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Localisation problem of Mārciena castle (castrum Marxne)

Keywords: newly discovered hillforts, Mārciena Castle — Castrum Marxne, localisation
Language: In Latvian

In 2018 and 2019, thanks to public availability of aero laser scanning (Light Detection and Ranging) data, 37 new hillforts have been discovered in Latvia. Of these two are in Madona Municipality.

Sauleskalns Hillfort is a well-formed fortification, about 10 m high, enclosed by ramparts, a terrace, a ditch and a slope. Handmade pottery dated with ca. 8th /9th–10th/11th centuries has been found in the cultural layer. The well-known Arona Hillfort is situated about a kilometre northeastwards.

Dreimaņi Hillfort is formed on a steep, 20–25 m high mound enclosed by ramparts, ditches, terraces and a slope. In the cultural layer of the hillfort no finds have been obtained yet. About 1.4 km southwestwards there is situated the well-known Mārciena Hillfort.

At the beginning of the 13th century, the territory of the present-day Mārciena Municipality was one of Jersika state castle regions. It is known from the interrogation record of 1312 of Franciscus de Moliano that Lithuanian plunderers had burnt down Mārciena Castle (castrum Marxne) belonging to Riga Archbishop, grabbed spoils and killed 500 people. Since no masonry castle had been built in Mārciena, this evidence implies that at the turn of the 13th/14th centuries, there was a wooden castle owned by a local Latgallian feudal, and attempts were made to localise it on Arona Hillfort as well as on Mārciena Hillfort.

The newly discovered and previously known hillforts make two pairs of hillforts, which indicates a certain centrality of both the places; but regretfully, this does not justify considering any of them to be castrum Marxne.