Cēsis Castle offers online archaeological treasure trove

One of Latvia's most popular tourist sites, Cēsis Castle, has announced an ambitious initiaitive to present its collection of archaeological findings online.

The collection comprises many artefacts that are recognised as being of international importance, including hundreds of late medieval plate armour fragments as well as artefacts related to the ill-fated siege of1577.

Latvia’s museums exhibit only a small part of the archaeological findings from Cēsis Castle. A considerably larger number of the 13,000 artefacts is found at the collection storage facilities of the National History Museum of Latvia (Rīga), and the Cēsis History and Art Museum (Cēsis).

"In order to consolidate the collection of artefacts stored across two museums, and make them publicly accessible, Cēsis Culture and Tourism Centre have started to develop an open resource – a database of archaeological objects from Cēsis Castle. The initiative goes hand in hand with the publishing of the monographic series Cēsu pils raksti (Research Papers of Cēsis Castle). Database users can see the artefacts published in Cēsu pils raksti, as well as access all published research papers," a release about the initiative says.

The archaeological excavations at Cēsis Castle resulted not just in a sizable number of artefacts, but also many stone architectural fragments: corbels, vault ribs, parts of columns and other elements, which wound up in the archaeological layers with the collapse of the castle’s buildings. This is one of the most extensive and valuable collections of medieval architectural fragments in Latvia. To ensure that these significant relics are easily accessible, the database has a section with photos and drawings of the stone architectural fragments found at the castle.

Gundars Kalniņš, head of the medieval castle department at Cēsis Culture and Tourism Center told LSM the idea originated in an archaeological conference held at the castle in 2013.

"Over the last few years, the database has gradually taken on its current form... However, there is still a long way to go before the database can be considered complete," Kalniņš said.

"More and more museums elsewhere in the world are making their collections virtually accessible, but there cannot be many that collect archaeological artefacts from one particular heritage site and make them available digitally," he said. 

Asked which items might be of particular interest to first-time digital visitors, Kalniņš suggested looking at the so-called 'Volters Štriks deposit' – a hoard of 16th century coins discovered in 1971 – and the Research Papers section, which outlines much of the latest academic research.

The online database is available to examine in both Latvian and English.

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