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Prehistoric poles pitched in Lake Geneva protest

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Prehistoric poles pitched in Lake Geneva protest
Scientists cataloguing prehistoric poles found in Lake Geneva. Photo: University of Geneva
20:37 CEST+02:00
After retrieving 2,400 wooden poles from Lake Geneva that served as stilts for wooden buildings from the Bronze Age, archeologists recently pitched all but 150 of them back in the water over a dispute with the cantonal government.

The Tribune de Genève newspaper reported the protest action on Wednesday, explaining that the scientists were unhappy with a decision by the Geneva government to sell most of the 3,000-year-old artifacts on the private market.

The stakes or "piloti" were uncovered off the shores of the lake at Eaux-Vives, a Geneva neighbourhood, where a pre-historic village consisting of wooden houses on stilts existed at the edge of the lake from 1070 to 858 BC, according to the University of Geneva.

Discovered stuck in clay, the poles were the sole remnants of the site known as Le Plonjon.

They were retrieved by divers because of concerns that the site was threatened by the development of a new beach at Eaux-Vives, although that project has been held up by legal challenges from environmentalists.

The government authorized in 2011 an archeological dig at the site at a cost of 2.4 million francs.

But the Tribune de Genève said archeologists were opposed to selling the poles to private buyers, saying that such heritage artifacts should not be disposed of this way.

“The commercialization of archeological vestiges goes against our ethics,” cantonal archeologist Jean Terrier told the newspaper.

“The current trend is to fight against the trafficking of heritage objects,” he said.

The government is said to be shocked by the decision which it says put in peril public projects involving the stilts.

All the poles were photographed and measured in a detailed cataloguing process.

Scientists believe people lived by the edge of the lake as far back as 4,000 BC, with homes built on stilts to deal with rising and falling water levels.

In the 19th century scientists uncovered the sites of three lakeside villages in the canton of Geneva, following the discovery of one at Morges in the canton of Vaud.  

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