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.
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
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.
“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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Toothpick Use Identified on Neanderthal Tooth from Poland
Additional evidence of Neanderthal hygiene practices has been unearthed at Stajnia Cave, which is located in south-central Poland, according to a Science in Poland report.
Analyzing two teeth excavated from the Pleistocene layers of the Stajnia Cave (Kraków-Częstochowa Upland), the team led by Dr. Wioletta Nowaczewska from the Department of Human Biology, University of Wrocław, found traces left by a toothpick.
She said: “It appears that the owner of the tooth used oral hygiene. Probably between the last two teeth, there were food residues that had to be removed. We don’t know what he made a toothpick from – a piece of a twig, a piece of bone, or fishbone. It had to be a fairly stiff, cylindrical object, which the individual used often enough to leave a clear trace.”
This is the second known example of such hygienic procedures being practiced by Neanderthals from Stajnia Cave. Similar traces have been preserved on another tooth found earlier in the cave.
Scientists also believe that the teeth, a wisdom tooth (third lower molar) and an upper premolar, belonged to an individual over 30 years old, and the other to a slightly younger male in his twenties.
However, they found no pathological changes indicative of enamel growth disorders, hypoplasia, or caries. They note that the wisdom tooth shows signs of severe wear, which may be related to eating hard food.
To determine whether the tooth belonged to our immediate ancestor (Homo sapiens) or a fossil relative (Homo neanderthalensis), scientists assessed the structure of the tooth’s crown, enamel thickness, dentine surface contour, and crown surface microtrauma.
They compared the data with other data on the teeth of Neanderthals, as well as fossil and contemporary representatives of our species.
Dr. Nowaczewska said: “A set of features, i.e. the presence of a specific combination of features characteristic of Neanderthals indicates that further teeth from Stajnia Cave belonged to them. In the case of the lower molar, one can see a complicated structure: a large number of tubercles. In the front part of the crown, there was also a characteristic depression and enamel formation.
“The good condition of the premolar allowed us to carry out 2D and 3D analysis of enamel thickness, digital reconstruction, virtual ‘pulling’ of the enamel cap and assessment of enamel thickness, which in Neanderthals is thinner than in H. sapiens. All these features taken together point to Neanderthals.”
The teeth were initially discovered in 2010 along with numerous remains of the fauna during excavation works conducted under the supervision of Dr. Mikołaj Urbanowski.
But it is only recently that they have been analyzed using mitochondrial DNA. Dr. Mateja Hajdinjak from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology the tests along with additional analyses to confirm that the teeth belonged to Neanderthals.
Neanderthal bone remains are rare finds in Central and Eastern Europe (there are slightly more sites related to Neanderthal tools). In today’s Poland, such finds accumulate in the south; northern Poland remained within the reach of the glacier for a long time and the conditions for survival were difficult.
Officially confirmed discoveries are few and small in size: four teeth. Three of them were also discovered in Stajnia Cave, one in Ciemna Cave (also in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland).
Dr. Nowaczewska believes that this is not the end of the discoveries in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. She said: “When I look at these areas as a palaeoanthropologist, I have the impression that time stands still there… If there are still any Neanderthal bone remains to be found, the search should focus on the Upland and other southern sites. Due to the then climatic conditions, this was the area with the best living conditions.”
The study was carried out by scientists from the University of Wrocław and the University of Silesia, the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Polish Geological Institute, the University of Bologna (Italy), the Natural History Museum in London (Great Britain), the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Germany). The results were presented in the Journal of Human Evolution.
Virtual tooth models were prepared by Dr. Marcin Binkowski from the University of Silesia, with the technical support of Michał Walczak and Martyna Czaja, as well as Professor Stefano Benazzi and Antonino Vazzana from the University of Bologna.
Polish Pyramids? Massive megalithic tombs discovered in Western Pomerania, Poland
While it has been quite some time since such a study and restoration work was conducted, these new findings have shown that there are at least a dozen huge megalithic tombs in the area near Dolice, Western Pomerania, in Poland.
These longitudinal structures, which run parallel to the ground floor, were discovered by archaeologists from the University of Szczecin, and belief them to be the handiwork of the Funnelbeaker Culture who dwelt in the proximate area from circa 4300 BC– 2800 BC.
As for the ‘pyramid’ analogy, the overview plan of each tomb resembles an extended triangle. So while their heights stood at only around 3 m (or 10 ft) – which is a far cry from their Egyptian or Mayan counterparts, the ground-kissing tombs encompassed impressive lengths of about 150 m (492.1 ft), while demonstrating variable widths ranging from 6-15 m (20 to 50 ft).
When it comes to developing technology and tools, the Funnelbeaker culture is known for ‘merging’ the expertise of local neolithic and mesolithic people residing between the lower Elbe and middle Vistula rivers.
In fact, they are known for propelling the scope of agriculture and animal husbandry, which led to farming being the major source of food production in the contemporary period, as opposed to hunting and gathering. And as was the trend with every advanced culture of its time, the Funnelbeaker community invested heavily in burial methods and traditions.
Initially, these burial structures only comprised cairns made of wooden frames that were plunged into elongated barrows. But later on, these components evolved into specially constructed passage graves and dolmens.
Unsurprisingly, given the Funnelbeaker culture’s limited tools and constructional capacity (in relation to logistics), the extended triangular tombs were only reserved for the elite members of the community.
But unfortunately, when it comes to Poland, many of these megalithic tombs tend to be only preserved in forest areas. That is because, over time, various agricultural lands had invaded such megalithic grounds – an archaeological scope made even more precarious due to Poland’s status in medieval times as the farming heartland of Europe.
However this time around, the researchers have made use of advanced technological applications to identify these elongated triangular tombs, including digital terrain models or DTM (based on ALS or airborne laser scanning). As Dr Agnieszka Matuszewska, from the Department of Archaeology, University of Szczecin said –
The potential of this method is huge. First of all, it allowed to precisely locate previously known megalithic objects and, importantly, discover previously completely unknown tombs.
It is also possible to verify in the field all, even slightly preserved objects. As a result, we were able to identify them and document the degree of destruction.
This is particularly important considering the aspect of the protection and conservation of forest areas, in particular the protection of monuments with their own landscape forms.
Now it should be noted that other than the Dolice specimens, the archaeologists have also (previously) identified Polish megalithic tombs at Skronie Forest near Kołobrzeg and at a site near Płoszkowo.
Moreover, the most famous of these ‘Polish pyramids’ were discovered in Sarnów and Wietrzychowice, and their original shapes were even reconstructed following detailed archaeological research.
Lastly (and pretty intriguingly), the date of the constructions of these Dolice megalithic tombs sort-of coincides with the initial building-phase of the Stonehenge in Britain (in late 4th millennium BC) – a renowned structure that can be associated with its fair share of human burials.
And if we stretch the ambit a bit, the advent of 4th millennium BC also saw a ‘spurt’ of other ambitious projects for megalithic monuments all around Europe – possibly due to some tremendous socio-political change.
Skeletons of WWII-era nuns murdered by Soviets unearthed in Poland
The remains of three Catholic nuns killed by the Nazis while they were trying to help the wounded Soviet soldiers at the end of the Second World War were found, as they cared for the wounded Soviets, to the last. The Red Army invaded Poland when the Nazis withdrew their soldiers in 1944.
An effort was made to gain control over the area by subduing militia as well as religious figures by looting and destroying churches.
Records discovered from 1945 showed Soviet soldiers killed seven nuns in the order of St. Catherine of Alexandria who was serving as nurses at Marian Hospital in Olsztyn.
A project by the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland was launched to discover their remains and Polish archaeologists announced they found the remains of Sister Charytyna (Jadwiga Fahl) in Gdansk last summer.
In October they found Sister Generosa (Maria Bolz), Sister Krzysztofora (Marta Klomfass) and Sister Liberia (Maria Domnik) in Orneta.
And now the bodies of the last missing trio, Sister Rolanda (Maria Abraham), Sister Gunhilda (Dorota Steffen) and Sister Bona (Anna Pestka) have been found too.
Experts also unearthed crucifixes, ‘religious clothing’ and rosaries from around the remains, according to Live Science.
A statement by the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland (IPN) said: ‘The purpose of the study was the finding of the remains of the Catherine Sisters who fell victim to the soldiers of the Red Army in 1945.
‘They all served the sick at the Marian Hospital (St Mary’s Hospital) in Olsztyn.
‘They worked as nurses, looking for help for the sick, and the deceased by organizing burials in a nearby cemetery.
Where they served, they died there as well – defending themselves against the disgrace of the Red Army soldiers who entered Olsztyn in the winter of 1945.
‘The works in Orneta were also the last stage of the search for the remains of the Sisters, for whom the church side is carrying out the beatification process at the same time. Earlier searches were carried out in Gdańsk and Olsztyn.
‘On the basis of historical data, anthropomorphic features and found objects, the remains of three women were selected for exhumation, with the probability that they are the wanted Sisters.
‘In the remains of the collected remains, religious medals, crucifixes, elements of religious clothing and religious rosaries were found.’
The skeletons have been taken to the Forensic Medicine Institute in Gdańsk. Historical records show Sister Generosa was ‘locked in the hospital’s attic’.
While the IPM says Sister Krzysztofora was stabbed with a bayonet 16 times, had her eyes gouged out and tongue cut out.
6,500 Medieval Coins And Gold Rings Found In A Field
A newly uncovered medieval silver cache that contains thousands of silver coins and this trove of precious metal was found in a Polish cornfield by archaeologists working with the help of a priest and local firefighters.
It is a rare treasure that was discovered in Słuszków, a village in west-central Poland, it was a nearly 900-year-old hoard, It is said to contain one of a kind treasure; a gold ring etched with a Cyrillic inscription that translates to: “Lord, may you help your servant Maria.”
That ring may have belonged to a princess; the coin stash was certainly fit for one. “The newfound hoard consists of over 6,600 items — silver coins and silver clumbs (tiny ingots) … wrapped in three linen pouches, packed in a basket and then put in the ceramic vessel,” Adam Kędzierski, an archaeologist at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology at the Polish Academy of Sciences, told Live Science in an email.
Kędzierski said he wouldn’t have found the medieval hoard without the help of a local priest. In November 2020, Kędzierski visited Słuszków to learn more about another medieval treasure — one of the largest coin hoards ever found in Poland, which had been unearthed in 1935.
The exact location of the 1935 hoard had never been recorded, and Kędzierski hoped to locate and photograph it for an upcoming book. However, during his stay, Kędzierski happened to talk with a priest, Rev. Jan Stachowiak, who shared a little bit of gossip about the possible location of another hoard.
After using a metal detector to locate the general area where the hoard was buried, Kędzierski and his colleagues dug up a small trench in a cornfield in the village. There, he found a ceramic vessel that held the medieval riches.
“The vessel itself, buried only 30 centimetres [nearly 12 inches] under the ground, was completely preserved — only the lid/the upper part was missing,” he said.
After realizing the hoard’s incredible value, Kędzierski and his team called in local volunteer firefighters to guard the treasure until the excavation was complete, according to The First News, a Polish news outlet.
Most of the coins were silver coins known as cross denarii, minted with the image of a large cross and dating to the end of the 11th century or the beginning of the 12th century, he said. The hoard also held Czech, Danish, Hungarian and German coins, including a denarius coin of Germany’s King Henry III.
The “rarest coins” are denarii featuring Sieciech, a high-ranking Polish statesman who served Władysław I Herman, the Duke of Poland from 1079 to 1102, Kędzierski said. The hoard’s “biggest sensation,” are four golden rings, including the ring with the Cyrillic inscription about the woman named Maria, he said.
Unlike silver trinkets, gold jewellery was extremely rare in Poland during the early Medieval period, Kędzierski said. Perhaps, the newfound gold rings belonged to the first ruling dynasty of Poland, known as the Piast dynasty.
Now that the hoard has been excavated, researchers will analyze and date the gold and silver pieces as well as the linen pouches and the basket that held these treasures. “Particularly interesting will be establishing the provenance of the gold decoration items,” such as the rings, Kędzierski said.
The discovery of this second hoard at Słuszków suggests that the village may have played a more important role in history than previously realized. Perhaps a high ranking official tied to the duke lived in Słuszków, or maybe it was even a temporary residence for Duke Zbigniew, Kędzierski said.
Słuszków is known for other early medieval artefacts; over the years, local farmers have told archaeologists about early medieval vessels and dishes found in their fields, “which may be a sign of [the] remains of stone buildings in the area of Słuszków,” Kędzierski said.
Medieval tunnel discovered under the castle in Szczecin in Poland
Archaeologists have uncovered over 270 meters of previously hidden tunnels beneath the Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle in Szczecin. They also warned that more detailed research was needed because they could collapse. Some of them come from the Middle Ages.
The management of the Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle informed about the discovery of tunnels that had not been known so far.
We have heard legends about the labyrinth of corridors under the castle, but there has never been evidence that they actually exist – informs Monika Adamowska, press spokeswoman for the Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle in Szczecin.
However, first, there was a construction disaster – one of the pillars collapsed in May 2017 and with it part of the vault of the northern wing of the Castle. The prosecution decided that soil erosion was probably to blame and the investigation was discontinued.
There was supposed to be a renovation, it was a disaster
The management of the castle, which for years has been wanting to renovate the northern terraces, on the occasion of this investment and taking into account the disaster, commissioned a series of construction and soil tests.
During this research, specialists from the Building Research Institute in Warsaw discovered a labyrinth of tunnels about 16 meters underground.
Under the escarpment and the northern wing, there is a branched network of corridors over 270 meters long – tells us, Adamowska. However, unfortunately, ITB employees also determined that the tunnels are not in good condition.
– This is a very serious situation. The tunnels are covered with rubble, which was used to strengthen the escarpment and created empty spaces, caverns, and rubble above them – continues Adamowska. Additionally, there is groundwater in this place.
This requires swift actions to reinforce the escarpment and a careful examination of the corridors and sheds new light on the recent disaster to which the underground structures may have contributed.
They did not expect tunnels from the Middle Ages
There are entrances to the tunnels probably from the north, which you have to dig. Unfortunately, specialists do not want to do it yet, because then the trees that grow on the part of the slope on which the castle stands could collapse on them.
On February 8, the municipal conservator of monuments gave permission to cut down the trees.
For now, cavers descended into the tunnels through a drilled vertical shaft. They took samples for testing and made photographic documentation. Then it turned out that the post-German corridors from World War II are connected with brick tunnels from the Middle Ages. This was a surprise for the scientists and management.
The findings were confirmed by tests of mortar and bricks samples carried out both in the castle’s Art Conservation Studio and in the Laboratory and Conservation Research Studio in Kraków.
The management of the castle emphasizes that it acts in accordance with the guidelines of specialists and is taking appropriate steps to secure the monument and at the same time investigate the new discovery. He also admits that it will extend the modernization of the terraces.
The Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle is one of the most important monuments in the region – the historic seat of the Griffin family, rulers of the Pomeranian Duchy. The first Slavic stronghold was built on the castle hill in the 12th century, but the modern building was built from the mid-14th century.
– The castle has revealed another secret to us, which may give us more information about the Griffin dynasty. I do not rule out that it may become an attraction for visitors in the distant future – comments Barbara Igielska, director of the Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle in Szczecin, on the discovery.