Pre-historic Liechtenstein (The Rätians)

3000 to 1800 B.C.

In the Neolithic times (3000-1800 B.C.) the Rhine valley was just an unhealthy, swampy marsh prone to regular flooding from the ever changing, shallow river. On the mountainsides, dark and dangerous forests housed wild animals. The valley floor was swathed in heavy fogs thanks in part to the sodden earth.

The Bronze-age Gutenberg figures in the National Museum collectionThe Stone-age inhabitants could still find some good in this valley, settling on the Eschnerberg in the north of modern-day Liechtenstein. Fragments of a Neolithic saw and earthenware pots have been found on a huge stone block. In the south of Liechtenstein, in modern-day Balzers, the hill that is now home to the Castle Gutenberg was also a home for early inhabitants, with Bronze- and Iron-age finds having been discovered. The finds can all be found in the National Museum in Vaduz.

The Rätians extended their territory northwards from Graubünden in the Alps towards the the shores of Lake Constance over Vintschgau, Vorarlberg and Liechtenstein. Their government was patriarchal and they had few, simple laws. They generally bred cattle and cultivated the ground, growing vines on the lower slopes of the mountains, growing wine considered good enough for the Emperor's table in Rome.

The Greek writer, Poseidonois visited the area in 100 B.C., providing a picture of the people. "Unkempt hair, smeared thickly with soap and combed back in long strands from their foreheads - mouths covered with hanging moustaches which serve as a sieve when drinking." He also said, "[they were] always thirsty and quarrelsome, they sit in their round huts on the bare ground, drinking and boasting of their deeds, falling into sudden tempers which end in bloody fights..."

The Romans reported that the Rätians built fortresses into which the entire population would flee when an enemy was sighted. In peacetime these forts were used for religious ceremonies. The religious leaders were the Druids who made animal and human sacrifices to the Gods in places where many churches now stand, such as in Bendern.

The villages of Schaan and Eschen existed in those days, and the names are Celtic in origin, meaning water, as it is said a lake lay between the two villages. The river running through the meadow land between the villages is called the Esche, similar to the Scottish Celtic river name Esk.

Unfortunately the aggressive nature of the Rätians pushed them south to Lake Como in 90 B.C. where the patience of Emperor Augustus was tried once too often, and under the leadership of his stepsons, Tiberius and Drusus they defeated the hoards.

Schaan became Schalun (the name of the company behind this website) under the Romans, and Roman helmets have been discovered there, and a complete Roman skeleton was discovered in Balzers. In 13 B.C. Rätia became a Roman province. The images the Rätians leave us mirror those of the cartoon characters of Asterix the Gaul and Hagar the Horrible!

The Rätians > Romans > Goths & Franks > Counts of Montfort > Barons of Brandis > Counts of Sulz > Counts of Hohenems > Princes of Liechtenstein > The modern day