Amber in Lithuania

01 juillet 2004
02m 35s
Ref. 00326


Summary :

Report in Lithuania on amber, from ancient pagan legends that deified it up until its current transformation into jewelry.

Media type :
Broadcast date :
01 juillet 2004
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Amber comes from the fossilised remains of resin from pine and spruce forests that covered northern Europe 40 million years ago. Drenched in water, in these forests were subjected to their resinous components - and to the insects attracted by the odour that it released and thus trapped in the long process of fossilisation. This transformation led to the creation of a more or less translucent stone, with honey-like colours, particularly present on the coasts of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania: and though. From the Stone Age, Baltic and, used decoratively or for medicinal purposes and always given magical powers, has been much bought and sold which shows it's great trade value. The amber routes were taken by merchants from northern Europe to the Mediterranean Sea, to India, to Kashmir, to Russia and even to China.

The discovery of DNA at the end of the twentieth century raised the hopes of scientists wishing to deepen their knowledge of prehistoric worlds by analysing the organisms trapped in these rocks. David Penney has thus been able to demonstrate in 2005 for the first time the presence of hemolymph, an equivalent to blood, in insects dating from 20 million years ago.

Claire Sécail


Daniel Bilalian
Since we're talking about trips, beginning of summer, it's in the beginning of summer that a certain number of pagan rituals, afterwards picked up by the Catholic church, take place in the Baltic countries. That's what's happening right now in Lithuania. Gilles Rabine, Yann Moine.
Gilles Rabine
For a long time, a very Catholic Lithuania was a pagan land that celebrated Perkunas, the god of thunder and fire.
1st Lithuanian speaker
Gemina, the goddess of earth and Yurate, the goddess of the sea.
Gilles Rabine
At the edge of the Baltic sea, Perkunas had built an amber palace for Yurate, who lived there without incident until the day she fell in love with a young and handsome fisherman.
Jonas Trinkunas
Jealous, Perkunas destroyed the amber palace where Yurate, the goddess of the sea, lived. The amber palace exploded into millions of small pieces, all over the Baltic sea.
Gilles Rabine
Since then, we find amber on the beaches. In the Middle Ages, a kilo of amber was worth a kilo of gold, today its price depends on its colour, white, yellow, cognac, blue or green.
White amber is the oldest, we call it the king amber, it's the most expensive. But green amber is the youngest, between five and ten million years, and the oldest amber forty million years.
Gilles Rabine
Fashion and creators are rediscovering amber, which is a fossilised resin, fragile but easy to shape. In this studio in the suburbs of Vilnius, one gross ton of amber is processed each month.
Vytautas Zobielski
At the end, only twenty to thirty percent of the rough amber is left.
Gilles Rabine
Today, amber is becoming rare, as rare as the craftsmen who, before the polishing, can guess the transparence and the colour of a future rough piece. The amber museum possesses a few genuine treasures such as these inclusions of insects that are forty million years old.
Ernesta Sakalaite
Mosquitoes, flies, tiny insects, spiders, and ants are especially present there.
Gilles Rabine
Prehistoric men did not know how to polish amber.
Ernesta Sakalaite
The first men only wore these amulets for important celebrations, and only the chiefs wore them.
Gilles Rabine
Our very earliest prehistoric ancestors thought that the pieces of amber that they picked up on the beaches were the sun's tears.