying out a range of activities. At the start of the period excavations were taking place in difficult conditions, during the re-occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union after the second world war. Many of the participants in excavations were women and children as a result of deportations of men. Through the archives Valotkienė was able to talk about every day realities such as clothing, food, employment of local people and children from orphanages, tools and equipment, transport and the living quarters of the archaeologists. Despite the difficulties the archives show that life was good and excavations were social.

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The everyday reality behind the iron curtain

  1. 1. Šarūnė Valotkienė, VUFC National Museum of Lithuania Amersfoort, June 28, 2019
  2. 2. ØThe aim ØThe data ØThe research ØThe conclusions
  3. 3. §The aim of this paper is to examine about 2,000 images to explore what they tell us about Lithuanian society in general, and about archaeological surveys in particular, during this period.
  4. 4. The Laiviai cemetery The Paveisininkų hill-fort The Lower Castle of Vilnius The Kumelionys settlement
  5. 5. Informative Working people Posing people Non- informative Other activities
  6. 6. The everyday reality in archaeological excavations The everyday reality in general
  7. 7. § „The Iron Curtain was the name for the non- physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991.“ (by Wikipedia) § „Europe in 1945 was drained. Much of the continent was devastated by war, mass slaughter, bombing and chaos. Large areas of Eastern Europe were falling under Soviet control, exchanging one despotism for another.“ (Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt)
  8. 8. § Archaeologist Adolfas Tautavičius in 1949 wrote: “An expedition took place under difficult conditions. The government started to found Kolkhozes [collective farms] and Sovkhozes [state farms], begun deportation of farmers. Part of these farmsteads were empty, without windows, doors, overturned fences. Inhabitants were frightened, especially when they saw a car full of people. Then was difficult to know something from them.” Adolfas Tautavičius in 1964
  9. 9. • Women • Students
  10. 10. The first occupation by the Soviet Union The occupation second by the Nazis The third (re)occupation by the Soviet Union Morethan1000000peopledied.
  11. 11. Archaeologist Rimutė Rimantienė in 1967 wrote: “I hired local children to work in an archaeological excavation. After some time, however, they would begin to play and throw dirt at each other. Sometimes children hurried to work and damaged any potsherd.” Rimutė Rimantienė in 1954
  12. 12. The men and boys were usually dressed in trousers, shirts and jackets, the women – in dresses, shirts and skirts. In 1956, 1958, 1960, 1962
  13. 13. In the 1960s during archaeological excavations women started to wear trousers and changed their style of clothing. In 1967
  14. 14. In 1953, 1955
  15. 15. § Rimutė Rimantienė described: “We have to excavate a Stone Age settlement, but the head of the Kolkhoz forgot and planted potatoes in this site. But everything was ok. The head let us dig the potatoes. We dug it day after day and ate. Potatoes, kefir and salads, and later cucumbers and tomatoes. No one sold it for us, we just discovered vegetables on our beds. […] Only butter, milk and cheese we ordered from local people. Kids caught fishes.” Rimutė Rimantienė in 1953
  16. 16. Students from Laurų children's house on the Nemenčinė hillfort, in 1953.
  17. 17. Tools and equipment Other activities Handling of findigs
  18. 18. § Pranas Kulikauskas around 1948–1949 wrote: “We didn‘t have any tools or equipment. “Spoons“ and brushes were borrowed from other museums. The Museum of Šiauliai gave us a camera. We drew the plans ourselves.” Pranas Kulikaukas in the1953
  19. 19. In the 1961, 1962, 1964
  20. 20. • „Spoons“ or „scalpels“ • Brushes • Rulers • Stretchers • Shovels In the 1949, 1952, 1955, 1960
  21. 21. The water pumps, in 1957,Vilnius
  22. 22. • Washing of artefacts • Treatment of bones and archaeological items In 1957, 1960, 1965
  23. 23. • Drawing by hand. In 1951, 1953, 1964.
  24. 24. Taking a picture wih camera. In 1955, 1957, 1961.
  25. 25. In 1962, 1965, 1967 The usual practise was to order a truck to carry everything to the excavated place and from it.
  26. 26. In 1954, 1964, 1962, 1961 In 1962, Pranas Kulikauskas wrote about one exciting example: “On the hill-fort we could go with a boat, because there was a lake. From the other side, we could walk, since there was water up to our knees.“
  27. 27. In 1964, 1952
  28. 28. Dinner. In 1953, 1954
  29. 29. From the Rimutės Rimantienės diary in 1963: “Here in Rudnia village, life is very good. The forest is full of berries. The girls picked a lot of berries, but we could not eat them all, so from what was left we cooked and made jam.” Ending of excavation, 1954
  30. 30. The research revealed that these images are the right tool to explore the everyday reality in general and that of archaeological excavations in particular. Part of the issues were obvious and easily detected. About other conditions, there are only hints. The images are informative sources yet there remains more to be uncovered.„How much gold you dug? – peasants usually asked. In 1957.
  31. 31. In 1952