Category Archives: POLAND

How a-boat this! Huge 700-year-old shipwreck found at bottom of river Vistula

How a-boat this! Huge 700-year-old shipwreck found at bottom of river Vistula

The underwater archaeologists in Vistula River north of Warsaw, Poland, discovered a centuries-old shipwreck described as “huge and rare.”

This historical boat was the discovery by a group of submarine explorers searching in the Vistula River north of Warsaw in Poland for a whopping 37 meters long (121 foot) and 6 meters wide (20 foot) and the article in Science in Poland reveals that the boat used to carry up to “100 tons of goods.”

Funded by the Ministry of Culture and Scientific Heritage with support from the Warsaw Institute of Archaeology, and the “massive” newly discovered boat is thought to have been a transport vessel operating between the 14th and 18th centuries.

Dr. Artur Brzóska is an underwater archaeologist and head of the research project from the Association of Archaeologists Jutra, and he believes it probably “transported grain to Gdańsk.”

Poor visibility and strong water currents were among the negative environmental challenges that stopped the divers from recovering any artifacts from the sunken ship.

But Brzóska pointed out that wrecks such as these are “very rare” and until this discovery, only two wrecks were previously known in this part of the river: a 16th century and 19th-century ship.

This new boat is a so-called “berlinka,” which was an elongated, shallow, barge-type craft designed for canal transportation, and while an article like this makes it all sound so simple, finding the rare wreck took what amounted to a major scientific operation.

Sonar image of the centuries-old boat discovered in the Vistula River in Poland.

Before the researchers discovered the “huge” boat they mounted hi-tech sonar equipment around a motorboat and selected a series of test sites with a view to diving at any interesting findings on the scans.

The system was tested on the Vistula River near Warsaw`s Old Town and the project required sailing around 400 kilometers (250 miles) along parallel survey lines scanning a 13-kilometer-long (8 miles) stretch of the river, covering nearly 500 hectares in all.

The scientists first found the decomposing remains of a World War II bridge sunk near Łomianki Dolne, and the geometry of its steel structure informed Brzóska’s team that it had been built by “German sappers.”

They also found parts of another ship driven into the bottom of the river and a fragment from the vessel pulled to the surface led Brzóska to the conclusion that it too might have been a cargo boat, similar to the huge one they discovered.

Researchers about to dive at the site of the shipwreck on the Vistula River in Poland.

While the wrecks being discovered today are from the last 600 years, beneath them, deep in the silts of the riverbed, are the rotting remains of much more ancient vessels, as the Vistula basin was occupied in the 1st millennium BC by Iron Age Lusatian and Przeworsk cultures.

1st-century Roman authors called the region “Magna Germania” and in the 2nd century AD, Ptolemy described the Vistula River as the border between Germania and Sarmatia.

According to an article on Suwalszczyzna, the Vistula River used to be connected to the Dnieper River, and thence to the  Black Sea via the Augustów Canal, one of the most ancient trade routes, the Amber Road, which connected Northern Europe with Asia, Greece,  Egypt, and elsewhere.

Encyclopedia Britannica says that for hundreds of years the river was one of the main trade routes of ancient Poland and the Vistula estuary was settled by Slavs in the 7th and 8th centuries.

Moving through the canals of time, the magnificent if not ostentatious castles and fortresses that line the riverbanks all stand testimony to the wealth accumulated through the trade of salt, timber, and stone between the 10th and 13th centuries.

Shot of the Vistula River in Poland where the shipwreck was found.

In the 16th century most of the grain exported from Poland left from the city of Gdańsk, and is located at the end of the Vistula, with its Baltic seaport trade connections, it became the wealthiest, most highly developed and connected of the Polish cities. It was this thriving Polish city that Dr. Artur Brzóska believes the newly discovered massive barge transported grain too, but the team is awaiting further results before drawing this conclusion.

Study Analyzes Warriors’ Remains in Medieval Tombs in Poland

Four Warriors Buried in 11th Century Tombs in Pomerania Came From Scandinavia say, Scientists

The skeleton of 4 Scandinavian warriors hundreds of miles from their homeland was stunned by Archeologists in Poland.

The remains of the 11th century were discovered in a peculiar burial site dubbed by the archaeologists at a death house. A chemical and genetic analysis of the remains found the four men were from Scandinavia, most likely from Denmark.

The warriors were buried alongside a plethora of trinkets and armaments. According to Dr. Sławomir Wadyl of the Gdańsk Architectural Museum.

The archaeologist told the Polish Press Agency (PAP): “In the central part of the cemetery, there were four very well-equipped chamber graves.

“Men, probably warriors, were buried in them as evidenced by weapons and equestrian equipment laid together with them.”

The four warriors were unearthed in the village of Ciepłe in Eastern Pomerania or Pomorze Wschodnie, northern Poland. The Danish warriors would have been buried during the Piast dynasty – the first Polish dynasty to rule from the 10th century to the end of the 14th century.

The warriors were buried in ‘death house’ burial chambers

Dr. Wadyl said: “It turned out that all of the dead buried in the central part of the cemetery was not from the Piast State, but from Scandinavia, most likely from Denmark.”

The warriors were buried within a larger necropolis, dating back to the Polish King Bolesław Chrobry of Bolesław the Brave I. Alongside them, the archaeologists uncovered a treasure-trove of weapons such as decorative swords and spears. Evidence suggests the four men were skilled horse riders, due to the buckles, stirrups and spurs found next to their bodies.

The archaeologists also uncovered old coins, metal trinkets, combs, pots and even the remains of animals. The burial site itself is interesting because it is more typical of Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. The warriors were laid to rest in wooden chambers measuring about 11.5ft by 6.5ft (3.5m by 2m).

The chambers were built much like a log cabin, with intersecting planks or logs of wood stacked on top of one another. Dr. Wadyl said: “It was one of the more popular house building methods at the time, so you could say they were a ‘death house’.”

Trinkets and weapons were found alongside the warriors
The Scandinavian warriors were most likely from Denmark
The Scandinavian warriors were most likely from Denmark

In another part of the cemetery, the archaeologists found another different but equally intriguing burial method. The archaeologists unearthed two large coffins laid to rest inside of a chamber built from vertical, sharpened poles forced into the ground.

Dr. Wadyl said: “These are the biggest chests of their kind that we know of in Poland’s territories at this time.”

The collection of burial sites was likely surrounded by some form of fencing or a wooden palisade. Dr. Wadyl believes the Danish warriors were likely part of the local elite due to their elaborate and flashy burials.

He said: “Those buried in the central part of the cement ray represented the social elite of the time, as evidenced by the monumental character of their graves and rich furnishings.

“They probably belonged to a group of elite riders but their role was probably was not limited to the function of warriors.” The archaeologist also thinks the men collected taxes from the local populace due to a set of weights found next to two of the dead.

But these are not the first mysterious burial sites uncovered by archaeologists in Poland. Researchers in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian region have found pyramid-like structures predating the famous Egyptian pyramids.

Sensational findings show ‘ mysterious buried treasure in old synagogue

The sensational find reveals ‘mysterious’ buried treasure in an old synagogue

A decaying box buried in a synagogue in Małopolska has revealed a treasure. 350 valuable pieces were found in a discovery that was proclaimed sensational by archaeologists at Wieliczka’s Old Synagogue.

The archaeologists were digging a small test hole by a wall inside the synagogue when they noticed a fragment of a decayed wooden box, inside which were a collection of metal objects that had been tightly packed together, often one inside another.

Dr. Michał Wojenka from the Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University, who was supervising the dig, commented that if the test hole had been dug just a little further away, the treasure would have remained hidden.

The treasure in the 80 cm high, 70 cm wide and 130 cm long crate includes a silver cup, five candlesticks, the parts for four or five brass chandeliers, two probably silver-plated candlesticks and two large brown vessels with decorative handles and Hebrew inscriptions, as well as cap badges of infantry officers of the Austro-Hungarian army.

The objects probably come from the 19th century. The wooden planks that formed the box were preserved only in fragments, but the objects filling it tightly were in good condition.

The treasure in the 80 cm high, 70 cm wide and 130 cm long crate includes a silver cup, five candlesticks, the parts for four or five brass chandeliers, and two large brown vessels with decorative handles and Hebrew inscriptions.

“We tried to methodically expose subsequent layers of earth in order to reveal the top of the box. After completing documentation work, we started exploring the box and taking out more objects from it,” says Dr. Wojenka.

Two of the silver or silver-plated items are the ornamental finials of the rods on which the Torah scroll is wound.

The box also contained a silver badge from a cloth Torah covering with a representation of stone tablets. A silver chain is attached to it with a pointer used for reading the Torah.

The discovery brings with it more questions than answers. A big clue as to the time when the treasure chest was buried comes from the 18 officers’ cap badges, which feature the initials of Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph, which places the treasure chest in the late 19th or earlier 20th century.

The presence of military cap badges with synagogue ornaments is strange though. 

Dr. Wojenka suggests that army caps could have been used to line the crate as all the metal badges were found at the bottom and the moist conditions would have rotted the cloth of the hats away.

The next mystery is who buried the treasure. The Austro-Hungarian cap badges are a heavy indication that the synagogue fittings were not buried during World War Two.

It is known that in 1914, the town was occupied by the Russian army after the Austro-Hungarians withdrew having lost fighting for Kraków.

Officers’ cap badges feature the initials of Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph.

The work at the Old Synagogue in Wieliczka is being carried out by experts from the Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University. The temple dates back to the second half of the 18th century and is located in the former Jewish district of the town.

During World War II, the building was devastated by the Nazis. After 1945 is was used as a warehouse and the building served this function until the beginning of the 21st century.

The Jewish community in Wieliczka dates back to the 14th century when Jews were granted rights to use the salt mine in the town. By 1921, there were 1,700 Jews living in Wieliczka.

On September 7, 1939, the town was occupied by the Germans. During the summer of 1942 Jews from the rest of the county were concentrated in Wieliczka.

The Jewish community was annihilated on August 27, 1942, when 8,000 Jews from Wieliczka and the surrounding area were deported to the Belżec death camp, 500 were sent to the Stalowa-Wola forced-labour camp, and 200 were sent to the Płaszów concentration camp.

Huge Hoard of 1000-year-old Yotvingian Weapons Unearthed in Poland

Huge Hoard of 1000-year-old Yotvingian Weapons Unearthed in Poland

Among hundreds of artifacts from a long-disappeared person famous for its warrior culture, archeological specialists discovered rare swords, spears, and knives in the Suwałki region of eastern Poland.

Such weapons belonged to 500 artifacts that were excavated on the site of a Yotvingians cemetery dating back around 1,000 years

A Baltic people the Yotvingians had cultural ties to the Lithuanians and Prussians.

Occupying an area of land that now straddles parts of Poland, Lithuania and Belarus they spoke a language related to Old Prussian but were, over time, absorbed into the larger Slavic and Germanic groups that surrounded them.

They were famed for their warrior culture and were regarded as good fighters and hunters.

A map showing the ancient land of the Yotvingians.

The new find, described by archaeologists as the “biggest Yotvingian cemetery from the early Middle Ages,” has helped historians gain fresh information on an ancient people long lost to time.

Spearheads, helmets and other items found at the Germanic burial site in Kostrzyn, Poland, earlier this year.

“The area is very rich in Yotvingian culture and rituals,” Jerzy Siemaszko, an archaeologist from the Suwałki District Museum, told PAP. “Getting to the items has been quite easy because they are in a layer about 20-30 centimeters beneath the surface of the ground.

“The area was used by the Yotvingians in the early Middle Ages, between the 11th and 13th centuries,” he added. “It was the site of the very unusual crematory cemetery where the remains of funeral pyres were dumped along with gifts for the dead.”

Although the find has unearthed 500 items some 1,000 may have been stolen by grave robbers.

The excitement generated by the find has, however, been tempered by the fact that treasure hunters appeared to have got there first, stealing an estimated 1,000 items despite the fact that such actions are illegal and bring with them a stint in prison of up to 10 years.

The area of the find is now secured and it’s whereabouts kept secret to prevent further robbery.

Archaeologists dig up a Celtic iron mill predating Jesus Christ

Archaeologists dig up a Celtic iron mill predating Jesus Christ

The Celtic iron smelling furnace which predates Jesus, which confirmed further how much the Celts have had an influence on continental Europe and their power in the region, was excavated by the archaeologists of Poland, a pleasant and exciting finding in Warkocz near the city.

Although we find the Celts to be rooted in the history of Scottish, Irish, British and Welsh, they actually originated from central Eastern Europe, where Poland is located today..

The Hallstatt culture of Iron Age arose and soon helped them spread their metallurgy across Europe and to the British Isles, where their languages, including Gaelic, Welsh, and Irland, are still relevant today.

Celtic shield found in London in the 1800s.

These metallurgy skills would not have been possible without iron smelting furnaces, which were dug into the Earth and lined with clay.

These facilities gave the Celts a superior ability to produce the armor, helmets, and weaponry that would make them a dominant force throughout the land until the Romans defeated them and integrated them into their own society when Julius Caesar conquered Celtic Gaul in campaigns from 58 BC to 51 BC.

An intricately crafted ceremonial Celtic helmet

But for centuries prior to that, the Celts were a powerful culture, in no small part thanks to their smelting skills.

Celtic bronze mirror.

And now, archaeologists led by Dr. Przemysław Dulęba from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Wrocław have uncovered one of their furnaces, complete with remnants of iron and slag inside along with other artifacts such as ceramic pieces, garment clasps, and clothing items, as well as metal ornaments that all made it clear the furnace belonged to the Celts as far back as the 3rd century BC.

The remains of a Celtic smelting furnace found in Poland.

“The iron smelting furnaces that we discovered in Warkocz most probably come from this earliest phase of their stay in the lands of modern-day Poland,” Dulęba said in a statement. “The time of their arrival is a still poorly researched and mysterious period in the prehistory of southern and central Poland.”

Celtic smelting furnace demonstration

Indeed, southern Poland is on the outer edge of the where the Hallstatt culture originated. But it should not have taken the Celts long to arrive there as it would have been a short journey north by horse. And the Celts were expert horsemen, even going on to serve as elite cavalry in the Roman military. The Romans would also go on to adopt the Celtic sword.

Celtic cavalry warrior as depicted on a Bronze plaque made around 400 BC.

While Celtic furnaces were more multi-purpose installations that served a wide variety of societal needs, later Roman furnaces were not.

”Interestingly, bloomeries (metallurgical furnaces) from the Roman period, i.e. a few hundred years later, were single-use installations,” Dulęba said. These smelting furnaces were made to last, and the reason why this one was even found is that the team of archaeologists used a piece of special modern technology that can detect sites that were once exposed to high heat, which is necessary for metallurgy.

The furnaces were dug deep into the ground, and their interior lined with pugging (an insulating layer containing clay). Only a very small part protruded from the surface of the earth.

For now, researchers have opened only one small archaeological excavation but Dr. Dulęba says he believes there could be more furnaces in the area. The archaeologists chose the excavation site after using a magnetic method that registers traces of old buildings and structures that were once strongly exposed to high temperatures.

One of several Celtic swords that have been found, demonstrating the artistry of their metallurgy skills.
A Roman spatha influenced by Celtic design.

The Celtic culture flourished for years and their smelting skills crafted many works that are currently on display today in museums around the world. By the time Jesus was born in Bethlehem around 4 BC, the Celts had already been largely conquered by the Romans, but their culture had existed for centuries and continues to persist today in small pockets where they once lived.

Stained glass depicting Jesus.

But the analysis and dating of the site are only just beginning as scientists prepare to employ radiocarbon dating to establish a more exact age.

”If expert research in the form of analyses and radiocarbon dating of burnt wood residues from furnaces confirms our assumption, we will be able to state with certainty that this is the first well documented Celt metallurgical workshop in modern-day Poland,” Dulęba said.

And that would truly be something to add to Polish history books, which is already influenced by the Celts, who introduced many tools and weapons to the region, forms which were still being used up to the 1800s.

The Celts introduced the knowledge of the potter’s wheel and advanced iron metallurgy, with shears, axes, cutters, files, and hammers in a similar form being used in Poland until the end of the pre-industrial era at the turn of the 19th century.

Poland should be proud of their Celtic heritage, for it shaped their nation just as much throughout history as other peoples and events. Perhaps more Celtic sites will be found near the smelting furnace and will shed more light on a culture that is still somewhat mysterious to us.