Category Archives: POLAND

Decorative Heater Unearthed at 16th-Century Castle in Poland

Decorative Heater Unearthed at 16th-Century Castle in Poland

Decorative Heater Unearthed at 16th-Century Castle in Poland
Fragment of a cocklestove tile.

Beautiful Renaissance cockle stove tiles with the quality and style matching those from the Wawel Royal Castle in Kraków have been discovered during research in the ruins of the stronghold in Żelechów (Masovian Voivodeship).

The research was conducted in August by archaeologists and historians from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences. 

During this season, they focused on exploring the remains of the 16th-century court and the earlier, late medieval buildings located in the same place. The structures were part of a wooden castle.

Aerial view of this year’s excavations in Żelechów.

The head of research Wojciech Bis from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences told PAP – Science in Poland that excavations made it possible to determine that the wooden building used in the 16th century was destroyed by fire.

The archaeologists unearthed burnt beams and layers of burnt clay, which could have covered the walls and floor of the structure.

However, the most spectacular find – according to the researchers – turned out to be the remains of a cockle stove, which probably heated the representative room of the court.

Fragment of a cockle stove tile.

Bis said: “Among its remains, we found numerous, beautifully decorated tiles with rich geometric, plant and animal patterns. There were also images of fantastic animals, including griffin, human figures and coats of arms.”

Several hundred fragments of tiles have survived. They were mostly covered with colourful enamel: green, yellow, white and blue. According to the researchers, they probably ornamented a single cockle stove, the clay base of which has also survived.

So far, the researchers are unable to say where they originated from. 

Fragment of a cocklestove tile.

However, the researchers say stoves covered with similar tiles decorated the Renaissance interiors of the Wawel Royal Castle. Some of them, especially decorative tops or tiles with rosette motifs, are almost identical stylistically to those at Wawel.

Research project participant, historian Maciej Radomski from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology at the Polish Academy of Sciences, said: “This proves that this building served representatives of the then social elites of the Commonwealth.”

In addition to Renaissance tiles, scientists found fragments of ceramic vessels. Among them were thin-walled table dishes designed for serving meals and kitchen utensils for the preparation of dishes.

They included pots and pans on three legs. In addition, numerous post-consumption animal bones with traces of cutting and chopping were found, mainly from pigs and oxen. This is evidence of abundant feasts at the castle.

Fragment of a cocklestove tile.

Archaeologists also discovered coins. The oldest of them is the silver penny Wenceslaus IV (1378-1419), as well as several copper schillings minted during the reign of John II Casimir, called Boratyki. In addition, interesting finds from the researchers’ point of view were two spurs discovered near the 16th-century court building, probably lost in the muddy surroundings of the buildings.

The wetland, swampy area promotes the preservation of many artefacts, including wooden structures. Many of them have survived to this day, which is not a common phenomenon among the remains of buildings from hundreds of years ago, the researchers emphasise.

The search for the Żelechów castle took several years. Historians knew from a few mentions that there was a stronghold in this town in the Middle Ages. Its relics were located a few years ago with ALS and other methods that do not even require driving a shovel into the ground. It is located northwest of the Żelechów market, near fish ponds.

The excavations started in 2017. In subsequent seasons of excavations, the researchers managed to unearth well-preserved wooden fragments of the medieval castle. It was previously thought that underground there were massive brick or stone remains of the foundation of the structure.

Archaeological excavation in Żelechów.

The castle was not lucky. It was probably built in the mid-15th century and most likely abandoned by the Ciołek family at the beginning of the 16th century. According to the researcher, disagreements between magnates contributed to this. The seat of the Ciołek family was temporarily taken over by Feliks of Zielanka.

Before the middle of the 16th century, the castle probably returned to the hands of previous owners, but soon a significant part of the buildings was consumed by fire. It continued to function in some form and operated until the mid-17th century, as evidenced by coins from the later period discovered during excavations, the researchers believe.

Numerous volunteers, members of the Żelechów Historical Society, the Municipal Engineering Department in Żelechów and the Volunteer Fire Brigade in Żelechów were involved in this year’s research. The implementation of research was financially and organizationally supported by the Żelechów municipality. Excavations were conducted courtesy of the plot owner, Stanisław Kawka.

Archaeologists unearth remains of 17th-century female “vampire” in Poland

Archaeologists unearth remains of 17th-century female “vampire” in Poland

Vampire folklore across cultures is filled with various tips on how to keep a recently deceased person from rising from the grave as an undead fiend who preys on the living.

Archaeologists unearth remains of 17th-century female “vampire” in Poland
Archaeologists discovered what may be the skeleton of a 17th-century female “vampire” near Bydgoszcz, Poland.

Now archaeologists have uncovered an unusual example of people using these tips in a 17th-century Polish cemetery near Bydgoszcz: a female skeleton buried with a sickle placed across her neck, as well as a padlock on the big toe of her left foot.

Tales of vampire-like creatures date back at least 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia. For instance, the Assyrians feared a demon goddess called Lamastu (literally, “she who erases”), who they said killed babies in their cribs or while still in the womb. Other ancient texts mention a similar creature, Lilith—who also appears in Hebrew texts and folklore—who steals away infants and unborn children. Neither of these could be considered “vampires” in the modern sense, but they are the precursors to the Greek legend of Lamia, an immortal monster who sucked the blood from young children.

In Chinese folklore, another type of proto-vampire, called the k’uei, were reanimated corpses that rose from the grave and preyed on the living, as were the Russian upir, Indian vetala, Romanian strigoi, and Greek vrykolakas.

News reports specifically referencing vampires didn’t appear in English until 1732, as suspected “epidemics” of vampirism caused a mass hysteria that swept across Eastern Europe.

 By the 19th century, most of Europe was consumed by vampire hysteria, inspiring writers like John Polidori (“The Vampyre,” 1819), Sheridan LeFanu (Carmilla, 1872), and of course, Bram Stoker, whose Dracula (1897) pretty much spawned the modern vampire genre.

Archaeologists excavating a 17th-century cemetery near Bydgoszcz in Poland.

Naturally, the fear evoked by the presumed existence of such creatures inspired many different approaches to ensuring that the dead stayed dead. In the early Middle Ages, Russian villagers would exhume suspect corpses and destroy the body by cremation, decapitation, or by driving a wooden stake through the heart. Stakes were often secured above corpses upon burial, so the creature would impale itself if it tried to escape.

In Germany and the western Slavic regions, suspected vampires were decapitated, and the head was buried between the feet or away from the body. Other strategies included burying corpses upside down, severing the tendons at the knees, or—in the case of Greek vrykolakas—placing crosses and inscribed pottery fragments on the chest of the deceased.

In places where vampires were believed to suffer from arithmomania, poppy seeds or millet seeds would be scattered at the site of a suspected vampire. (The X-Files episode “Bad Blood” humorously used this bit of folklore with Mulder’s favorite snack, sunflower seeds.)

The first early medieval graves in the region near Bydgoszcz were discovered between 2005 and 2009, when archaeologists recovered jewelry, semi-precious stones, a bronze bowl, and fragments of silk clothing.

Dariusz Poliński of the Nicholas Copernicus University led the archaeological team that returned to the site earlier this year in hopes of discovering more artifacts. That didn’t happen, so they turned their attention to a nearby 17th-century cemetery in the village of Pień instead.

The burial is unusual because a sickle was placed across the neck—presumably to decapitate the corpse if the woman tried to “rise” as a vampire.

That’s when the researchers identified the grave containing the female skeleton. Other examples of anti-vampire burials have been found in Poland, according to Poliński.

Several skeletons with severed heads were found in 2008, for example, and a body with a brick forced into the mouth and holes drilled through the legs was also found. “Ways to protect against the return of the dead include cutting off the head or legs, placing the deceased face down to bite into the ground, burning them, and smashing them with a stone,” said Poliński.

Nonetheless, this latest find is unique. While there have been reports of people placing scythes or sickles near a grave as an offering to prevent demons from entering the body, the placement of this sickle was different. “It was not laid flat but placed on the neck in such a way that if the deceased had tried to get up, most likely the head would have been cut off or injured,” said Poliński. As for the padlock on the big toe, “This symbolizes the closing of a stage and the impossibility of returning.”

Another unusual feature is that the skeleton appears to be that of a woman of high social status, given the care with which she was buried. There were also remnants of a silk cap on her head, which would not have been affordable for a member of a lower class. As for why she would have been buried in such a way, Poliński said that she had very noticeable protruding front teeth. This may have made her appearance different enough that she was deemed a witch or vampire by superstitious locals.

1930s Medicine Bottle Found in Poland’s Gwda River

1930s Medicine Bottle Found in Poland’s Gwda River

Archaeology enthusiasts have uncovered a perfectly preserved pharmaceutical bottle with herbal ‘heart’ drops from the 1930s, alongside the remains of a medieval clay pot from the bottom of a river.

1930s Medicine Bottle Found in Poland’s Gwda River
Archaeologists from the Stanisław Staszic Regional Museum in Piła stumbled upon the discovery while combing through the river Gwda in western Poland.

The team led by Dr Jarosław Rola from the Stanisław Staszic Regional Museum in Piła stumbled upon the discovery while combing through the river Gwda in western Poland.

The oldest discovery was a large fragment of a clay pot from the end of the early medieval period, dating back to between the 12th-13th century, which was found in the river near the town of Motylewo.

The oldest discovery was a large fragment of a clay pot from the end of the early medieval period, dating back to between the 12th-13th century.

The oldest discovery was a large fragment of a clay pot from the end of the early medieval period, dating back to between the 12th-13th century.Stanisław Staszic Regional Museum in Piła

News of the discoveries was announced by the museum on their Facebook page alongside a film of each of the objects found.

Introducing the second find, the museum wrote: “The Gwda conceals many secrets and surprises.

“Among this year’s discoveries, we find a curiosity: a pharmaceutical bottle, almost certainly from the 1930s, with perfectly preserved contents.

“They are herbal drops for the stomach or heart.

The latest archaeological search of the Gwda is part of studies of the river which have been ongoing for a number of years.

Up until now, the river has turned up a 2,000-year-old drinking mug and a fragment of a 17th-century bridge.

The latest objects found will be added to the collections of the Stanisław Staszic Regional Museum in Piła.

Padlocked, restrained female ‘vampire’ discovered in 17th-century graveyard

Padlocked, restrained female ‘vampire’ discovered in 17th-century graveyard

Padlocked, restrained female ‘vampire’ discovered in 17th-century graveyard
Archaeologists in Poland have uncovered the skeletal remains of a woman that was likely believed to have been a vampire at the time she died.

The remains of a “female vampire” have been uncovered by archaeologists at a 17th-century graveyard in Pień, Poland. Professor Dariusz Poliński and a team of researchers from Nicolaus Copernicus University were conducting the dig when they discovered the skeletal remains of the woman, who had been pinned to the ground with a sickle across her throat.

The popular farming tool was commonly used by superstitious Poles in the 1600s to try and restrain a deceased person thought to be a vampire so that they would be unable to return from the dead.

“The sickle was not laid flat but placed on the neck in such a way that if the deceased had tried to get up… the head would have been cut off or injured,” Poliński told the Daily Mail.

The professor also noted that the dead woman had a padlock wrapped around her toe — further strengthening the theory that she was considered a vampire at the time of her death.

Sickles were commonly used by superstitious Poles in the 1600s to try and restrain a deceased person thought to be a vampire.
“The sickle was not laid flat but placed on the neck in such a way that if the deceased had tried to get up… the head would have been cut off or injured,” Poliński stated.

Poliński claimed the lock would have been used during the burial process to symbolize “the impossibility of returning.”

The researchers did not disclose the presumed age of the deceased but said a silk cap found on her skull indicates that she was of high social status.

According to Smithsonian magazine, residents across Eastern Europe initially became fearful of vampires in the 11th century, believing that “some people who died would claw their way out of the grave as blood-sucking monsters that terrorized the living.”

By the 17th century, “unusual burial practices became common across Poland in response to a reported outbreak of vampires,” Science Alert reported.

There is still no scholarly consensus around how people came to be classified as “vampires,” but they were often violently executed across various parts of the continent, according to Poliński.

By the 17th century, “unusual burial practices became common across Poland in response to a reported outbreak of vampires,” Science Alert reported.
The researchers did not disclose the presumed age of the deceased but said a silk cap found on her skull indicates that she was of high social status.

And, even after their deaths, their bodies were further mutilated to make sure they wouldn’t return to wreak havoc on local villagers.

“Other ways to protect against the return of the dead include cutting off the head or legs, placing the deceased face down to bite into the ground, burning them, and smashing them with a stone,” Poliński stated.

The discovery of the “female vampire” in Pień — located in the south of the country — comes seven years after the remains of five other presumed vampires were unearthed in the town of Drawsko, 130 miles away.

The dig was conducted in the town of Pień, in southern Poland.

All five of those found there had similarly been buried with sickles across their throats.

Meanwhile, back in 2013, The Post reported that archaeologists had uncovered a “vampire gravesite” outside of the town of Gliwice, where multiple skeletons were found decapitated with their severed heads placed near their legs.

1000-year old Sword uncovered in Southern Poland

1000-year old Sword uncovered in Southern Poland

An almost one-metre-long sword estimated to be around a thousand years old has been found in southern Poland. Historians say it is one of the most valuable discoveries in the region in a long time.

The sword was found only 30 centimetres below ground level near the village of Lewin Klodzki, close to the border with the Czech Republic, by Konrad Oczkowski who is exploring the area with the permission of archaeologists.

No remains were found alongside the sword to indicate who its owner was, and neither were any other metal objects.

1000-year old Sword uncovered in Southern Poland
Joanna Klimek-Szymanowicz Wójt Gminy Lewin Kłodzki

Mr. Konrad Oczkowski explored the site with our permission and with all the permits – said archaeologist Marek Kowalski from the Wałbrzych branch of the Lower Silesian Monuments Conservation Department. – On Monday morning, he informed us about the possible discovery of an archaeological monument.

Mr Konrad was very professional. Since he was not an archaeologist, after removing the layer of soil and realizing it was a sword head, he covered and masked the monument with earth, marked the find’s location in a familiar way, and notified the conservation services. On Tuesday, July 19, archaeological services emerged at the site and picked up medieval weapons from the ground.

The sword is in good condition. However, it was deposited directly in the ground, so it was partially corroded due to oxygen ingress. The shaft is separated from the rest, and the blade is cracked at the blade. The sword was found in a place that restorers do not want to disclose yet. The fact is that there was a settlement in the area before 1945, but its origins date back only to the 17th century.

“Such a sword is priceless,” said archaeologist Marek Kowalski, quoted by Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

“It had the value of one or even several villages. So it undoubtedly belonged to some knight. Such things were not simply abandoned.”

It is not yet known whether the sword ended up underground in the 11th century or later. However, the expert who inspected the weapon, Dr Lech Marek from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Wrocław, has no doubts regarding the sword’s age, said Kowalski.

“Identical swords have been excavated at Ostrów Lednicki, where one of the most important castles of the Piast state was,” Kowalski added, referring to the first historical ruling dynasty of Poland, which ruled Poland until the 14th century.

The first Piasts, probably of West Slavic and Lechitic tribe descent, appeared around 940 in the territory of Greater Poland (Wielkopolska).

The archaeologists speculate that there may have been a fortress near the site where the sword was found. In the 11th century, Bolesław the Brave, the first king of Poland, who was in conflict with the Czechs, ordered his son, Mieszko II, to invade Bohemia, today the westernmost and largest historical region of the Czech Republic.

The sword will now be subjected to a historical analysis, examined for metallography using CT scans in an attempt to find inscriptions despite the corroded surface, Kowalski told Gazeta Wyborcza.

This might help the researchers to determine where the sword was made and who was its potential owner.

Investigations Continue at Warsaw’s World War II Jewish Ghetto

Investigations Continue at Warsaw’s World War II Jewish Ghetto

Archaeological excavations in the former Warsaw ghetto – at a site where the Jewish underground resistance was based – have unearthed items including children’s shoes and pages from books in Hebrew and Polish.

The excavations, which began in early June and are scheduled to continue until the end of July, are being coordinated by Christopher Newport University and Vistula University together with the Warsaw Ghetto Museum.

They are centred on the Miła, Dubois, Niska and Karmelicka streets in the Muranów district of Warsaw around a memorial mound named after Mordechai Anielewicz.

On June 7, another round of archaeological research and excavations was conducted in the area of the former ghetto by the Warsaw Ghetto Museum together with a team of scientists from Christopher Newport University and the Academy of Aleksander Gieysztor in Pułtusk – a branch of AFiB Vistula.

He was head of the Jewish Combat Organization (ŻOB), which was based at 18 Miła Street, and was among those thought to have died there in May 1943, during the ghetto uprising that had begun the previous month.

“This is a unique place because of the history that played out here in 1943,” Jacek Konik, an archaeologist and historian from the Warsaw Ghetto Museum who is leading the excavations, told TVN24.

“It was here that the soldiers of the Jewish Combat Organisation, surrounded by the Germans, probably committed mass suicide. Only a small group of people survived,” Konik explained. The archaeologists hope to learn about how people lived in the ghetto through the artefacts they find.

Investigations Continue at Warsaw’s World War II Jewish Ghetto

A shoe found at the site probably belonged to a Jewish child aged around 10, although nothing is known about its owner.

It is “a symbol of this place and the entire tragedy that took place here – both in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 and later in 1944 in the whole of Warsaw [during the Warsaw Uprising]…a symbol of all the children whom somebody did not allow to grow up”, said Konik.

The brown leather slipper, made of cheap material, was found early on in the excavations  An even smaller shoe was later discovered, reports Gazeta Wyborcza. They have been sent for conservation.

Among the other items the team have found are written accounts of the events that took place on the site, the remains of a burnt book collection, tableware, and ceramic tiles.

The archaeologists have managed to preserve pages from some books – “after the charred pages came into contact with the air, letters appeared” – including texts in Hebrew – probably passages from the Talmud – as well as a Jewish prayer book and an as-yet-unidentified Polish novel.

They are also investigating the possible size of a hidden shelter stretching under a number of townhouses and with six entrances. The team have managed to excavate down to the level of the floor of the cellars, which is where they have found the artefacts.

Konik said that any volunteers “interested in research and…who would like to help to regain and restore memory” are welcome to join the excavations by emailing jkonik@1943.pl or b.jozefow-czerwinska@vistula.edu.pl.

“We treat it as a kind of social obligation for as many people as possible who perhaps are not necessarily professional archaeologists to see and understand what type of history we are dealing with…history that affects us directly,” Konik added.

Warsaw’s ghetto was the largest of all those established by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. At one point it held around 460,000 Jews captive in an area of 3.4 square km (1.3 square miles).

The vast majority of those victims died in the gas chambers of Treblinka and Majdanek following deportation from the ghetto. In April 1943, the ghetto uprising – the largest single act of Jewish resistance during the war – temporarily halted the deportations.

The uprising was brutally suppressed by the German occupiers, with tens of thousands of Jews killed in the ghetto or after capture and deportation to extermination camps.

A visualisation showing the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto superimposed on the modern city.

41,500-Year-Old Mammoth Ivory Pendant Found in Poland

41,500-Year-Old Mammoth Ivory Pendant Found in Poland

The ancient pendant made from mammoth bone was found in 2010 along with a horse-bone tool known as an awl. This piece of jewellery shows the great creativity and extraordinary manual skills of members of the group of Homo sapiens that occupied the site, said Dr. Wioletta Nowaczewska, a researcher at Wrocław University.

41,500-Year-Old Mammoth Ivory Pendant Found in Poland
Dorsal views of the 41,500-year-old decorated ivory pendant from Stajnia Cave, Poland.

“The thickness of the plate is about 3.7 mm showing an astonishing precision on carving the punctures and the two holes for wearing it.”

Using advanced methods of radiocarbon dating, Dr. Nowaczewska and colleagues dated the pendant, awl and bone fragments from Stajnia Cave to the Early Upper Paleolithic.

The objects are the earliest known evidence of humans decorating jewellery in Eurasia and the emergence of symbolic behaviour in human evolution.

The decoration of the pendant included patterns of over 50 puncture marks in an irregular looping curve and two complete holes.

The researchers suggest that the pattern of indentations, similar to later jewellery found in Europe, could represent hunting tallies (a mathematical counting system) or lunar notations which correspond to the monthly cycle of the Moon or Sun.

“If the Stajnia pendant’s looping curve indicates a lunar analemma or kill scores will remain an open question,” said Dr. Adam Nadachowski, a researcher in the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals at the Polish Academy of Sciences.

“However, it is fascinating that similar decorations appeared independently across Europe.”

The presence of animal bones alongside the pendant and bone awl may indicate that humans were beginning to produce small and transportable art 41,500 years ago as they spread across Eurasia.

“Determining the exact age of this jewellery was fundamental for its cultural attribution, and we are thrilled with the result,” said Dr. Sahra Talamo, director of the BRAVHO Lab in the Department of Chemistry Giacomo Ciamician’ at Bologna University.

“This work demonstrates that using the most recent methodological advances in the radiocarbon method enables us to minimise the amount of sampling and achieve highly precise dates with a very small error range.”

“If we want to seriously solve the debate on when mobile art emerged in Paleolithic groups, we need to radiocarbon date these ornaments, especially those found during past fieldwork or in complex stratigraphic sequences.”

“The ages of the ivory pendant and the bone awl found at Stajnia Cave finally demonstrate that the dispersal of Homo sapiens in Poland took place as early as in Central and Western Europe,” added Dr. Andrea Picin, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

“This remarkable result will change the perspective on how adaptable these early groups were and call into question the monocentric model of diffusion of the artistic innovation in the Aurignacian.”

The team’s paper was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers Reconstruct Likenesses From 400-Year-Old Bones

Researchers Reconstruct Likenesses From 400-Year-Old Bones

The bust of an elderly man and digital images of a young woman and a young man are the results of research conducted on human skulls found in an early medieval stronghold.

Researchers Reconstruct Likenesses From 400-Year-Old Bones

The appearance of the former inhabitants of Upper Lusatia was recreated by anthropologists, archaeologists and visual artists.

The three reconstructions were made by the team of Professor Barbara Kwiatkowska from the Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences in collaboration with visual artists from the Academy of Art and Design in Wroclaw. One female and two male skulls were found in Göda, western Saxony.

‘Radiocarbon dating of human remains showed that the cemetery in the yard of the stronghold functioned between the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 17th century when the stronghold was already abandoned.

The older man’s appearance has been recreated in the form of a full, realistic bust. The reconstruction of the appearance of the young man and the young woman was done digitally.

Upon discovery almost a century ago, these burials were thought to date from the early Middle Ages. That is why we included them in our research project that concerns the Polish-German border 1,000 years ago.

This allowed verifying their chronology. It turned out that these graves were much younger than previously thought. This is another example that it is worth it to re-analyse past archaeological discoveries with modern research tools’, explains Dr. Paweł Konczewski, an archaeologist from the Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences.

The reconstructions are presented at the City Museum in Budziszyn at an exhibition devoted to the period of the early Middle Ages in Upper Lusatia – a geographic and historical region located today on both sides of the Polish-German border.

The exhibition was prepared as part of the Polish-German scientific and educational project ‘1000 years of Upper Lusatia – the people, the forts, the cities’.