Kernavė between East and West: trade links
Trade is a very important process, which has influence on economical, political and daily life. Often the general development of the tribe, nation or even state depended on the trade. Novelties, new technologies and things that cannot be made locally have been reaching our region through the trade links.
In the first centuries A.D. Roman Empire was intensively trading with barbaric lands, mostly Germanic tribes. The territory of Balts was at quite a distance from Roman Empire and Roman merchants were visiting them very rarely. However, Baltic lands were interesting to Romans at one point: they were lured by amber, which is found at the shores of the Baltic lands. On the other hand, the trade was extremely important to the Baltic tribes - they could acquire colored metals only through the trade. Archaeological finds quite credibly illustrate the scale of such trade. The Roman import in the Baltic region is discovered much less than in the Germanic lands that were much closer to the borders of Roman Empire. It is thought that Balts have traded with Rome not directly, but through mediators, most probably Germans. Archaeological research has shown that Kernavė also was involved in this trade. Roman coins, glassware and jewelery characteristic to the Germanic tribes were discovered here. Local people in Kernavė didn't have amber, so they probably had to trade other goods - pelts, wax, slaves, maybe.
Advanced trade links are of the most important criteria to characterize a medieval town. Historical sources show that Lithuanian trade links with distant lands were increasing intensively at the beginning of the 13th century. The biggest interest in Lithuania was shown by the German merchants from the lands, occupied by the Order. Lithuania was interesting to them as a source of raw material, hunting and wood beekeeping products. Also there had to be a slave trade as well. Fact is that the prohibitions to sell iron, salt, clothes and weapons to the pagans, issues by the Pope, was negatively influencing the trade.
Lithuanian merchants are already mentioned in the first half of the 13th century. At the end of the same age the Debt book of Ryga town mentions merchants from Kernavė - Remeišis and Studila. The first Lithuanian merchants were Duke's dependent people who acted only on the interests of ruler. However soon free merchants started appearing. Such merchants are clearly testified by the attitude of the Grand Duke Traidenis to such people mentioned in the chronicles: he scornfully calls them simple folk and dogs and leaves them to their fate refusing to pay the ransom for them.
The archaeological material from Kernavė also confirms the historical data and shows a huge impact of the trade on the life of local townsmen. First of all, the imported goods, part of which were discovered only in the residence of the duke and not in homesteads of the common folk. Though the origin of the artifacts is spread over a wide geographical region, most of them, probably, were acquired through mediators from the regions closer to us.
The development of the trade links is also shown by the abundant money finds in Kernavė. At first these were silver sticks - Lithuanian longbars or their parts, later smaller currency appeared. The international currency at that time was the Prague groschen and during the rule of Jogaila first Lithuanian coins were minted. Silver coins became a currency only in the 13th century. Before the individual coins, imported from other regions, were made into adornments - pendants. So these coins had no currency value.
We cannot say for sure where the market was in Kernavė. Archaeological research did not discover its place. However on a small hill near the Neris few scale weights were discovered incidentally and the street direction is towards that place. This allows us to guess that the marketplace might have been in this very spot.
Here we are inviting you to follow the trade links of Kernavė from their beginning up to medieval times. Prehistoric and medieval artifacts: the currency units and imported goods that are found in Kernavė and its surrounding are on display.