Asva fortified settlement

The tiny village of Asva is located at the 33 kilometer mark on the Kuivastu - Laimjala - Kuressaare road. There, behind the village on a low-lying hayfield is located one of the most archaeologically important bronze-age sites in Northern Europe. This site, Asva, has given its name to an entire culture.

Asva culture was the westernmost reach of the Finno-Ugrian late Bronze Age culture. This culture was based on herding, seal hunting, the beginnings of agriculture and, bronze casting.

During the Bronze Age, the ridge on which the settlement was located was an islet or peninsula in a shallow bay. Today, the sea has retreated many miles, and the settlement reminds us of its old seashore location only during spring flooding.

The area was first excavated in 1930 and 1931 by a local resident, O. Reis, then a student at Tartu University. In those days, the location was still known as "Hill Fort Field" and O. Reis was looking for an answer for that name. His finds raised the interest of professional archaeologists.

Later excavations (in 1934, 1938-1939 by R. Indreko, 1948 by A. Vasar, 1949 by M. Schmiedehelm, and 1965-1966 by V. Lõugas) verified the excistence of the oldest (at that time) and the longest habited fortified settlement on Saaremaa.

The entire settlement covers a 3,500 square meter area. Approximately one sixth of that area has been excavated, a total of 5,800 finds has been collected.

The oldest dated settlement was desroyed by fire sometime during 685 to 585 B.C. Soon, rebuilding started. The natural rise of the bluff was refortified with a mixture of soil and clay. Unfortunately, that one also fell to fire.

There are signs of a continuing settlement from the beginning of the first millenium. More tensive building took place during the middle of the first millenium. The edges of the bluff were sharpened, walls were rebuilt and heightened. The site as we see it today dates to those years. Apparently, the site maintained its name, Hill Fort Field, in popular oral tradition, from those years dating back to the years around 500 A.D.