Lake dwellings, also called pile dwellings or Alpine lake dwellings, are a type of house, and their remains provide a type of archaeological site dear to the hearts of many archaeologists. These houses were built on pilings, at the shores of Alpine lakes, between the Neolithic and Iron Ages of Europe, say 4,000-100 BC.

© Alfons-Georg ZueligLake Dwelling or Pile Dwelling Reconstruction, Lake Constance Switzerland.
Among other things, lake dwellings represent a lifestyle in which people could exploit a whole range of resources found along the shores of lakes in the Alps, and stay above the water line in changing conditions. Lake dwellers were hunter-gatherer-fishers, but they were also herders of cattle, sheep and pigs, and farmers of wheat, barley, flax and poppies. Because of frequent flooding, lake dwellings only lasted something like 15 years, providing a veritable snapshot of what life was like during the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages.

Most of all, archaeologists love Alpine lake dwellings because the preservation of the site ruins is often fabulous. The combination of water-logged and cool climates has led to the long-term survival of organic materials such as seeds and wood and textiles, artifacts and information that are not available in very many places at such a date.

Several scholars have recently used the unique preservation qualities of lake dwellings to try to get a handle on what everyday life was like for Otzi the Iceman, the startlingly well-preserved remains of a human being pulled from a glacier only a hundred kilometers or so from several lake dwellings of the same date and culture.