Kernavė was a medieval capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and today is a tourist attraction and an archeological site (population 238, 2021). It is located in the Širvintos district municipality located in southeast Lithuania. A Lithuanian state cultural reserve was established in Kernavė in 1989. In 2004 Kernavė Archaeological Site was included into UNESCO world heritage list.

The area of Kernavė was sparsely inhabited at the end of the Paleolithic era, with the number of settlements significantly increasing in the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras.

 Fragment of a map of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1613) and Kernavė (Kiernow) "The first capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania", shown just north of the capital Vilnius (Vilna)[1]

The town was the first capital of Lithuania, a symbol of statehood and pagan independence.[2]

The town was first mentioned in 1279 in written sources, when, as the seat of the Grand Duke Traidenis, it was besieged by the Teutonic Knights. This military operation is mentioned in the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle (with the same passage repeated by Hermann von Wartberge in Cronicon Livoniale). In 1390, during the Lithuanian Civil War (1389–1392), the knights burned the town and its buildings in the Pajauta valley, including the castle. After this raid, the town wasn't rebuilt, and the remaining residents moved to the top of the hill instead of staying in the valley.[3]

In later years, the remains of city were covered with an alluvial layer, that formed wet peat. It preserved most of the relics intact, and it is a treasure trove for archaeologists, leading some to call Kernavė the "Troy of Lithuania".[4] For example, Kernavė has the oldest known medgrinda, a secret underwater road paved with wood. The road was used for defense and dates from the fourth through the seventh centuries.[5]

In 1613, the town was marked on a famous map of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania — Magni Ducatus Lithuaniae, et Regionum Adiacentium exacta Descriptio printed in Amsterdam and financed by the Lithuanian magnate Mikalojus Kristupas Radvila Našlaitėlis.

The site became the subject of wider interest again in the middle of 19th century, when a romantic writer, Feliks Bernatowicz, depicted the area in his novel "Pojata, córka Lizdejki" ("Pajauta, Daughter of Lizdeika", Warsaw, 1826). The hillforts were soon excavated by the Tyszkiewicz brothers and then by Władysław Syrokomla (1859). After World War II, the excavation works were restarted by Vilnius University in 1979, and then again by the Lithuanian Institute of History between 1980 and 1983. The State Cultural Reserve of Kernavė was created in 2003.

^ "1613-ųjų Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštijos žemėlapis" (PDF) (in Lithuanian). Bank of Lithuania. 2013: 1. Retrieved 23 October 2023. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help) ^ Kernavė-Lithuania's troy. World Heritage Journeys of Europe. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2022, from ^ The Kernavė archaeological site: Pagan Lithuania and Baltic culture. The Kernavė Archaeological Site: Pagan Lithuania and Baltic Culture | Atostogos kaime. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2022, from ^ In 2002, the State Kernavė Archaeological Historical Museum organized an exhibition in Warsaw, its first exhibition outside Lithuania, entitled "Kernavė — Troy of Lithuania." "Valstybinio Kernavės Archeologijos ir Istorijos Muziejaus-Rezervato Paroda "Kernavė – Lietuviška Troja" Valstybiniame Varšuvos Archeologijos Muziejuje Archived 2008-10-10 at the Wayback Machine", Lietuvos Muziejai. Accessed 12 October 2006. ^ (in Lithuanian) Kaplūnaitė, Irma (16 December 2005). "Terminai". Aruodai. Retrieved 22 March 2009.
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