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.
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’.
Archaeologists in Poland have discovered three pendants that belonged to people who were murdered at Sobibor, a Nazi death camp in eastern Poland.
The researchers discovered two of the pendants in places where Holocaust victims were forced to undress before guards herded them into gas chambers; they discovered the third pendant near a mass grave at the death camp, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
“Little is known about the stories behind the pendants, which are heartbreaking,” Yoram Haimi, an archaeologist with the IAA who co-directed the excavation, said in a statement released Jan. 27.
It took about 10 years of archaeological excavations to find all three pendants at Sobibor. Though each pendant is different, all three have depictions of Moses and the Tablets of the Law (also known as the Ten Commandments) on one side, and the Hebrew prayer, “Shema Yisrael,” which translates to “Hear O Israel,” on the other.
For Jews, the Shema is “an affirmation of God’s singularity and kingship,” according to My Jewish Learning, a site run by 70 Faces Media, a nonprofit, nondenominational media organization.
“Its daily recitation is regarded by traditionally observant Jews as a biblical commandment.” Traditionally, Jewish people say the prayer as their last words before death.
The words framed in each metal pendant were inscribed by hand. During the past year, researchers managed to identify each pendant’s country of origin: Lviv, Ukraine; Poland; and Czechoslovakia.
“It has been possible to identify a kind of tradition or fashion among the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe with pendants that were inscribed with ‘Shema Yisrael’ on one side and a depiction of Moses and the Tablets of the Law on the opposite side,” Haimi said. However, it’s unclear how the pendants became widespread.
“Were they distributed in synagogues by local Jewish communities or possibly produced for individual orders?” Haimi wondered. “Research of the pendants is ongoing and we invite the public to provide us with details concerning them.”
Of the 6 million Jews, as well as people with disabilities, Roma, Poles and other Slavic people killed during the Holocaust, about 250,000 people — largely Jews from Poland the occupied parts of the Soviet Union — died at Sobibor between 1942 and 1943, according to Britannica.
However, the death toll was likely higher, Haimi, whose uncle was killed at the camp, previously told Live Science.
Sobibor was connected to a railroad that transported Jews captured from around Europe, and it’s likely that not everyone on the trains, or those taken to the death camp by foot or truck, were included on the lists used to estimate the death toll, Haimi previously said.
“The personal and human aspect of the discovery of these pendants is chilling,” Eli Eskozido, director of the IAA, said in the statement. “They represent a thread running between generations of Jews — actually a thick thread, thousands of years old, of prayer and faith.”
The new excavations were directed by Wojciech Mazurek, an archaeologist from Poland, Haimi and Ivar Schute, an archaeologist from Holland, all of whom were assisted by local residents.
The Mystery of the Death of 60 Prisoners From a Camp in the Stargard Area
‘During research in Stalag II-D, we found several dozen mass graves. We carried out exhumation in one of them and found the remains of 64 men. Based on the analysis of collected evidence, artefacts, we can now say that most of them were Red Army soldiers’, says Dr. Andrzej Ossowski, head of the Department of Forensic Genetics at the Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin.
He adds that the items discovered in the grave include fragments of Polish and Belgian soldier uniforms, but at this stage, it is not possible to confirm that those soldiers were also buried there.
Based on the Red Army soldiers data published by the OBD Memorial project, the researchers determined that the prisoners died within four consecutive days, in December 1941.
Preliminary findings also indicate that death occurred as a result of exhaustion, but scientists want to investigate it in more detail – precisely because of the short time, in which so many people died.
‘The scale is incredible – a dozen or so people per day died in the camp. There are no traces that would point to a brutal death mechanism – shooting or torture, which we have seen during our work in Stutthof, Treblinka or Sobibór’, explains Ossowski.
According to Ossowski, exhaustion made prisoners susceptible to infectious diseases, such as typhus. ‘We plan to carry out pioneering testing for the presence of pathogens in the preserved bone material – so far, no one has done that in Poland’, the geneticist says.
He adds that research in the former Stalag II-D will continue. The researchers assume that the 64 prisoners found in the grave are not the only such victims.
‘It was not a concentration camp or extermination camp. It was a POW camp. This shows the scale of the criminal system, and we can talk about a mass scale of death in POW camps. This is a terrifying image showing the enormity of criminal action.
It was extermination through the conditions, to which prisoners of war were exposed – hard work, malnutrition, lack of any medical care, emphasises Ossowski.
He notes that research is also underway to determine the identity of prisoners of other nationalities, about whom the researchers have very little information at this point. He also points out that in the case of soldiers of the Red Army, although their fate was known, the communist system never informed their relatives.
‘After taking possession of the German documentation, Soviets did not inform families what happened to their relatives – despite the fact that, as can be seen in the documents, even their addresses were recorded. The authorities allowed to brand the relatives of Soviet POW +families of traitors+’, the geneticist says.
The work that began in October 2021 is the first comprehensive research in the former camp. Earlier, the Military Property Agency, which owns the area, conducted surveys after history enthusiasts determined the approximate location of the burial site in the complex.
Stalag II-D was one of the largest POW camps in the Third Reich. From 1939 (initially, it operated as a temporary camp, Dulag L), prisoners from all over Europe were sent there, soldiers and non-commissioned officers, including soldiers from Gen. Kleeberg’s Army, as well as other Polish soldiers, French, Belgian and Soviet soldiers.
POWs from the camp worked on work details all over Pomerania, including farms and road construction. Many of them died during labour and were buried near their place of work. The camp functioned until its evacuation in February 1945.
Research in Stalag II-D was co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. (PAP)
Archaeology bombshell: 7,000-year-old find older than Pyramids stuns scientists
The archaeological discovery was hiding in plain sight for centuries, tucked away in a field near the village Łysomice in northern Poland. But with the aid of Google Earth scans, archaeologists were able to spot concentric outlines of where the ancient structures, or pans, once stood. The researchers now believe the buildings were raised by some of the first European communities to farm the land.
The discovery dates the neolithic structures to about 2,000 years before the Great Pyramid of Giza was built in Egypt.
Mateusz Sosnowski from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Nicolas Copernicus praised the unexpected find.
The archaeologist said: “Our discovery can be boldly dubbed sensational due to the fact the pans are located east of the Vistula river.
“These constructions are the most north-eastern of their type in Europe. We did not expect such a discovery in this region.”
The ringed structures or pans were found roughly three miles (5km) apart outside of Łysomice.
The structures measure approximately 278ft (85m) across and feature three concentric ditches with a common centre.
When viewed from space with the aid of Google Earth and Google Maps, the pans left distinct impressions in the land now used for modern farming.
The archaeologists speculate the structures may have had ties to early astrological efforts due to the direction of their construction.
Dr Sosnowski said: “What is is also interesting, is that the entrances are most likely directly opposite one another on a northwest-southeast axis.
“We suppose they could also be linked to astronomical observations.”
The entrances likely faced the direction of the rising sun during the Winter Solstice.
Dr Sosnowski said: “In order to confirm this concept we will need further analysis.”
To date, archaeologists have found more than 130 of these pan-like structures all over Europe.
At least one-third of these structures can be found in Austria.
The rest are peppered across Poland, Hungary, Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
In this particular case, the archaeologists believe the structures were “planned and raised by a large group of people”.
According to some researchers, they may have served ceremonial roles or acted as temples for pagan practices. The European pans were typically surrounded by concentric ditches and wooden palisades, which suggests they could have been defensive structures.
Dr Sosnowski and his team now want to visit the sites in person in the winter.
The discovery comes after archaeologists in South America uncovered the 2,000-year-old remains of two infants wearing helmets. The unusual remains were found on the coast of Central Ecuador at a burial site called Salango.
Archaeologists in the UK have also made an incredible 8,000-year-old discovery at the bottom of the sea. The ancient find is likely a boat from the Stone Age, found just off the coast of Great Yarmouth.
Archaeologists have also solved an incredible Roman mystery after discovering a “forgotten city” buried in the Mediterranean.
Ancient pyramid SHOCK: How tombs older than Egyptian pyramids reveal CANNIBAL horrors
Pyramid-like structures hidden across north-central Poland have stunned archaeologists with evidence of bloodcurdling neolithic rituals. These so-called “Polish pyramids” in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian region are believed to predate the Great Pyramids of Giza by thousands of years.
Archaeologists estimate the tombs were built between the 4th and 3rd millennium BC, making them at the very least a thousand years older than the Pyramid of Cheops. This was the time of the Stone Age, or the neolithic when well-defined cultures were emerging across Ancient Poland.
The unusual stone tombs, much like their Egyptian counterparts, were fashioned from great big slabs of stone.
But the comparisons end there because the Polish pyramids were neither as grand and were built flat across the land.
The tombs are triangular in shape and extend in one direction for quite a distance before tapering off.
The structures are slightly raised above the ground and their burial chambers are set into the soil with entrances to the outside world.
Archaeologists who examined these entrances were stunned to discovered the remains of gnawed on human bones.
And a few more clues from the past reveal the unfortunate denizens were likely eaten by whoever killed them.
An information plaque from a historical site in the village of Wietrzychowice reads: “About 50cm above the central grave another interesting cavity was discovered. It turned out, it was a dugout earthwork for a mass grave.
“The exact number of people buried there could not have been determined. The discovered bones could have blonde to two to nine individuals.
“What is surprising, is one part of the bones was likely burned and intentionally broken, perhaps to gain access to the bone marrow.
“Signs suggesting biting or the tearing off of muscles were also observed on two thigh bones.
“All of this could be interpreted as evidence of a cannibal feast or a mass offering towards a deceased.”
The Wietrzychowice site is an archaeological reserve established in an area settled around 5,500 years ago.
Some of the Polish pyramids measure as much as 492ft (150m) in length and the stones used in their construction weigh in at seven to 10 tonnes.
Archaeological evidence shows only men were buried in the stone monolithic tombs and the constructions housed wooden structures for ceremonial rites.
The tombs most likely belonged to important warlords, leaders, priests and other important figureheads.
In one of the tombs, researchers found the remains of a man who underwent trepanation – the process of making a surgical hole in the skull.
The reserve’s website states: “The deceased – a person high up in the tribal hierarchy – was buried in a straightened position at the helm of the tomb.
“Sometimes two to three individuals were buried simultaneously this way.
“Pots and clay spoons, flint relics, arrowheads, hatchets and war axes have survived to our times.
“The amount of effort put into raising these structures is undoubtedly evidence of a strong tribal bond and the social variety or existence of tribal leaders.”
Quick facts about the Egyptian pyramids:
1. Archaeologists have discovered more than 130 pyramids across the sandy landscape of Egypt.
2. The history of Ancient Egypt is divided into the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom eras.
3. The famous Queen Cleopatra was not Egyptian but Greek Macedonian and a descendant of the Ptolemaic dynasty installed during Alexander the Great conquests.
4. There are three chambers in the Great Pyramid, one of which remains unfinished.
5. The Ancient Egyptians invented one of the first forms of writing and a form of paper known as papyrus.
6. The pyramids are precisely aligned with the north.
7. The Great Pyramid of Giza, or the Pyramid of Cheops, is the largest and biggest of the three iconic structures.
8. The privilege of being mummified after death was reserved for the wealthiest members of Egyptian society.
9. The Great Pyramid of Giza stood as the largest structure in the world for more than 3,800 years.
10. Women in Ancient Egypt are understood to have had the same rights as men and could buy and sell property.
Island grave reveals 1,000-year-old treasure trove of ‘elite’ jewellery including a solid amber ring
Archaeologists have uncovered an ‘elite’ grave from the 12th century during excavation work in Northern Poland. The discovery in the village of Ostrowite included two amber rings, a bronze bowl, and an iron knife in a leather sheath with bronze fittings.
Distinguished from previous graves discovered at the site by its size and rich equipment, scientists say they believe the items belonged to elite members of the then local Christian community.
Team leader Dr. Jerzy Sikora from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Lodz said: “The deceased was most likely a representative of local, Pomeranian elites.
“It is striking that there are two identical rings, symmetrically arranged relative to the axis of the body. Amber ones, no less. The situation is quite unique. I do not know a similar burial.”
He added that the size of the grave, a wooden structure the size of a small house, and the rings were probably associated with symbols of power.
Sikora said: “Amber can be related to either mediation in trade in this raw material or control over local deposits. During the modern age, amber was extracted in the area of Chojnice.”
In addition, archaeologists found a bronze bowl by the skeleton’s feet, inside of which were fragments of wood thought to have belonged to the man’s coffin.
The deceased was also had an iron knife in a leather sheath with bronze fittings and two coin pieces. On the surface of the bowl and the knife sheath, the archaeologists noticed fragments and imprints of fabrics.
Under the bowl, there were small fragments of leather, probably remnants of the deceased’s footwear, preserved thanks to the preservative effect of copper oxides.
In previous years, archaeologists made several similar discoveries in the area, with Dr. Sikora saying that such graves were associated with emerging local elites. Similar graves are known, for example, from Usadel and Usedom in Mecklenburg (Germany) or Cedynia in Poland.
He added that two states were established in Pomerania in the 12th century: of the West Pomeranian Gryfites, subjected by Bolesław III Wrymouth and Christianised by Otto of Bamberg, and East Pomeranian Samborides, dependent on Polish princes, probably also from the time of Bolesław III Wrymouth.
Ostrowite, where the latest discovery was made, was an important local centre of power, which functioned from the 11th to the 14th century.
Dr. Sikora said: “It was a fairly extensive complex with a settlement on a nearby island, which at least from about 1160 was connected to the shore with a wooden bridge, but most likely functioned earlier.”
On the eastern shore of the lake, there were two cemeteries. Trade was an important aspect of the functioning of the settlement, as evidenced by the earlier findings of archaeologists, including about 20 weights for balance scales, coins (including Western European, mainly Saxon ones, as well as numerous imitations) and a number of imported items, such as bronze bowls.
The discovered items indicate trade with the areas of Pomerania, Greater Poland, as well as Scandinavia, Western Europe and Ruthenia.
Skeletal remains of children amid 119 burials stun archaeologists
The chilling archaeological discovery unearthed the skeletal remains of adults and children, some of whom were buried in pairs and coins in their mouths. The remains were buried in the village of Jeżowe in the Subcarpathia region of southeast Poland, where the S19 motorway is being constructed. Archaeologists have dated the discovery to the 17th century.
According to the General Director for National Roads and Motorways (GDDKIA), 115 burials were first unearthed in Jeżowe in the Góry Kościelne or Church Mountain range.
Archaeologists have since expanded their discoveries to a total of 119 remains.
The experts have since confirmed up to 80 per cent of the bones belong to children.
According to archaeologist Kataryna Oleszek of the archaeology group Arkadia, the burial site could have been designated specifically for children.
A second theory suggests there was a high mortality rate among children in this area.
The archaeologists hope to learn more after a careful analysis by anthropologists.
She told TVN24: “We must take all precautions, we must work with as much delicacy and attention to detail as possible.
“First of all, so we do not miss anything, and second of all, these bones are very fragile.”
The archaeologists are, however, certain the buried people were most likely poor as they were buried without any personal possessions.
The GDDKIA said in a statement: “115 skeletal graves were discovered during archaeological works on the construction of the S19 Podgórze-Kamień section.
“While carrying out archaeological surveillance work as part of the S19 motorway, graves with human remains were discovered.
“The burial pits were located in the Kościelne Mountains, a range of hills in Jeżówe, wherein 1604 the first parish was erected.
“To date, archaeologists have found 115 skeletal graves.”
The grave pits were all oriented along the east to west axis, with heads pointing towards the west.
The GDDKIA said: “Based on archaeological observations to date, we can conclude that about 70 to 80 percent of all burials are children.
“This is probably tied to the fact that in this place a part of the cemetery was separated, where the youngest residents of Jeżowe were buried.”
The burial pits were poorly equipped and the archaeologists were surprised to find coins in the mouths of the remains.
The coins are most likely a link to old Polish folklore and beliefs about the afterlife.
These coins are known as an obol of the dead or Charon’s obol – a form of payment used by the soul in the afterlife. In ancient Greek mythology, the souls of the dead would hand over the coin to Charon, the ferryman of Hades.
The ferryman would then carry the deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron into the world of the dead. These particular coins are known as boratynki and półtoraki.
The coins were minted at the start of the 17th century during the reign of King Sigismund III Vasa. According to Eric J. Gilchrest”s book Revelation 21-22 in Light of Jewish and Greco-Roman Utopianism, the practice of burying people with obols in the fifth century BCE.
He wrote: “As early as the sixth and into the fifth centuries BCE, the landscape of the afterlife began to change dramatically.
“Archaeological evidence shows that it is during the fifth century that the dead begin to be buried with an obol meant for Charon, the ferryman at the river Styx.”
Many more incredible archaeological discoveries have been made in Poland. In 2019, for instance, researchers found evidence of two 7,000-year-old structures.
Skeleton with bird skull in its mouth identified as 12-year-old Scandinavian girl from 17th century
When long-dead human remains are found buried in unusual circumstances, anthropologists are usually able to piece together why. But the bones of a child that lived just a couple of hundred years ago in Poland are proving to be a bit of a head-scratcher.
In a shallow grave in Tunel Wielki Cave, located in Sąspowska Valley in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, the body of a young child was found buried all alone. The only other human bones in the cave were over 4,500 years old, so it wasn’t a location in regular use for burials.
It’s the only modern human found buried in a cave in the region, archaeologists believe.
But it gets even weirder: the skull of a small bird, a chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), was found in the child’s mouth, and another chaffinch skull was found next to its cheek.
The skeleton is not fresh, exactly. The remains were first discovered 50 years ago during excavations of the caves, but almost all the finds had been placed in storage pretty much immediately without ever having been examined or described.
Archaeologist Małgorzata Kot from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Warsaw had embarked on a project to analyse these artefacts when she stumbled upon the remains.
“When we opened another dusty box from an old research project, we found small child’s bones,” she told Science in Poland, a science outreach website run by the Polish government’s Ministry of Science and Higher Education.
“Their discoverer, professor Waldemar Chmielewski, never published the details of this find, he only included a photograph of it in a book published in the 1980s.”
Radiocarbon dating suggests the child was buried in the later half of the 18th century CE, or very early in the 19th century, and died at about the age of 10. Preliminary examination of the bones also suggests that the child was suffering from malnutrition.
As for why it was buried in a cave all by itself, with the heads (or skulls) of chaffinches, that’s still an utter enigma.
“This practice is not known among the ethnologists we have asked for opinions. It remains a mystery why the child was buried in a cave in this way, not in a cemetery in a nearby village,” Kot said.
The bird skulls had already been described in an earlier paper, but the authors had not known that they had been found as part of a human burial, since this burial has never before been described in published research.
“We returned to [the bird] skulls, but the new analysis did not show anything that could at least explain why the chaffinch heads accompanied the child. For example, there are no traces of cuts on the skulls. We only know that these were the remains of adult birds,” Kot said.
This bizarre mystery raises many questions, and unfortunately, there’s a serious hindrance to the team’s quest to find more answers – the child’s skull is missing. It was sent to anthropologists in Wrocław straight after excavation, and no one knows what became of it.
Sadly, the dozens of caves in the Sąspowska Valley have been extremely damaged by humans since the child was interred.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, farmers removed much of the sediment from the caves to use as fertiliser, damaging countless artefacts dating back to at least the Palaeolithic, including human remains and Neanderthal tools.
Industrial exploitation of the caves has been banned for decades, but there’s no telling how much damage had already been done – or if there were any clues that may reveal why these much more recent remains had been buried there and in such a strange way.
The team intends to conduct a more thorough series of DNA tests on the remaining bones to see if it yields any more clues about the child’s tragic end. So it may not be the last we hear of this strange burial.