Dainius Elertas, Laima Vaciulyte

Book "Olga Usaciova. Gintaras“ (Bibliography). Vilnius, 1981The history of regulations that governed amber production in modern-day Lithuania has not yet received a comprehensive analysis in. This has been determined by a number of causes. Some problems in the history of coastal area failed to be addressed at all. In the period between the 13-19th c. six historical entities were active on this narrow coastal strip. Some researchers did not consider the past of small coastal sections to be of importance. This study has no ambition to give a complete picture reflecting the change of regulations on amber collecting in coastal Lithuania. Rather, an attempt will be made to introduce some of emerging problems and to highlight important features of this process.


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 quality.
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, 1996].
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 Russian Empire.
Coastal Lithuania: historical outline
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 19th c.
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. P.122-123]
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. P. 623].
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 to merchants.
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 business.
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.


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Prepared by: Elertas D., Vaciulyte L. Amber collecting regulations in coastal Lithuania until the middle of the 19 th. c. // Baltic Amber / ed. by Adomas Butrimas. - Vilnius: Publishing Office of Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts, 2001. P. 43-51.


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