- Material on amber harvesting and
realization characteristic of the coastal strip of modern-day Lithuania
lacks consistency and comprehensiveness. Historical sources and research
works devoted to the coastal portions ruled by Prussia, the Grand Duchy
of Lithuania, Curland and Russia differ in distribution, number and
- Most and broadest scientific interest has
received the history of amber collecting and trade in Prussia. It
suffices to mention the monograph by A. Aurifaber [A. Aurifaber, 1551]
published as early as 1551. In the late 17th c. the same problems were
in the focus of the works by P. J. Hartmann [P. J. Hartmann, 1699], M.
CH. Hartknoch [M. CH. Hartknoch MDCLXXXIV], M. Praetorius [M.
Praetorius, 2000]. The last two have served as reference and source for
the present study too. Contribution by F. S. Bock [F. S. Bock, 1767], A.
Kotzebue [A. Kotzebue, 1811], the 18th c., certainly deserves
mentioning. The 19th c. was extremely rich in investigation in this
field, of the works of the century stands out the study by K. G. Hagen
[K. G. Hagen, 1823], which has also been used by the authors. The works
by German historians of the 20th centuries served as reference for the
Lithuanians J. Remeika [J. Remeika, 1939], J. Kaskelis [J. Kaskelis,
1933], J. Bubnys [J. Bubnys, 1957], V. Katinas [V. Katinas, 1980] and
others have used the ideas by German authors too indiscriminately.
Historical amber production and trade features of the coastal strip of
Memel were addressed by the historians A. Bezzenberger [A. Bezzenberger,
1889], G. Willoweit [G. Willoweit, 1969a, 1969b], F. Ulrich [F. Ulrich,
1970] in the 19-20th c. Besides these, as additional sources for
separate facts or additional material served works of regional
ethnological and history character by C. Hinze, U. Diederichs [C. Hinze,
U. Diederichs, 1986], P. Jakstas [P. Jakstas, 1992], V. Kulakov, S.
Simenas [V. Kulakov, S. Simenas, 1999], G. Hermanowski [G. Hermanowski,
- Changes in regulations applied to amber
collection and trade on the coastal strip ruled by the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania reflect only in the old inventories of Darbenai estate, and
the townships of Palanga and Sventoji. These inventories have been used
as sources Z. Kiaupa [Z. Kiaupa,1999], E. Meilius [E. Meilius 1997], M.
Balcius [M. Balcius, 1999, a]. This aspect was given a detailed analysis
by Z. Kiaupa in his study on Palanga and Sventoji townships. Least
described are the regulations on the strip ruled by Curland. Historical
knowledge presented by M. Balcius only gives ground for guessing. The
shortage of historical sources, which would provide for a deeper
knowledge of the system applied for amber collecting, trade and
processing, makes the results of excavations carried out by V. Zulkus
[V. Zulkus, 1982, 1985, 1989, 1999a, b] and M. Balcius very important.
The so far unrivaled study by I. N. Uchanova [I. N. Uchanova, 1972]
describes the regulations of the seacoast strip under the rule of the
- Coastal Lithuania:
- In the history of regulations imposed on
amber production, the paramount question was of the ruler on one
particular strip of the seacoast. Historical entity established in one
section determined specific manner of administration, law and law
enforcement. Six historical entities (Livonian and Prussian Orders,
Curland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Russia) were active on the
coastal strip of modern-day Lithuania. Let us track the changes in the
rule of this coastal area over the period from the 13th to the middle
- From 1252 to 1328, the Livonian Order and
the bishop of Curland ruled this coastal strip. The sea-coast was
included into the commanderies of Memel and Grobin. In 1328, the
commandery of Memel (to the south of the river Sventoji up to the
Nemunas delta and to the north of the Grobstas Cape in the area of the
Curronian Spit) was transferred to the Prussian Order. The Livonian
Order continued to rule the lands that were under the commander of
Grobyne, also the lands of Aistpute north of the river Sventoji. In
1392, the Prussian Order received the lands that had belonged to the
bishop of Curland. In 1427 the Prussian Order had to give up the strip
of Nemirseta-Sventoji. It should be noted that the boarders established
in the battles with Prussia and the Livonian Order were not respected as
were the ones established by the wars inside the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania. Such division of areas of rule was established around 1466.
[Nikzentaitis N., 1999, p.105 - 117; Sembritzki J. S. 10-32, 38. Balcius
M. 1999. P. 193-197]. It remained almost unchanged as long as 1795.
- In 1525, a Prussian state was established
(a duchy, a principality since 1618, and a kingdom since 1701) on the
territory that belonged to the Order. In 1560-1609, the Prussian state
ruled the Amt of Grobine, which it had received on loan. [Balcius M.
1999. P. 201-205]. As dowry this Amt was passed over to the duke of
Curland. In 1795, the Russian Empire through intimidation and fraud
annexed Curland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The governor general
of Estla. nd, Infland, Curland and Lithuania ruled the annexed lands.
Interior boarders inside the occupied territories remained unchanged.
They started shifting with changes introduced by the Russian government.
In 1801, the coastal strip of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania became a part
of Lithuanian province of Vilnius. In 1819, it was included into the
Curland's province. [Aleksandravicius E., Kulakauskas A. 1996. P. 61-62,
66, 319-320; Balcius M. 1999. P. 212] The Russian-Prussian boarder of
coastal part remained as established by the 1466 treaty between the
Prussian Order and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The coastal strips
ruled by Prussia, Curland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania more than
once fell under occupation by hostile armies. The years from 1612 to
1635 was the time of Swedish occupation: the period of Swedish
occupation of coastal Prussian, between 1655 and 1705, the coastal strip
of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania fell under their rule. Between 1757 and
1762, East Prussia was occupied and subjected to the rule of the Russian
Empire. [Sembriczki J. I. 900. S. 99-107, 220-229; Kiaupa Z. 1999.
- Amber Production
Regulations on Prussian Coastal Strip
- In 1323, the commandery of Memel was taken
over by the Prussian Order. The rule of Prussian law was established
there. Some researchers believe, that the Order started regulating amber
collection in the lands newly received. [Willoweit G. 1969a, S. 275-276;
b, S. 201-205] Let us analyze how amber collecting was controlled in the
other part of Prussia.
- In the late 13th c., the growing demand
for amber prompted a start in amber trade at the Orders' offices. It was
not by accident that the first amber processing workshops emerged at all
important trade centers were such offices operated (in 1302 in Bruge, in
1310 in Lubeck). [Hagen K. G., 1823 S. 9-12; Kaskelis J, 1933, P. 55]
This was an encouragement to introduce a strict control over amber
harvesting and trade. In 1327, in Lochstadt (built between 1300 and
1275) a Bornstein-Herr or amber-master settled in a wing of the castle:
he was one of the friars - knights appointed in charge of amber
collection. The Bornstein-Herr had to insure that all amber was
accumulated in Lochstadt castle and to prevent everybody else from
trading in amber. [Hermanowski G. 1996. S. 185; Kulakovas V., Simenas V.
1999. P. 270-271; Hagen K. G. 1823. S. 1-4] In the 16th c., S. Grunau
refers to Hennegast von Arffenberg, a Bornstein-Herrs at Lochstadt in
1332. [Praetorius M., 2000, P. 627] The castle of Lochstadt was named
Bornstein-Kammer, an amber castle. The same name was given to the
residency of the bishop of Sambia in Fischausen castle (earlier -
Bischoueshusen, built between 1266 and 1268). It was a storage place for
the bishop's part of the amber gained. [Hermanowski G. 1996. S. 98;
Kulakovas V., Simenas V. 1999. P. 272-273; Hagen K. G. 1823. S. 7-8]
Shortly the right to trade in amber and collect it was reserved to the
monasteries of Danzig and Oliva. The latter were obliged to sell amber
to the Order at an established price. [Hagen K. G. 1823. S. 3-4] Rich in
amber Sambian seashore was divided into smaller strips. Anzelm von
Rosenberg, Sambian Vogt friar issued an order, which sent to the gallows
anybody charged with illegal collecting of amber. The fishermen would
not respect regulations of the government until the Vogt did not
introduce a procedure to hang everyone caught gathering amber without a
judgment or trial, and to do so on the nearest tree. Rich in amber
coastal strips were assigned supervisors. By power of Fehmer law, these
supervisors accepted claims. Everybody caught on crime scene was hanged
without any investigation. The Order's provincial (Hauskomthur) in
Konigsberg became head of expanding system of supervision. [Hinze C.,
Diederichs U. 1986. S. 70; Kulakovas V. Simenas V. 1999. P. 224] He was
in charge of amber realization, later on, he was vested the right to
trade in amber; he handled leasing of all amber of Prussia. The
commander of Konigsberg started appointing people who were tasked to
watch and prevent amber thefts. In 1447, Erhard von Reusstein
(Reissenstein) who was in this duty took over amber from amber manager -
Bornstein Verwalter. All knights-commanders who had amber in lands under
their supervision, had to take care of amber regale. Besides, amber was
accumulated by the Fischmasters (fish masters) of Balga and Elbing. It
is not surprising at all, because fishermen would find it in their nets.
Amber was caught from the boats too. In the end of the 15th century, a
complete system of amber production supervision was emerging. It spread
along Sambian seacoast and further off into Suduviai corner. The
commander of Konigsberg was in charge of appointing officials and trade
in amber. [Praetorius M. 2000. P. 627, 615; Hagen K. G. 1823. S. 7-8;
Hartknochs M. Ch. MDCLXXXIV. S. 209-211].
- Collection of amber and delivery of it
into the amber palace was performed by amber managers - Verwalters
(Fischmaisters, Vogts, abbots). Strandreiters and Strandknechts stood a
step lower in the system of supervision and dealt directly with people
who picked or scooped amber and fishermen. [Hagen K. G. 1823. S. 7-8;
Willoweit G. 1969a. S. 275-276, 1969b. S. 201]. Seeking to influence
those who actually harvested amber, the Order would resort to fraud. In
1523, the Grand Master Albrecht delayed remuneration in a form of salt,
which was due for the booty of amber. The farmers started trading amber
to the town dwellers of Fischausen. The violators were severely
punished. [Hinze C, Diederichs U. 1986. S. 107; Kulakovas V. Simenas V.
1999. P. 224]. The Order protected the monopoly of amber. In the late
15th c. the Order entered into conflict with the Danzig's amber
drillers' shop, established in 1474. Between 1480 and 1482, the Order
complained of this workshop to the Polish King. Lured by higher profits,
the Order kept increasing the price. As of 1496, the Grand Master of the
Order started entering into transfer treaties with merchants on all
amber found in Prussia. [Praetorius M. 2000. P. 9-16; Hagen K. G. 1823.
S 9-16, 5-6; Hinze C., Diederichs U. 1986. S. 107]
- It is not known when and how this system
reached the commandery of Memel. The famous investigator of economic
aspects of this area G. Willoweit assumes that it had to operate in the
times of the Order. But he gives no references to any historical
sources. [Willoweit G. 1969a. S. 275, 1969b. S. 201]. The inventories
kept in the Memel castle have no mention of amber either. However, such
a situation should not be surprising at all. The Order took over a
country, which had become the field of conflict and battles. It remained
in a state of war for almost entire period of the Order's rule. Relative
peaceful periods were between 1384 and between 1466 and 1525. All
administrative life of the commandery was concentrated in the Memel
castle. A part of functions was taken over by the castle of Windenburg
built in 1360. Amber regale, likewise in other commanderies, might have
been a responsibility of the commander, Fischmeisters, Pflegers and
Strandvogts. The Fischmeister in Memel is mentioned around 1400, the one
of Rusne in 1498, the Vogt of Palanga is mentioned in 1422. [Willoweit
G. 1969b. S.120, Jakstas P. 1992 P. 12-13; Nikzentaitis N. 1999. P.
105-117] In 1523, in accordance with the Kulm Law, property in the
commandery was granted to Strandvogt and the translator Benedict Duck.
[Willoweit G. 1969b. S. 103]. It is possible that the Vogt from the
Rossitten castle (built between 1379 and 1389) in another commandery was
charged with supervision of amber production on the Curonian Spit. The
mentioned officials had to rescue property and people from drowning
boats and regulate fishing. When in 1474, the regulations on amber
collection and realization became more stringent in Sambia, similar
measures could be introduced also in the commandery of Memel. A
relatively peaceful period could facilitate introduction of amber
regale. However, these considerations failed to be supported by more
solid arguments. Numerous privileges authorizing for keeping inns and
estates, fishing in the sea and the lagoon were issued in the late 14th
and 15th centuries. None of these documents address amber. [Willoweit G.
1969b. S. 89-109]. On the other hand, the local government tried to
inhabit war-devastated country as soon as possible. Stringent and
drastic measures would have worked against that. Quite numerous amber
beads and half-processed ones have been found in the cultural layers of
the Klaipeda castle dated to the turn of the 15th-16th c. [MLIM
3530-5539, MLIM 4692]. This could indicate that there were people in
this castle who stocked and processed amber. Unfortunately, historical
sources contain no mention of that.
- In 1525, the state of the Order became a
lay duchy of Prussia. It took over the monopoly of amber. Between 1533
and 1647, the Duke of Prussia leased the right to exploit all Prussian
amber to merchants of Danzig. Shortly afterwards amber business became
monopoly of the Jaskie clan. [Hagen K. G. 1823. S. 24-26; Praetorius M.
2000. P. 629; Kaskelis J. 1933. P. 44, 62]. The sources of the period
refer for the first time to a Memel's official who should be associated
with amber regale. The 1537 treaty establishing fishing territories
between Memel and Schaacken Amts mentions a Strandknecht who supervises
fishing on the Curonian Spit. [Willoweit G. 1969b. S. 124].
Bornstein-Herr functions in Prussia were passed over to Bernsteinmeister
Lochstadte. Hanz Fuchs became the first one in 1540. In 1580, this job
was filled in by N. von Biedermann (Bredremann). Until 1655, Christopff
von Lauterbach and N. Von Klaucke performed this duty. In 1581, the
Bernsteinmaister's residence was moved closer to the rich in amber
Suduviai corner, into Dierscheim. Gradually it received a name of
Bernstein-Kammer. [Praetorius M. 2000. P. 613-615; Kulakovas V. Simenas
V. 1999. P. 272; Hermanowski G. 1996. S. 114]. On 20 December 1581, the
Duke Georg Friedrich approved a statute of amber (Ordnung). The amber
yielding seashore of Prussia was divided into seven zones. Seven
Strandreiter surbordinated to the Dierscheim's Bernsteinmaister were
responsible for enforcing the regulations on obtaining amber by mining,
scooping, catching and picking. Some of them were aided by up two
Kammerknecht. All the Strandreiter and their helpers observed the
weather conditions and wind in their zone. In weather favorable for
harvesting amber they made farmers and fishermen of designated villagers
to go scoop and fish for amber. The officials had to ensure that the
booty was not illegally appropriated. The Strandreiter and Kammerknecht
would sort out raw amber and pour it into barrels. The barrels then were
delivered to the treasury (Rechtkammer) in Konigsberg. Likewise under
the Order's rule, coastal inhabitants were remunerated by salt. The
amount of salt equaled that of amber collected. The officials had to
identify cases of fraud or theft. Coastal neighborhoods also were
obliged to report on such instances. The officials were obliged to turn
in to the authorities the cargo carried by the ships, which underwent
wreckage and were washed onto the shores. The officials and the locals
had to watch and insure that hunting with hounds made no damage to the
ruler. [Hagen G. K. 1823.S. 21; Willoweit G. 1969a. S. 275-276; 1996b.
201-202]. On 20 December 1582, the amber statute was appended by a
requirement for the Strandreiter to ban walking along the shores with no
permission by authorities, they were also ordered to appropriate all
pieces of light amber, which was valued for its curative properties
[Hagen G. 1823. S. 21, 22; Willoweit G. 1969b. S. 203] It is possible to
conclude that in the Memel Amt the Strandreiter performed a part of the
Fischmeister's functions. [Wiloweit G. 1969b. S. 228]. In 1617, the
Kurfurst Johann Sigizmund approved punishments for stealing amber and
failures to report thefts. [Hagen G. K. 1823. S. 22]. The 17th c.
historian Pretorius refers to the first attempts to mine amber on the
shores of the lagoon. However, the groundwater and constant floods of
the lagoon cut this activity short. [Praetorius M. 2000. P. 263].
- The instructions for the coast
Strandreiter issued on 16 March 16 1623, specify their duties. When the
weather cooperated, upon their order, the farmers living on the coast
had to go amber gathering and scooping. When harvested amber was
immediately passed over to the rider. The finder would get small
remuneration for it. All the booty had to be delivered to the castle of
Memel where it was safeguarded. Amber would be poured into a barrel
(Tonne). When full, the lid of the barreled would be nailed down, and
the barrel taken to the Kurfurst's treasury palace in Konigsberg. At
Christmas time, Strandreiter brought over salt as reimbursement for the
amber he had received. The Strandreiterwith his Kammerknecht had to
watch the seashore and ensure that no Lithuanians, Jews, Scots or
Germans were strolling along. All unauthorized ramblers were punished.
The town folk of Memel were pushed aside from amber. All violators when
apprehended were given over to the rulers of the castle. When amber
turners Danzig, Kolberg, Konigsberg, Elbing, Stulp's showed up in Memel,
they ran a risk to be immediately detained and face charges. Another
duty that remained for the Strandreiter was transfer of cargo of wrecked
or washed off ships. [Bezzenberger A. 1889. S. 127-128; Willoweit G.
1969a. S. 275-276; 1969b. S. 202-203]. On 6 July 1625, the ruler of
Prussia banned all amber trade transactions, it was also banned to keep
and even carry amber. A ban on merchants from Danzig, Konigsberg,
Elbing, Braunsberg's entry into the seacoast went into force. [Hagen G.
K. 1823. S. 22]. Leasing of amber monopoly brought losses to the
Kurfurst, but the rulers of Poland protected the rights of the Jaskie
clan. [Hagen G. K. 1823. S. 26-27].
- A statement of expenses issued on 14
November 1629, shows 323 marks earmarked for the Strandreiter posted in
Memel. This money includes remuneration, in natural products (12
Scheffel of rye grain, 25 Scheffel of barley grain, 46 Scheffel of oat
grain, two Scheffel of green peas, two good sheep, a chunk of back fat,
eight Stoff of butter, eight Schock of smoked fish, six Schock of dried
roach, a barrel of coarse salt and four Schock of cheese). [Willoweit G.
1969a. S. 275-276; 1969b. S. 202].
- In 1644, the regulations on amber became
extremely stringent. On 20 February, a new amber statute was issued. The
Bernsteinmeister, who was moved from Dierscheim to Germau remained at
the top of supervising hierarchy. Alongside with him, a Memel
Bernsteinmeister was appointed. Germau received the name of the Amber
palace, Bernstein-Kammer. The duties of the Strandreiter and
Kammerknecht did not change. All men living on the coast had to be sworn
when they turned eighteen, and do so in the presence of a local priest
and an official. Amber fishermen were strictly ordered not to keep amber
at home or on oneself. Those who did where called thieves. A sack with
amber booty was to be carried on a neck and hanging on the chest.
Removing this sack or putting it aside without informing a supervising
official was interpreted as theft. Only two amber craftsmen in
Konigsberg were authorized to process amber. The statute set forth
punishments for amber thefts and trade. The gravity of punishment was
based on sort and amount of amber. On second apprehension, punishment
was respectively bigger. Small punishment was flagellation at the pillar
of disgrace and turning over to the services of Fischausen, Schaacken,
Memel. Graver forms of punishment were flagellation with stripping one's
honor and expulsion from the country. Those charged with stealing one
fourth of barrel of simple amber, over four pounds of fine white amber
or over two pounds trade amber (lumps over four loth) faced the gravest,
death by hanging, penalty. Officials could face fines from 90 guldens,
they could be removed from office, any of those mentioned punishments
could be applied to them too. They could be held liable for negligence
on job, for crime encouragement or even for some action on part of the
family members. 180 gold guldens was the highest fee given. Unauthorized
strolling along the seashore was fined by 18 guldens. A permit to walk
on the shore could be issued by a shore supervisor or the Konigsberg
palace if arranged in advance. A person who needed to walk along the
seashore had to be escorted by a farmer under oath or a Strandreiter. In
the towns of Fischausen, Schaacken and Memel, the amber and coast
statute had to be read yearly from the church pulpit. [Willoweit G.
1969a. S. 275-276; 1969b. S. 202; Hagen G. K. 1823. S. 23, 26, 27;
Praetorius M. 2000. P. 613-616; Ulrich Fr. 1970. S. 215-216]. A decree
issued on November 3, 1644, prohibited obtaining any artifacts of amber.
Upon selling his product, a well known to authorities amber carver or
turner was obliged to issue an official document specifying the work he
performed. He had to indicate when and how much of amber he sold.
Otherwise, craftsmen who processed raw amber were punished for theft.
[Praetorius M. 2000. P. 617]. On 21 November 1644, Fischausen set up a
coast and amber tribunal of six individuals. The tribunal could be
convened by the Vogt of Fischausen. The Kurfurst's treasurer headed it.
[Praetorius M. 2000. P. 617-623; Hagen G. K. 1823. S. 2-8]. On 21
February 1647, the Kurfurst took full control of amber monopoly. Between
1649 and 1837, it was leased to high officials, merchants and nobility.
[Hagen G. K. 1823. S. 26, 29-32, 180-183].
- Between 1665 and 1681, the functions of
the Bernsteinmaister gradually passed over to the castle Kurfurst in
Konigsberg and treasury officials. [Hagen G. K. S. 180-181]. In 1681,
Pretorius indicates that remuneration for a coast supervisor was 500
Polish guldens. Besides the official enjoyed a number of liberties, he
was provided with a house, a field of arable land and other things.
[Praetorius M. 2000. P. 613]. Shortly an Amber Directorate was set up.
The seashore was divided into narrow strips: there were nine of such on
the Curonian Spit (Sarkau, Kunzen, Rossitten, Neu-Pillkoppen, Nidden,
Karwaiten, Negein, Schwarzort and Hirschwiese, Suderhacken).
[Bezzenberger A. 1889. P. 8-129]. The father of the famous Lithuanian
language fosterer L. Reza, Johann Reehsa (1733-1782) was appointed
Kammerknecht of Karwaiten. In this duty he was provided an apartment by
the government, also a plot of arable land and pasture, and a small
salary. Besides, he kept a countryside inn. He was aided by the
precentor Michel Bernhardt. The latter was charged with illegal dealings
with a Jewish amber buyer. The precentor flew to the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania. After his acquittal, he was allowed to return. [Baranauskas
M. 2000. P. 38-45, Lebedys J. 1972. P.236-237]. In Nida (Nidden) the
Strandknecht Casimir Kuwert ran a post station and an inn.
- Between 1694 and 1716, the Kammerath
Cupner headed the Amber Directorate. In 1705, he suggested to sell amber
at open auctions. 26 December 1716 the King delegated control of amber
to the Kammerath Zangen. Amber price was increasing, but amber harvests
were shrinking. In 1743, Friedrich II ordered the chief inspector
Suchodoletz to inspect the seashore and establish local causes for amber
collection decrease. In 1764, the oath, which the settlers of the coast
had to take, became even stricter. It called for reporting and informing
on family members who illegally took possession of amber. Instructions
for the Strandreiter and Kammerknecht issued on 30 August 1783,
reiterated the main duties of the officials: supervision over amber
collection, watching the seashore and collecting goods washed out by the
sea. In 1793, Friedrich approved a new amber statute. Punishments
remained unchanged, but control increased. Only sworn pastors and the
high officials of Konigsberg could take the oath of the locals. Every
three years a visitation of the most of the seashore and scooping
equipment (Kascher) had to be performed. Officials were allowed to
search homes of coastal people without a warning. [Hagen G. K. 1823. S.
177-183; Bezzenberger A. 1889. S. 138-129; Willowek G. 1969a. S.
275-276, 1969b. S. 203].
- By 1800, to run such an apparatus of
supervision became loss making. The revenues no longer balanced out
expenses. The order issued between 1801 and 1802 established the state
regale for all amber in East Prussia. In 1807, the serfdom was
abolished, so farmers and fishermen living on the coast no longer could
be forced collect amber. For doing that now they were contracted by free
job agreements. The oath system was done away with too. Coast officials
went to work for the lessees of the seacoast. After 1830, Konigsberg did
not have an executioner, who was previously kept for carrying out death
penalties for amber thieves. As of 1823, there were attempts to lease
the seashore to local inhabitants. But as amber was scarce in this
strip, people from Alt Pillekopp to Nimerzatt living close to the shore
refused the rent the coast. In 1823, a merchant from Konigsberg leased
it. The same year the state transferred the right of mining amber to
municipalities. Around 1850, in Priekule, W. Stanrien started mining
amber at the King Wilhelm's Channel. Chaotic and uncontrolled works of
mining were taking place everywhere in Prussia. At some places the shore
was badly damaged, elsewhere this affected arable plots of land. In
1867, the state reserved to itself the right to lease for mining amber,
municipalities retained the right to lease coast for gathering, scooping
and fishing for amber. Shortly the government entered into an agreement
with the W. Stantien and M. Becker Company. [Hagen G. K. 1823. S.
183-199; Bezzenberger A. 1889. S. 128-130; Willoweit G. 1969a. S.
275-276, 1969b. S. 203-205].
- Amber production
regulations in the coastal part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL)
- The knowledge on amber collecting on the
seashores of the GDL is scarce. In the 16th c., Palanga and Sventoji
coastal townships emerged. Between 1679 and 1698 an English merchants
colony Janmarienburg operated in the vicinity of Sventoji, this colony
was granted a city charter. On the site of one of the English merchants'
farmstead, archeologists found amber ornaments: heart shaped amber
pendants. [LJM 5010, LJM 5017]. In the 16-17th c., the local Curonians
still believed in the magic power of amber as their forefathers had
done. A bag with small pieces of amber has been found placed next to a
buried man's burial shroud in one of the graves of the Naglis hill
cemetery. [Zulkus V. 1982.]. In 1681, Praetorius wrote: “... amber is
still found in Samogitia (Zemaitija), I have seen myself pieces of
incredible colors and quite big ones. However, I have been told, the
rulers there have not introduced amber regale.” [Praetorius M. 2000.
- In the late 17th c., the Darbenai estate,
which ruled Palanga and Sventoji townships, became interested in amber.
Until 1639, amber was not mentioned in any documents. The first entries
on amber appear in the 1699 inventory of Darbenai, saying that all amber
collected in Palanga has to be delivered to the Darbenai estate.
[Balcius M. The 1739 inventory of Palanga indicates that townsfolk have
to pay the estate 1.5 of the Polish zlot for the nets they used for
fishing amber. Ten nets like this seem to have existed in Palanga and in
Sventoji. The “amber man” or bursztynik Ertmann Zyfert would
purchase all the booty of amber. In 1759, he still lived in Palanga, and
was knicknamed a “German”. In 1781, amber man's functions in Palanga
were performed by Meyning. It seems that the estate enjoyed an exclusive
right to trade in amber. In 1794, the estate leased that right for 3690
Polish zlot. The inventories of the period refer to a coast tax, which
was collected from Palanga and Sventoji residents. In Palanga, besides
being taxed for property, 35 households of 81 had to pay coast tax; in
Sventoji coast tax was collected from 29 of 34 households. The tax
varied from two to 16 Polish zlot. In Palanga mostly townsfolk paid this
tax. Of them, 24 had to paid two Polish zlot. In Sventoji 20 individuals
paid 16 coins each. Most historians consider that these individuals were
fishermen, but it is possible that they harvested amber. Other
inventories show that fishermen had to account based on their boats,
number of nets, but it did not related to the coastal strips. [Kiaupa Z.
1999 P. 137; Meilius E. 1997 P. 81]
- Amber Production
Regulations on the Coastal Strip of Curland
- In the 14th c. a Heiligen -Aa village
appeared on the northern bank of the river Sventoji. In the 16-18th c.,
the local Curonians started calling the new settlement Elija. Raw amber
and roughly processed amber pieces were found in the remnants of the
Elija's households of the 16-18th c. Archeologists also found amber
ornaments, half-made ones and broken fragments of amber jewelry at the
site of the Budendikshof estate, which emerged close to the Elija
settlement in 1507. Most of these finds were small barrel shaped beads
and heart shaped pendants. The latter look very similar to the ones
found at the Englishman's farmstead. Nothing is known about regulations
on amber. His serfs could provide the Budensikhof landlord with amber.
It could be processed, and amber ornaments could be produced at the
Budensikhof estate. The landlord himself or his agents handled trade.
[Balcius M. 1999. P. 207, 197-198].
- As of 1431 Heiligen Aa Vogt is mentioned
in Elija. He was responsible for the cargo and crews of wrecked ships,
the life of neighboring settlements, delivery of fish. Most settlers in
the village were fishermen. This official could also collect amber from
fishermen. This office remained in Heiligen Aa until 1780. [Balcius M.
1999. P.193-194, 212]. However, it is doubtful that this part with amber
being scarce and the boarder close experienced such drastic measures as
were applied in Prussia. During the Livonian Order period amber could be
taken to Grobyne, afterwards to Tiga. In the 17th c., it had to reach
Libau. M. Praetorius mentions amber craftsmen - Bornstein Arbeiten - who
worked there. [Praetorius M. 2000. P. 607].
- Amber Production
Regulations on the Coastal Strip Annexed by the Russian Empire
- Amber booty from the coastal strip of
Curonia (from Palanga to Ventspilis) was not abundant but steady. In
1797, Curonian farmers collected 38 pounds of amber, in 1799-64 pounds,
in 1800-12.5 pounds, in 1801-79.5 pounds. Some of the pieces weighted up
to 15 pounds each. These were immediately delivered to the Emperor's
Office in St. Petersburg.
- As long as 1800, amber was delivered to
the treasury from the environs of Libau. F. Keppen indicates that amber
was collected on the seashores of Curland: from Palanga to Rutcau, more
to the north up to Libau, around Vindau and at the Cape of Kolkasrags.
Local farmers (from Palanga, Sventoji, Papendorf, Niderbarten and
Perkon) paid 60 kopecks per capita for permission to collect amber on
the seashore. Since 1800 coastal farmers living on the strip from
Niderbarten to Sakenhausen were fishing for amber, the farmers from
Niderbarten to Palanga paid for the right to fish and collect amber. Of
places, where amber was harvested, Libau, the treasury estate of
Niderbarten, the Asviken private estate, the treasury estate of Rutcau,
also that of Budendixhoff and the private estate of Palanga are
mentioned. Annual treasury revenues from amber reached from 20 to 25
rubles. The figures would have been higher, lest part of amber was sold
- On 14 January 1804, the government issued
a special decree aimed at regulating amber production. V. F. Derschau
was appointed to create a system of such regulations. On 17 February of
the same year, a nominal decree required scrutinizing amber business on
the strip of Curland, Lithuanian dependency. On 17 September 1801,
another order was issued which charged V. F. Derschau to deliver to the
palace all huge pieces of amber, to sell smaller ones and to get profit
from that. Besides, it recommended employing coastal farmers fishermen,
by selecting of 10 people one for harvesting amber in summer time. It
was suggested to put one guard to watch five such recruited fishermen.
The Forsterer were tasked to supervise the process and be responsible
for delivering collected amber to the Oberforstermeister. Amber
fishermen had to be issued notebooks, sticks or labels to record their
booty and report to superiors.
- To prevent private amber trade dealings,
punishments for that were introduced. A purchaser was fined 10 rubles
for each pound of amber, a vendor risked physical punishment. Amber
fishermen were suggested to be paid 10 kopecks per pound of fine amber,
and 10 kopecks per each larger piece.
- V. F. Derschau designed amber collecting
system similar to the one functioning in Prussia. In 1803, his draft was
introduced to the Interior Minister, but received no approval, since:
“such measures are wrongful to the farmers, and they would bring
little profit.” So despite the facts that the laws were drafted, amber
collecting regulations did not come into force in Curland and a part of
Lithuanian territory. [Uhanova I. N. 1972. S. 239-242].
1. Regulations on amber
production and realization on the coastal strip of modern-day Lithuania
were not uniform and kept changing over centuries. Six separate historical
entities active in this area had dramatically diverse concepts of amber
- 2. Most data on amber
collecting-realization procedures pertains coastal Prussia. The data
relating to the coastal strips ruled by Curland and the GDL is scarce.
Few available sources reveal attempts of respective governments at
regulating amber collecting and business. Little light so far shed on
these issues leaves plenty of room for further investigation.
- 3. The aspirations by the Russian Empire
at introducing stringent regulations of amber business look like
attempts to replant the out-of-date by that time Prussian system.
Interestingly, such plans were concurrent with Prussia doing away with
its strict regulations in this field.