02Grobiņa Hillfort (Skābarža Hill) and settlement
Grobiņa hillfort and settlement is located in the western part of the town centre of Grobiņa. The hillfort is situated on an elevated peninsula formed by river Ālande. The area of the peninsula is flat and oval in shape – 80 m in length and 40-45 m in width. To the south and west, the hillfort is cut off by a millpond and to the north it is bordered by marshy valley. Its eastern border follows Parka Street, which also serves as the western border of the settlement. The settlement is located at the eastern foot of the hillfort, between Saules Street to the north and river Ālande to the south. The eastern border crosses an area covered by modern 20th century buildings, between Saules Street and river Ālande. Located in close proximity to Smukumi burial ground, Grobiņa hillfort and settlement share a buffer zone with this site.
Close to the Smukumi burial ground, the remains of a 20 ha settlement are located next to the Grobiņa hillfort. The settlement of the site is dated to be around the second half of the Iron Age, although, the site, despite large in size, has not been simultaneously populated with the same intensity in all its territory. Future studies will provide more detailed insight regarding the nature of the settlement, its internal organisation and dating, because the cultural layer identified so far in the large territory can be described as irregular.
The slopes of the hillfort have been artificially steepened and the plateau has been artificially levelled, indicating the man-made nature of the construction. On the eastern side, the plateau is delimited by a c. 30 m wide and 2 m high flat-topped rampart. East of the rampart are the remains of a silted-up moat. The rampart occupies about a third of the upper part of the hillfort, which allows to assume that in the course of time it has been levelled; moreover, in 2016 the systematic geological drilling at 21 locations on the rampart provided no signs that the former constructions have been destroyed, for instance, as a result of fire set by attacking enemies. The hillfort plateau is 65-70 m long and 40-45 m wide and lies 4.5 to 5 m above the surface of the millpond.
In the course of the archaeological excavation in 1929-1930 an area of 24 m2 with an occupation deposit 1.2 m in thickness was demonstrated, however, the bottom of the cultural layer was not reached. Later auger surveys showed that the thickness of the cultural occupation deposits on the hillfort plateau is much greater than previously anticipated. The surveys, which were carried out from 2010 to 2012 by the archaeologists from the National History Museum of Latvia and the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology in Schleswig (Germany), brought up new questions regarding the location and the function of the hillfort both before the arrival of new settlers and during their settlement on the site. Therefore archaeological excavations were started in 2016 resulting in the investigation of the hillfort in the area of 32 m2 and the settlement in the area of 16 m2 and obtaining proof of active life on the hillfort during the Middle Ages and Modern Times (on the hillfort alone the cultural layer developed during this period of time was 1.2 m in thickness). Thus, according to archaeological record, the cultural occupation extended from the 5th to the 20th century AD.
Grobiņa archaelogical ensemble consists of several archaelogical monuments of the same period: Grobiņa hillfort (Skābarža hill) and the ancient town, Priediens ancient burial site, Porāni (Pūrāni) burial mound site, Smukumi flat-grave burial site, and Atkalni flat-grave burial site, which are located compactly in Grobiņa and its surroundings. These monuments mostly date back to the 7th - 9th centuries and they are related to the impressive Scandinavian settlement, which under the name Seeburg was mentioned in the 9th century written sources. Grobiņa archaelogical ensemble are included in the nomination "Grobiņa archaelogical ensemble" to UNESCO`S world heritage list.