Category Archives: POLAND

Bronze Age Burials Found in Sandbox in Poland

Bronze Age Burials Found in Sandbox in Poland

Children playing in a sandpit in southwest Poland discovered human bones inside ancient urns. After local students began digging about with a bucket and shovel just below the pit’s surface in the village of Tuchola arska, the terrible discovery was found.

Bronze Age Burials Found in Sandbox in Poland
The grim discovery was made in the village of Tuchola Żarska after local schoolchildren began digging around with a bucket and spade.

Experts believe the find dates as far back as the Bronze Age and that it comes from the Lusatian culture from around 1100-700 BC.

Local archaeology inspector Marcin Kosowicz said: “While digging in a sandpit, the children came across one or two extensive corpse graves of the Lusatian culture community.

The graves which date back to the Lusatian culture from around 1100-700 BC were found just under the surface of the sand.

“The graves were located very shallowly under the surface of the soil and the overlying sand and for this reason, some of the vessels are fragmented.

“The removal of a considerable part of humus took place during the levelling of the ground for the construction of the playing field with heavy equipment, which could have damaged the vessels.”

He added that the location of the discovery may be linked to an earlier archaeological site nearby which is listed in the provincial heritage protection register.

Kosowicz said: “Due to the fact that its location is marked on a map on a scale of 1:25 000, which is characterised by low precision, it is possible that the grave that the children discovered is closely connected to this site.

“According to local people, a few dozen years ago, during the construction of a pond and a fence on the premises of the neighbouring State Agricultural Farm, bronze artefacts and ceramic vessels were discovered.

“Unfortunately, at this stage, it has not been possible to establish the further fate of these artefacts.”

The Lusatian culture existed in the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age around 1300 BC to 500 BC. The name Lusatia refers to an area in eastern Germany and western Poland.

The Lubusz heritage protection office has said that rescue archaeological excavations will be carried out at the site of the discovery.

Their main aim will be to secure the monuments that have been left behind.

Archaeologists discover the 18th-century wooden road

Archaeologists discover the 18th-century wooden road

Archaeologists have discovered a well-preserved stretch of a late 17th or early 18th-century wooden road in Jarosław, southeastern Poland. At 100 feet long, it is one of the longest wooden roads ever discovered in what is now Poland.

The remains were discovered in February during archaeological exploration of the site of planned sewer work in the historic centre of the city.

The road led to a gate in the city walls opening west towards Kraków. It was part of a 250-mile route connecting Bielsko Biała to Lviv in modern-day Ukraine. It was a dirt road, except for the section inside Jarosław.

Archaeologists discover the 18th-century wooden road
Archaeologists have excavated a wooden road in the town of Jarosław, located in the Podkarpackie Voivodeship of Poland.

The road was 10 feet wide, so must have been one-way traffic only because that was not enough space for two lanes. It was made of timbers mounted on transverse wooden joists. The wood was probably oak and it was very sturdy.

There are no hoof marks or wheel ruts even though it must have been a busy street as Jarosław held one of the largest market fairs in Europe and was a major hub of trade in the region. It was in active use for about 100 years before paved roads were built over it.

Some of the roads have been removed to the Jarosław Museum for conservation and study. Objects found during the removal of the timbers — coins, show leather, nails — will go on display in the museum.

The section still in place will be displayed in situ in the coming months.

The road was laser scanned before removal so a detailed animated model could be made accurate to the millimetre. 

Hoard of silver coins may have been part of historic ransom to save Paris

Hoard of silver coins may have been part of the historic ransom to save Paris

A hoard of silver coins minted in the Carolingian Empire about 1,200 years ago has been unearthed in northeastern Poland and may have been part of a historic ransom to save Paris from a Viking invasion.

Hoard of silver coins may have been part of the historic ransom to save Paris
Only three coins of this type have ever been found before in Poland, which was well beyond the Carolingian realms. Archaeologists suspect they are linked to the Scandinavian trading emporium at Truso.

It’s the first time anyone has found so many Carolingian coins in Poland. Only three such coins — of a distinctive style with Latin inscriptions and a central crucifix — have been found in the country before now.

The Carolingian Empire was founded by the Frankish king Charlemagne — Charles the Great — and spanned much of modern France, Germany, Switzerland and northern Italy in the eighth and ninth centuries. 

Archaeologists think the newfound coins may have come from the Viking trading town of Truso, which was then located near the Baltic coast about 60 miles (100 kilometres) west of the farmer’s field where they were found.

And if the coins did come from Truso, it’s possible that they were part of an immense ransom of gold and silver paid by a Carolingian king to prevent invading Vikings from sacking the city of Paris.

“If a larger number of the coins can be attributed to Paris, then yes, it is possible — and some have already been attributed to Paris,” said Mateusz Bogucki, an archaeologist and coin expert at the University of Warsaw in Poland. But “it is way too early to give such an interpretation,” he told Live Science.

Regardless, the distinctiveness of the coins raises interesting questions about their origins, Bogucki said. At the time the hoard was hidden or lost, the first medieval Polish kingdom had yet to be established, and the Slavic tribes in the region used mainly Arabian silver dirhams paid in exchange for slaves by traders from the Muslim caliphate, based in Baghdad far to the south.

A total of 118 of the Carolingian silver coins, about 1,200 years old, were unearthed in a farmer’s field near the town of Biskupiec in north-east Poland.

Carolingian coins

Metal detectorists discovered the first handful of the coin hoard in November 2020, in a field near the town of Biskupiec.

The finders, who had permission from the provincial government for their activities, stopped any further searching and kept the location secret until experts from the nearby Museum of Ostróda could investigate the find.

By March 2021, archaeologist Luke Szczepanski and his team had unearthed a total of 118 coins from the field — 117 of them minted during the reign of the Carolingian emperor Louis the Pious, who ruled from A.D. 814 until 840, and one coin minted during the reign of his son Charles the Bald, who ruled until A.D. 877.

Such coins are extremely rare in Poland, which was well beyond the lands ruled by the Carolingian dynasty. The only three Carolingian coins previously unearthed were found at the archaeological site at Truso, which had been established by Norse traders by the eighth century and was famous for its trade in amber, furs and slaves.

It seems likely that the owner of the hoard of coins found near Biskupiec had obtained them in Truso, Bogucki said, but there is a possibility that they had come from somewhere else and were being taken to Truso for trading. The coins have no marks that show exactly where and when they were minted, but researchers can learn more about their origins by studying characteristics like the shapes of the letters in their Latin inscriptions, he said.

Only three coins of this type have ever been found before in Poland, which was well beyond the Carolingian realms. Archaeologists suspect they are linked to the Scandinavian trading emporium at Truso.

Viking shakedown

The archaeologists aren’t sure how the hoard of silver coins came to be hidden or lost near Biskupiec. The region was probably an uninhabited wilderness at the time, and archaeologists have not found any traces of a nearby settlement, Szczepanski told Science in Poland.

One intriguing possibility, however, is that the coins came from Truso and that they were originally part of a ransom paid by the Carolingian king Charles the Bald to Vikings threatening Paris, his capital city.

Norse raiders frequently attacked the Frankish heartlands of the Carolingian Empire — today’s northern France and western Germany — after the late eighth century. Historical records compiled by monks suggest that in A.D. 845 a large fleet of Viking ships sailed up the Seine and laid siege to Paris, then located on an island in the river.

Charles the Bald reportedly paid the invaders 7,000 livres, or more than 5 tons of silver and gold, to prevent them from sacking the city, Bogucki said, and it’s possible that some of the coins found near Biskupiec were part of that ransom.

Charlemagne was King of the Franks in the late eighth century when his armies conquered most of western Europe. He was crowned Emperor of the Romans by the pope in Rome in A.D. 800; his rule and those of his dynasty are known as the Carolingian Empire, which later became Europe’s Holy Roman Empire. Charlemagne’s son Louis the Pious succeeded him as emperor in 814, and the empire was divided among Louis’ sons in 840. 

Charles the Bald, one of Louis’ sons, ruled the western kingdoms and became the Carolingian emperor in 875. Portrayals from the time show him with a full head of hair; historians speculate that he may, in fact, have been very hairy and that the nickname was used ironically, or that his “baldness” referred to his initial lack of lands compared with those of his brothers.

Egyptian mummy believed to be of a male priest turns out to be a pregnant woman

Egyptian mummy believed to be of a male priest turns out to be a pregnant woman

According to the AFP, X-rays of a 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy kept at Poland’s National Museum since 1917 showed the remains of a woman with long, curly hair who died between 26 and 30 weeks pregnant.

Marzena Ozarek-Szilke, an anthropologist at the Warsaw Mummy Project, was examining a CT scan of a mummy at the National Museum in the Polish capital when she spotted something peculiar.

“When I looked at the lesser pelvis of our mummy I was interested in what was inside… I thought I saw a tiny foot,” Ozarek-Szilke said.

Egyptian mummy believed to be of a male priest turns out to be a pregnant woman
X-ray images showed a little foot in the belly of the world’s first pregnant Egyptian mummy

She asked her husband, an archaeologist who also worked on the project, to take a look.

“My husband looked at the picture and as a father of three, he said: ‘Well, that’s a foot’. At that moment … the whole picture started to come together,” Ozarek-Szilke told Reuters.

The mummy came to Poland in the 19th century when the nascent University of Warsaw was creating an antiquities collection. For decades, it was thought the mummy belonged to an ancient Egyptian priest named Hor-Dehuti.

However, in discovery revealed in the Journal of Archaeological Science on Thursday, scientists at the Warsaw Mummy Project said the mummy was in fact a woman in her twenties who was between 26 and 28 weeks pregnant.

The cause of death is not clear, but Ozarek-Szilke said the pregnancy may have had something to do with it.

“It is possible that the pregnancy itself contributed to the death of this woman. Now we have modern medicine, women who are between 20 and 30 weeks pregnant and something happens to the pregnancy, they have a chance to be rescued. It used to be impossible,” she said.

The discovery sheds some light on the little-known role of children in ancient Egypt and the religious beliefs of the time, but also raises many questions, according to Wojciech Ejsmond, co-director of the Warsaw Mummy Project.

“What was the status of this child in the Egyptian religion? Did it have a soul, could it go to the afterlife on its own, could it be reborn in the afterlife… if it was not yet born?”

Ejsmond said scientists would study the mummy further to determine the cause of death and establish why the foetus was left in the body.

Medieval sword unearthed by a metal detectorist in Poland may have been used in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410

Medieval sword unearthed by a metal detectorist in Poland may have been used in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410

A medieval sword, metal pieces of a scabbard and a belt, and two knives that would have been worn on the belt were discovered in northern Poland by a metal detectorist who donated the artefacts to the Museum of the Battle of Grunwald, according to a Live Science report.

Alexander Medvedev discovered the sword near Olsztyn, in northern Poland, the local governmental Marshal’s Office of Warmia and Masuria reported in a translated news release on April 22.

“Such a find is found once in decades,” archaeologists said, according to the statement.

Despite spending more than 600 years buried underground, the weapons are well preserved, said Medvedev, an archaeology enthusiast, who donated the findings to the Museum of the Battle of Grunwald in Olsztyn.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the person who carried the sword might have been one of roughly 66,000 people who clashed at the Battle of Grunwald on July 15, 1410.

The bloody Battle of Grunwald (pictured) between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania triggered the decline of the Teutonic Order and brought about a shift in power in Europe which lasted for centuries

The battle fought near the Polish villages of Stębark (also known as Tannenberg), Grunwald and Ludwigsdorf, ended with a Polish-Lithuanian victory over the Knights of the Teutonic Order, which was founded during the Crusades to the Holy Land and later came to rule over what was then Prussia.

The Knights of the Teutonic Order often waged battles against their non-Christian neighbours, including the Duchy of Lithuania. But then, Lithuania’s pagan grand duke converted to Catholicism and married the Polish Queen Jadwiga; he became king when she died and took the name King Władysław II Jagiełło.

He later became known for uniting Poland and Lithuania during the region’s Golden Age, and even has a statue honouring him in New York City’s Central Park.  

The sword may have been worn by a warrior at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410.

King Jagiełło also converted Lithuania to Christianity. But the Knights of the Teutonic Order doubted the sincerity of the king’s conversion, and in 1409, their Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen declared war on Poland and Lithuania, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

After a day of fighting, von Jungingen was killed when a lance pierced his throat and his troops withdrew. In all, of the 39,000 Polish-Lithuanian troops, about 5,000 died; of the roughly 27,000 Teutonic troops, 14,000 were captured and 8,000 died, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. After the defeat, the Teutonic Order’s power declined.

Hundreds of years later, the Soviets retrospectively claimed the battle as a Russian victory, because some soldiers from Smolensk, a city in Russia, were present on the Polish-Lithuanian side. During World War I, the Germans won a battle against Russia near the medieval battle site.

The Germans, who viewed the medieval knights as noblemen who spread Christianity, named the new battle the Battle of Tannenberg so they could claim revenge for the knights who were defeated in the medieval battle, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

The newly discovered sword and its accessories are now undergoing conservation and analysis. 

The team hopes to learn more about the “social status of a medieval sword owner, and we are curious to see what lies beneath the rust layer,” Szymon Drej, director of the Museum of the Battle of Grunwald, said in the statement.

“We will also examine the site of the excavation of the monument in more depth to get to know the situational context of its origin.” After all, It’s rare to find such valuable items from the Middle Ages buried underground, Drej said. 

A farmer discovers an Ice Age cave hidden under his field that is over 11,000 years old

A farmer discovers an Ice Age cave hidden under his field that is over 11,000 years old

A farmer discovered an Ice Age cave that was naturally formed and used by humans. Adam Bryczek had been roaming his land near the town of Kraśnik in south-eastern Poland when he came across what appeared to be a large hole.

But what had originally been a small opening in the ground, had widened over time, before ultimately collapsing.

Startled Bryczek found the opening led down around 10 metres into an underground cave with an area of a few dozen square metres and a maximum height of up to around 140 cm – not enough for most adults to stand upright.

The cave is a few dozen square metres wide with a maximum height of around 140 cm – not enough for most adults to stand upright.

Bryczek reported his find to Dominik Szulc, the guardian of monuments in Kraśnik County, in January.

Since then, the site has been visited by archaeologists from Lublin, the capital of the region.

The underground space appears to be a solutional cave, which means that it was formed by the bedrock being dissolved by groundwater.

According to Szulc: “The cave undoubtedly dates back to the Pleistocene (2.58 million – 11,700 years ago), and more precisely, perhaps the so-called glaciations of the Nida or San (730,000-430,000 years ago).”

During this period, a Scandinavian ice sheet covered the Lublin Upland and the local area was covered by a thick layer of snow, he explains.

During temporary increases in temperature, there was a lot of flowing water, which dissolved the limestone rock, forming the walls, floor and ceiling of the cave.

Even though the cave formed naturally, the researchers point out that it was visited by humans, apparently to extract stone for building.

The cave’s walls show traces of mechanical work left by tools.

In a post on Facebook, Szulc did not publish the cave’s exact location, warning that it could be dangerous.

He wrote: “It is not suitable for access to visitors, because it is too small and low, with a steep and dangerous entrance leading to it.”

Experts are now working on a way to secure the cave so that people can enter it again to conduct scientific research.

Sprawling 5,000-year-old cemetery and fortress discovered in Poland

Sprawling 5,000-year-old cemetery and fortress discovered in Poland

Archaeological treasures are usually discovered by digging deep into the earth. One Polish archaeologist, however, made an incredible discovery from the sky — and now he has unearthed a 5,000-year-old cemetery and a medieval fortress.

Jan Bulas, an independent archaeologist in Kraków, became intrigued after noticing straight lines on satellite images of a farm near the town of Dębiany — lines only visible from above. He went to investigate with fellow archaeologist Marcin Przybyła.

There, the pair made an astounding find: the sprawling cemetery, consisting of 12, roughly 150-foot tombs — and atop the cemetery, remains of a medieval fortress, complete with a moat.

Sprawling 5,000-year-old cemetery and fortress discovered in Poland
Archaeologists estimate the ancient cemetery in Poland dates from about 5,500 years ago. Seven barrows have been excavated so far and there may be more than a dozen.
No human remains have yet been identified in the central tombs, but the remains of several burials from the same period have been found in the embankments of the earth around them, including this burial of a Neolithic woman.

“The megalithic cemetery in Dębiany is one of the largest and most interesting sites of this type in Central Europe,” said Bulas and Przybyła.

Using magnetic gradiometers — which can detect where the ground has been disturbed in the past without digging up the earth — Bulas and Przybyła found the foundations of the medieval fortress. Beneath the fortress lay even more treasure: the cemetery, which Bulas and Przybyła estimate to be around 5,500 years old.

Since they started digging two years ago, archaeologists have found seven Neolithic tombs and two horses buried during the Bronze Age, some 3,500 years ago. But they think there’s even more to uncover. Bulas and Przybyła suspect that the site could contain a dozen tombs.

These two horses were buried side-by-side in a grave at the site that dates from the Middle Bronze Age, thousands of years after the Neolithic cemetery.

The tombs they’ve uncovered so far are between 130 and 165 feet long. Their longer walls were reinforced with wooden palisades, most of which have long since disintegrated — only the post holes remain. The shorter walls seem to contain an entrance to a funerary chapel.

These tombs were once barrow mounds — that is, raised earth over a grave. Bulas and Przybyła have called their discovery “megaxylons”, combining the Greek words for big (“mega”) and wood (“xylos”). The barrows they’ve found near Dębiany were once much higher. However, over time, they’ve eroded into the earth.

“Unfortunately, most of the remains of the deceased and equipment were removed from these burials while the cemetery was in operation,” Przybyła said. “It was a ritual behaviour that we often encounter in cemeteries from that period.”

Built above the cemetery — perhaps unknowingly — is a fortress from the ninth and 10th centuries. In fact, the fortress is what first caught Bulas’ eye. The lines he saw on the satellite image were the outline of the medieval structure and its moat.

Both find stretch back deep into early European history and could prove invaluable when it comes to understanding ancient cultures and their customs. The fortress even predates the establishment of the first kingdom of Poland, in 1025. Bulas and Przybyła are especially hopeful that their discovery can shed light on some of the region’s first farmers.

“[The cemetery] provides us with extraordinary data on the funeral customs of the Funnel Beaker Culture,” they said.

The Funnel Beaker people, named after the distinctive pottery they left behind, are thought to be the first farmers in Europe. They came from the Middle East, passed through the Balkans, and began to spread across Europe in 4100 B.C.

The cemetery discovered by Bulas and Przybyła bears the marks of the Funnel Beaker people. They routinely built barrow cemeteries like this one. One cemetery found in the Polish region of Kujawy contained burial mounds so big that they’re sometimes called “the Polish pyramids.”

The so-called “Polish pyramids” found in Kujawy.

Alongside the cemetery, archaeologists are eager to learn more about the fortress itself. It’s not presently clear what purpose it served or how many people lived there.

“[The fortress] was not permanently inhabited,” explained Przybyła. “Perhaps it served as a military camp or an object associated with religious or social rituals.”

Beyond the history — and mysteries — the fortress structure holds, it appears to be one-of-a-kind. “It is worth noting that this is the only such structure known in Poland,” Przybyła said.

For now, Bulas and Przybyła plan to continue their investigation of the site to see what other treasures from the past they can unearth.

They’ll continue to excavate the cemetery to learn more about the Neolithic barrows and tombs. And they’re curious to see what they can learn from the apparently more recent fortress — as well as what it can tell them about medieval life in Poland.

Researchers Map World War II Bomb Craters in Poland

Researchers Map World War II Bomb Craters in Poland

According to a Live Science report, Maria Fajer of the University of Silesia and her colleagues employed lidar technology to record some 6,000 bomb craters in the Koźle Basin, an area of forests and wetlands in southern Poland that was part of Germany during World War II.

Lidar scans revealed thousands of craters in Poland's Koźle Basin, remnants of intense Allied bombings during 1943 and 1944.
Lidar scans revealed thousands of craters in Poland’s Koźle Basin, remnants of intense Allied bombings during 1943 and 1944.

Researchers recently mapped and analyzed the deeply scarred landscape for the first time, counting around 6,000 bomb craters ranging from 16 to 49 feet (5 to 15 meters) in diameter. Some areas held as many as 30 craters in a single hectare (10,000 square meters).

Their investigation presents a grim picture of the damage sustained by the battle-torn terrain, known as the Koźle Basin. But it also offers a glimpse of how the craters have since become an important part of the basin’s natural landscape and ecosystems, the scientists reported in a new study.

The Koźle Basin covers an area of approximately 180 square miles (470 square kilometers). Within the basin, extending for about 60 square miles (150 square km), “there are clusters of remnants of the Allied air campaign conducted there in the second half of 1944,” said study author Maria Fajer, a geomorphology researcher with the Faculty of Earth Sciences at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland.

“These are variously preserved bomb craters, ranging from those that are very well visible in the field to traces of backfilled and reclaimed craters,” Fajer told Live Science in an email. 

Nazi Germany controlled the Koźle Basin during WWII and used the region for industrial fuel production. It was the biggest such site in the entire Third Reich, the scientists reported. Coal and water were easily accessible there, while dense forests and sheltering hills provided natural cover from air and ground attacks.

Because the basin’s topography trapped air masses, the Germans could add another layer of protection to their operation by producing thick anti-aircraft smoke screens.

Great Britain’s Royal Air Force began targeting the region for the bombing in February 1943, and in June 1944 Americans and British pilots prioritized the destruction of Nazi oil refineries, as well as fuel and chemical factories.

Wartime records describe Allied planes dropping a total of 39,137 bombs in the Koźle Basin. Most of these were delayed-action bombs that were “intended for the destruction of buildings, reinforced concrete, and metal structures, as well as land-cratering,” the scientists reported March 16 in the journal Antiquity.

Uncounted numbers of craters were scoured away during postwar construction and agriculture, and researchers decided to map the region before more evidence of this noteworthy wartime bombardment was lost forever, according to the study. 

Allied planes targeted Nazi industrial factories in the Koźle Basin with tens of thousands of bombs.

Scanning with lasers

The researchers deployed a remote sensing method called light detection and ranging, or lidar, which uses laser pulses to peer through vegetation and reveal features in the ground.

By examining the sizes, shapes, and distribution of thousands of craters, the researchers were able to piece together a picture of the types of bombs that were used; how many were dropped at the same time; and ground conditions at the time of impact.

Today, these craters “are relics that document important historical events, and that constitutes a link between the area and the battlefields of Europe and beyond,” the study authors wrote. In the 75 years that have passed since the war, these remnants of violent explosions have gradually become part of the forest habitat.

“They now represent places where many amphibian, reptile, insect, bird, and ungulate species reside, seek shelter, or breed. The craters also provide habitats for numerous plant species,” the study authors wrote.

“The many water bodies and marshes that formed in the bomb craters contribute to the diversification and enrichment of local ecosystems, where sandy soils dominate.” 

Many species of animals and plants now make their homes in and around the Koźle Basin craters.

Follow-up studies by the scientists will further explore the ecological role of craters in forest ecosystems and the threats posed by unexploded bombs, Fajer said.

In the decades since WWII, natural processes such as erosion have erased many of the craters, while industry, farming, and other human activities could wipe away still more. Mapping the bomb fields will therefore help to preserve a record of WWII devastation before it vanishes. 

The researchers also argue that locations marred by WWII devastation, such as the still-scarred Koźle Basin, should be conserved for future generations. These areas “should be covered by special heritage protection measures to help us remember the consequences of the bad decisions that led to the war,” Fajer said.