Alt-Laari hill fort and Erumäe stronghold
Having arrived from Kobilu manor to Elva–Puhja road, we turn right. 600 m after the bus stop at Kobilu crossroads a signpost indicates right towards Konguta hill forts, about 1 km away. Vahessaare village noticeboard and mailboxes stand at the beginning of the road.
We pass Metsa, Tooma, Vana-Antsu and Laari farms, a strawberry field on the right, then a hayfield and the roadside parking place.
The former field was once Alt-Laari settlement site, discovered in 1973 by archaeologist Mare Aun who found fragments of manually shaped clayware. In 2008 the local government started building a new road and parking place in the settlement site, and thus 2300 m² of cultural layer was destroyed. Rescue excavations carried out by the University of Tartu unearthed dozens of ancient hearth sites, fragments of handmade and wheel-thrown pottery and two 13th–14th century Tartu bishop’s bracteate pence. The finds suggest that the Alt-Laari settlement could be 2000 years old. „This is the earliest known permanent settlement of farmers in South Estonia, which was in use until the Middle Ages,” confirmed archaeologist Heiki Valk. (Tartu Postimees, 12.09.2008.)
Maiorg is a 1-km long additional valley of Kavilda primeval valley. Maiorg spring-brook runs along its bottom. Here are two ancient structures side by side: Alt-Laari hill fort and Erumäe stronghold.
Alt-Laari hill fort was established on a naturally protected hill with deep slopes. In the 1920s the slopes were still bare, but today they are covered with thick forest. The height of the hill fort is 78 m and the area is 1200 m².
According to the finds the fort was in use during the second half of the 1st millennium, and enjoyed a busy life also during the Viking era from the 9th to the 11th century AD. A small iron anvil found in the cultural layer is the oldest known blacksmith’s anvil unearthed in Estonia.
According to a folk myth, there is a secret passage connecting Alt-Laari hill fort and Erumäe stronghold. We saw no traces of it and had to proceed across Maioru spring, along the valley and slopes, but it became a beautiful, wild strawberry-flavoured walk.
Erumäe stronghold is situated on a high oblong promontory about 500 m from Alt-Laari hill fort. The oval yard is 80 m long and 40 m wide, with the area of 2500 m². The southern and south-eastern side of the courtyard is lined with a rampart up to 4.4 m high. There is a moat at the foot of the rampart, 1–1.5 m deep and 6–8 m wide. The western side of the yard has a 1–2 m high rampart. In the north and east, the stronghold area is protected by a deep valley slope without a moat. Erumäe stronghold originates in the 11th–12th centuries. No archaeological finds have been unearthed there.
Erumäe and Alt-Laari forts make up an impressive duo in the valley.
Daila Aas, 2022