Neolithic burial sites in Wietrzychowice, Sarnowo and Gaj, Poland - the neolithic “Long Barrows of Kuyavia”.
Attributed to the Funnelbeaker culture (kultura pucharów lejkowatych) and dated to c. 4000-3000 BC, these sites are sometimes referred to as the “Polish pyramids” strictly due to their purpose: each long barrow contained a main burial “chamber” for 1-2 people (but up to 5 in one barrow were discovered) assumed to be the tribal rulers, with offerings, all indicating the worship of the dead and the beliefs in the afterlife.
Site in Wietrzychowice is the most well-preserved of them, Sarnowo the biggest, while in the site of Gaj only one of two barrows had survived over the millennia (it was the longest one, around 150 meters in the original shape).
Their excavations were performed in 1950-1951 and 1966-1971. Smaller satellite burials were discovered between and around the barrows, dated as being 100 years younger than the main burials. The form and diversity of these megaliths are impressive: length of the barrows stretches between 50-80 meters with their height believed to be around 2-3 m in the original shape; some of the large stones used in the construction, usually placed in the corners of their frontal parts, weigh around 7-10 tons. Single stelaes were also discovered around the sites. Among rich grave goods there were weapons, pottery, flintwork and amber ornaments.
Discovered in the barrow 5 of Wietrzychowice, skulls of two men aged 35 and 50 had traces of successful trepanation surgeries (the younger had it carried out 4 times). Barrow 7 of Sarnowo contained an additional cavity in the sidewall where remains of 5-9 people were discovered, probably eaten during a ritual feast. Barrow 9 of Sarnowo is considered exceptional - built for one person only, a handicapped woman who died at c. 50-70 years of age, most likely a person of high rank among the tribe members. In the barrow of Gaj traces of a wooden building were discovered - believed to be burned during the funeral ceremony.
Is Poland the ancient cradle of cheese-making?
Archaeologists have long known that cheese is an ancient human invention. Wall murals in Egyptian tombs from 2000 BCE depict cheesemaking, and Sumerian tablets written in cuneiform text seem to describe cheese as well. Our distant ancestors, it seems clear, knew about the wonder that is cheese.
Today, though, cheese lovers have cause to celebrate: New evidence indicates that the invention (…) actually came thousands of years earlier. As described in a paper published in Nature, chemical analysis of prehistoric pottery unearthed from sites in Poland shows that cheesemaking was invented way farther back than originally believed - roughly 7000 years ago.
A team of researchers from the University of Bristol, Princeton and a group of Polish universities came to the finding by examining an unusual group of artifacts from the Polish sites: clay shards that were pierced with a series of small holes. Struck by their resemblance to in modern-day cheese strainers, they chemically tested the material around the holes, and were vindicated to find ancient traces of the kinds of lipids and fatty acids found in dairy products. These ceramics are attributed to what archaeologists call the Linear Pottery culture, and are dated to 5200 to 4900 BCE. [x]
Gniezno is one of the most important archaeological sites concerning the early history of Poland and the capital of the first Polish Archdiocese during the Piast dynasty’s state.
Around 940 AD Gniezno, an important pagan cult center, became one of the main fortresses of the early Piast rulers. The name Gniezno is derived from “gniazdo”, which means “eagle’s nest” - reference to the white eagle that was the symbol of Polanie tribe. The construction of a borough in Gniezno was preceded by a pagan cult centre on the Lech Hill (Gniezno, just like Rome, was built around 7 hills). The borough underwent numerous changes and expansions over the ages, which resulted in a multi-segment complex, long covered by the modern city. Nowadays, the ruins of the oldest romanesque ruins and tombs can be seen in the undergrounds of the Gniezno Cathedral.
This is a place of special status in the Piast state, for it was witness to the most important events in Poland and Europe for hundreds of years. The cathedral in Gniezno is where the body of St. Adalbert, canonized in 999, was put to rest. A year later, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III came to visit his tomb. This event, later referred to as the Congress of Gniezno, left a permanent mark on the freshly-emerging Polish state. The first ecclesiastical metropolis in the land was set up with its seat in Gniezno, and this allowed Prince Bolesław the Brave to strengthen his international position. Gniezno was also the place of the first royal coronations.
To see: present-day Gniezno’s aerial panorama (from a point that during the times of the early gord would be located over a lake called "Holy Lake") and map of the hypothetical outline of the early gord next to the “Holy Lake” that dried out around the 18th century.
// In Polish: do obejrzenia trailer filmu “Gniazdo” z 1974 roku, do przeczytania “Gniezno: zagadka Wzgórza Lecha”, “Miasto na siedmiu wzgórzach, czyli Gniezno jak Rzym”.
Kwiat Paproci - Fern Flower legend.
There is a Polish legend that says that the magical flower of the lowly forest fern (kwiat paproci) only blooms on this shortest night of the year [until the dawn]. According to the legend, anyone finds this mysterious fern will be rewarded with great treasures. Fairy tales abound about young men who go off on this night, searching for the illusive fern flower. [x]
It is said that the path to the flower is protected by the trees and mystical creatures of the forest so that only the most courageous and noble young man might find it. The flower possesses the power to fulfil wishes, and whoever finds this flower will have all of his wishes granted; but he will not be allowed to share his wealth with others or he will lose everything. [x]
Środa treasure (skarb ze Środy Śląskiej, skarb średzki).
In May 1988, a hoard of silver and gold coins (mostly Prague groschen) was unearthed at a demolition site within the medieval town centre of Środa Śląska, Poland. Several more days later, gold ornaments were found at the municipal landfill among the rubble from other sites in the Old Town. The news spread quickly, attracting amateur treasure hunters and professional archaeologists. Through the end of 1988, the subsequent archaeological excavations continued along with efforts to recover gold and silver objects from the accidental finders. Although many items were recovered, it is agreed that there are still missing items.
Considering the date the treasure was probably hidden and its location, as well as the character and style of the jewels, it seems likely that they belonged to the Bohemian rulers of the House of Luxemburg and were pawned to the Jewish bankers of Środa Śląska under the reign of the Emperor Charles IV (1346-1378).
The Treasure of Środa Śląska was entrusted to the National Museum in Wrocław and shown there for the first time in 1997. It was later transferred to the Środa Śląska Regional Museum and is now a part of its permanent exposition.
Informations about retrieval of items belonging to the Środa treasure are appearing in the media every few years.
Kalisz - Zawodzie, Poland: archaeological reserve with a reconstructed Slavic settlement.
The earliest existence of Kalisz (Calisia/Calissia) settlement was noted in the 2nd century BC by Claudius Ptolemy in his ‘Introduction to Geography’. The nearby section of the Prosna river was used for centuries as a part of the Amber Road, led to the Baltic coast. Prosna valley, located in southern Wielkopolska (Greater Poland) region, was intensively settled for centuries before Christianization (archaeological finds deduct a lot of overpopulated areas with extensive burial sites). The reconstructed Slavic gord (fortified settlement) was built in the 9th century and was functioning until 1233, becoming an important center of the Piasts’ authority.
// In Polish: do obejrzenia film edukacyjny "Calisią w przeszłość" [część 1] [część 2], do przeczytania: K.Dąbrowski, W.Stopiński, E.Stupnicka “Początki i rozwój grodziska na Zawodziu w Kaliszu(…)”, K.Dąbrowski: “Badania terenowe stacji archeologicznej IHKM w Kaliszu w 1958 roku”, I.Dąbrowska “Badania wykopaliskowe na Zawodziu w Kaliszu w 1963 roku”
Wczesnośredniowieczny gród w Gnieźnie // Early medieval gord in Gniezno - two very informative plates:
(1) Reconstruction of the pre-Christian cult center on the Lech Hill (Góra Lecha) according to BogowiePolscy.net,
(2) Reconstruction of the gord in the 10th and early 11th centuries - stages of expanding the settlement up to the times of early Christianity in Poland and reconstruction of a typical hut of this region (10th-11th centuries), source: Muzeum Początków Państwa Polskiego.
Post about the Gniezno settlement: here.