Juodkrantė’s Treasure story started in the middle of the 19th century, a lot of amber was found after some navigation works in the Curonian Lagoon near Juodkrantė. Rumours had been spread about enormous amber resources on the bed of the Curonian Lagoon. In 1857 two famous merchants of Klaipėda Wilhelm Stantien and Moritz Becker established a company: “Stantien and Becker”. They constantly excavated the bed of the lagoon in a small fisher’s settlement in Juodkrantė. Sandy mass of the lagoon ground used to be lifted by excavating steam-machines (dredges) and poured into small ships with sifters. Sand used to be sifted back to the lagoon; wood, black soil pieces and amber stayed in the sifters. This type of excavating (dredging) appeared to be very effective – 70 tons of amber was excavated in a year.
After some time it turned out that some small amber pieces trimmed by human hand many years ago were excavated together with “normal” amber. For a long time nobody understood the enormous archaeological and scientific value of those findings. At the beginning workers used to sell those pre-historical handicraft articles or just to give them as funny gifts to the visitors of Juodkrantė. From that period it was understood that exceptionally valued collection that included very rare amber statuette of a man had been sold to New York. No news had left about the destiny of this collection. Three years after the beginning of amber extraction in Juodkrantė (geologist R. Klebs started to work in this company as a scientific consultant) it was decided to forbid commerce of scientifically valued amber examples. Workers were severely punished, if they were caught stealing amber.
During the period of 1860-1881 he succeeded in collecting 434 pre-historical handicraft articles that had been made in the 2nd and 3rd millenniums BC (the Early Stone Age, Neolithic period). The main Juodkrantė’s Treasure place was a flat shoal in the Curonian Lagoon stretched 650 m to the North from Juodkrantė and 2.5 km long. The ancient amber handicraft articles were found together with raw amber 2-4 meters deep. The treasure consists of raw amber and complete handicraft articles. The collection contains many pendants of different forms: long and narrow, regular with an oblique base, almost rectangular and oval. Different buttons had been found – small round and oval, up to 4,5 cm long, big boat-shaped, some of them had plain surface, others were decorated with dots. Also, there were found different tube-shaped beads with straight to slightly curved sides that had surface ranging from lightly retouched to highly polished, and many links and disks. New Stone Age plastic art objects (amber statuettes of people and animals) are an exceptionally valuable part of this collection. All these objects were described and published in R. Klebs’s book “Amber jewellery of Stone Age” in 1882. Particularly valuable were plastic art artefacts (amber human and animal figurines) of Neolithic age.
These figures are different in form as well as individual sculptural treatment, they may be considered as the oldest examples of plastic art in Lithuania. One of them apparently depicts a woman, the other only a human face. It is estimated that the figures were portable as amulets, because some of them had a drilled hole. A very schematized animal’s head, probably of the horse, was found in Juodkrantė’s Treasure. Cylindrical beads, buttons, circles, pendants in the form of stone axes were mostly found. Amber buttons in a shape of lens, which were worn 4000 years ago in the Curonian Spit, have V shaped holes. These holes were drilled in characteristic of the Neolithic and early Bronze Age. The holes were made with small flint borer. Because the borer was not long enough, the holes were drilled on both sides. Amber pendants, buttons and circles were polished, that’s why it is difficult to discern traces of the earlier treatment. So, when giving a date to an article, it is essential to investigate holes, which were intact by polishing. Amber human figures from Juodkrantė’s Treasure are similar to a small amber human figure, found in the south of Nida, together with stone axes and other Stone Age artefacts. The form and processing of this figure is similar to human bone figure, which was found in Tamulis village (Estonia). Some Neolithic amber artefacts from Nida and found early like Juodkrantė’s Treasure, came to individual amateurs. For example, one human figure got to the private collector in New York.
The word was spread around the world about these artefacts from Stone Age (culture Narva). Juodkrantė’s Treasure surprises in the way that it consists of a variety of periods and cultural kinds. Researchers wondered, how could this happen. There were some suppositions that the treasure was thrown out in this particular place and left. Others argue that it can not be that artefacts from different periods were washed ashore to one place and put their efforts proving that it could have been a permanent place of sacrifice. It is known that sacrificial sites remained in the same place for centuries. In addition, in the Stone Age the sacrifice was often sunk in water, the burning of sacrifice occurred in conjunction with farming.
After R. Klebs described all these amulets in his book “Amber jewellery of Stone Age”, Juodkrantė’s Treasure was transported to Königsberg, where it was exposed. However, during the Second World War, this treasure disappeared along with other unique exhibits of amber as well as the famous amber room. And only thanks to Professor Andre several Juodkrantė’s Treasure amulets have survived till our time. During the front he stowed the most valuable museum exhibits in boxes, and evacuated them. It was thought that they were irretrievably lost. But later they were found near Göttingen castle (Saxony, Germany). They were noticed by the occupation army soldiers. In 1958 some of them got into the Göttingen University. Retrieved valuables are stored there until now.
Restored Juodkrantė’s Treasure is exhibited in Amber Museum in Nida and in Vilnius. This is the best work of the best-qualified restorer Bronė Kunkulienė (Pranas Gudynas restoration centre). She reconstructed this collection in accordance with the drawings comparing them with similar Stone Age findings in Lithuanian.