Sie sind auf Seite 1von 541

The Archaeology of Early Medieval Poland

East Central and Eastern

Europe in the Middle Ages,

General Editor
Florin Curta

The Archaeology of Early
Medieval Poland



Andrzej Buko

Cover illustration front: Tower complex at Stodpie in its 2nd phase (around mid of
13th century): an attempt of reconstruction (drawn by Andrzej Grzechnik)

Cover illustration back: Stone tower and stronghold at Stodpie, view from the west.
(photo: A. Buko)

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Translation: Sylvia Twardo

Language Consultant: Paul Barford
The translation of the book was funded by The Foundation for Polish Science

ISSN 1872-8103
ISBN 978 90 04 16230 3

Copyright 2008 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Hotei Publishing,
IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated,

stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission
from the publisher.

Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by

Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to
The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910,
Danvers, MA 01923, USA.
Fees are subject to change.

printed in the netherlands


Introduction ................................................................................ xi
List of Figures ............................................................................. xv

Chapter One Archaeology of Early Medieval Poland:

beginnings of interest, birth and development ...................... 1
1. The earliest beginnings ...................................................... 1
2. The 19th century: in search of the roots of the Slavic
identity ............................................................................... 2
3. Birth and slow growth: the rst two decades of the 20th
century ............................................................................... 6
4. The 1930s: Early Medieval archaeology on the offensive,
continuation of debate on the Slavs and systematic
excavations of Early Medieval sites .................................. 9
5. Two post war decades: the coming Millennium and
research on the origins of the Polish state ........................ 11
6. The 1970s and 1980s: fruitful aftermath of the
Millennium research .......................................................... 14
7. The last decade of the 20th century: old questions and
new possibilities .................................................................. 18
8. Archaeology of Early Medieval Poland: an archaeology
of regions or archaeology without borders? ..................... 22

Chapter Two Sources and methods ....................................... 29

1. Early Medieval archaeological sites and their
stratication: problems in exploration .............................. 29
1.1. Stratication of early urban sites ............................. 30
1.2. Stratication of rural settlements ............................ 32
1.3. Stratication of sacral sites and pagan cult
centers ....................................................................... 35
1.4. Stratication of multi-layer cemeteries .................... 36
2. Layers and their portable content: mass nds ................. 38
2.1. Pottery as a source of information about past
societies ..................................................................... 39
2.2. Archaeozoological data ............................................ 42
3. Small nds ......................................................................... 45
vi contents

4. Soil and its natural components ........................................ 47

5. Written sources .................................................................. 48
6. Iconography ....................................................................... 51

Chapter Three How did the Slavs get to Polish lands? ......... 55
1. ‘Autochthonists’, ‘Allochthonists’ and others: the long
history of the debate on the origins of the Slavs ............. 55
2. The Polish lands between Antiquity and the Early
Middle Ages: a gap or continuity? .................................... 61
3. One or many models of the Slavs’ material culture? ...... 63
4. The phenomenon of the Slavs: how to explain it? ........... 69

Chapter Four Mysteries of the pre-state period ..................... 75

1. ‘Tribal’ geography and archaeology ................................. 75
2. The rst Early Medieval strongholds: when did they
appear? ............................................................................... 84
3. One or many burial rites? ................................................. 99
4. Many questions and few answers ...................................... 104

Chapter Five Holy mountains ................................................. 107

1. Large cult centers of the pre-state period: cysa Góra ..... 107
2. The mysteries of Mount sl\va .......................................... 110
3. Other mountains—supposed places of pagan cult .......... 117
4. The mysterious vmigrody .................................................... 126

Chapter Six Pagan cemetery or holy grove? .......................... 133

1. Open air shrines ................................................................ 133
2. An old cemetery and new problems ................................. 134
3. Forgotten or living tradition? ............................................ 139

Chapter Seven Monumental mounds in Little Poland ........... 143

1. Monumental mounds, admired throughout the ages ....... 143
2. Przemysdaw’s (Tatars’) Mound in Przemytl ....................... 144
3. Supposed monumental mounds in the Przemytl region .. 147
4. Salve Regina Hill in Sandomierz ...................................... 148
5. The Mounds of Krak and Wanda in Cracow ................. 150
6. Other monumental mounds in Little Poland ................... 154
7. The European context ....................................................... 157
8. The Great Mounds of Little Poland: when and why
were they raised? ............................................................... 159
contents vii

Chapter Eight The earliest Medieval script in Poland? ......... 167

1. A fascinating discovery .................................................... 167
2. What was found on the tablets from PodebÜocie? .......... 169
3. The tablets in the light of the most recent analyses ...... 170

Chapter Nine How Poland came into being .......................... 175

1. Between archaeology, dynastic tradition and legend ...... 175
2. Where Poland began: Great Poland just before the
rise of the state ................................................................ 178
3. Where did the Piasts come from? ................................... 183
4. From Great Poland to Little Poland: the rst step of
expansion of the Piasts .................................................... 190
5. Towards the north: the Piasts on the Bay of Gdaqsk .... 196
6. ‘Forgotten’ Mazovia or a strategic territorial reserve? .... 199
7. From the Baltic Sea to the Sudeten Mountains:
Silesia and Western Pomerania ....................................... 206
8. Bohemian or Piast Silesia? .............................................. 207
9. Western Pomerania: ‘urban republics’ and old ‘tribal’
territories .......................................................................... 211
10. Cracow Land: the last stage of the state formation
process .............................................................................. 214
11. Summing up .................................................................... 216

Chapter Ten Towns still under investigation .......................... 223

1. The capitals of the Gniezno state: contested priority .... 226
2. From the legendary Lech to Mieszko I .......................... 228
3. A strong contender for primacy ...................................... 233
4. Kalisz: The Stronghold on the Amber Route ................ 241
5. Wolin: The town with twelve gates ................................. 246
6. Early state or pre-state Gdaqsk? ..................................... 250
7. The origins of Pdock still unknown ................................ 256
8. Sandomierz: First large investment of the Piasts in
Little Poland? ................................................................... 262
9. Zawichost: intriguing rival of Sandomierz ..................... 266
10. Mysteries of the Cathedral Hill in Chedm ..................... 272
11. Przemytl: The center at the periphery ........................... 279
12. Witlica: in the shadow of a pagan prince ...................... 283
13. Cracow, Wawel and archaeology .................................... 294
14. Who built the earliest Wrocdaw? ..................................... 300
viii contents

Chapter Eleven Other central places ...................................... 307

1. Cherven and Volyn: central places in the eastern
borderlands ........................................................................ 307
2. Ostrów Lednicki: residence of rst Piast rulers or
rst Polish episcopium? ......................................................... 309
3. Giecz: Unnished large-scale investment .......................... 317
4. Chedmno as a sedes regni principalis? .................................... 322
5. Pudtusk: The stronghold below the castle ......................... 324
6. The stronghold and masonry tower in Stodpie ................. 328

Chapter Twelve Rural landscapes ........................................... 333

1. Off the beaten track .......................................................... 333
2. How do we envisage Medieval rural settlements? ............ 335
3. Unexploited research potential: service settlements ......... 343
4. Mysterious villages ............................................................. 346

Chapter Thirteen The earliest monastic complexes ............... 351

1. The earliest monasteries and archaeology ........................ 351
2. At the threshold of Christianization: the rst
Benedictine abbeys ............................................................ 352
3. In the shadow of Wawel Hill: the Benedictine Abbey
at Tyniec near Cracow ...................................................... 355
4. A church and a monastery in a stronghold ...................... 359
5. A double foundation and the controversy over a
princely burial .................................................................... 363
6. Archaeology and the earliest Cistercian foundations ....... 369
7. The ‘little monastery’ at cekno ......................................... 371
8. W[chock: a monastery on the ruins of a palatium? .......... 374
9. Monasteries still under investigation ................................. 378

Chapter Fourteen The puzzle of the century: pottery marks 383

1. The long history of research and ambiguous results ....... 383
2. Signs on the bases of vessels from Kalisz and
Ostrów Lednicki: an abundance of qualitatively new
archaeological sources ........................................................ 387
3. Unusual signs ..................................................................... 388
4. Where did the custom come from and why were the
vessels marked? .................................................................. 392
contents ix

Chapter Fifteen Locals and migrants ...................................... 395

1. From cremation to inhumation: burial grounds of the
early state period ............................................................... 396
2. Pomeranians and Veleti in Great Poland? ........................ 400
3. The Graves of Vikings? ..................................................... 404
4. A large warriors’ necropolis .............................................. 408
5. Not only warriors .............................................................. 411
6. Who was buried in the Mazovian graves with stone
constructions? ..................................................................... 414
7. Strangers in the south ....................................................... 421
8. Who were they and what did they have in common? ..... 425

Appendix One Some Notes on the Translation of Andrzej

Buko’s ‘Archaeology of Early Medieval Poland’
(Paul Barford) .......................................................................... 431
Appendix Two A brief guide to the pronunciation of Polish
words (compiled by Paul Barford) .......................................... 439

Bibliography ................................................................................ 441

Index ........................................................................................... 465


The Early Middle Ages are often portrayed as the obscure ‘Dark
Ages’, but they were also a time of fascinating large-scale changes on
the map of Europe. The period between the 6th and 10th centuries
is a turning point in European history but still insufciently known.
This was the long period of the collapse of the Roman civilization
and simultaneously of the growth of Byzantium, the natural succes-
sor of the Roman Empire. It was also the time of the spread of the
great modern cultures and religions, development of crafts and of the
new type of feudal economy, decline and creation of many states and
foundation of hundreds of early town centers. At the beginning of the
Middle Ages, the continent was settled by the peoples who would give
rise to the modern nations and the European civilization.
The changes affected various spheres of life. The most important one
was the great population and cultural transformation. Europe became
divided into a Roman zone (represented by the Byzantine Empire
lasting more than 1000 years), a German part (giving rise to the states
of western Europe), and a Slavic part, the successors of which are
the inhabitants of the central and eastern Europe, including modern
Poland. The nomadic peoples who looked for a place in Europe at
the beginning of the Middle Ages fared much worse. Many of them,
who for a time were huge powers, such as the Avars or Khazars, had
become forgotten before the Medieval period was over. Others, like the
Proto-Bulgarians, after their contact with the local population, became
part of the Slavic world before the 10th century. Only the Magyars,
who occupied the Carpathian Basin and the Pannonian Plain in the
late 9th century, retained their linguistic and cultural identity, although
due to the complex processes of acculturation it is now hard to see in
them the descendants of the militant nomads. Finally, at the northern
periphery of the continent, viewed as a land of darkness and monsters
terrifying for the man of the Middle Ages, there existed the Balts and
the Ugro-Finns.
In ideological terms, the introduction of Christianity was a signicant
turning point. The Mediterranean peoples were the earliest to come
into contact with Christianity. Christianity became the ofcial religion
in the area of the Roman Empire due to the decision of Emperor
xii introduction

Constantine the Great in the early 4th century. In the 5th century, the
Germanic people, including the Salian Franks, became acquainted
with it. In the 9th century, the Christian missions reached the Slav
groups living to the south of the Carpathians and to the Scandinavian
peoples. However, in the large expanses of Central Europe, including
Poland, the adoption of a new religion was connected with a political
breakthrough, which consisted in the origin of new states of the New
Europe in the 10th century.
The processes and phenomena typical for these times of change
were reected in the life of the populations inhabiting the area of the
former barbaricum, including also the area which is now Poland. Many
novelties, especially in the sphere of monumental architecture, sacral
art or culture of the higher social strata, did not differ signicantly from
the Carolingian or Ottonian model known elsewhere in Europe. In
the early phase of the Polish state, many works of art were created by
the representatives of the elites of the European christianitas. However,
Poland of the times of Mieszko I and Bolesdaw I (The Brave)—the
rst rulers recorded in history—also retained its unique character in
many spheres of life.1
The Early Medieval archaeology of Poland, which is the subject-
matter of this book, sheds light on the origin and development of the
cultural processes and phenomena taking place in the region over a
period of seven hundred years. At that time in the territory of modern
Poland there took place the great transformation from the settlement
processes characteristic of Antiquity to those of the early Slav period.
Within this period occurred the change from the proto-state (tribal) to
early state organizations. These caesurae dene the period which is the
subject of archaeological research. The key themes include the origins
of Early Medieval settlement in Polish territory. The question of the
settling eastern and central Europe by the Slavs has been the subject
of a number of controversies; the material evidence for these people
is slight and unclear in its interpretation. An important topic of reec-
tion in this book concerns the time when the rst proto-state structures
were formed. One of the key issues is to establish when the tribal elites
appeared and what part they played in organizing the local communi-

To save introducing them at each place where they are mentioned in the author’s
text, the dates of the reigns of Polish rulers is given for foreign readers together with a
few comments on the translation in an appendix at the end of the book (translator).
introduction xiii

ties. This is the background for the analysis of the relations between
the pagan pre-Polish communities with their Christian surroundings.
The tribal period was also the time when the peoples inhabiting various
Polish lands lost their anonymity and appeared under various names
in Arabic, Byzantine and Frankish chronicles.
Another broad subject of research are the origins of the Polish
state and its main centers. Due to the scarcity of written sources, the
archaeological data play here a valid, and sometimes denitive, part and
the possibilities in this respect have increased considerably in the recent
decades. This is due not only to the intensication of eld research
but also to the new possibilities of dating archaeological sites thanks
to the application of dendrochronology (tree-ring dating methods) on
a larger scale than before.
The archaeologists studying the Polish Early Middle Ages have
achievements of various kinds, some of them, however, are of particular
importance and they will be the focus of the greatest attention. These
include the famed discoveries, but also some which were later forgotten,
which have split the scientic milieux. Also the problems which have
been for many years the topics of discussions and polemics will be pre-
sented. The reader will nd opinions in this book which undermine the
xed schemes of thinking and open new cognitive horizons. Although
in many cases it is too early to come to any denitive conclusions, it
is worthwhile to present, or in some cases, to outline, the prospects of
further research. As there are many issues deserving presentation, the
ones discussed in the chapters below are rst and foremost the author’s
own choice from among the many other possible ones.
The territorial scope of this book is the area within the modern bor-
ders of Poland. The regions of Warmia and Mazuria in the northwest,
that is, the lands occupied by the Balts in the Early Middle Ages, are
excluded. This means that the area considered here is broadly similar
to the territory of the Poland of the rst Piast monarchy. The chro-
nology of the Early Middle Ages adopted for this book embraces the
period between the 6th and mid-13th century. The date chosen for the
beginning of the period is similar to that of the chronological frame-
work adopted for the Early Medieval period in most western European
countries. The end of the period is much later than that used in many
other countries. This is in accord with the tradition adopted in Poland,
where the Early Medieval period is seen as extending far beyond the
10th century (which for western Europe sees the end of the stage of
forming and consolidation of state structures).
xiv introduction

The idea of this publication arose on the basis of the lectures and
seminars which I have been conducting at the Institute of Archaeology
of Warsaw University since the mid-1990s within the thematic bloc
Archaeology of the Early Middle Ages. An important part in its creation
was also due to my active participation in several large projects of the
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of Polish Academy of Sciences.
Although the book is meant mainly for students, archaeologists and
historians, I hope that it will appeal to a much broader audience. I have
seen many times how heated debates and interest may be inspired by
the issues presented below in the regions (‘small homelands’) which they
concern. This is probably because though they refer to things now for-
gotten, they still matter to the people who live in those regions. Perhaps
also because they are so interesting they are worth knowing about.
Finally, a few words are necessary about the structure of the book.
The rst two chapters deal with the selected aspects of the history
of archaeological investigations of the Early Middle Ages in Poland
(Chapter 1) and the methodology of Medieval archaeology (Chapter 2).
The next chapters are organized chronologically and thematically. The
chapters arranged according to the former are Chapter 3 (concern-
ing the origins of the Slavs), Chapter 4 (about the proto-state period)
and Chapter 9 (on the origins of the Polish state). Each of the main
chapters is supplemented with auxiliary ones. They present selections
of the most interesting discoveries or issues particularly worth present-
ing. In this respect Chapter 3 posed considerable difculties due to
the limited amount of evidence available, but in the case of the other
ones, the possibilities were much richer. Thus, apart from in Chapter 4,
the pre-state (tribal) period is also discussed in Chapters 5–8 and the
archaeology of the early state period, in Chapters 10–15.
This book could not have been written without the kindness of many
of my colleagues and also collaborators. This concerns both their criti-
cal remarks about the respective chapters of the publications and their
actual help in completing and preparing the illustrative material. I would
like to express my sincere gratitude to all of them, especially to Maciej
Trzeciecki for his work on digital processing of the illustrations.

Figure 3. Re-deposited human bones, charnel deposit at an

Early Medieval cemetery Sandomierz, Collegium
Gostomianum, Archives of the IAE, PAS, Warsaw ................ 32
Figure 7. Graphic matrix of settlement phases as well as
stratigraphic sequences of layers, features and architectural
remains at a multi- layered site, Zawichost (after
S. Tabaczyqski, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) .................. 33
Figure 9. Shape of the bottom of an archaeological trench,
bedrock level after completing the exploration of layers
and features, Kaczyce, Early Medieval settlement, Trial
Trench II (photo: A. Buko, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ........................................................................ 34
Figure 10. Details of the conguration of the surface of the
loess natural soil, bedrock, Kaczyce, Early Medieval
settlement, Trial Trench III (photo: A. Buko, digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki) ....................................................... 35
Figure 12. Skeleton in so-called cemetery layer. The lack of
visible outline of the burial pit is evident, Kleczanów
churchyard (photo: A. Buko, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 36
Figure 16. Reconstructions of forms of vessels produced in the
same stylistic tradition, Sandomierz, St. James’ Hill, urban
quarter, from the mid-12th till the mid-13th centuries (after
A. Buko; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ........................... 40
Figure 17. Bear’s skull from the fortied settlement at Pudtusk
with traces of a metal loop on the fang, didactic material
from the Department of Archeozoology at the Institute of
Archaeology, Warsaw University ( photo: M. Gmur) ............. 44
Figure 19. Fish species whose remains are most often found at
various types of archaeological sites in Great Poland (after
D. Makowiecki, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ................ 46
Figure 21. Pollen diagram from Lake swi\tokrzyskie in
Gniezno illustrating the dynamic of changes of hornbeam
and palinological anthropogenic indexes from the Neolithic
to the Early Middle Ages (after K. Tobolski) ........................ 48
xvi list of figures

Figure 23. Threshing with ails, representation from a 12th

century paten from Trzemeszno (after M. Walicki) ............... 52
Figure 24. Bishop Alexander of Malonne, in the center, a
representation on the so-called Pdock Door, 12th century
( photo: A. Buko) .................................................................... 52
Figure 25. Knight’s equipment reconstructed from the
mid-13th century seal of Bolesdaw the Chaste (after
H. Kotarski, digital processing: A. Buko) ............................... 53
Figure 26. The oldest zones of settlement of the early Slavs in
Polish lands (by A. Buko,cdigital processing: M. Trzeciecki) 64
Figure 27. A typical early Slavic hut from the 6th–7th century
(after K. Goddowski, digital processing: A. Buko) .................. 65
Figure 28. Szeligi near Pdock: reconstruction of an early Slavic
fortied settlement of the 6th century (after T. Kordala) ..... 67
Figure 32. ‘Tribal’ map of Polish lands. Settlement
concentrations identied by means of archaeological
investigations are marked in black and the names of the
peoples mentioned in written sources, in gray (by A. Buko;
digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ........................................... 77
Figure 33. Main settlement concentrations in Mazovia in the
pre-state period (after M. Dulinicz, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 80
Figure 34. Early Medieval settlements in Silesia and their
relationship to the ‘tribes’ known from written sources
(after S. Modzioch, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ......... 85
Figure 35. Spatial distribution of Early Medieval strongholds
on the Pars\ta river (after W. cosiqski; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 88
Figure 38. Hoard of axe-shaped currency bars from
Kanonicza Street in Cracow: a-stratigraphy of the hoard,
b-arrangement of the bundles of bars in the top layer
(after E. Zaitz, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) .................. 95
Figure 39. Fortied settlement at Dobromierz with stone
rampart facing: reconstruction of the gate (after
J. Kamierczyk) ....................................................................... 97
Figure 40. Silesian linear earthworkss: southern line of the
ramparts near Pogorzele (after E. Kowalczyk) ....................... 98
Figure 41. Graves of the Alt Käbelich type in Pomerania and
Mecklenburg (after W. cosiqski, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 101
list of figures xvii

Figure 42. Graves of the Alt Käbelich type: plans of

constructions found within them (after W. cosiqski;
drawing and digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ..................... 101
Figure 43. Old-Magyar cemetery in Przemytl, rst half of
the 10th century: a warrior’s burial, Grave 6 and its goods:
a—tting of a purse, b—arrowheads, c–d—belt buckles,
e—belt tting, f—bridle bit, g—bone element of composite
bow, h—narrow bladed battle axe (czekan), i—stirrups,
j, d—ttings, k—saddle girth buckle, l—scabbard tting
(after A. Koperski, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ............ 103
Figure 44. cysa Gora in the Holy Cross Mountains: view of
the monastery from the south ( photo: A. Buko) ................... 108
Figure 48. Distribution of archaeological features around
Mount sl\va (after G. Domaqski, drawing and digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki) ...................................................... 112
Figure 49. Mount sl\va: stone sculpture representing a bear
( photo: S. Rosik) ..................................................................... 115
Figure 50. Cathedral Hill in Chedm seen from the south
( photo: A. Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) .............. 119
Figure 51. Modoczki in Podlasie: a presumed cult site (after
D. Krasnod\bski, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) .............. 123
Figure 52. Cult Circle 1 from Trzebiatów (after W. Filipowiak,
digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ........................................... 124
Figure 54. umigród at Opatów: view of interior of enclosed
area ( photo: A. Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ...... 128
Figure 56. Map of cult sides discussed in the book. Circles
denote single features, ovals—their concentrations (drawing
and digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) .................................... 132
Figure 57. Above: Kleczanów grove, marked in black; below:
plan of the barrow cemetery. Features investigated by means
of archaeological excavations or geological drillings are
marked in black. Capital letters denote concentrations of
barrows (after M. Florek and J. scibior) ................................ 135
Figure 58. Pagan cemetery in the Kleczanów grove: augering
a barrow from Concentration B located near a glade
( photo: A. Buko) ..................................................................... 135
Figure 59. The alleged ‘footprint of St. Stanislas’, imprint in a
piece of sandstone marked with a black arrow incorporated
into the foundation of the chancel in the parish church at
Kleczanów ( photo: A. Buko) .................................................. 138
xviii list of figures

Figure 60. Kleczanów grove: a glade among the barrows: the

traditional site of annual masses and folk fetes ( photo:
A. Buko) .................................................................................. 139
Figure 61. Pond and springs below the southern edge of
Kleczanów grove as seen from the south ( photo:
A. Buko) .................................................................................. 141
Figure 63. Erosion gully on the slope of Tartars’ Mound with
visible rubble ( photo: A. Buko, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 145
Figure 67. Krak’s Mound in Cracow ( photo: A. Buko) ............ 151
Figure 68. Excavations of Krak’s Mound in the 1930s: the
upper part of the mound already excavated (after
R. Jamka) ................................................................................ 151
Figure 71. Eroding mound, Early Medieval barrow(?) at
Leszczków near Sandomierz ( photo: M. Florek) .................. 155
Figure 73. Early Medieval barrow at Husynne near
Hrubieszów, 9th century ( photo: A. Buko, digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki) ...................................................... 156
Figure 74. Map of distribution of monumental and large
mounds in Little Poland presented in the book (drawing
and digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) .................................... 164
Figure 76. Podebdocie, settlement 3, Features 10 and 13
where the tablets and pottery with the solar and
zoomorphic ornament were found are indicated. Features
marked in gray represent settlement Phase I (after
E. Marczak, by A. Buko and M. Trzeciecki) ......................... 168
Figure 80. Two interpretations of the form of the signs from
Tablets 2 and 3. Veried forms of signs are on the right
(after T. Pdóciennik) ................................................................. 172
Figure 82. Main archaeological sites investigated in Poland
during the Millennium period (after W. Hensel; digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki) ...................................................... 177
Figure 83. Pre-state and early state strongholds in Great
Poland: 1—pre-state strongholds destroyed after the
origination of the state, 2—pre-state strongholds which
survived and existed in the early Piast period, 3—strongholds
build in the early Piast times (after Z. Kurnatowska; digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki) ...................................................... 179
list of figures xix

Figure 84. Main centers of early Piast Poland in the context

of the road network of the 12th–13th centuries (after
T. Lalik; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ............................ 182
Figure 85. Hypothetical scenario of the Piast expansion in
eastern Little Poland. Places where the earliest sacral
structures were discovered are marked with crosses (after
Z. Kurnatowska, modied by A. Buko & M. Trzeciecki ) .... 192
Figure 86. Settlement network in Eastern Pomerania in the
period of state formation (after L.J. cuka; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 198
Figure 87. Linear earthwork (the so-called Swedish wall) at
Zimna Woda, part of the zone of fortications on the
Mazovian-Prussian border (after E. Kowalczyk) .................... 201
Figure 88. Main settlement centers and discoveries in Mazovia:
1—centers of secular power, 2—centers of ecclesiastic power,
3—production structures and workshops, 4—places
inhabited for a longer time by various cultural and ethnic
groups, 5—custom houses from the 11th cent., 6—nds of
single coins in archaeological layers, 7—nds of scales or
weights, 8—port (after M. Dulinicz; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 203
Figure 90. Supposed course of events from the second half of
the 10th cent., associated with the incorporation of areas
in the Gniezno state (by A. Buko & M. Trzeciecki) .............. 217
Figure 91. Polish towns with a history of a thousand years.
Early urban centers whose origins are determined by
archaeological evidence are marked with black circles; the
centers which require further verication are marked with
white circles. Bishoprics created at the Gniezno Summit are
marked with crosses (after A. Buko; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 225
Figure 92. Cross-section of Lech’s Hill in Gniezno with the
most important discoveries (after T. Sawicki; digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki) ...................................................... 228
Figure 93. Developmental phases of the fortied settlement at
Lech’s Hill in Gniezno (after T. Sawicki; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 230
Figure 94. Remains of the earliest church, rotunda under the
Gniezno cathedral—presumed to be St. Adalbert’s rst grave
(after T. Janiak; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ................. 233
xx list of figures

Figure 95. External facing of the stronghold in Poznaq with a

stone reinforcement of base, tentative reconstruction (after
B. Kostrzewski) ........................................................................ 235
Figure 96. Plan of the remains of a structure identied near
the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary church on Ostrów
Tumski in Poznaq identied as a palatium (after H. Kóoka-
Krenz; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ............................... 236
Figure 97. Baptistery (?) in Poznaq at the moment of discovery
(after K. Józefowiczówna) ....................................................... 237
Figure 98. Plan of the probable baptistery in the context of
Poznaq cathedral (after Z. Kurnatowska; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 239
Figure 99. Presumed tombs of Mieszko I and Bolesdaw the
Brave in Poznaq cathedral (after Z. Kurnatowska, digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki) ...................................................... 240
Figure 100. Stronghold, Fortied settlement at Kalisz-
Zawodzie during the excavations, in the foreground remains
of St. Paul’s Cathedral can be seen in the trench (Archive
of the Polish Academy of Science Institute of Archaeology
and Ethnology in Warsaw) ..................................................... 243
Figure 101. Extent of the respective phases of the stronghold
at Kalisz-Zawodzie (after T. Baranowski; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 245
Figure 102. Plan of the earliest wooden church in Kalisz, the
early 11th century superimposed on the plan of St. Paul’s
Collegiate Church of the 12th century and their
reconstructions (after T. Baranowski; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 246
Figure 103. Topography of Wolin in the Early Middle Ages
(after W. Filipowiak and Gundlach; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 249
Figure 104. Stratication and selected wooden structures of
the Early Medieval Wolin, remains of a pagan shrine
(after Filipowiak and Gundlach; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 251
Figure 105. Wolin. A wooden gurine representing a four-
headed god found near the shrine (after Filipowiak and
Gundlach) ................................................................................ 252
Figure 106. Topography of Early Medieval Gdaqsk (digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki) ...................................................... 253
list of figures xxi

Figure 107. Pdock. Tumskie Hill as seen from the north

( photo: M. Trzeciecki) ............................................................ 257
Figure 108. Topography of Early Medieval Pdock (after
A. Godembnik, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) .................. 258
Figure 109. Pdock Cathedral as seen from north-east ( photo:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 259
Figure 111. Deer antler chess set, Sandomierz, St. James’
settlement, 12th century (after A. Buko) ................................ 263
Figure 112. Topography of 11th century Sandomierz:
1–3—fortied parts of the town (A. Buko, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 266
Figure 113. Early Medieval settlement in the area of
Zawichost (after D. Wyczódkowski, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 269
Figure 115. The Zawichost tetrakonch, tentative reconstruction
of the church body (after R. Kunkiel; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 270
Figure 116. Fragments of the Romanesque wall of the central
apse under the chancel of the church of the BVM at
Zawichost ( photo: A. Buko) ................................................... 271
Figure 117. Plan of archaeological sites in Chedm (by M. Auch
and M. Trzeciecki) .................................................................. 273
Figure 118. Elements of monumental architecture at Wysoka
Górka with old trenches, in gray and trenches from 2001,
in black (after J. Gurba and I. Kutydowska; by M. Trzeciecki
and M. Auch) .......................................................................... 275
Figure 119. Fragment of a wall of Danylo’s palace uncovered
in 2001 ( photo: A. Buko) ....................................................... 276
Figure 120. Chedm, Site 144, district of the town from
Danylo’s time, exploration of industrial features ( photo:
A. Buko) .................................................................................. 278
Figure 124. Przemytl, two possible reconstructions of the
palatium (after E. Sosnowska) .................................................. 281
Figure 126. Stronghold on the Nida river at Witlica: an aerial
view ( photo: K. Trela) ............................................................ 285
Figure 127. Stronghold at Witlica, antler knife handle with
female busts (after Z. Wartodowska) ....................................... 286
Figure 128. Topography of Witlica and archaeological sites
in the area of the town (after W. Gliqski; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 288
xxii list of figures

Figure 129. The palatia and rotundas in Witlica (after

Z. Wartodowska; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ............... 289
Figure 130. St. Nicholas’ church and the so-called baptismal
font in Witlica (after various authors, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 291
Figure 131. 12th century oor slab from the Romanesque
church uncovered in the crypt of the collegiate church in
Witlica (after M. Walicki) ....................................................... 293
Figure 132. Topography of Early Medieval Cracow (after
K. Radwaqski and A. uaki; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 296
Figure 133. Plan of the rst Early Medieval structures on
Wawel Hill: 1—quadrangular structure, 2—remains of
cruciform chapel, 3—tetrakonch church dedicated to
St. Felix and St. Adauctus, 4—fragments of pre-or early
Romanesque cathedral, 5—pre-Romanesque rotunda-
baptistery, 6—two-apse rotunda “B”, 7—pre-Romanesque
church of St. Nicholas, 8—corner of a pre-Romanesque
structure, 9—early Romanesque palatium, “Hall with 24
Posts”, 10—Romanesque basilica dedicated to St. Mary
the Egyptian, 11—chapel (?) of the Romanesque palatium,
12—defensive tower, 13—Romanesque cathedral,
14—chapel with a rectangular chancel, 15—Romanesque
rotunda, 16—Romanesque chapel with an apse,
17—Romanesque church of St. Nicholas (after Z. Pianowski;
digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ........................................... 298
Figure 134. Topography of the earliest Wrocdaw (after
S. Modzioch; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) .................. 301
Figure 135. Remains of a pagan shrine of the rst half of the
11th century uncovered in Wrocdaw (after S. Modzioch;
digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ........................................... 303
Figure 136. The plans of the earliest churches preserved
under the Gothic cathedral in Wrocdaw (after
E. Madachowicz; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ............... 304
Figure 139. Ostrów Lednicki, plan of the island, bridges and
structures (after J. Górecki; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 310
Figure 140. Ostrów Lednicki, remains of the palace chapel
( photo: A. Buko) ..................................................................... 312
list of figures xxiii

Figure 141. Ostrów Lednicki, remains of the prince’s

residence ( photo: A. Buko; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 312
Figure 142. Ostrów Lednicki, reconstruction of phase I of the
residential complex (after T. W\cdawowicz) ........................... 313
Figure 143. Remains of the church in the stronghold at
Ostrów Lednicki ( photo: A. Buko) ......................................... 313
Figure 144. Reconstruction of the church at Ostrów Lednicki
(after J. Górecki; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ............... 314
Figure 145. Giecz, plan of the stronghold and structures
discovered in it (after T. Krysztoak; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 318
Figure 148. Early Romanesque basilica in the stronghold at
Kaddus, plan (after W. Chudziak; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 323
Figure 150. Remains of houses and streets in the stronghold
in Pudtusk ( photo: M. Mierosdawski, from the archives of
the Regional museum in Pudtusk; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 326
Figure 151. Stronghold in Pudtusk, reconstruction of a house
and a service building (after M. Mierosdawski) ...................... 327
Figure 154. Zones of settlement and exploitation of Early
Medieval rural settlements, headland of a loess elevation
and the edge of the valley of a water course, Kaczyce,
Little Poland, settlement from the 11th–13th century
( photo: A. Buko; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) .............. 336
Figure 155. Village church at Kleczanów, Little Poland
located on a 9th century settlement ( photo: A. Buko) .......... 339
Figure 156. Reconstruction of rural buildings scattered across
a large area, Stobnica-Trzymorgi, Great Poland (after
H. Wiklak) ............................................................................... 342
Figure 157. Rural settlement at Biskupin, Great Poland
arranged around a central open space (after
Z. and W. Szafraqscy) ............................................................. 342
Figure 158. Network of medieval rural service settlements
in Polish lands (after K. Modzelewski; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 345
Figure 159. Examples of remains of archaeological features
at a rural settlement, Kaczyce near Opatów, Little Poland
( photo: A. Buko; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) .............. 346
xxiv list of figures

Figure 161. Benedictine monasteries in Polish lands (by

M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 354
Figure 163. Monastery at Tyniec near Cracow, abbots’ graves
(after H. Zoll-Adamikowa; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) 358
Figure 164. Gold chalice and paten found in burial 8 (after
H. Zoll-Adamikowa) ............................................................... 358
Figure 165. Mogilno, plan of the monastic church of St. John
the Evangelist from the third quarter of the 11th century
(after J. Chudziakowa) ............................................................ 360
Figure 166. Mogilno, view of the eastern crypt of the
monastic church (after J. Chudziakowa) ................................ 361
Figure 167. Lubiq, plan of the monastic complex from the late
12th century (after Z. Kurnatowska; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 365
Figure 168. Lubiq, burial chapel with the presumed grave of
Wdadysdaw Spindleshanks (after Z. Kurnatowska, digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki) ...................................................... 367
Figure 169. Medieval Cistercian monasteries in Polish lands
(after A. Wyrwa; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ............... 370
Figure 170. Architectural discoveries at the post-Cistercian
complex at cekno (after A. Wyrwa; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 372
Figure 171. Presumed palace chapel in W[chock (after
K. Biadoskórska) ...................................................................... 375
Figure 172. Post-monastic complex in Trzemeszno: 1—rst
phase, 2—second phase, 3—Baroque phase, 4—inhumation
burials, 5—stone tomb with a woman’s skeleton, 6—charnel
deposit (after J. Chudziakowa) ................................................ 378
Figure 173. Rotunda at Strzelno (after J. Chudziakowa) .......... 380
Figure 174. Plan of the monastic complex at Strzelno:
1—Romanesque phase, 2—Gothic buildings, 3—Baroque
buildings, 4—inhumation graves, 5—charnel deposits,
6—stone tomb in the rotunda (after J. Chudziakowa) .......... 380
Figure 175. Columns with gural decoration from the church
at Strzelno (after J. Chudziakowa) .......................................... 381
Figure 176. Forms of potter’s marks identied on the bases of
Early Medieval pottery vessels from Kruszwica (after
W. Dzieduszycki) ..................................................................... 384
list of figures xxv

Figure 178. Fingerprints on the bases of Early Medieval

vessels from Kalisz-Zawodzie and Ostrów Lednicki (after
A. Buko & K. Kostrzewa) ...................................................... 390
Figure 179. Lines impressed on the bases of vessels from
Kalisz-Zawodzie (after A. Buko) ............................................ 390
Figure 180. Celtic cross (?) engraved on a vessel base from
Ostrów Lednicki ( photo: M. Gmur) ...................................... 392
Figure 183. Warrior’s grave with visible traces of an
above-ground structure ( postholes and slots) in the cemetery
at Kraków-Zakrzówek (after E. Zaitz; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 398
Figure 184. Plan of a biritual cemetery at Piaski-Rochy (after
D. Kosiqski; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ...................... 401
Figure 185. Selected graves from the cemetery at Zielonka
(after M. Kara; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ................. 403
Figure 186. Plan of a settlement complex at swielubie (after
W. cosiqski; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki) ...................... 409
Figure 187. Weapons from some graves from the cemetery at
Lutomiersk near cód (after K. Javdvewski; digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki) ...................................................... 411
Figure 189. Zones where graves with stone constructions
appear in Mazovia (after L. Rauhut; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 415
Figure 190. Plan of a cemetery with graves with stone
constructions from c[czyno Stare near Przasnysz. To the
left: Plan and section of Grave 28 with a visible outline of
the burial pit. The deceased was equipped with a spearhead
and a knife in a sheath (after L. Rauhut, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 416
Figure 191. Examples of grave goods from the cemetery at
c[czyno (after L. Rauhut, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 417
Figure 194. Plan of an inhumation cemetery at Niemcza with
graves arranged concentrically around empty zones (after
J. Kamierczyk and K. Wachowski; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki) ......................................................................... 424
xxvi list of figures

The following gures can be found in the gure section at the back
of the book:

Fig. 1. St. John’s church: the only remnant in the area of the early urban
district of Kodobrzeg-Budzistowo (photo: M. RÑbkowski, digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Fig. 2. Multi-layered urban site, layers and features destroying each
other, Sandomierz, Collegium Gostomianum (photo: A. Buko, digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Fig. 4. Phases of development of St. Peter’s church uncovered in the
yard of Collegium Gostomianum in Sandomierz (photo: A. Buko,
digital processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Fig. 5. Leveling layer (below the humus) with its cultural content from
the Early Middle Ages, Chedm, Site 144—urban district from the
rst half of the 13th century (photo: A. Buko, digital processing: M.
Fig. 6. Road of Early Medieval origin in a loess ravine, Kleczanów, near
the parish church (photo: A. Buko)
Fig. 7. Stratication at the rural settlement at Kleczanów 11th–mid 13th
features and layers seen in the section where cut by a road (photo:
A. Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Fig. 8. Error caused by exploration with the use of mechanical levels:
parts of three different layers have been uncovered. The proper order
of exploration is marked with gures 1–3, Kleczanów, Site ‘Old Pres-
bytery’ (photo: A. Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Fig. 13. Clearly visible burial pits. The gures in squares are numbers
of burial pits and in circles, of their lling, Kleczanów churchyard
(photo: A. Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Fig. 14. Burial with partly preserved skeleton, Kleczanów churchyard
(photo: A. Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Figure 15. Fragment of a highly decorated 9th century vessel from
the stronghold at Chodlik. Discolorations of the surface caused
by use and post-depositional processes, from the collection of the
Museum in Kazimierz Dolny ( photo: M. Auch, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki)
Figure 18. Pair of bone skates from the 12th–13th century settlement
in Kalisz. The arrows mark holes where the skates were attached to
shoes with thongs ( photo: M. Gmur)
list of figures xxvii

Figure 20. Silver ornaments from the hoard from Ciechanów, the second
half of the 10th century ( photo: T. Nowakiewicz, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki)
Figure 22. An early 12th century epitaph on a lead plaque, Cracow-
Wawel, St. Leonard’s crypt, Bishop Maur’s grave (after M. Walicki,
digital processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Figure 29. The early Slavic fortied settlement of the 6th century at
Hamki in Podlasie ( photo: D. Krasnod\bski)
Figure 30. An early Slavic pot, 7th century, from a open settlement
beside the stronghold at Wyszogród ( photo: M. Auch)
Figure 31. Belt tting, c. 5 cm long with the representations of human
faces, 6th century, gilded bronze, Hamki, Biadostockie voivodeship
(after Z. Kobyliqski)
Figure 36. Chodlik: view of the enclosed area and three ramparts of
the stronghold ( photo: A. Auch, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Figure 37. Stradów: Multi-enclosure stronghold of the Vislane ( photo:
K. Wieczorek, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Figure 45. Stone wall around the top of cysa Góra (inset: stone con-
structions preserved on its southern side) after J. G[ssowski and A.
Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Figure 46. Stone sculpture, so-called Pilgrim at the foot of cysa Góra
( photo: A. Buko)
Figure 47. Overall view of Mount sl\va ( photo: S. Rosik)
Figure 53. Smoddzino on Lake Gardno: Mount Rowokód from the
north-western side ( photo: A. Buko)
Figure 55. Southern edge of the Sandomierz umigród extending
into the Vistula river valley ( photo: A. Buko, digital processing: M.
Figure 62. Tartars’ Mound at Zniesienie Hill in Przemytl ( photo: E.
Figure 64. Supposed Early Medieval barrow at Sólca near Przemytl
( photo: E. Sosnowska)
Figure 65. Salve Regina Hill at Sandomierz ( photo: A. Buko)
Figure 66. Salve Regina Hill: the inscription engraved at the top of
the mound ( photo: A. Buko)
Figure 69. Fitting of a late Avar belt buckle found in the bottom layers
of the mound, length: 8 cm (after R. Jamka)
Figure 70. Wanda’s Mound in Cracow-Nowa Huta: probable Early
Medieval barrow ( photo: A. Buko)
xxviii list of figures

Figure 72. Barrow 2 at swi\cica near Sandomierz, Roman period and

the Early Middle Ages ( photo: M. Florek)
Figure 75. Stronghold, Fortied settlement at Podebdocie: rampart and
moat ( photo: E. Marczak) (to be revised)
Figure 77. Tablet 1 made of terra rosa paste with preserved two edges
( photo: M. Gmur)
Figure 78. Tablet 2 with signs engraved in two rows. Made of local raw
material. No original edges preserved ( photo: M. Gmur)
Figure 79. Tablet 3 with signs engraved in two rows. Made of local
raw material. No original edges ( photo: M. Gmur)
Figure 81. Vessel with solar disk ornament and gural motifs found
in the same context as Tablets 1 and 2 (reconstruction and drawing
after E. Marczak, by A. Buko)
Figure 89. Stronghold and port area, district in Kodobrzeg during the
early Piast period, a tentative reconstruction (after L. Leciejewicz
and M. R\bkowski, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Figure 110. Portal, so-called Pdock Door ( photo: M. Trzeciecki)
Figure 114. The Zawichost tetrakonch, remains preserved on the
escarpment of the Vistula valley ( photo: M. Gmur)
Figure 121. Moulds for making silver ornaments (koety) found during
the excavations in the area of the town, Sites 99 and 144 (after S.
Figure 122. Przemytl, Three Crosses Hill, presumed location of the
earliest pre-state stronghold, ( photo: A. Buko)
Figure 123. Remains of the residential structures in Przemytl of the
early 11th cent, the palatium and rotunda ( photo: Z. Pianowski)
Figure 125. Early Medieval Byzantine intaglio gem from Przemytl, 11th–
12th cent ( photo: M. Horwat, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Figure 137. Stronghold at Grodek Nadbuvny, general view from the
other bank of the Huczwa river ( photo: A. Buko, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki)
Figure 138. Stronghold at Gródek Nadbuvny, view from the enclosed
area to the Bug valley ( photo: A. Buko; digital processing: M.
Figure 146. View of the uncovered remains of St. John the Baptist’s
church from the apse and crypt entrance (after T. Krysztoak; digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki)
Figure 147. Stronghold on St Lawrence’s Hill at Kaddus (after W.
list of figures xxix

Figure 149. Castle in Pudtusk located on the site of a former stronghold

of the 13th century ( photo: A. Buko)
Figure 152. Stone tower and stronghold at Stodpie, view from the west.
In the corner (to the left) eastern apse of the chapel seen from the
entrance ( photo: A. Buko, M. Auch)
Figure 153. Tower complex at Stodpie in its 2nd phase (around mid of
13th ): an attempt of reconstruction (drawn by Andrzej Grochnik)
Figure 160. Selected glass ornaments from the rural settlement at
Kaczyce, a—melon shaped bead, b—biconical bead covered with
gold foil, c—ring ( photo: M. Gmur)
Figure 162. Monastery at Tyniec, view from the Vistula ( photo: A.
Figure 177. Sign of the cross impressed on the base of a Medieval pot
from the 14th cent. (collection of the Museum in Kazimierz Dolny,
Photo M. Auch)
Figure 181. Complex stamped sign on a vessel base from Ostrow Led-
nicki ( photo: M. Gmur)
Figure 182. Cremation barrow with a stone construction from the early
state period, cemetery at Czekanów, eastern Poland, 11th–mid-13th
centuries ( photo: J. Kalaga)
Figure 188. Double burial of the chamber type from Kaddus (after
W. Chudziak)
Figure 192. Burials in stone cists at the cemetery at Trepcza near Sanok
( photo: J. Ginalski)
Figure 193. Some of the ornaments found in the graves at the cemetery
at Trepcza ( photo: J. Ginalski)
Figure 195. Skull of a six-year old child with preserved headband
ornaments on the right temple, cemetery at Dziekanowice, Site 22,
Grave 87/97 ( photo: J. Wrzesiqski)
Figure 196. Grave of a man clutching a coin in his right hand. Next
to his left hip an iron knife was found, cemetery at Dziekanowice,
Site 22, Grave 41/99 ( photo: J. Wrzesiqski)
Figure 197. Grave of a man with the trace of a spearhead wound
in the left occipital bone. The body was tossed into the burial pit
face down, cemetery at Dziekanowice, Site 22, Grave 52/03 ( photo:
J. Wrzesiqski)



1. The earliest beginnings

The interest in Early Medieval monuments has a long history in Poland.

The most fascinating examples were those connected with famous leg-
ends. As early as in the Middle Ages, the two huge mounds in Cracow,
now named after the legendary characters Krak(us) and Wanda, were
linked with the earliest history of the town. This was recorded as early
as the 15th century by Jan of D[brówka, a professor of the Jagiellonian
University, when commenting on a note in the Chronicles of Wincenty
Kadeubek on the circumstances of the death of Krak, the legendary
founder of the town. He stated that the hill where he was supposedly
buried might be the one ‘now known as Mount Saint Benedict.’1 This
information was probably used by the Medieval Polish historian Jan
Ddugosz (1415–1480), who, discussing the same question, added more
information, namely that the barrow was erected on a hill and was
mainly made of sand. Ddugosz was probably aware of the importance
of the monuments of material culture since he used the term monimentum
to refer to the burial site existing in his time at the place where in 1113
the battle of Nakdo with the Pomeranians was fought.2
After the baptism of Poland, at the instigation of the Church,
changes were made in the location of burial sites. Old cemeteries,
especially the ones which had some above-ground features, remained
in the people’s memory, becoming part of the local landscape.3 They
were often used as boundary markers and as such they were recorded

Cf. Zwiercan 1969.
In preparing this chapter some general works on the history of Polish archaeol-
ogy were used, and especially: Abramowicz 1991, 1992; G[ssowski 1970; Gedl 1971;
Kostrzewski 1949; 1958; Kozdowski [1969] 1970; Nosek 1967; Stolpiak 1984; In these
publications the reader will nd numerous bibliographical sources concerning the issues
discussed. An assessment of the state of research on the Polish early Middle Ages can
be found in: Z. Kurnatowska, ed. [1990] 1992.
Cf. Chapter 6.
2 chapter one

in chronicles. A relatively large number of such places are mentioned

in Pomerania, where the pagan tradition was quite strong for a long
time and the Christian faith came into prominence only much later.4
In the 16th century, Maciej Stryjkowski drew attention to the material
testimonies of the past, including the sites of old battles and objects
found there. The mounds and ruins still existing were, according to
him, the remnants of old castles and towns.
The next centuries provided further examples of people taking inter-
est in the Early Middle Ages. In April 1633, the tomb of Wincenty
Kaddubek—the famous 13th century Polish chronicler—was uncovered
in the Cistercian church in J\drzejow. Half a century later the book
Phoenix tertio redivivus by Jakub Susza (the Greek Catholic Uniate bishop
of Chedm) was printed.5 It contained interesting data on the chronology
and functions of a mysterious stone tower at Stodpie near Chedm.6

2. The 19th century: in search of the roots of the Slavic identity

The interest in Early Medieval archaeology became clearly more

advanced in the second half of the 18th and, the more so, in the 19th
century. It was inspired by the increased curiosity about the Slavic ori-
gins of Poland. A key gure of the period was King Stanisdaw August
Poniatowski (1732–1795), who took interest, among other things, in the
discoveries of Early Medieval burial grounds. His example was followed
by others. Tadeusz Czacki (1765–1813) went down in history as the
explorer of the royal tombs at Wawel, which he opened in 1791 and
then described the remains and objects found in them.7
Count Jan Potocki (1761–1815) was able to appreciate the role of
archaeological monuments in the study of the Slavs’ earliest history. He
identied with that people the earthwork strongholds existing in Polish
lands and in search of Slavic ancient monuments he even traveled to
Lower Saxony. He made the results of his investigations known in a
book published in Hamburg.8
Paradoxically, the new impulse for the development of the studies on
the Slavs was brought about by the partitions of Poland. They spurred

Kiersnowski 1955.
Susza 1646.
Cf. Chapter 11.
Czacki 1819.
Cf. Kukulski 1959.
archaeology of early medieval poland 3

the need to collect the national mementos, also the ones preserved in the
soil. A collection started by Duchess Izabela Czartoryska (1746–1835)
in Pudawy in the 19th century contained Medieval artifacts among
curiosities from various epochs. The development of studies on the
Early Middle Ages was enhanced after the Warsaw Society of Friends
of Science was established in 1800. As one of its main aims, its mem-
bers adopted the study of the history of Poland connected with that of
the Slavic nations. The turning point was the publication in 1818 of
the treatise O Seowiarszczynie przed chrzeucijarstwem [On the Pre-Christian
Slavs] by Adam Czarnocki. The author (1784–1825). was also a diligent
investigator of the earthwork strongholds and compiled the rst map
of them. He also drew attention to the signicance of the toponym
dysa Góra, often associated with pagan sanctuaries, and identied the
strongholds of Czermno and Gródek Nadbuvny with the places known
as Cherven and Volyn mentioned in the Russian Chronicles.
In 1824 a book tledzenie pocz[tków narodów seowiarskich [Investigations
of the Origins of Slavic Nations] by Wawrzyniec Surowiecki (1769–1827)
was issued.9 Many researchers believe that it marked the beginning of
Polish historical archaeology. The author raised many pivotal questions
concerning, among other things, the original homeland of the Slavs
and their burial rites. Another important personality of the Romantic
period was historian Joachim Lelewel (1786–1861). He appreciated the
role of archaeology in explaining the Slavs’ history and stressed the
importance of Early Medieval sites for establishing chronology.
Besides the Warsaw milieu, some regional associations made impor-
tant contributions. The leading one was the Pdock Scientic Society,
which inspired the investigations conducted in Pdock Cathedral in
1826. They resulted in discovering and then a solemn reburial of the
remains of two Polish rulers: Wdadysdaw Herman and Bolesdaw Krzy-
wousty (Wry Mouth). In the second half of the 19th century, the rst
excavations of the specic local form of graves with stone curbs were
conducted in Mazovia.10
After the defeat of the November Uprising in 1830 many scientic
societies were closed and some scholars were forced to leave the country.
At the same time in many regions, especially in Great Poland, there
appeared conditions suitable for scientic research. A key personality

Surowiecki 1824.
Cf. Chapter 15.
4 chapter one

of the epoch in the mid-19th century was Jerzy Moraczewski, who

set up the Association of the Collectors of the National Antiquities
(which operated from its seat in Szamotudy near Poznaq between
1840 and 1846). One of the aims of the Association was to record
the archaeological features visible on the ground, which included many
Early Medieval earthwork strongholds and barrow cemeteries. Records
of numerous strongholds in Great Poland were made thus creating a
base for regional studies, which has been developed since then. The
Association launched the initial investigations of the site at Lech’s Hill
in Gniezno. In the 19th century also the studies of the Early Medieval
times in the Chedmno and Dobrzyq lands were conducted where, at the
initiative of Gotfryd Ossowski (1835–1897), the earthwork strongholds
were catalogued.
In the Russian zone of partitioned Poland, the Vilnius milieu actively
developed. One of its representatives was Count Eustachy Tyszkiewicz
(1814–1873), the key specialist in the Slavic epoch in the mid-19th cen-
tury, who created a rich collection of nds on his estate and compiled
their description.11
At the same time in the Congress Kingdom of Poland, the most
eminent researcher was Franciszek M. Sobieszczaqski (1814–1878)
from Warsaw, who believed that the Slavs represented a high level of
civilization. He conducted excavations of a pagan burial ground at
the village of Nietulisko and a cremation barrow at Kotarszyn, dated
between the 6th and 9th century A.D. After the excavations he ordered
the barrow to be reconstructed and so he can be considered a forerun-
ner of archaeological conservation.
From the mid-19th century, research activity began in Cracow. The
Archaeological Department was distinguished within the local Society of
Friends of Science, whose member was, among others, Teol uebrawski.
In 1851 the Annual Journal of Science presented the information about
the discovery of a famous square sectioned stone pillar more than two
and a half meters tall with reliefs on its sides and four faces at the top,
probably a pagan idol representing the god Svantevit. This had been
found in the bed of the Zbrucz river; in the same year the statue was
brought to Cracow and displayed in Collegium Juridicum of the Jagiello-
nian University. Taking the monument from Mieczysdaw Potocki’s estate,
uebrawski did not make proper documentation so the description of

Cf. Tyszkiewicz 1868.
archaeology of early medieval poland 5

the statue and the circumstances of its discovery are full of gaps. This
inspired doubts about the authenticity of the object. As a result, in
the following years Zygmunt Gloger and Wdodzimierz Demetrykiewicz
made several trips in order to complete the data. uebrawski did much
better during the investigations of the Tartars’ Mound in Przemytl,
which he began in 1869 on behalf of the Cracow Scientic Society. He
made detailed notes about the excavations and the material discovered.12
As early as the mid 1840s, investigations of the ruins on the island
at Ostrów Lednicki were begun. There was no agreement about the
interpretation of the site. Some believed that these were remains of a
pagan shrine while others (e.g., Joachim Lelewel) assumed that it was
a residence from the times of King Bolesdaw I, ‘the Brave’ (who ruled
992–1025). The debate on the interpretation of these ruins begun in
the early 19th century has continued to our times, the excavations at the
site have also been continued until the present day and are the longest
lasting undertaking in Early Medieval archaeology in Polish lands.13
At that time the scholars were fascinated with the problem of the
earliest Slavs’ writing, and the possibility that in pagan times they used
runes. Many eminent specialists believed that the Slavs, like other
peoples, had their own script. Such was the opinion of scholars like
Stanisdaw Staszic and Wawrzyniec Surowiecki,14 whereas other scholars
were more cautious. It was in this context that the so-called Mikorzyn
stones with an apparent runic inscription materialized. They resembled
quern stones and bore drawings of human and animal gures. The
opinions that these were representations of a Slavic god, Prowe, accom-
panied by a runic script were contradicted by the claims that these were
evident fakes. And although the latter view was nally accepted, the
issue created discord in the academic milieu for many years.
An important part in the research on the Slavs was played in the 19th
century by an excellent writer, Józef Ignacy Kraszewski (1812–1887).
Although he is primarily remembered as the author of the novel Stara
Baur [Old Tales] where he presented a vision of Poland in pagan times,
he also made profound investigations of the Slavs, also those living
along the Elbe.15 At the end of the 19th century one of the greatest
Polish scholars of the time, Wdodzimierz Demetrykiewicz (1859–1937),

Cf. Chapter 7.
Cf. Chapter 11.
Surowiecki 1823.
Cf. Kraszewski 1860.
6 chapter one

conducted his investigations. From 1891 he was the state conservator

of the historical monuments in Galicia and also a professor of Cracow
University and the director of the Archaeological Museum of the Pol-
ish Academy of Learning. For that reason he had more opportunities
than anyone else to take part in eld work and have contact with
archaeological monuments. Among other things he investigated Early
Medieval pottery and the stone gures from Central Asia but also those
found in Polish lands.
It is difcult to treat the early archaeological investigations as a sci-
entic discipline. The problem of the Slavs was considered from an
excessively long chronological perspective, or in other words, no attempts
at establishing the dating of the nds concerning the Slavs were made.
On the contrary, there was a tendency to assume that the Slavs existed
in periods earlier than the Middle Ages, or even in prehistoric times.
The Early Middle Ages impinged on scholarly awareness mainly in
the context of discoveries of other periods, there was a certain lack
of agreement over when one could say that the history of the Slavs
had actually begun. For that reason it was not the archaeology of the
Early Medieval Slavs, but prehistory and anthropology supported by the
natural sciences, which determined the trends of interest and research
in the 19th century.

3. Birth and slow growth: the rst two decades of the 20th century

Evident changes in the perception of the Early Middle Ages appeared

at the beginning of the 20th century. At this time Marian Wawrzeniecki
(1863–1943) conducted his investigations. He compiled, for example,
records of the earthwork strongholds and made an interesting stylistic
analysis of the Svantevit statue in Cracow in order to prove that it
was an authentic antiquity. In 1909, the Museum of the Society of
the Friends of Science was established in Great Poland. In 1914 Józef
Kostrzewski, a student of the eminent German prehistorian Gustaf
Kossinna and the author of the recently published work Wielkopolska
w czasach przedhistorycznych [Great Poland in Prehistoric Times],16 became its

Kostrzewski 1914.
archaeology of early medieval poland 7

In the early period of Poland’s independence, three main academic

centers developed, in Warsaw, Poznaq and Cracow. In subsequent years
they were to become the leading ones. In Warsaw the greatest person-
ality in the archaeological milieu was Wdodzimierz Antoniewicz, who
in 1919 was employed by the Ministry of Education to organize the
National Group of Conservators of Prehistoric Monuments. At the same
time he replaced the ill Erazm Majewski and set up the Department
of Prehistoric Archaeology at Warsaw University. Another important
personality who made a large contribution to the development of
the early Medieval archaeology was Roman Jakimowicz, nominated
in 1928 as the director of the recently established Archaeological
Museum in Warsaw. He wrote an important dissertation on the origin
of ornaments found in early historic hoards and was a co-author of
the Atlas grodzisk i zamczysk ul[skich [Atlas of Silesian Strongholds and Castles]
published in 1939.
Already in the late 1920s, some doctoral dissertations reecting
the increased interest in the Early Middle ages were written in the
Warsaw milieu. One of them was the paper by Janina Kamiqska on
the early historical stone monuments found in Polish lands and the
doctoral dissertation of Father Wdadysdaw c\ga Pomorze we wczesnym
uredniowieczu [Pomerania in the Early Middle Ages] defended in the aca-
demic year 1927/1928 in Poznaq and later published as a separate
The changes and preferences in research were marked by the fact
that out of the 287 archaeological publications issued in 1925–1928 as
many as 12% were devoted to topics related to the Early Middle Ages
(in contrast to the 5% from the previous period), in this way, the need
of in-depth studies of the Early Middle Ages began to arise and was
fullled. Nevertheless the majority of the university lectures offered to
students at that time concerned prehistoric archaeology.
In the Poznaq milieu, a key role was played by Józef Kostrzewski—the
greatest researcher of the inter-war period. For him two issues were
the most important: typological classication of archaeological evidence
and ethnic problems in archaeology. The rst synthesis of the mate-
rial culture of Polish lands in the early Middle Ages, Kultura prapolska
[Early-Polish Culture] was issued in Poznaq in 1947. In this publication
he considered not only archaeological evidence from Polish excavations

c\ga 1929–1930.
8 chapter one

in Gniezno, Poznan, Biskupin, Kdecko and so on, but also German

excavations carried out in Santok, Wolin and Opole. He also made
use of ethnographic and linguistic evidence to a considerable degree,
and also the rst analyses of preserved remains by representatives of
the natural sciences. In this manner, Kultura Prapolska became a classic
textbook which was an inspiration for many people who made their
own mark on the study of the Early Middle Ages.
Kostrzewski made his name as the originator of the hypothesis of
the occupation of Polish lands by the Slavs from ancient times, an idea
which had many followers and imitators. He launched the excavations
in Gniezno (1936), Kdecko (1937) and Poznaq (1938), accompanied by
his students (some of whom later became such eminent professors as
Witold Hensel, Konrad Javdvewski or Zdzisdaw Rajewski).
Early Medieval archaeology thus gained a chance for an indepen-
dent existence. This possibility was enhanced by the lively debate in
this period about the relationship between prehistoric archaeology
and history. The Early Middle Ages appeared to be a natural bridge
between the two disciplines. It seems that this was the context where
the two notions were rst distinguished. Besides the Prehistoric Institute
at Poznaq University, the above-mentioned Department of Prehistoric
Archaeology was created at Warsaw University. In the book Archaeologia
Polski [Archaeology of Poland], issued in 1928 by Wdodzimierz Antonie-
wicz, the Early Medieval period was divided into pre-Piast (600–900
A.D.) and early-Piast (900–1100 A.D.) periods.18 The author treated the
chronological boundary at which he nished his text as the point where
archaeologists made way for historians as the principal investigators. The
tendency to separate the Early Middle Ages from prehistory can also
be noticed in the subheadings of the specialist journals of that time.
The above presented achievements were made possible by the eld
work going on at this time. In the 1920s German prehistorians recorded
the Early Medieval strongholds in Silesia and began to excavate the rst
of them. The results were published in the journals: Altschlesien from
1922 and Altschlesische Blätter from 1926. We should not forget either
the considerable contribution of German scholars in the investigation
of centers such as Opole, Wolin or Santok.

Piast, the name of the legendary protoplast of the Piast dynasty which ruled
Poland from the 10th till the 14th century [P.B.].
archaeology of early medieval poland 9

In 1926 the excavations at Zdota near Sandomierz were started.

Besides nds from various periods of prehistory, remains of Early
Medieval settlement, existing from the beginning of the Middle Ages
till the early 10th century, were found. At the same time rescue excava-
tions near St James’ Church in nearby Sandomierz were undertaken. At
that site, during the construction works on a home for retired priests, a
perfectly preserved 11th century cemetery was found. It proved to be
one of the most interesting sites which allowed the reconstruction of
the early Polish population from the time when the town was estab-
lished. At Koqskie near Radom a cemetery of the same period was
discovered during intensive rescue works: more than 170 burials were
explored and recorded. This and many other undertakings created a
material basis and a suitable climate for the further development of
Early Medieval archaeology in the inter-war period.

4. The 1930s: Early Medieval archaeology on the offensive, continuation of

debate on the Slavs and systematic excavations of Early Medieval sites

The ethnic theory of archaeological cultures elaborated in the 1920s

by the school of the German prehistorian Gustaf Kossina assumed
that the areas occupied by each archaeological culture were equivalent
to the territories of the ethnic groups which had created them. Thus
according to the German researchers, the area of modern Poland was
occupied by Germanic people from the 2nd century B.C. till the 4th
century A.D., according to this model, the Slavs were latecomers to
the Polish lands. In reply the Polish side (led by Józef Kostrzewski)
began investigations in order to prove the ‘eternal Polishness’ of the
lands between the Oder and Vistula rivers. In this manner, in the
1930s there arose huge possibilities to turn the spotlight of history on
the Slavs. Although many errors in assessment and interpretation of
archaeological evidence were made (e.g., that the Slavs were perceived
as distinguishable in such chronologically distant periods as the Early
Bronze Age or even the Late Neolithic period), this work created a
good atmosphere for the development of the research on the Early
Middle Ages and provided new archaeological evidence for the stud-
ies on the origins of the Polish state. In 1936, excavation works were
begun in Gniezno where many interesting nds were made during the
earth-moving conducted in a garden belonging to the local bishop. It
was possible to record traces of settlement here from as early as the 8th
10 chapter one

century. A year later excavations at the stronghold at Kdecko and then

at Ostrów Tumski in Poznaq were began. Besides Józef Kostrzewski,
Witold Hensel became an important researcher.19 The rst monographs
of the investigated sites were published, including the work Gniezno
w zaraniu dziejów [The Origins of Gniezno] which appeared in 1939 just
before the outbreak of the War; other sites were published soon after
the end of the War.
Fieldwork also intensied in other regions. In Little Poland the strong-
holds were recorded and investigated under the leadership of Gabriel
Leqczyk. Zoa Wartodowska, a student of Wdodzimierz Antoniewicz,
undertook in the 1930s the excavations at the stronghold in S[siadka
(Sutiejsk) on the Polish-Ruthenian borderland. They were continued
after the War and they gave rise to the broader investigations on Red
Ruthenia (the so-called ‘Cherven strongholds’). The results of these
and many other excavations were presented at numerous national and
international conferences, including at the 17th Congress of Pre- and
Proto historical Sciences in Bucharest in 1938. At that time Polish
archaeologists maintained lively contacts with research centers of many
European countries.20
The greatest research undertaking of the 1930s was the excavation
of the Krak Mound in Cracow. Although the way in which the site
was explored and the obtained results became a subject of criticism
and contention in the scientic milieu for many years, it should be
stated that the eld work was conducted according to the then current
European standards for investigating such features, with participation
of the scientic elite of Poland represented both by archaeologists and
representatives of other sciences.21
At the same time the work on the recording and exploration of
strongholds in Upper Silesia were continued. The excavations of
one such site at Lubomia were started, while in the nearby Syrynia
Józef Kostrzewski investigated a settlement from the same period. In
Lower Silesia archaeological work was at B\dkowice, Niemcza, Opole,
Strzegom, and Wrocdaw-Nowy Targ and other sites. The eld work
embraced also early Slavic sites of key importance such as Gostyq,
Klenica or Pop\szyce.22

Cf. Hensel 1938; 1940.
Kostrzewski 1959.
Cf. Chapter 7.
Cf. Kostrzewski 1949.
archaeology of early medieval poland 11

Publications began to appear of the basic source material for the

period discussed here. Of especial importance was Zdzisdaw Rajewski’s
doctoral dissertation which dealt with the Early Medieval inhumation
cemeteries in Great Poland and Wdadysdaw Kowalenko’s thesis on the
strongholds of the same region in Early Medieval times. In Warsaw,
numerous Master’s theses were written on Medieval nds: by Alina
Kietliqska on battle axes from the 8th–13th centuries among the Eastern
and Western Slavs, by Wanda Sarnowska on Medieval swords, and by
Zoa Wartodowska on the strongholds between the Vistula, Bug and
San rivers. In 1939 Krystyna Musianowicz completed her doctoral
dissertation on the Early Medieval headdress ornaments (‘temple
rings’—schlafenringe). The above mentioned and many other works were
a lasting contribution to Early Medieval archaeology and a basis for
further work after the Second World War.

5. Two post war decades: the coming Millennium and research on the origins
of the Polish state

Despite the huge destruction, after the Second World War there
appeared good prospects for the development of Early Medieval archae-
ology in Poland. The creation of a new structure of academic teaching
system was a favorable circumstance, as the needs of the discipline were
taken into account. It was also an important factor that it was created
by people involved in Early Medieval archaeology.
Józef Kostrzewski renewed the museum and university activities in
Poznaq and Roman Jakimowicz started to teach at the newly formed
Chair of Archaeology at the University of Toruq. In the early phase he
cooperated with Helena and Wdodzimierz Hodubowicz, archaeologists
from Vilnius, who later on created the foundations of the Early Medi-
eval archaeology in Wrocdaw. In Warsaw, the specialization developed
thanks to the scientic activity of Wdodzimierz Antoniewicz and Zoa
Wartodowska. In cód the presence of Konrad Javdvewski, who took
the chair of prehistoric archaeology at the local university, created
promising prospects. In Silesia the university teaching was organized
in Wrocdaw by Rudolf Jamka. The situation in Pomerania was the
worst because of the lack of strong academic milieus in that region;
archaeological research on the Early Middle Ages was organized by
the museums, especially the ones in Gdaqsk and Szczecin.
Soon after the War there was another eruption of interest and ideas
for solving the question of the Slavs’ origin. Besides the archaeologists,
12 chapter one

the debate was taken up by linguists (Tadeusz Lehr-Spdawiqski), anthro-

pologists ( Jan Czekanowski), ethnologists (Kazimierz Moszyqski) and
historians (Kazimierz Tymieniecki). The particularly fruitful eld of
research on the Slavs proved to be the western and northern lands
which had to be incorporated into Poland not only in economic but also
scientic terms. It is not surprising that as early as in 1946, excavations
were started in Wrocdaw and then in Opole, Wolin and Szczecin.
However, undoubtedly the greatest event of the early post-war years
was the radical change in methodology unwanted by the scientic milieu
and connected with the necessity to adapt science to the needs of the
new, Marxist ideology. The archaeologists of these times accepted this
new vision of history to varying degrees. Some, like, e.g., Wdodzimierz
Hodubowicz, were fascinated with the new ideas whereas others used the
slogans of the new ideology without any practical consequences only
to keep their positions and the possibility to do their work. The more
resistant, for example Józef Kostrzewski, faced loss of importance and
were forced to give up their positions to make way for those more obe-
dient to the new rulers. In 1950 the Center of the History of Material
Culture was set up, and it was obligatory for all the students to study
here for three years regardless of their future specialization.
For the development of Polish Early Medieval archaeology, this new
methodological trend meant an important focus on studies of the mate-
rial basis of life. This led to a number of studies of different areas of
economy, especially agriculture and crafts, which was in many cases
undoubtedly advantageous. However, one should not forget in this
context the simplied interpretational patterns which were employed
on as a large scale at this time and which have existed till today. Their
effects, especially in the sphere of terminology can be seen even in the
most recent publications.
A milestone in the development of Early Medieval archaeology in
Poland was the approaching 1000th anniversary of the beginning of
the Polish state. This was noticed soon after the War, as early as 1946
Witold Hensel postulated launching a large scale research project on
the Polish Early Middle Ages to commemorate the great jubilee.23 A
year later, a committee at the Ministry of Culture and Arts acknowl-
edged the particular role of archaeology in the studies of the origins
of the state.

Hensel 1946.
archaeology of early medieval poland 13

The investigations, often undertaken spontaneously in various parts

of the country, were fostered by the fact that many modern cities lay in
ruins and thus there appeared good conditions for eldwork in places
which were not accessible in normal conditions; this concerned not
only the historical centers of towns but also the interiors of churches
and monastic houses which required renovation or even reconstruction
after the War.
On April 3, 1949, the ‘Directorate of the Research on the Origins
of the Polish State’ [Kierownictwo Badar nad Pocz[tkami Parstwa Polskiego:
KBPP] headed by the historian, Aleksander Gieysztor was set up.24 A
year earlier, however, eld work at more than a dozen sites had been
initiated. In the following years the number of investigated sites grew
continually, reaching more than fty in 1959. The size of the under-
taking can be demonstrated by the fact that the KBPPP employed
as many as 231 people, including 119 full time workers and among
them 50 professors. The scope of the program was impressive: at the
same time several dozen archaeological sites of the Early Middle Ages
were excavated. They included both defensive structures of earthwork
strongholds, religious cult centers and Early Medieval towns, ports, rural
settlements and many other sites. The discoveries of monuments of
sacral architecture in the earliest centers of the Polish state, including
Poznaq, Strzelno, or Trzemeszno fostered interdisciplinary cooperation
with historians of art and architecture. An important part was played by
the research conducted close to the Ukrainian border in the area known
as Red Ruthenia, of the so-called ‘Cherven Strongholds’ mentioned in
the Russian chronicles and located near the modern villages of Gródek
Nadbuvny and Czermno near Hrubieszów. They produced a lot of high
quality information improving our knowledge of the material culture
of these cultural borderlands. Along with the eldwork, wide-ranging
studies on the relevant written sources from various cultural zones and
parts of Europe were taken up.
The long-term effect of the work of the KBPPP was the foundation
of the Institute of the History of Material Culture (today: the Institute
of Archaeology and Ethnology) of the Polish Academy of Sciences in
November 1953. Its tasks included coordination, through its regional
branches, of research work in various parts of Poland. The Institute

Cf. Gieysztor 1953.
14 chapter one

cooperated closely with the Institute of History of the Polish Academy

of Sciences.
The KBPPP program was implemented in cooperation with univer-
sity and museum centers from the whole country. The quality of the
eld work was improved by discussions on the methods of exploration
and documentation, including the use of the stratigraphic method at
multi-layer sites. Almost the whole elite of researchers took part in the
debate, including Witold Hensel, Tadeusz uurowski, Konrad Javdvewski
and Wdodzimierz Hodubowicz. Many excavations of that time may be
considered as among the most advanced in Europe taking into account
the scientic level and advanced research techniques and methods of
documentation used. Their interdisciplinary character created favorable
conditions for the promotion of Polish Early Medieval archaeology. For
example, from the historical perspective it proved that the pioneering
research in ceramic ethno-archaeology by Wdodzimierz Hodubiewicz,
preceded the achievements of the world archaeology by a quarter of
a century.
Interim reports of the results of the excavations were immediately
published and presented at national and international conferences. This
helped to disseminate across Europe the image of the Polish Early Medi-
eval archaeology of the 1950s and 1960s as a scientic discipline using
the most up-to-date research methodology. However, although many
new journals were established at that time, the multitude of excavated
sites and of the collected materials made it impossible to produce nal
monographs with the nal reports of many sites of key importance,
which has remained a considerable drawback till today.25

6. The 1970s and 1980s: fruitful aftermath of the Millennium research

In the mid-1960s, after the end of the Millennium program, the trends
in eld research did not change. On the contrary, in the 1967–1980,
Early Medieval archaeology saw its greatest number of archaeological
expeditions. The expedition in Sandomierz operating in the early 1970s
and run by Stanisdaw Tabaczyqski comprised several dozen people.

This situation has recently been considerably improved by the research program
‘Poland at the turn of the Millennium’ nanced by the Foundation for Polish Science
[Fundacja na Rzecz Nauki Polskiej ]. As a result of this the results from the excavation
of many of the ‘millennial’ sites have at last been processed and prepared for publica-
tion. There successive publication is now in progress.
archaeology of early medieval poland 15

This was a great summer school of modern archaeology for students,

archaeologists and representatives of sciences cooperating with archae-
ology from various research centers in Poland and also for guests from
European and other countries. During the excavations, seminars were
held regularly and the most recent and sometimes unique methods of
exploration and documentation were implemented.26
Apart from Sandomierz, in the 1970s there were a few other larger
archaeological expeditions investigating sites of the Early Medieval
period in Poland such as at Czersk, Pdock and Wolin. In other places,
e.g., at Ostrów Lednicki and in some historical towns, eldwork has
been continued until today. Until the political changes at the end of the
1980s, the archaeology of the Early Middle Ages was investigated both
by the researchers who started their careers after the Second World War
and the scholars who had begun in the inter-war period. Among the
latter, the greatest inuence on the development of the Early Medieval
archaeology was exerted by Witold Hensel, who became the director of
the Institute of the History of Material Culture of the Polish Academy
of Sciences, a post he held for many years together with being the
director of the Department of Archaeology at Warsaw University. His
inuence was in part the result of the numerous prerogatives which
derived from the many functions he held, but also of the fact that many
of the scholars of that time, especially in the Poznaq and Warsaw cen-
ters, were his students or close cooperators. Hensel initiated many new
trends of research, e.g., in regional and microregional studies; the last
mentioned ones were consistently implemented in Great Poland and
Pomerania. The chronological periodization of the Early Middle Ages
which he elaborated for Great Poland is still being used, especially in the
Poznaq milieu. He is the author of works of fundamental importance,
among which Seowiarszczyzna wczesnouredniowieczna [ The Slavs in the Early
Middle Ages] (issued six times since its rst publication in 1956), is the
most important.27 Another important contribution by Witold Hensel
to the development of the sub-discipline are also Studia i materiaey do
osadnictwa Wielkopolski wczesnouredniowiecznej [Studies and Materials on the
Settlement in Early Medieval Great Poland] (from vol. 4 issued together with
Zoa Kurnatowska) of which seven volumes have been issued so far.28

Buko 2000.
Hensel 1956.
Hensel 1950–1955.
16 chapter one

His many books and still more numerous articles on the origins of towns
and of the Polish state as well as on the methodology of archaeological
investigations enjoyed a considerable popularity. The researcher had
his ardent followers and opponents; the latter objected, among other
things, to his domination in Polish archaeology, marginalization of criti-
cal discussions (e.g., on the studies on the Slavs’ allochthonism) and his
almost absolute ‘rule’ over Polish archaeology for several decades.
Regardless of the aspects of the period that can be criticized, this
was undoubtedly a period of unprecedented development of Polish
Early Medieval archaeology, of the increase in the scale and widening
of the scope of investigations as well as of a wide-reaching interna-
tional cooperation in joint investigations with the participation of Polish
scholars in work on Medieval sites in France and Italy, Bulgaria and
many other countries. It yielded also large monographs publishing
the results of excavations of leading early Polish sites, such as Pdock,
c\czyca, Sandomierz, Szczecin, and Opole.
There were in this period, however, no syntheses. The researchers
from the Cracow milieu tried to ll in this gap. In 1974 Andrzej uaki
issued a monumental work: Archaeologia Maeopolski wczesnouredniowiecznej
[Archaeology of Early Medieval Little Poland], which was the rst regional
synthesis in Polish Medieval archaeology. In the following three decades
no comparable publication has been issued so far for any other region
of Poland, let alone for the whole country. Other specialists tried with
varying success to bring the most interesting results of research closer
to the general public. Unparalleled in this respect remain a series of
publications by Jerzy G[ssowski. Some of them, especially Dzieje i
kultura dawnych Seowian [ The History and Culture of the Old Slavs] issued in
1964 have their faithful readers even after so many years. The author
possesses an ability (rare in the Polish archaeologists’ milieu) to link
scientic narrative with a written style easy for the non-specialist to
follow, which has allowed him to convey even difcult research issues
to a broad circle of readers.
In the 1980s Early Medieval archaeology gained a lasting place
within the archaeological specializations. A culmination of the period
of its ‘childhood’ and ‘teen age’ was the work Archaeologia uredniowieczna.
Problemy. Z´ródea. Metody. Cele badawcze [ Medieval Archaeology. Issues. Sources.
Methods. Research Aims] published in 1987 by Stanisdaw Tabaczyqski.
The title refers to the name of the discipline known in western Europe
(the Early Middle Ages end there in the 10th century and not in the
mid-13th like in Poland). However, its contents clearly indicate that it
archaeology of early medieval poland 17

actually focuses on the problems of Early Medieval archaeology. The

subtitle suggests at the same time that this specialization can be clearly
dened as an entity, well-differentiated from others. In the early 1990s
attempts were also made towards a conceptualization of the research
process with respect to medieval pottery nds.29
The origin of the Slavs remained an important subject of inter-
est. However, during the Millennium studies it had been somewhat
dominated by the needs of the research connected with the 1000th
anniversary of the foundation of the state. Another reason for the
lack of debate in that period was the fact that a large proportion of
the important milieus in the Millennium period shared the opinion of
the most eminent scholars about the authochthonous origin of Slavic
culture in Poland. This view was strongly expressed in a number of
publications, for example the book issued in 1984 by Witold Hensel Sk[d
przyszli Seowianie [ Where the Slavs came from]. From the mid-1970s, mainly
due to the seminal publication of Kazimierz Goddowski: Z badar nad
zagadnieniem rozprzestrzenieniu si\ Seowian w Europie w okresie V–VII w. n.e.
[Studies on the problem of the dissemination of the Slavs in Europe between the 5th
and 7th Century A.D.] the debate entered a new stage. Goddowski’s works,
in which he raised important questions, but at the same time proposals
for obtaining answers to them, created a suitable atmosphere for a new
increase of interest in the question of the Slavs’ allochthonism. The rst
monographs on a more precise denition of the early Slavic culture from
Polish lands were prepared by Michad Parczewski, Goddowski’s student
and ‘successor’ and at the same time the most consistent proponent
of this theory. Conferences, discussions which arose at the occasion,
like one organized in Warsaw in 1984, did not, however, lead to any
breakthrough. On the contrary, they indicated the existence of differ-
ences which more and more divided the archaeological milieu. The key
note of the conference is best rendered by the title of the special issue
of the journal Z Otcheani Wieków: “Conict about the Slavs.”
In the 1980s we also see a clear increase of interest in Late Medieval,
post-Medieval and modern archaeology. The last mentioned tendencies
were particularly fostered by the academic centers in Toruq, cód and
Wrocdaw which began to ourish at this time.

Buko 1990.
18 chapter one

7. The last decade of the 20th century: old questions and new possibilities

This was also an especially favorable period for Polish Early Medieval
archaeology. At the beginning of the decade the Poznaq center was
the leading one with the unquestionable part being played by Zoa
Kurnatowska. She managed to attract around her many young research-
ers from the regional centers and together they addressed the main
problem of the region, investigation of the strongholds and settlement
zones of Great Poland. Many earlier conclusions about the chronology
of the strongholds from the pre-state (tribal) and early state periods
were considerably modied, mainly owing to the broad application of
dendrochronology. At the same time detailed cartographic presentations
created the outline of the new vision of the origins of the rst Polish
state and its main centers. These works resulted in valuable papers
and doctoral dissertations, for example on the topic of the stronghold
compound at Ostrów Lednicki30 or on the concentration of strongholds
around Kalisz.31 At that period some critical reections dealing with the
bases of Early Medieval chronology, including that of the strongholds
of the pre-state period, were undertaken by Jacek Poleski32 using the
example of the materials from Little Poland.
A new impulse for research work was given by the preparations
for the 1000th anniversary of the Gniezno Summit in the year 1000,
an historic meeting between Emperor Otto III and the Polish ruler
Bolesdaw the Brave which was celebrated in the year 2000. To that
end two all-Polish research programs: Poland at the time of the Gniezno
Summit, established by the Committee for Scientic Research and the
Thousandth Anniversary of the Gniezno Summit set up by the Bureau of the
Conservator General of Historical Monuments. Both programs, imple-
mented by the researchers from various milieus from all over Poland,
aimed at verifying the old conclusions. For that purpose fresh studies
of the previously unpublished material from the Millennium investi-
gations were conducted as well as verication works at key settlement
and architectural sites. This was the largest interdisciplinary program
in the sphere of Early Medieval archaeology since the Millennium
Project and a large number of specialists took part. The results of this

Górecki 2001.
Teske 2000.
archaeology of early medieval poland 19

work were presented in 2000 in a monograph Osadnictwo i architektura

ziem polskich w dobie Zjazdu Gnienierskiego [Settlement and Architecture in the
Polish Lands during the Gniezno Summit],33 resulted in many valuable and
sometimes unique discoveries and allowed new conclusions to be drawn.
These include the discovery of a central-plan (tetrakonchos) church
at Zawichost, the princely residence at Ostrów Tumski in Poznaq,
the previously unknown churches at Giecz, Kaddus and Wrocdaw and
new data concerning the Tartars’ Mound in Przemytl, the datings of
archaeological sites and much more besides. Some of these conclusions
will be discussed later on in this book.34
Parallel, although not entirely within the topic of this publication,
was the interdisciplinary research program Adalbertus, also set up by
the Committee for Scientic Research, which focused on the aspects
of natural environment and culture of the times of the fateful mission-
ary journey of St Adalbert (Wojciech) to the Prussians. Its results were
published in several volumes.35
In the 1990s the debate on the interpretation of the controversial
ndings from Ostrów Lednicki was taken up again. The view that in the
earliest phase there was a bishop’s seat and baptistery here, connected
with Bishop Jordan, was put forward by the authors of a monumental
publication U progu chrzeucijarstwa w Polsce. Ostrów Lednicki [Origins of
Christianity in Poland. Ostrów Lednicki]36 in contrast to the earlier opinion
that from the very beginning it was the earliest seat of the Piast dynasty.
Numerous debates reected in scientic journals were also inspired
by the research on the clan structure observed in the Early Medieval
cemeteries in Little Poland. Its leading theme was the issue of the
migrants from Great Poland whose presence had been indicated by
the present author on the basis of his studies of the Sandomierz pot-
tery and identied by recent anthropological analyses of the remains
found in 11th century cemeteries at Sandomierz. The investigations
have revealed the possibilities and limitations of the unconventional
approach to the analysis of materials from cemeteries.37 A new ele-
ment of research introduced in the last decade is the material culture

Cf. Buko. swiechowski eds. 2000.
Chapters 9 and 10.
Cf. Urbaqczyk ed. 1997–1999.
Ed. by uurowska 1993–1994.
Cf. Chapter 15.
20 chapter one

of the borderland areas neglected during the Millennium studies; this

concerns especially the area of Little Poland.38
Lengthy discussions on the subject of the discoveries at Witlica failed
to reach any denite conclusions. This was reected at the conference
organized in that town in 1995, published in Wiulica. Nowe badania i
interpretacje [ Wiulica. New Studies and Interpretations]. This concerns both
such key issues as dating of the unique discoveries made in this town,
the origins of the two strongholds there, the function and dating of the
so-called baptismal font discovered in the old excavations and the origins
of the center in the context of the mention of an anonymous prince
which some have connected with the site in the Life of St Methodius.
The problems these discussions have revealed seem to have caused a
perceptible decrease of interest in the research into that center in the
following decade.
During the last decade of the 20th century, opinions in the debate
on the origins of the Slavs became more xed. This was reected at the
international conference on the subject39 organized in Cracow in 2001
at which scholars representing various outlooks and scientic disciplines
presented their views. The debate, which sometimes took the form of
an emotional ght with words instead of scientic arguments, clearly
revealed that at the outset of the 3rd millennium not only does there
exist a profound lack of agreement but also the participants in the
discussions are less and less willing to seek a compromise. The main
event of the year 2000 on the publishing market was, however, an edited
collection of Kazimierz Goddowski’s works entitled Pierwotne siedziby
Seowian [ The Original Homes of the Slavs] compiled by Michad Parczewski
and a group of Kazimierz Goddowski’s former students.40
The good state of the early Medieval archaeology at the beginning
of the third millennium is indicated by its closer and closer coopera-
tion with historians, which is a symbolic return to the its origin and
sources of development. A great contribution in this respect was made
by Aleksander Gieysztor (who died several years ago) who as early as
in the 1950s maintained close scientic contacts with the milieu of
Medieval archaeologists connected with the studies of the origins of
the Polish state. The same can be said about Henryk Samsonowicz

Cf. Chapters 9–11.
An international conference on the Slavs’ ethnogenesis was held in Cracow on
November 19th–21st, 2001 (cf. Kaczanowski, Parczewski eds 2005).
Cf. Goddowski 2000.
archaeology of early medieval poland 21

who continued this tradition in the 1990s and was also behind the
large research programs described above. An important part of this
cooperation was the jubilee conference organized by the Foundation
for Polish Science in Kalisz. It was crowned with the synthesis: Ziemie
polskie w X wieku i ich miejsce w ksztaetowaniu si\ nowej mapy Europy [ Polish
lands in the 10th century and their place in shaping the new map of Europe]
published by the Foundation in 2000.41 Attempts at disseminating the
most recent achievements of archaeology have also been made, which
can be exemplied by the recently published book Pocz[tki Polski [ The
Origins of Poland] by Zoa Kurnatowska42 and this publication.
At the time of writing, the most recent important event in the history
of Early Medieval archaeology is the program Polska na przeeomie tysi[cleci
[Poland at the turn of the millennia] initiated within a project originated in
2001 by the Committee for Scientic Research. Its aim is to process
and publish the previously unpublished materials from the important
strongholds and towns which were investigated during the research
program associated with the celebration of Poland’s millennium.43
This discussion does not cover the history of investigations of the
archaeology of the territory of the West Balts which lies within the bor-
ders of modern Poland in the extreme northeast corner of the country.
This is a separate topic. Neither have I considered here the development
of Early Medieval numismatics; although arguably a separate special-
ization, it has quite a lot in common with the archaeological studies of
the Early Middle Ages. This is so mainly thanks to the material gained
by excavations and the wide use made by archaeologists of coin nds
in order to date the layers and features and also study Early Medieval
economy. Hence many eminent numismatists, such as Ryszard Kiers-
nowski or Stanisdaw Suchodolski, have been closely connected with the
development of archaeology and the millennium programs.
The end of the 1990s and the beginning of the millennium marked
a great generation change. Many eminent scholars who had begun their
careers in the early 1950s retired. As farewell presents, their friends and
students prepare special publications. In recent years they have greatly

Samsonowicz, ed. 2000.
The project was conducted under the guidance of Przemysdaw Urbaqczyk from
the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences. It embraced
21 sites and the work was nished in mid-2003; the results will be published in the
coming years (Cf. Urbaqczyk, ed. 2006).
22 chapter one

enhanced in a lasting manner the output of Polish Early Medieval

archaeology. Today the researchers who began work in the 1970s are
in their scientic prime. Their works are a continuation of their pre-
decessors’ achievements but they are different in quality. Such a state
of affairs is due to various factors, especially the inevitable changes in
methodological orientations and theoretical foundations as well as the
development of research methods in archaeology. Will the results of
work of the new generation of researchers be equal to those presented
above? This will be decided by future generations.

8. Archaeology of Early Medieval Poland: an archaeology of regions or

archaeology without borders?

The state of Polish Early Medieval archaeology is today best assessed

through regional achievements. This is where the most interesting
discoveries are being made, and the regional academic centers employ
renowned researchers. Almost from the very beginning there existed in
Poland an unwritten tradition of archaeologists dealing with the early
Middle Ages being ‘assigned to a region’. It is hard to imagine research-
ers from the Poznaq milieu carrying out excavations, e.g., at Witlica
or Sandomierz (traditionally these places are excavated by the Warsaw
center) or a serious involvement of the Cracow center in the studies,
e.g., in Pomerania or Great Poland, although examples from recent
years (e.g., the new excavations at the Dominicans’ Square in Gdaqsk)
indicate that this principle may be disappearing.44 Some changes are
caused by the lack of active care about the traditional ‘zones of inu-
ence’. Therefore the territorial dependencies will be gradually ‘eroded’
and mixed teams will be formed. This evolution may be fostered by the
grant system, tenders and joint interdisciplinary research projects.
The most advanced work on the Early Middle Ages are, as it has
been said above, conducted in the Poznaq milieu which has had the
greatest number of achievements in this eld in recent years. However,
it should not be forgotten that the archaeology of the Early Middle
Ages originated there in the inter-war period and it is there that the

These investigations were conducted at the beginning of the third millennium by
the archaeologists and students of the Institute of Archaeology at Warsaw University.
The work was undertaken after winning a nationwide tender. The results of the eld
work have been recently published (Cf. Godembnik, ed. 2001; 2002).
archaeology of early medieval poland 23

basic chronology was formulated and tested. The scope of investiga-

tions implemented by the Poznaq center has been much larger than
in any other one.
In Western Pomerania, the interest is focused on the crafts and trade
centers located on the coast, such as Szczecin, Wolin, or Kodobrzeg. Less
attention is devoted to the strongholds of local importance, investigated
in the previous decades. A specic place is occupied by the cemeter-
ies containing both cremations and inhumations discovered at Wolin,
swielubie and some other places. Their excavations created a problem
concerning the part played by the foreigners (mainly Scandinavians)
in the development of the centers on the Baltic littoral. Further issues
are connected with the studies of pagan cult centers and in early city
sites, of trade, boat building, and the spatial organization of port towns.
The main drawback is that the excavations of many of these sites do
not have complete publications.
The situation in this respect is even worse in Eastern Pomerania.
In comparison to other centers, the investigations here have been con-
ducted on a very small scale. In their synthetic work therefore, authors
have had to refer to discoveries made many years ago (for example, to
the above-mentioned volume by Father Wdadysdaw c\ga). There have
been however some interesting micro-regional studies. Research at the
area of Early Medieval Gdaqsk is conducted on a relatively large scale.
It was began soon after the Second World War and has been continued
till today. It must be said that there has been an impressive number
of publications concerning this center, both the earlier and the most
recent ones. Research on the origins of the nearby small town of Puck
has been conducted for many years, but there are still regrettably few
publications of the results of these investigations and nal conclusions
about the origins of this center will not appear soon.45
Investigations of the Chedmno and Dobrzyq Lands were initiated
in the 19th century by recording the strongholds. This early work has
been have been successfully continued in recent decades, mainly by the
Institute of Archaeology at Toruq University. Although in the 1970s
and 1980s many stronghold sites were excavated, the key problem of
dating the settlement sites has remained unsolved as well as that of the
chronological and cultural relations at the Polish-Prussian borderland.
Investigations were relatively rarely conducted at open settlements and

Cf. Chapters 9 and 10.
24 chapter one

cemeteries. It has been estimated that only about 7% of the results

from the sites excavated so far have been published. In recent years
research has been focused on the settlement complex at Kaddus.46 The
Toruq center has also had many achievements in studying Romanesque
sacral architecture.47
In Mazovia, the initial interest in the archaeology of cemeteries was
extended in the post-war period to systematic excavations at the leading
strongholds such as Bródno, Pdock, Niewiadoma, Czersk, Podebdocie,
and at such sites from the area between the Vistula and Bug rivers as
Ciechanów, comva, Wizna, Drohiczyn, and many others. In most of
the cases the work lasted for rather short spans of time and not as part
of systematic research projects; only a small part of the information
obtained has been published. Due to that, our knowledge about the
above-mentioned sites is still limited. In recent years there have been
some larger projects on the dating of Mazovian strongholds, which has
resulted in considerable changes of opinions.48 The questions of the
burial rites in eastern Mazovia have not been settled so far; this concerns
especially the custom of the late survival of barrow cemeteries and the
inhumations with stone constructions. An important area of research
concerns the issues of the Polish-Ruthenian borderland, and more
broadly, the archaeology of the region of Podlasie, which has not been
satisfactorily investigated. Finally, in Mazovia some interesting examples
of early Slavic sites (Szeligi near Pdock, Wyszogród, Hamki) have been
found. Combined with other groups of data they may provide a good
starting point for the studies on the origins of the early Slavic culture
in Polish lands. It is also necessary to study at greater depth the three
large settlement concentrations: at Drohiczyn, Pdock and c\czyca as
well as the local ones on the Wkra, Narew, Bug, Liwiec and Bzura riv-
ers. As in the case of the other regions, the main problem is the lack
of publications of the sites excavated in the past.
In Little Poland at least four territorial units can be distinguished,
each having different research priorities. The rst one is the area
around the town of Cracow, which has been best investigated in the
whole region. This concerns rst of all Cracow itself, both within the
boundaries of the Medieval chartered town and of the Wawel Castle.

Cf. Chapter 11.
Cf. Chapter 13.
Cf. Chapter 9.
archaeology of early medieval poland 25

However, due to the wealth of research issues and the great number
of discoveries made here for many decades and despite the fact that
there are numerous, often very important, publications, e.g., the mono-
graph of the earliest town written by Kazimierz Radwaqski,49 constant
updates are necessary, which concerns in particular the Wawel Hill.
Intensive research works, concluded with publications, were made for
the leading strongholds of the Cracow region, such as Naszacowice or
Zawada Lanckoroqska.
The second area of interest in the region is comprised by Witlica and
its hinterland. After the period of euphoria about the discoveries from
the 1960s and disappointments after the verications from the 1990s,
the area lost its attraction for archaeologists. The only exception are the
recent verication studies and the publication of source materials about
Stradów: the main stronghold of the region in the period of the Vislane
and one of the biggest in Poland.50
In the Sandomierz region, after the period of intensive research of
the Millennium and later periods which resulted in a full publication
of source materials and a monograph concerning the Early Medieval
settlement of the region and the town of Sandomierz itself, there are
no larger research programs, except for the recent investigations of early
Medieval Zawichost, though small in scope it has produced scienti-
cally important results.51
In the eastern part of the region: between Lublin, Chedm and
Przemytl, continuous (although relatively small scale) research works
are conducted. The most interesting are the works on the materials
from Chodlik, recently concluded with a publication,52 studies on the
Early Medieval settlement in north-eastern Little Poland, settlement
and parish network of the Lublin archdeacon’s district, or the recent
investigations and discoveries at the area of the town of Chedm.53

The initiatives undertaken several years ago in order to publish this site crucial
for the early Middle Ages were interrupted in 2001 by the unexpected death of the
initiator and the leading person in the project, Professor H. Zoll-Adamikowa. In the
meantime, the team of authors was reconstructed and it is continuing the work under
the guidance of this author. A four-volume publication is going to be prepared issued
as a part of the series Polskie Badania Archaeologiczne [Polish Archaeological Investigations].
Volume 1 has been sent to print in Autumn 2005 and the next volumes will be issued
in the following years.
Cf. Chapter 10.
Hoczyk-Siwkowa 2004.
Cf. Chapter 10.
26 chapter one

Verication works have been recently conducted in the Early Medieval

stone tower at Stodpie.54 A promising site, not completely investigated
and thus open for future studies is Przemytl: the leading Piast center
located in the south-eastern borderland of the Early Medieval state.55
Little Poland is also the most advanced in the studies of the Early
Medieval burial rites, thanks to the pioneering studies by Helena Zoll-
Adamikowa. The cemeteries of the region became a testing eld for
deep analyses conducted within the broader comparative background
of burial sites from all over central and eastern Europe.
Silesia also is rich in research problems. This is because of the
immeasurable potential of the archaeological sites embracing the
whole Early Middle ages already discovered, often a long time ago,
but also lack of publications of the basic evidence. In the 19th century
the results of works by many generations of researchers, both Polish
and German, overlapped. Of the 1900 recorded archaeological sites
of the Early Medieval period, which is a huge number in comparison
with the other regions of Poland, more than two thirds were identi-
ed and excavated before 1945. Their number increased dramatically
especially during the period of the Millennium research project, and
the eld work is still being continued. Also the scope of the research
themes is impressive: it embraces both early urban centers, castellan’s
strongholds, open settlements, sites from the early Slavic period, large
pagan cult centers (e.g., the center at Mount sl\va), inhumation and
barrow cemeteries and many others. Although quite a large number
of monographs has been published, mainly about the main centers
of the region, many questions remain unanswered. As examples one
might mention the role of Silesian Niemcza, or the part the Bohemi-
ans played in the cultural formation of the region. Neither has a clear
cross-regional strategy been created for the publication of the massive
amount of unpublished material, including from the old and the post-
War investigations.
Due to the variety of topics, the archaeology of Early Medieval
Poland is and will probably remain the archaeology of individual
regions. However, it should not be forgotten that it also embraces many
extra-regional issues such as the origins of Christianity, cult centers,
origins of towns and of the Polish state, etc., which demand a coopera-

Cf. Chapter 11.
Cf. Chapter 10.
archaeology of early medieval poland 27

tion of researchers from various centers. The other option would be

the increasing lack of balance in the progress of the research, which
exists today, for example, in the case of the chronology of strongholds
in Great Poland seen against the background of the other regions.
Interregional research groups may thus have a positive impact on the
development of the whole discipline.
In the context of the above-discussed issues, it is worth underlining
the interdisciplinary character of archaeological research: not only the
obvious fact that in Early Medieval studies representatives of other
disciplines take part but also the circumstance that at many sites there
are structures not only from the Early Middle Ages but also from the
preceding and following periods. As a result the researchers have to
treat the evidence from various chronological periods in an equal way
and at the same time they have to create teams composed of specialists
in other archaeological periods as well as representatives of different
branches of science. In this way we get closer to a broader approach
to the discipline based not on respective classes of sites such as a settle-
ment, burial ground or the earliest phases of a town center, but on
interdisciplinary studies on the territory at which they are located viewed
from the synchronic and diachronic perspectives. In such an approach,
typical especially of the leading European countries, the direct topic
of interest is not an entity isolated in space and time but a structural
element of a settlement undergoing continual dynamic changes in con-
nection with a broader environmental context. This equally concerns
the changes in the natural environment caused by intentional human
activity and the long-term settlement patterns. This opinion can be
illustrated by the example of a long-lasting rural churchyard such as
the one at Kleczanów, which had been in continual use between the
13th and 19th century and was closely connected with the settlement
and its parish church.56 In such cases, no formal chronological turning
points can be applied; life in rural settlement centers had a different
pace than in the urban ones. It is also difcult to accept in this context
the strategy of excavating only burials as they were functionally con-
nected with the other elements of the settlement complex such as the
church and the settlement. Thus it seems justied to state that in such
cases not the Early Medieval phase but the settlement potential and

Cf. Chapter 12.
28 chapter one

the natural environment determine the borders and thus the scope of
interest of the archaeologist.
The possibilities of further research and interpretation of Early
Medieval sites are also hindered by the fact that in many of them the
archaeological remains and contexts are poorly visible. Modern meth-
odological orientations exert a certain inuence, although in practice
this is rather limited. Finally, the very archaeological material on which
the investigation is focused is sometimes so complex that it is only
with difculty that it can be submitted to strict scientic analyses. This
problem will be illustrated at the examples presented in subsequent
chapters of this publication.


The time span of almost seven hundred years during which the Early
Middle Ages lasted in Poland is reected in the variety of categories
of evidence used by archaeologists. For the early Slavic and pre-state
periods these are mainly material obtained by excavation of the settle-
ment layers and their context largo sensu. Mentions in the chronicles of
Roman, Frankish, Arabic and Byzantine writers comprise a supple-
mentary type of evidence as they describe episodes from the histories
of various peoples (also the Slavic ones), their distribution, customs,
culture, economy, methods of ghting and beliefs.1 However, the issues
described by the chroniclers usually concern the areas located to the
south of the Carpathian Mountains; only in a few cases, such as in the
case of the text of the Bavarian Geographer, can they be connected
with the people inhabiting the Polish lands.
The quantity of evidence, its character and extent is considerably
greater for the early-state period. The rst structures of sacral and
secular architecture which have survived in the settlement landscape
and the written sources increasingly frequently refer to events taking
place in the area of modern Poland. Besides the archaeological mate-
rial, data from other disciplines such as Medieval history, epigraphics,
history of art and architecture, archive surveys, cartography and many
others are used. However, although they enrich the existing knowledge,
a decisive part is played by the material evidence which has survived
in archaeological sites.

1. Early Medieval archaeological sites and their stratication:

problems in exploration

For the Early Middle Ages in Poland the main types of site excavated
are early urban centers, strongholds which have survived in open

The written sources most often used by the Early Medieval archaeologists are
included in the literature; a complete and thematically ordered list (with comments)
has been published by G. Labuda (1999).
30 chapter two

land, rural settlements, sacral sites (including monastic complexes) and

cemeteries. Each of them has specic stratication features and thus
requires a different research strategy and procedure.

1.1. Stratication of early urban sites2

The most spectacular group is made up by the remains of defensive
architecture of Medieval towns such as ditches, town walls, or towers.
Sometimes they are accompanied by old churches and monasteries.
Occasionally, the church is the only structure in the landscape remain-
ing from the now non-existent urban center ( Fig. 1).
Early urban stratication comprises complex arrangements of layers
often several meters deep, including accompanying structures and fea-
tures of various origins and functions ( Fig. 2). At the same time this is a
material record of the history of the investigated area, which may have
lasted for several hundred years. The consecutive layers and features
are in such cases described as complex multi-stratied sequences; in
the case of cemeteries these are numerous burials remaining in denite
stratigraphic relationships ( Fig. 13).
Since many of these sites lie under modern towns, the main draw-
back of the work on the sites of this group is most often the lack of
space where the archaeological investigations can be conducted. In
recent years archaeologists have mostly been working on plots which
are vacant because they are future building sites. However, the sites
made available by developers are not always the most desirable places
for archaeological investigation. Another problem in such research is
the poor state of preservation of the Early Medieval stratication; often
there is none. This is caused by the later developments which was usu-
ally accompanied by destruction of the earlier structures, leveling, and
then location of new ones in the same place.3 Sometimes the presence
of earlier settlement structures in a given place is testied not by their
relics but by redeposited potsherds. Only in places which have had
symbolic functions for centuries, such as, e.g., the Wawel Hill in Cracow
it is possible to nd a greater than average number of features from

In Polish archaeology the excavations of Early Medieval multi-stratied sites
has a long tradition, going back to the early post-war period (Cf., Hodubowicz 1948;
uurowski 1948/49; Hensel 1959; with further literature). The problems of research
of urban centers in Polish lands, including the remains of architectural structures, are
exemplied in: Kobyliqski red. 1999; Tabaczyqski ed. 1993–1996.
Cf. Godembnik 1999.
sources and methods 31

the Early Middle Ages. Yet even there, due to intensive changes of the
structures on the hill some key structural elements (e.g., the remains of
the earliest defensive wall) remain beyond the scope of observation.4
Another problem are the changes in the layout of towns which last
for many centuries, making it difcult to reach the earliest episodes of
their history. After the change of the layout of Sandomierz at the begin-
ning of the 12th century, on the site of the settlement on the Collegium
Gostomianum Hill, St. Peter’s church with an adjoining churchyard
was built ( Fig. 4). The existence of the previous settlement has been,
however, proved by the multifunction pits, which, being dug deeply into
the ground, survived the later building operations (cf. Fig. 2).
During the excavations of early urban sites, we often nd the under-
ground remains of stone (and/or brick) constructions. It happens that
at the same level the traces of successive structures create a thick net-
work of foundations which are difcult to interpret because they are
overlapping and have destroyed one another (cf. Fig. 2). Sometimes
it is impossible to establish the links between the layers and features
because they are located under modern structures. Their analysis then
relies on indirect evidence, on the basis of numerous but fragmentary
data obtained from many narrow trenches a diagnosis is made about
phenomena from distant past which existed in a given quarter of the
town. These problems are illustrated by the latest excavations in Poznaq
connected with the identication of the palatium from the times of
Mieszko I or the recent search for the earliest shrine from the times
of Bolesdaw I the Brave under Gniezno cathedral.5
A specic type of urban stratication is created by the abandonment
of a previously settled area. These layers are formed both through
natural processes and human activity. I encountered such a situation
during the excavations of the Early Medieval layers at Chedm in the
area of the secondary school complex at Czarnieckiego Street. Directly
below a layer of topsoil less than twenty centimeter thick, which made
up the utilization level of the area, there was a layer of soil 30–40
cm thick without any internal stratication and with an admixture of
lumps of lime, which contained only Early Medieval artifacts ( Fig. 5).
This layer was dened by my co-excavators as an occupation layer, but
covered features dug into the lime bedrock, dated to the same period,

Cf. Chapter 10.
Cf. Chapter 10.
32 chapter two

Figure 3. Re-deposited human bones, charnel deposit at an Early Medieval

cemetery Sandomierz, Collegium Gostomianum, Archives of the IAE, PAS,

that is, the mid-13th century. It could, however, hardly be called an

occupation layer due to its stratigraphic position (it covered settlement
features) and the lack of an original ground surface. I believe it was
formed from the abandoned and partly dismantled structures which
became ruins in the course of time. So the material forming this layer
was composed of the remains of destroyed structures. As a result of
varying atmospheric conditions, including rainfall, frost and water pro-
cesses, and perhaps also the secondary human activity, they underwent
degradation and homogenization, achieving morphologic and cultural
uniformity. The layer was ultimately formed when the area was turned
into an orchard in modern times.

1.2. Stratication of rural settlements

Problems similar to the ones described above are not generally met by
researchers focusing on rural settlements. Even today one can identify
sources and methods 33

structural elements from the Middle Ages, preserved as elements of

natural landscape in the same function ( Fig. 6). Except for extreme
cases, the excavations in the country are conducted on an arable eld
and the size of the investigated area depends mainly on the nancial
resources and the conditions of the agreement with the owner of the
eld. Rural settlements are thus a good subject for spatial studies.6 In this
case thanks to the limited degree of disturbance it is possible to include
the use of methods of eld prospection such as geological soundings
or geophysical surveys. In contrast to the sites discussed above features
at rural settlements usually consist of one layer ( Fig. 7). Usually there
are no continuous occupation layers due to plowing. This is why the
elements of the occupation layer and its contents often appear in the
plowsoil. Indirect indications in this respect are provided by the Early
Medieval pottery and material coming from the destroyed features
which lie on the surface of the soil. In settlements located on slopes,
even the features dug into the bedrock may be completely destroyed by

Figure 7. Graphic matrix of settlement phases as well as stratigraphic sequences

of layers, features and architectural remains at a multi-layered site, Zawichost
(after S. Tabaczyqski, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

More on the subject, see Chapter 12.
34 chapter two

intensive plowing and erosion. In extreme cases the earlier existence of

a settlement is indicated by the eroded and crumbled pieces of pottery
vessels, appearing on the surface.7
It happens however, that the rural stratication is much more com-
plex. I encountered such a situation at Kleczanów (Little Poland), one
of my students could not understand the ‘winding’, as he described it,
shape of the layer he was exploring ( Fig. 8). The reason for this situation
was simple, the student was trying (as he had been trained on previous
excavations) to keep the excavated surface horizontal, cutting across
several sloping layers dipping down into an erosion basin. Needless to
say, the value of nds, including pottery, recorded in this way is very
poor and hardly differs from the context of nds collected from the
excavation spoil heap. It is different when the layers are explored using
the stratigraphic method. This allows the recording of nds according
to their actual context and makes it possible to uncover and record
the features, occupation and natural layers in the same form as they
entered the archaeological context ( Figs 9, 10).

Figure 9. Shape of the bottom of an archaeological trench, bedrock level after

completing the exploration of layers and features, Kaczyce, Early Medieval
settlement, Trial Trench II (photo: A. Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

This type of evidence has been used in Poland on a large scale in the study of
the micro-regional Medieval centers of the rural type in the Lublin Upland (Rozwadka
1999) and Chedmno Land (Poliqski 2003).
sources and methods 35

Figure 10. Details of the conguration of the surface of the loess natural soil,
bedrock, Kaczyce, Early Medieval settlement, Trial Trench III (photo: A. Buko,
digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

1.3. Stratication of sacral sites and pagan cult centers

Various stone cult circles, res, sacricial pits and ditches and springs
are associated with the pagan times. At these sites are found deposits
of objects having the character of offerings. In the case of so-called
pagan cult places traces of the human presence are usually scant, which
is due to the fact that individuals and human groups stayed there only
for short periods of time. Such places are thus distinguished by the
lack of permanent settlement structures, or features of a utilitarian or
industrial character.8 It is different in the case of the structures of Chris-
tian religious cult. Often there appear multi-phased remains of sacral
buildings, usually erected on the same spot. Then the main problem is
to separate them properly and associate them with the appropriate lay-
ers. Such features may appear both at early urban sites and in isolation.

Cf. Chapter 5.
36 chapter two

Due to the considerable level of complexity they resemble the strati-

cation of early urban sites. This issue will be discussed in further parts
of the book.9

1.4. Stratication of multi-layer cemeteries

In Early Medieval multi-layer cemeteries on the Polish Lands, inhu-
mation burials are located in a relatively uniform layer of mixed soil,
which makes it difcult to establish the limits of the burial pits ( Fig. 12).
Sometimes, even the material deposited intentionally, e.g., the remains
of the dead deposited in the Early Medieval cemeteries, may have been
shifted in the past from their original place of deposition, as a result of
which there appear deposits of different quality ( Fig. 3).
The layer containing the grave is called by Polish archaeologists the
‘cemetery layer’. It has not been given much attention by the specialists,
but it has several specic features. These are:
– a relative uniformity of the internal structure across the whole area
of the site. It is always however possible to dene its upper and
lower boundaries, and dene the basic components distinguishing
it from the neighboring layers;

Figure 12. Skeleton in so-called cemetery layer. The lack of visible outline
of the burial pit is evident, Kleczanów churchyard (photo: A. Buko, digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki).
Cf. Chapters 9, 11, 13.
sources and methods 37

– this layer, in contrast to the other ones, contains the majority of

the burials known from the site;
– within the identied burial pits, besides the inhumation burials
(and often also outside them) there often appear human bones.
What is a ‘cemetery layer’? It may be said that it originates from the
layer (or layers) into which the burial pits were dug. If they were cut
in an area which was not previously occupied, then they are lled only
with re-deposited components of the underlying natural layer. It is dif-
ferent when for some reason the graves were dug into the earlier ones.
Then the archaeologist has to deal with the remains of many burial pits
and their llings. The later stratigraphically the burial in comparison
to the other ones, the more elements from the llings of earlier burial
pits it contains. This applies to the objects deposited together with the
deceased, artifacts belonging to the layers the grave cuts through, soil
substances, and the anthropological material found in the burial pit. In
intensively utilized cemeteries (this concerns especially churchyards), a
dense network of burial pits is created, situated at certain depths with
respect to the level of utilization of the cemetery. Then their limits can
not be observed because of the similarities of the color and content of
the llings both of the burial pits and their immediate neighborhood.
In cases of intensively utilized cemeteries, many burials of the earliest
phase are irretrievably destroyed. Their previous existence is then only
indicated by the stray human bones found in the layers. The number
of burials destroyed because of later use of the burial ground may be
in such cases determined by analyzing the whole discovered anthropo-
logical material, including the redeposited material. The latter material
is for the archaeologist not only a material testimony but also the main
source for drawing conclusions about the earliest, completely destroyed
burials. Investigations of the anthropological material from the church-
yard at Kleczanów for example have revealed that the actual number
of the deceased buried at the cemetery was at least three times greater
than the number of the recorded skeletons, that is, bones discovered
in the anatomical order.
At cemeteries in use for many centuries, the stratication processes,
regardless of the phenomena described above, result in ‘multi-level
burials’. They formed when the deceased were consecutively buried
in the same place but at different depths. The changes in depth of the
burial pits are caused by the gradual raising of the area of the burial
ground because of its intensive utilization. Often, the later burials did
not reach the same depth as the earlier ones. Furthermore, it may be
38 chapter two

assumed that, as may be observed in modern cemeteries, also in the

past there existed zones where more bodies were buried and ones where
they were buried rarely or never. During the excavations of the church-
yard at Kleczanów, three rows with concentrations of burials located
at a distance of c. 1.5 m were distinguished, as well as zones where
burials occurred sporadically or not at all.10 In the former areas the
majority of the burials (in many cases the earlier ones) were destroyed
by the later ones and numerous stray human bones were identied.
There had been more inhumations made in the areas where there were
higher concentrations of human bones and in the areas with no burials,
paths were probably located. The increased admixture of clean yellow
loess observed in some zones of the cemetery indicates that in these
places more often than in the others, the level of bedrock was reached
while digging graves; its components got included when the grave was
lled. Due to the contrast of the color and structure of the layer the
stratigraphic relations between respective burial pits were at that level
much easier to notice ( Fig. 13). Burials found in undisturbed pits are
generally quite well preserved. However, sometimes we encountered the
cases of ‘disappearances’ of a part of the remains and this happened
in situations where no premises indicated that the arrangement of the
bones was disturbed by the deposition or post-deposition processes.
It is possible that these phenomena were caused by the non-uniform
biochemical micro-environment in which the deceased was deposited
( Fig. 14).
The problems discussed concern the 11th century non-churchyard
rural cemeteries to a lesser degree. The burials are usually located
one next to another in easily distinguishable rows, which considerably
facilitates the identication of the original grave pits.11

2. Layers and their portable content: mass nds

The artifacts found in the stratigraphic units are derivatives of the

functions of the layers. At the Polish medieval settlement sites post-
consumption and post-production remains are the most numerous. We
nd what the past communities considered as unnecessary: fragments

Buko, ed. 1997.
The issues concerning the forms of Medieval burial rites in Polish lands are
discussed more extensively in Chapter 15.
sources and methods 39

of broken pottery vessels, animal bones, or slag, which is a useless

post-production element. More valuable are ‘deposits’, groups of nds
which reached the soil with a specic aim, the purpose of which is
either known (e.g., care of the dead in the cases of nds in burials), or
unknown (such as hoards hidden in the soil without any determinable
context). Such deposits, besides being collections of objects precious
in a given epoch (ornaments, coins, cult or military objects), provide a
mutual context for the individual nds, which considerably facilitates
their dating. The deposits are also a good basis for drawing conclu-
sions about trade relations.12 However, even post-consumption remains,
which comprise pottery and animal bones, are carriers of many no less
important groups of data. This concerns various aspects of life of the
people from the past, including the stratication processes to which the
archaeological sites were subjected throughout the centuries.

2.1. Pottery as a source of information about past societies

The pottery found in layers is one of the artifacts most frequently
encountered by the archaeologist ( Fig. 15). It is usually treated by Pol-
ish archaeologists as a dating element particularly useful in establishing
the chronology of layers, features and archaeological sites. To that end,
classication schemes have been constructed, which make it possible to
dene the similarities and differences between groups of the material
analyzed.13 Similarities (or identical character) are usually treated as a
synonym of simultaneity whereas differences, as an indication of differ-
ences in time of the appearance of the investigated phenomena. Such
systematizations usually disregard the question to what extent the ‘types’
distinguished by the archaeologist could be accepted by the producers
and users of the vessels. In this respect pottery treated as a source of
knowledge about the past societies is relatively anonymous.
Many archaeologists believe that this issue can be solved by making a
classication based on the stylistic similarities of the products ( Fig. 16).

More on this subject cf., Kiersnowski 1960; Suchodolski 2000; with further
In the past many classication schemes were prepared to be used both at a regional
and cross-national scale. The rmest position in the archaeology of the Early Middle
Ages in this respect is occupied by the chronological classication of the Great Pol-
ish pottery suggested by W. Hensel (1950). More about the research process on early
Polish pottery, including the problems of its dating, cf.: A. Buko (1990); with further
40 chapter two

Figure 16. Reconstructions of forms of vessels produced in the same stylistic

tradition, Sandomierz, St. James’ Hill, urban quarter, from the mid-12th till the
mid-13th centuries (after A. Buko; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

Such groups are dened as ones representing a workshops which pro-

duced vessels following the same stylistic tradition and in a similar time
span. Furthermore, it is assumed that style contains information about
broadly understood (socio-cultural, political, economic) afliation of
social groups which used the analyzed pottery.
For years the use of pottery for determining chronologies was in
Poland the main or even only research priority. For that reason a lot of
attention was devoted to so-called turning points in the development of
pottery. For the Polish Early Middle Ages such points were: the change
from the partial to full wheel-turning of the vessels, beginning from
about mid-10th century, with the introduction of the fast-wheel, the
change of the techniques of hand building [from the kneading method
to coil-building with clay strips (taumowo-ulizgowa)], changes in the fabrics
(e.g., the use of alluvial silt in Cracow pottery-making from the mid-
10th century), the appearance of new forms of vessels (including the
rim shapes, patterns of decoration, and many other ones.
From the point of view of its use for dening the chronology of the
layers in which it is found, the pottery itself had to be dated by noting
its appearance in contexts well dated by independent chronological
indicators such as coins (e.g., pottery vessels containing Early Medieval
sources and methods 41

hoards), or in closed assemblages such as graves (grave goods sometimes

included pottery vessels), or by interrelations between the material
occurring in the layers with respect to the adjacent structures (as in
the case of pottery found in association with architectural remains). In
recent years many new conclusions about the chronology of pottery
have resulted from nding pottery in the contexts of wooden structures
dated with the use of dendrochronology.
The possibilities of dating by means of pottery is in many cases lim-
ited by the uneven rhythm of the changes in production of vessels in
time, in various regions of the country and at the same time by the con-
servative character of pottery-making workshops. The last mentioned
feature, conrmed by the results of ethnographic investigations, may
in many cases be the reason why the time span of dating the material
should not be shorter than 50 years. One should not forget about the
high probability of making errors in dating, especially if chronologi-
cal conclusions concerning one site are transferred to material coming
from other regions and even between sites within the same region,
which sheds some light on the complex problems of the analysis of
the ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ products.14 The changes in the attributes of the
vessels, manifested in the technology, morphology and the decoration
have one more advantage noticed by the archaeologists: thanks to it
well dened assemblages can be assigned to the social groups belonging
to the same territorial or cultural community. In this way pottery from
the excavations becomes a clear-cut sign identifying past societies and
often an indicator of their cultural afliation. For the beginnings of
the Early Middle Ages, such identication was possible thanks to the
so-called Prague type pottery.15 For the pottery from later phases of
the Early Medieval period, the number of attributes acting as signiers
of the producers or users of the vessels is considerably broader. It has
been debated to what extent the potter’s marks on the bottoms of ves-
sels16 can be used to establish the family afliations of the producers.
Interest was focused also on some categories of nds which appeared
in a limited territory; in this context one may mention the Mazovian
vessels with a cylindrical neck, or the Drohiczyn type pots produced
and used in Podlasie (eastern Poland). Questions were also asked about

For more details see Chapter 12.
Cf. Chapter 3.
For more details see Chapter 14.
42 chapter two

the non-standard (and not entirely understood) fabrics known only from
pottery production in the area of Cracow from the 9th–11th century.
These are vessels of the so-called white pottery with very high (about
30%) concentration of calcium, with unclear practical value (because
special technological conditions were necessary to make it and the
resulting product had a considerable permeability).
Another trend in Early Medieval ceramics research is the use of
pottery as a indicator of trade. The basis for distinguishing the imports
and the vessels produced under foreign inuence are usually the mor-
phological features, the raw material and techniques of production,
differing in quality from the local ones. Such problems are solved by the
laboratory analyses of the raw material and determining the individual
and group features of pottery production.
Archaeologists are also interested in the saturation of the pottery
from excavations with symbolic meanings which may be expressed in
the form of the vessels, their technology or the decoration of vessel
surfaces. Sometimes a symbolic function of the vessel is endowed by the
context of the nd. In this way are interpreted ceramic grave goods,
foundation deposits or offering vessels deposited in cult places.
Ultimately the phenomena of erosion and fragmentation of pottery
products are more and more often taken into account. They may be,
as has been demonstrated many times, an effective tool for studying
both the stratication processes and for determining the degrees of
similarity or difference between assemblages coming from dened
stratication contexts.17
In the case of pottery, the research process concerns various spheres
of investigations, together forming a network of mutually overlapping
analyses. It depends on the individual archaeologist which of them and
to what extent they are in everyday use.

2.2. Archaeozoological data

Analyses of animal bones, the most numerous, besides the pottery,
category of nds at the Early Medieval sites, have been very fruitful
in Poland for many years.18 The main interest in this respect concerns

Cf. Buko 1990.
A decisive part is played in Poland by the results of research of Alicja Lasota-
Moskalewska and her team. In compiling this part of the chapter of especial use have
been the data from: Gr\zak, Kurach 1996; Moskalewska 1997, 2005; with further
literature, have been used.
sources and methods 43

especially the use of animals as a source of meat for consumption but

also as suppliers of raw material useful in economy such as hides, bones,
tendons, fur, and many others. Also important in the Middle Ages were
animal products, e.g., milk, but also manure and the animals themselves
providing tractive force and used as means of transport.
Usually on Early Medieval sites in Poland the main type of material
recovered comprises post-consumption remains, whole or in pieces, often
bearing traces of food preparation. Conclusions may be drawn on their
basis about the kinds of consumed animals, the way in which they were
portioned and what dishes were made. The investigations of this type
of material focus also on several other key issues. One of them is the
assessment of the species composition of the populations represented
by the remains, including the proportion of wild and domesticated ani-
mals. On sites in Poland, cattle and pig bones predominate. The third
position is almost always taken by the sheep/goat, while the proportion
of horse bones is usually small and seldom exceeds 5–6%. In the Early
Middle Ages over most of Poland there was a preference for pig meat
and this tendency is determined by the geographical factor. It has been
noted that the centers located to the east of the Vistula provided higher
proportions of cattle bones whereas in those found to the west of the
line, the pig predominated. Only a few Early Medieval sites prove to be
an exception to this tendency, among them is the open settlement from
the 11th century–mid 13th century at Kaczyce near Opatów where
a clear domination of sheep/goat over other species has been found.
These data are among those which present a picture of a settlement
complex unique for the whole area of Polish lands.19
Recent assessments indicate that the proportion of the remains of
wild animals on the Early Medieval sites in Polish lands oscillated
between 0.1% and 18% in the early Piast period. The data from the
settlement at Bielsk Podlaski (eastern Poland), dated to the 10th–13th
century are an exception, for at that site the proportion of wild ani-
mals was as much as 40%. At the same settlement, the presence of
two horse populations was found (a tall sub-species used for riding
and small undomesticated animals which were hunted, identied as
a local sub-species). The analyses of the material from the centers on
the eastern border of the Polish lands, such as S[siadka or Tykocin,
have revealed that in some cases a large proportion of wild animals in

For more details on the subject see Chapter 12.
44 chapter two

the assemblages (more than 30%) may be due to the location of these
centers. In these borderlands, these settlements were more susceptible
to armed attacks and this factor might have substantially limited the
possibilities for animal husbandry.
Animal bones are a valuable source of information about various
spheres of daily life. A trace identied on the upper fang of a bear from
the Early Medieval settlement at Czermno-Kolonia (Lublin voivode-
ship, south-eastern Poland) indicates that the young animal wore a wire
loop encircling the upper jaw from the back. The loop was probably
attached to a rope. Similar traces were noticed on a bear’s skull found
at the fortied settlement in Pudtusk ( Fig. 17). These examples illustrate
the possibility to derive from the archaeological material evidence of the
keeping of wild animals in settlements.
The analysis of animal bones is sometimes useful in the studies of
the stratication processes. Such investigations were conducted on the
Early Medieval material from Sandomierz. The analyses of the species
distribution of animal bones served in that case to determine whether
the soil used for erecting two different parts of the defensive system
of the Sandomierz stronghold could have come from the same place.
It has been found that as the soil contained bones of different species

Figure 17. Bear’s skull from the stronghold at PuÜtusk with traces of a metal
loop on the fang, didactic material from the Department of Archeozoology at
the Institute of Archaeology, Warsaw University (photo: M. Gmur).
sources and methods 45

of wild and domesticated animals of varying ages, the hypothesis had

to be abandoned.
Bone was a valuable raw material for various products.20 It was used
to make both objects of everyday use such as hoes, chisels, awls, weights,
handles of iron tools, (such as knives, etc.), as well as ornaments, e.g.,
necklaces, amulets of the teeth of wild animals, or bone beads. Bone
was used to make combs, elements of costume, and objects connected
with entertainment, e.g., dice, musical instruments (whistles), objects
connected with transport (skates, sledge runners) and some kinds of
containers (e.g., drinking horns) and many other objects. This type of
nds ( Fig. 18) are as a rule analyzed by the archaeologists separately
and treated as small nds (see below).
Archaeo-ichthyological research is equally important. However, mate-
rial of this type is much less plentiful than the types described above,
and at many archaeological sites they do not appear at all. Daniel
Makowiecki’s investigations21 as well as the research conducted by other
authors indicate that in many regions shing developed intensively from
the 8th century. These processes were clearly accelerated when larger
settlement concentrations began to appear, including the strongholds.
Their rapid development triggered, for example, the growth of shing
in the Baltic Sea and promoted the international trade in herring. Fish
consumption was considerably increased when fasting was introduced
by the Church after adoption of Christianity. Until the 13th century
the most appreciated species of sh were sturgeon, salmon and pike
( Fig. 19). It is believed that as early as the 11th–12th century there
began a slow decrease in the number of sturgeon.

3. Small nds

These are single nds made of various raw materials, similar to the
ones found in ‘deposits’. They include tools, ornaments, coins, objects
of religious cult or elements of weapons. In contrast to pottery and
animal bones, each of them is recorded and analyzed separately
in archaeological investigations. They can be used to study various
aspects of everyday life, fashion, armaments, minting, or trends in the
trade and exchange, but also most of them are valuable chronological

Cf. Cnotliwy 1973; with further literature.
Makowiecki 1998; 2003.
46 chapter two

Figure 19. Fish species whose remains are most often found at various types of
archaeological sites in Great Poland (after D. Makowiecki, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki).

determinants for layers and the elements found in them. The objects
from this group differ in their diagnostic value. For the artifacts made
of antler or bone, nails, or those which are very common (such as the
little knives found frequently in burials), it is quite low because these
objects do not have sufciently strong diagnostic features. For centuries
their function determined their form and their raw materials were the
same. Many ornaments, commonly found, for example, as grave goods,
such as headband ornaments, glass beads, or bracelets can be dated
within a broad chronological framework of one or even two centuries
( Fig. 20). This is due to the fact that many of the products of that
time were used by several generations of owners, so they should be
considered as timeless.22 At the other extreme are coins, especially the
so-called ‘dead man’s obols’ put in the deceased’s mouth. The date

Cf. Kóoka-Krenz 1993.
sources and methods 47

of their minting and the approximate time of circulation allow the

archaeologist to determine quite precisely the terminus post quem, i.e.,
the date after which the deceased was buried. Yet even in this case
the upper time limit of the deposition is open, unless the investigated
feature is in direct stratigraphic relationship to another. In such cases
the chronology is determined by a terminus ante quem (that is the date
before which the phenomenon must have taken place). Coins found in
occupation layers have a different signicance. Single specimens may
indicate that the coin was in circulation, whereas nds of large quanti-
ties reect the intensity of circulation. It is believed that if the latter is
the case, they make up a representative sample of monetary units in
circulation at a given time, and thus have a different value for science
than the ones discovered in burials or hoards.23

4. Soil and its natural components

Not only the occupation layers but also the ancient soil is a valuable
source for archaeological analysis. Soil proles, and especially the
samples taken for biological analyses are the basic source of knowledge
about the natural environment of the site. Sometimes these investiga-
tions provide pivotal information about the given site. Most often the
archaeologists are interested in the settlement oikumene seen from the
local and regional perspective. The investigations conducted in recent
years in Great Poland are particularly valuable in this respect. They
allow the following of anthropogenic changes in the environment which
took place in the 8th and 9th century, and in the next century became
profound transformations caused by the acceleration of the economy
of the region. It has been established that large areas were occupied by
agricultural activity after rst being deforested. The deforestation was
accompanied by the change of the type of tree cover. There were fewer
and fewer elms, ashes, lindens and hornbeams, which were replaced by
trees demanding soils of lesser quality and preferring the ones gradu-
ally becoming barren, such as pine or beech.24 In the vicinity of Lake
Lednickie the deforestation was particularly intensive. These data in
combination with the nds of plants preferring open and poorly shaded

More on the subject in, Kiersnowski 1960; Tabaczyqski 1987; Suchodolski 2000;
all the quoted works present further literature.
Tobolski 2000.
48 chapter two

sites indicate the high level of anthropogenic change in the region which
took place at the beginning of the Polish state ( Fig. 21).

5. Written sources

The written sources comprise a rich group of information for the Early
Medieval archaeologist but vary in the topics covered, chronology
and value of the information provided. Information about the earliest
times can be found in the works of Roman authors such as Pomponius
Mela, Pliny, Tacitus (1st–early 2nd century A.D.) writing about the
Vinidi and Venedi on the Baltic coast, or Ptolemy (2nd century A.D.)
mentioning the Slavs in European Sarmatia and the mysterious Kalisia,
interpreted by some as the earliest name of the town of Kalisz on the
Prosna river.

Figure 21. Pollen diagram from Lake swi\tokrzyskie in Gniezno illustrating

the dynamic of changes of hornbeam and palinological anthropogenic indexes
from the Neolithic to the Early Middle Ages (after K. Tobolski).
sources and methods 49

The texts contain information on the dissemination of the Slavs in

Europe, on their attitude to the neighbors, the circumstances of for-
mation of the rst political and tribal communities among the Slavic
tribes, economic foundations, the earliest state organizations, political
systems, religion, circumstances of adopting Christianity, material and
social culture or martial arts.25 For the ‘tribal’ period, the most valuable
record is the list of peoples inhabiting the Polish lands presented in the
description of the fortied settlements and areas to the north of the
Danube written by the so-called Bavarian Geographer (the rst half
of the 9th century). Among them is a mention of the Vislane. They
are also mentioned in two other documents of the same period (in the
Universal History, an Anglo-Saxon adaptation of the work by Orosius
ordered by King Alfred, and in the anonymous Life of St Methodius).
Archaeologists are also interested in the texts about the Slavs’ burial
rites described several times in the Russian Primary Chronicle (The Tale
of Bygone Years) from the 12th century, which describe situations similar
to those found in the burial grounds in Polish lands.
Invaluable sources of information are contained in the chronicles
of the so-called Gallus Anonymous and of Wincenty Kaddubek. They
are also found in records written by western writers, in the chronicle
of Thietmar, the Bishop of Merseburg, which concerns the times of
Mieszko I and Bolesdaw I the Brave. The history and culture of Pomera-
nia was described in numerous passages of the chronicles of Herbord,
an author writing in the second half of the twelfth century, who wrote
about the life of St Otto of Bamberg and of his contemporary, Adam
of Bremen, a parish priest from Bozow in the Holstein Land, who
wrote the Chronicle of the Slavs. Some interesting data about the Poland
of Mieszko’s I times can be found in the account of a Spanish mer-
chant of Jewish origin, Ibrahim ibn Yaqub. A lot of information on
the Polish-German relations in the same period can be found in the
chronicle of the Bavarian monk, Widukind of Corvey.
Records from some chronicles are sometimes a valuable starting
point for the research on a given center. In the Halich-Volyn Chronicle
there is a description of the topography of Sandomierz from the period
before the Tatars’ invasion of 1259. The chronicle says that the town
consisted of walled defensive parts ( gorod i dietiniec) separated by a ditch
and connected by a bridge. The town itself was not so strongly fortied.

Cf. Labuda 1999.
50 chapter two

Before the Tatars occupied the town (called dietiniec in the chronicle)
they rst invaded the suburb ( gorod ). We also learn that there was a
‘large and uncommon’ basilica made of white stone, with a roof cov-
ered with shingle, which caught re easily, engulng the people who
were seeking refuge inside. In the town, says the chronicler, there were
plenty of wooden huts with thatched roofs, which were also easy to set
on re.26 This information was veried during the long-lasting project
of archaeological investigations on the beginnings of Early Medieval
Sandomierz, which were begun at the start of the 1970s.27
There are many more such possibilities. The Hypatian Cronicle says
that at the beginning of the 13th century Danylo ( Daniel), the prince
of Halich, erected a fortied settlement in Chedm, and mentions four
churches. The so-called ‘Mogilno Forgery’ (a royal privilege supposedly
written in Pdock in 1065 but in fact created about a century later) in
turn states which of the Mazovian centers were fortied settlements
in the mid-11th century whereas the Chronicle of so-called Gallus
Anonymous informs us about the great rank of Wdocdawek and Giecz,
as these two towns provided the Piast rulers with the greatest number
of armed warriors.
There are some other valuable written texts. One of them is the
Catalogue of Magic by Brother Rudolf, a monk who wrote in the 13th
century about the superstitions among the population inhabiting Polish
lands.28 The information about many of the pagan customs described
there such as making foundation offerings under new buildings has
been repeatedly conrmed by the results of excavations. Another
source of knowledge about Early Medieval craftsmanship useful for
the archaeologists is the text On Diverse Arts by Theophilus Presbyter,29 a
Benedictine monk living at the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries. He
was of foreign (Byzantine?) origin but artisans connected with his order
actively operated almost all over the whole Europe, also in Poland. In
the quoted work one can nd the methods of producing various paints
and colors, building kilns for making glass and metals, tools, and also
recipes for preparing many raw materials.
A separate class of evidence are Latin inscriptions. On a tombstone
found in St Leonard’s crypt in the Cathedral on Wawel Hill in Cracow

Sielicki 1987.
Buko 1998; with further literature.
Cf. Karwot 1955.
sources and methods 51

there is an engraved text stating that Bishop Maur was buried in that
tomb in 1118 ( Fig. 22); the information about the deceased is repeated
on a gold ring with the inscription MAURUS EPC found in the same
burial. An inscription on a tombstone coming probably from the earliest
cathedral in Gniezno dated to the 11th century says that under it lay
the remains of three brothers.
These and many other examples illustrate the research potential of
inscriptions for Early Medieval research. It should be, however, added
that there are many problems connected with deciphering their often
ambiguous content in the correct way.30

6. Iconography

The rst Early Medieval representations bring a lot of information

about the appearance of the people of that time, their everyday occu-
pations, buildings, beliefs or martial arts. Usually these are bas-reliefs
on the earliest structures of sacral architecture, more rarely they can be
found on church oors. Another source of information are the illumi-
nations in the oldest manuscripts and liturgical books and decoration
of metal objects.
The gure of a peasant threshing corn, represented on the paten
from Trzemeszno (the second half of the 12th century) renders not
only the physical features of the man but also the details of his attire
and the shape of the ail he is using, and even the way of arranging
the sheaves ( Fig. 23). The inscriptions found on the bas-reliefs are of
similar importance. Those on the representation on the bronze doors
from Pdock Cathedral (12th century) allow the identication with abso-
lute certainty of the individual portrayed in the central place ( Fig. 24)
as Bishop Alexander of Malonne. The depictions of the bishop and
his fellows reveal not only the details of their physical appearance but
also of their hair styles, shoes and attire.
A series of Early Medieval miniatures provides information about
the details of contemporary martial arts. They include representations
of battle scenes with warriors and single gures wearing military equip-
ment of the epoch. The gure of duke Bolesdaw the Chaste presented
in Fig. 25 reconstructed on the basis of a seal of 1252 represents a

A good example of this is presented in Chapter 8.
52 chapter two

Figure 23. Threshing with ails, representation from a 12th century paten from
Trzemeszno (after M. Walicki).

Figure 24. Bishop Alexander of Malonne, in the center, a representation on the

so-called PÜock Door, 12th century (photo: A. Buko).
sources and methods 53

Figure 25. Knight’s equipment reconstructed from the mid-13th century seal
of BolesÜaw the Chaste (after H. Kotarski, digital processing: A. Buko).

man in a conical helmet wearing a full coat of mail. On top he has a

knee-length tunic cinched with a belt. Another belt seems to be used
to fasten a short broad sword, which is on the left hand side. In his
left hand the prince is holding a small triangular shield with an eagle
whereas in his right one he has a short spear without a banner.31
A good example of representations in the ornament of churches is the
famous Witlica slab on the oor of a crypt with the gures of women
and men with such details as hair styles, beards, attires, and shoes (for
a more detailed description of the Witlica slab see chapter 10).

Kotarski 1983.
54 chapter two

* * *
The potential of the data presented in this chapter is used by archae-
ologists in a selective way and to varying degrees. The effectiveness of
different types is determined by the subject of research. Some of these
types of evidence (for example inscriptions or iconographic representa-
tions) can be used only by researchers of the later phases of the Early
Middle Ages. However, these data, even in connection with other cat-
egories of sources, are in many cases insufcient to ll the gaps in our
knowledge. This is illustrated by the problems with understanding and
interpretation of many of the discoveries from Polish lands presented
in this publication, although sometimes these nds were excavated
many decades ago.


1. ‘Autochthonists’, ‘Allochthonists’ and others:

the long history of the debate on the origins of the Slavs1

For Nestor, the Russian chronicler, the author of the Russian Primary
Chronicle (The Tale of Bygone Years) written in the 12th century, it went
without saying that after the collapse of the Tower of Babel, the Slavs
were among the 72 peoples into which God divided mankind and they
originated from Japheth’s tribe. They are said to have settled, after long
wanderings, in the Danube region and then spread farther, adopting
tribal names recorded in their written sources. The Slavs’ migrations
were was seen in a different way by Jan Ddugosz, writing in the 15th
century. He believed that they marched from the east to the west,
namely from Babylon through the Caucasus Mountains and then to
Europe. In this way he made a direct connection between the Slavs
and the Sarmatians known to the classical authors.
Later on, as the knowledge on the topic increased, the possibility of
the indigenous origin of the Slavs in Central Europe was discussed.
The most eminent representative of this trend of thought was the
Czech scholar, Lubor Niederle, who worked from the late 19th till the
mid-20th century. In contrast to many of his predecessors he based
his conclusions mainly on the achievements of archaeology. In the
period between the two World Wars the advocates of the local origin
of the Slavs (including the Polish prehistorians, Leon Kozdowski, Józef
Kostrzewski and Konrad Javdvewski) tended to shift the rst appear-
ance of the Slavs to as early as the Bronze Age, linking their origins
with the population of the Lusatian Culture.
The debate, which has been continued till today, involves the rep-
resentatives of various sciences: history, ethnology, natural sciences,

There is a wealth of literature on the debate about the Slavs’ origin. In compiling
this part of the chapter use was made mainly of information from: Baran 1972; Barford
2001; Curta 2001; Goddowski 2000; Hensel 1984; Javdvewski 1970; Kostrzewski 1960;
Leciejewicz 2000; Okulicz 1986; Parczewski 1988a, 1988b; ZOW 1985, were used;
more suggested reading can be found in the Bibliography.
56 chapter three

archaeology and linguistics. So far it has brought about a division into

two camps fostering two main (but not the only) concepts of the origin
of the Slavs, called in the Polish literature the ‘western’ (authochthonic)
and ‘eastern’ (allochthonic) one.
According to the former, the cradle of the Slavs was located most
often in the basins of the Vistula and Oder rivers, hence in the area of
modern Poland. The other concept is that the homeland of the Slavs lay
in the area of modern Ukraine and, partly, Belarus. There have been
formulated some middle-of-the-road concepts which linked the origin
of the Slavs with the areas between the Oder—Vistula—Dnepr as well
as those locating the Slavs’ homeland in completely different regions.
A great deal of attention in the debates on the origins of the Slavs is
devoted to the mysterious Venedi (or Veneti) people, which is mentioned
repeatedly by the ancient writers (Tacitus, Ptolemy), and appeared also
in the texts of the authors writing at the outset of the Early Middle Ages,
especially Jordanes, who wrote the history of the germanic Goths in
the middle of the 6th century. So far it has not been decided what was
the origin of the Venedi mentioned in the rst centuries of our era or
even what lands these people occupied. According to some researchers
they lived in the Polish lands and were the Slavs, whereas others believe
that the Venedi had nothing to do with either of these two.
Witold Hensel2 assumed that the name ‘Venedi’ concerns two different
peoples: originally it denoted a non-Slavic population but from the 6th
century it was used for all the Slavs. At that time names for respective
groups of the Slavs also came into use; it is possible that among them
there existed some non-Slavic groups of the Venedi (Veneti). Additional
arguments are apparently derived from the hydronyms, which, accord-
ing to the Autochthonists, in the area between the Dnepr and the Oder
have, (except for those of general Indo-European character), a uniform
Slavic character. The emergence of the Slavic linguistic community from
the original Indo-European one is believed to have taken place about
the mid-2nd millennium B.C.3 It is also assumed that the Slavic culture
formed simultaneously in many smaller centers. The advocates of the
theory also stress the many similarities between the assemblages of
the cultures of Late Antiquity (especially the Przeworsk culture) and the
early Slavic one. As in many other cases the former were multi-ethnic

Lehr-Spdawiqski 1946.
how did the slavs get to polish lands? 57

due to the fact that numerous peoples and tribes had migrated across the
Polish lands. It is also stressed that the Venedi were perceived even by
the informants of the Roman authors as a large population. Thus their
name might have been a pseudo-ethnonym of pre-Indo-European origin
used, for example, by the Germans to describe aliens. However, there
are many other possibilities of interpreting the name ‘Venedi’ (Veneti)
and their topogenesis. In this context various understandings of what
should be meant by the name of these people have been put forward.
The people mentioned by Ptolemy may represent the Balts inhabiting
the eastern shores of the Baltic, from the Sambian Peninsula to the Dvina
River. Jordanes’ Venedi should rather be linked with the area of Eastern
Europe and identied with the Veneti mentioned by Tacitus.4
Despite many doubts, the concept of the origin of the early Slav culture
in the area of modern Poland and its links with the older (Przeworsk)
cultural substrate still has many advocates, which has been recently
stressed by Lech Leciejewicz.5 The Slavs, as that author believes, were
mainly the indigenous population of that part of Europe which, after
the collapse of the Lusatian culture, sought new possibilities of develop-
ment drawing inspiration rst from the La Tène and then Przeworsk
and related cultures. They faithfully adhered to the cultural traditions
of their predecessors from that part of barbaricum, and they were the
most numerous farming people outside the former limes of Europe. For
that reason he believes that it is highly improbable for a population of
such a specic character and type of economy to have formed among
the forests and marshes of the upper Dnepr river basin.
The eastern (allochthonic) origin is nowadays mooted far more
frequently in Polish archaeology. Its most persistent proponent was
Kazimierz Goddowski, even though similar views were expressed many
years earlier.6 Goddowski noticed that although the written sources from
the 1st–5th century mentioned various peoples for the area between the
Danube river and the Baltic Sea, it is difcult to nd any references to
the Slavs in them. He analyzed several categories of sources: written
documents, natural science data and archaeological data. He placed the
Venedi mentioned by Jordanes in the context of the war between the
Goth leader Vinitar against the Antes (Eastern Slavs). For that reason

Kolendo 1986.
2000, 2002.
E.g. Vasmer 1926.
58 chapter three

he assumed they lived to the north of the Danube, the Black Sea and
the Carpathian Mountains. More information concerning the topogenesis
is provided by the linguistic data. They indicate that the Slavs originally
lived far from the sea, tall mountains and, perhaps, also the steppe (or
in another approach: in a forest-steppe environment). It is also assumed
that they lived outside the compact forest areas from the Vistula and
Dnester basins. In determining the Slavs’ origin the archaeological data
are also helpful. They present a model of the archaeological culture
typical for the Slavs, the equivalent of which is the Penkovka type
culture in the area of modern Ukraine, the Kolochin culture located
to the north of the former (the area of modern Belarus), and, in the
lands of modern Poland, Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia, the Prague
culture. The Korchak culture is a variant of the latter on the lower Prut,
Dniester and (Southern) Boh and the Szeligi-Sukov culture, in central
and northern Poland. According to Goddowski, during the Slavs’ great
migrations all these areas followed a model of material and spiritual
culture different from that of the late Roman Period: the scarcity of
nds both at settlement sites and burial grounds, exclusive preference
for cremation and the common use of hand-made, undecorated pots
of the Prague type. This concerns the agricultural structure to a lesser
extent, although the author believes that in the Roman period there was
a greater frequency of cattle bones and horse remains in contrast to the
remains of wild animals. According to this interpretation the origins of
the Slavs’ culture should be connected with the areas of upper Dnepr
basin (cultures of the Kiev type) which offered the best conditions for
the expansion of the Proto-Slavs to the south after the collapse of the
federation of the Goths and the Cherniakhovo Culture. At the same
time there continued the assimilation of local groups of the Cherni-
akhovo, Dacian and other cultures. As a result in the mid-5th century
there developed two large groups of the Slavs: the Prague Culture
and the Penkovka Culture, which are linked with the division into the
Sclavini and Antes, known from the written sources. The Old European
Venedi may have also had some contacts with the local peoples and
as a result their name was conferred to the Slavs. The period of the
formation of the Slavs lasted, according to Goddowski, till c. 520 A.D.,
when, as the written sources say, began their unprecedented expansion
into large parts of Europe.7

Cf. Goddowski 1999, 2000.
how did the slavs get to polish lands? 59

This concept was consistently developed in Poland by Michad Parcz-

ewski,8 who presented a model of the early Slavic culture and the earliest
phases of its development and substantiated by the recent research by
Marek Dulinicz9 on the northwestern Slavs, which indicates that in
these areas organized settlement activity began relatively late, that is
at the turn of the 8th and 9th centuries.
Views on the origin of the Slavs have been also expressed by lin-
guists. These opinions reect the dilemmas faced by the archaeologists10
presented above. According to the linguistic data one may look for the
homeland of the Slavs in the Danube basin, in the areas to the west of
the middle Dnepr, as well as in the area between the Oder and Vistula
rivers. Some linguists claim that the linguistic data can not be used
to solve the basic problems concerning the origins of the Slavs at all.
The hydronymic vocabulary used by many as a decisive argument in
this respect is, according to some of the specialists, of a general Indo-
European character and the earliest ethnic names do not contain any
information about the linguistic afliation of the people denoted by the
term.11 Characteristically, there are no proper names of the Slavs for
the earliest period and the names given to them by the chronicles, such
as the ‘Venedi’ mentioned above, are of non-Slavic origin. According
to the linguists, the ethnonym ‘Slavs’ may have various meanings: it
has been connected with the root ‘liquid, ow’, which would denote
inhabitants of wetlands, but there are also opinions that it denotes the
inhabitants of clean elds (that is, the steppes) or ‘people knowing the
word’, that is, speaking in an understandable manner (in contrast to
the ethnonym Niemcy —people whose speech one cannot understand).
Other researchers believe that this group of data can be used to
prove the autochthonic character of the Slavs’ appearance on the Polish
lands. The most consistent standpoint in this respect is represented by
Witold Maqczak.12 According to him ‘Slavicness’ is rst and foremost
a linguistic notion. Thus what was special for all the Slavs was their
shared language. For him the argument for the Slavs indigenousness is
the so-called consonant shift (in the Slavic languages some consonants

1988a, 1988b.
Among many publications the following are particularly interesting: Lehr Spdawiqski
1946; Maqczak 1981; Miodowicz 1980; Popowska-Taborska 1991; Trubaoev 1981.
Popowska-Taborska 1991.
60 chapter three

were retained whereas in the pre-Germanic they were changed). Thus

if the Slavs learned, for example, the names of the rivers from the
Germans inhabiting the Polish lands at that time, these names would
sound differently. For that reason one should assume that the name
‘Venedi’ denotes the peoples of Slavic origin. The case does not seem
to be so evident, however, for linguists do not agree about the value of
the hydronyms quoted by the said author. Ethno-archaeological studies
also indicate that the preserved names of the tribes may not refer to
the peoples speaking the same language. The case of the Longobards
in the second half of the sixth century after they had settled Italy is
instructive. A Longobard was any who acknowledged the traditional law
of that people. The name therefore is not so much one of an ethnic
group of people all speaking one language, but a federation of different
peoples containing not only ethnic Longobards, but also members of
other Germanic tribes (including Ostrogoths) but also Romans, Slavs
and nomadic peoples. The question therefore arises: how far was the
situation different in the case of the Slavs? Controversy however is not
aroused by the genetic closeness of the Slavic and Baltic languages,
although it should be added that that observation does not ease the
task of locating the original homelands of these peoples.
A vivid debate is also devoted to the surprising mobility of the Slavs
at the threshold of the Early Middle Ages. The most extreme version
assumes that whole of a Slavic people moved across the European
continent and settled the territories deserted after the migrations of the
Germanic and nomadic tribes. However, even these great migrations
which according to the chroniclers occupied short spans in their histo-
ries, were marked by breaks which, as the archaeological investigations
have revealed, could have lasted as long as several generations. During
these breaks the local populations and the Germanic arrivals inevitably
mingled. Yet the earliest historians were fascinated mainly with the
Germanic peoples. It is their leaders whose names were written down.
The case is different for the Slavic peoples. Only in exceptional situa-
tions were the names of their leaders recorded. Was it because there
were few real leaders among the Slavs or, as was said by Procopius of
Caesarea, they lived ‘under the peoples’ rule’ and the decisions were
taken at general meetings? This notwithstanding, from the 6th century
the Slavs were known as well-organized warriors who made themselves
noticeable in many parts of Europe. Probably the expansion of the
Slavs was considerably inuenced by the appearance of the Avars in
the Carpathian Basin in the late 6th century together with whom (but
how did the slavs get to polish lands? 61

on their own, too) the Slavs ravaged the territories of Byzantium in the
6th and 7th centuries. They reached the Peloponnese and in the late 7th
century they settled as the Arabs’ allies as far away as in Syria. It is a
mystery that all that was done by a people that subsisted, according to
the archaeological data gathered so far, on a simple, agrarian material
culture. It is also curious that although many chroniclers stated that
the soldiering was the Slavs’ main occupation, up till now no fortied
settlements and offensive weapons have been discovered. Are we deal-
ing with an expansion of a people or, as others believe, the march of
a ‘Slavic cultural pattern’ across Europe? What are the reasons for the
discord between the written and archaeological evidence?

2. The Polish lands between Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages:
a gap or continuity?

An unequivocal answer to the question posed in the subheading requires

adopting a position on either the migration of the Slavs into the ter-
ritory of modern Poland in the case of the rst option, or its ‘eternal
indigenousness’ in the case of the second. What is the evidence which
has led researchers to the formulation of such different conclusions?
According to the Allochthonists, before the Slavs appeared in the Pol-
ish lands (the 4th and 5th centuries), two large archaeological cultures
dominated in the region: the Przeworsk culture in southern and central
Poland (traditionally the Vistula river is the borderline of this culture
in the Late Roman period) and the Wielbark culture, located to the
east of the Vistula and on the lower Vistula over to the Pasd\ka river.
The archaeological data indicate a progressive depopulation of these
areas, which is reected in the diminishing number of nds of Roman
coins becoming most marked in the 4th century. At the turn of the
4th and 5th centuries also the population in southern Poland became
more and more sparse and in this context the episode of settling the
higher part of the Carpathians (as well as occupation of the caves in
the Cracow-Cz\stochowa Uplands) is particularly interesting. It may
indicate that the population left the lowlands and looked for shelter in
the uplands. The only settlement concentration which probably existed
to as late as the late 5th century seems to be the one at the Prosna
river and on the left bank of the middle Warta river. The situation was
quite different in Pomerania, which remained quite densely populated
until the early 6th century.
62 chapter three

The phenomena discussed here are linked with two events: the Huns’
invasion in Europe and the migrations of large groups of people from
the area of modern Poland to the west and south where, together with
the Ostrogoths, they took part in the occupation of Italy.
That settlement void was lled in by the Slavs in the second half of
the 5th century. They rst occupied the deserted areas in Little Poland,
Silesia and Mazovia, and about the mid-6th century, also the areas
of central and northern Poland. The Polish lands became completely
settled by the Slavs in the 7th century when Eastern Pomerania and
some parts of Upper and Lower Silesia were occupied (Fig. 26). In this
interpretation, in the 6th century the Polish lands were the scene of
large scale population shifts. The Slavs settled mainly in the basin of
the upper and middle Vistula and initially did not occupy Silesia or the
fertile lands of Kuiavia. As a result of these processes they gradually
created three territorial concentrations: the Little Polish, Mazovian and
Lower-Silesian—Lusatian ones.
The Autochthonists interpret these issues in an entirely different
way. The idea of a settlement void at the end of Antiquity is for them
completely groundless just like that of identifying the peoples of that
period with the Germans. The latter, who from the 3rd century A.D.
migrated across large expanses of Europe crossing the Polish lands in
the process, may be identied only at the north-western periphery. The
Autochthonists agree, however, that it has to be explained why at the
end of the Antiquity the ‘Przeworsk’ model of material culture was
replaced by the Slavic one. At the same time they question the possi-
bility of deriving the early Slavic culture from the Kiev culture group,
for the latter ones formed in a different ecological niche: mainly in the
forest and marsh zone. Furthermore they believe that the early Slavic
culture was an outcome of a crisis which arose as a result of the fall
of the Roman civilization during the period of the Great Migrations.
The Germanic tribes were not so much affected by the crisis because
they adapted the model of the Merovingian culture, which extended
as far as Scandinavia.13
There are some new data in favor of continuity in Polish lands during
the Migration period. This comprises the so-called pseudo-Medieval
ceramics recognized until now on 66 sites from Polish lands, particu-

Leciejewicz 2002.
how did the slavs get to polish lands? 63

larly in Silesia and Great Poland. According to B. von Richthofen14

such products, despite their resemblance to Late Medieval pottery,
were characteristic of Roman provincial pottery from the 4th century.
That is why many other authors believed they are intrusions of Late
Medieval or even post-Medieval productions or imported products from
Roman Empire provinces.15 During the recent decades the number
of sites with such pottery has increased—already there are 66 sites in
Poland with such nds. According to T. Makiewicz the pottery under
discussion is evidence of pottery making from the Migration period
(5th–6th centuries) which began under cultural inspiration from the
areas of Slovenia, Carinthia, Tyrol and eastern Italy (Friuli). Hence its
producers are dened as a migrating potters from the eastern Alpine
zone, producing and distributing their native products among central
European societies during the Migrations period.16

3. One or many models of the Slavs’ material culture?

The material culture of the Slavs from the rst phase of the Early Middle
Ages became the focus of interest in Poland in the mid-1950s. Since then
quite a lot of time has passed yet the number of discovered and
excavated early Slavic sites of the earliest phase is still quite small (cf.
Fig. 26). For that reason the material evidence is scant, which leads
to weaknesses in argumentation and makes it impossible to settle the
debate on the origin of the Slavs. The beginnings of the Slavs’ settle-
ment of Polish lands are usually xed for the turn of the 5th and 6th
century; in the late 6th or the early 7th century they are thought to
have reached the middle Elbe and Saale.
The advocates of the allochthonous theory assume that the mate-
rial correlates of the early Slavs are not uniform in Polish lands and
vary across the area. This fact is interpreted as an outcome of the
Slavs’ contacts with local milieus of other peoples, including the older
Germanic population. At the same time it is stressed that in the region
a set of features characteristic for all the Slavs can be distinguished.
The most distinctive features are the settlement form, economy, crafts
and burial rites.

1926, 1928.
Goddowski 1977, 190.
Makiewicz 2005, 179.
64 chapter three

Figure 26. The oldest zones of settlement of the early Slavs in Polish lands
(by A. Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

3.1 Settlement form

Typically open settlements consisting of a few square sunken-oored
huts with an oven in the corner located along the river valleys. There
are no fortied sites.
The early Slavic hut (Fig. 27) is generally considered as an important
trait of this people. That form of habitation which developed in the
3rd–4th century especially within the Cherniakhovo Culture (the Prut
and Dniester basins in Ukraine) traveled with the Slavs to the west.17
These structures are quite characteristic: usually they had 3–4 meter
long walls and in their classical form these were square 4 u 4 m huts,

Donat 1980; Kobyliqski 1988; Šalkovský 2004.
how did the slavs get to polish lands? 65

Figure 27. A typical early Slavic hut from the 6th–7th century (after K. Goddowski,
digital processing: A. Buko).

although the dimensions might have varied in different regions; in Polish

lands their average oor area was 13 m2. Most often they were sunken
in the ground down to no more than several dozen centimeters. In
one of the corners (usually the north-eastern one) there was a heating
device in the form of a 0.5 u 0.5 m stone oven. Surprisingly, this type
of structure did not appear in Great Poland and Pomerania. Instead
so-called tub-shaped (slightly sunken oval) 2 u 3 m features of unclear
function sunken in the ground to c. 0.5 m are found there. None of
them had an oven.
The advocates of the autochthonous theory see more similarities
between the early Slavic and Przeworsk culture huts than between the
Slavic and Germanic structures. Namely, except for a few cases (e.g.,
Wólka casiecka), the Slavs had no tradition of the long house so popu-
lar among the Germans, commonly appearing in the area between the
Rhine and Elbe and in Scandinavia. Thus if the population inhabiting
the Polish lands before the Slavs was of Germanic origin, how can it
be explained that it did not build houses following the tradition of
the latter? It is worth noting here that the Przeworsk culture had an
incomparably greater variety of structures than the early Slavs. The
analyses of the arrangement of buildings in Slavic settlements shows
66 chapter three

that, unlike the Roman ones, they were not arranged in a circle sur-
rounding an empty central area and had no separate production zones.
In this respect the arrangements of houses in the Slavic settlements
resemble the later peasant farmsteads commonly known from Polish
lands. The huts and settlement patterns were gradually replaced by
above-ground buildings in the 7th or early 8th century. The followers
of the autochthonous theory, however, add that circular villages were
not entirely unknown among the Slavic population as there is a group
of sites (e.g., Biskupin, Dessau-Mossigkau) where such settlements were
identied and excavated (cf. Chapter 12).
The origin of fortied settlements is another debatable issue. It is
generally assumed that they did not appear during the initial phase of
the Slavs’ settlement; they were rst built when the lands had been well
settled, that is, in the tribal period; in extreme cases their origin was
dated to the late 9th century. However, in some areas, including the
Polish lands, fortied settlements are known from the earlier phase of
the Early Middle Ages, although their character and functions have not
been ultimately established. It is possible that such features as Szeligi
near Pdock (Fig. 28), or Hamki in Podlasie (Fig. 29) were of symbolic
and ceremonial rather than military character.18

3.2 Economy
According to both the written and archaeological evidence, the early
Slavs had an economic structure based on agriculture and animal hus-
bandry.19 The basis of the economy was land cultivation, especially the
growing of millet and wheat, whereas the evidence from animal bones
shows that the animal husbandry was mainly based on cattle rearing.
Analysis of the development of the settlement network reveals a pattern
of shifting settlement in many areas at the beginning of the period. This
is interpreted as caused by arable land temporarily losing its fertility after
repeated cultivation without manuring, and consequently the practice
of a natural fallow system, where infertile elds were left to revert to
wasteland for a number of years to recover. Only a limited number
of agricultural tools, for example plough parts, tends to be found in
archaeological investigations of early Slav archaeological sites. Among
the nds assemblages from the Danubian region, however, are quern

Szymaqski 1967.
Hensel 1965, particularly chapter I (p. 11ff.); Parczewski 1988a, 69–76; Curta
how did the slavs get to polish lands? 67

Figure 28. Szeligi near Pdock: reconstruction of an early Slavic fortied settle-
ment of the 6th century (after T. Kordala).

fragments which (together with the information from written sources)

show the importance of grain growing in the farming regime there.20
The siting of many early Slavic settlements in river valleys with their
rich meadows and access to water is a reection of the importance of
livestock rearing to the economies of these communities. As has been
mentioned above, it is thought that on sites of the Roman period, the
number of cattle and horse bones is much greater that that of wild
animals compared with those from the beginning of the Early Middle
Ages. At the same time it has been determined that there was an increase
in the rearing of pigs.21 The main weakness of arguments like these is
that the problem has not been investigated comprehensively and data
from individual sites and regions may differ considerably.

3.3 Crafts
A characteristic low level of production limited mainly to pottery, a
surprising lack or considerable shortage of metal ornaments and scarcity
of products from other raw materials.

E.g., Strategikon XI 4.5.
Cf. Goddowski 2000, 91.
68 chapter three

The pottery specic for the Slavs in Polish lands was of the Prague
type. These vessels were usually hand-made pots with straight walls
and poorly distinguished rim (Fig. 30). In the earliest phase this pot-
tery was not decorated. The form of these vessels is said to have been
adopted by the Slavs through the Cherniakhovo Culture. According
to the Allochthonists the pottery forms from that region bear consider-
able similarities to the vessels of the early Slavic type from the 6th–7th
century so they may have been the forerunners of the Prague type
vessels. However, in the Danube region (e.g., in Romania) Prague type
pottery appears together with technologically more advanced products.
There are also areas evidently inhabited by the Slavs, e.g., in various
parts of the Mediterranean or on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, where
no traces of Prague type pottery have been found. Thus it seems that
the hypothesis that the Slavs produced and used only Prague pottery
may be open to challenge.
Ornaments are rarely found in the early Slavic settlements and
burial grounds. Their range is also limited. The most numerous are
bow bulae, common in many areas of Europe in the 5th–7th century.
They were probably derived from those of the Goths through mutual
contacts. On the other hand, the forms of bulae and spiral beads made
of bronze sheet as well as some forms quite unique in Polish lands (Fig.
31) are considered as an outcome of the interrelations between various
ethnic and cultural groups extending from the Baltic to the Danube.
Other elements of the inventory of the early Slavic nds are objects of
everyday use: knives, spindle whorls, loom weights, whetstones, querns,
sh-hooks, bone skates and antler combs. The small number of object
types which can be listed, and the modest quantities in which they have
been found mean that this category of nds is not particularly helpful
for reconstructing the daily life of the Slavs.

3.3 Cremation burial rites with at, urn or pit burials with very poor
grave goods
The Slavs’ burial rites have two main characteristic features: cremation
burials and poor grave goods. However, outside Poland (e.g., Sprata
Monteoru in southern Romania) there exist cemeteries where the situ-
ation is quite different. Besides the pit burials there also are urn graves.
Finally, it is characteristic that in some areas, for example in Pomerania
(Poland), there are no cemeteries even though there are other indica-
tions that the Slavs had lived there. This is why it is assumed that other
how did the slavs get to polish lands? 69

burial forms (overground?) might have been used which do not leave
traces that can be uncovered by the archaeologist (Chapter 4).

4. The phenomenon of the Slavs: how to explain it?

Many observations concerning, for example, the scarcity of the orna-

ments or the use of simple hand-made, undecorated vessels have lead
some researchers to formulate an opinion that these phenomena were
intentional and not caused by a lack of skills to create the things that
were the in everyday use outside the areas these people inhabited.
It has not gone unnoticed that at some sites (e.g., Hamki, Biadystok
voivodeship, Zimne in Ukraine, and so on) rich collections of metal
nds of the Slavic type (cf. Fig. 31) were discovered. It is also difcult
to believe that a people which achieved an unprecedented historical
success in Europe did not possess the basic manual skills. There thus
appeared opinions that the telltale simplicity and crudity of the Slavs’
culture had a symbolic dimension.22 So far, however, it has not been
established what supported the ideology that was convincing enough
to serve as an alternative for the goods of higher order known outside
the Slavic milieu. This gives rise to more questions: why such strange
behavior of one of the greatest people in early Mediaeval Europe was
not recorded in any written source, despite the fact that the chroniclers
often refer to the Slavs’ beliefs? Were the things which are bafing for
us today quite obvious for the early Slavs’ contemporaries? Or perhaps
those who watched the Slavs from the areas located to the south of the
Carpathian mountains simply did not notice their ‘weird’ behavior?
There are more questions: why did the Slavs not adopt the animal
style so popular among the societies of that time: the nomads, the Balts
and the Germans? Did they not become acquainted in the Polish lands
with the production of pottery of better technological, morphological
and aesthetical parameters than the Prague type pots? Why did they
not use the potter’s wheel or decorate the vessels in the earliest phase?
Could the Slavs’ material culture be so attractive indeed for the others
that it was commonly adopted in large parts of Europe, to the detri-
ment of their own cultural features and identity?

Such an opinion was expressed a few years ago by J. Gassowski (2000); similar
views are presented by P. Urbaqczyk (2000, 136).
70 chapter three

These questions gain a new dimension if we look at the problems

of the Slavs’ dissemination from a broader perspective. For the eastern
part of the Mediterranean there are written testimonies of the Slavs’
presence (in the Peloponnese there appeared sclavinias which existed for
several centuries) but the material traces of their stay are most often
missing except for rare cases (e.g., the Greek Olympia where more than
40 years ago a Slavic cremation cemetery was discovered). A similar
picture can be drawn for the western Balkans (Croatia) where the Slavs
arrived already in the rst phase of their expansion to the south. There
are written sources conrming the presence of the Slavs in southern
Italy (Siponto) in the 8th century, where for some time they became
the Longobards’ rivals.23 Long-lasting archaeological research has not
yielded any material traces for either of them. What distinguishes these
areas from the other ones? First and foremost, they were within the
sphere of the Roman-Byzantine civilization.
More to the north, in the Danube region, the situation is more diverse
as traces of material culture of the nomads, Germans, indigenous popu-
lations, and Slavic people can be found there. In the areas to the south
of Poland the pots of the Prague type sometimes co-occur with other
vessels technologically more advanced including wheel-made ones. Not
surprisingly the Prague pottery was initially treated as a poor-quality
local, rural variant.24 More technologically advanced vessels appear in
the Ipote‘ti-Cande‘ti-Ciurel culture in Romania. Also the burials in
the greatest early Slavic cemetery at Sprata Monteoru located on the
Danube in Romania, where more than 1500 graves were found, are
equipped with ornaments much more frequently than the typically
poor Slavic burials to the north of the Carpathians. The discussed
areas, formerly parts of the provinces of the Roman Empire, make up
a zone where the cultural elements of the Roman civilization ‘mixed’
with those of the Barbarian one; in our case this concerns especially
the Germans, Slavs and the nomadic peoples.
A ‘pure’ Slavic material culture can be found mainly in the areas to
the north of the Carpathians, including Poland. Why was the Slavs’
culture so selective? One possible answer is as follows: in places which
offered more civilization benets (the Mediterranean) the Slavs quickly
and willingly gave up the ‘ “crude cultural model’ (very much like the

Cf. Labuda 1999, 224.
Borkovský 1940.
how did the slavs get to polish lands? 71

Longobards when occupying southern Italy) melting into the local

milieux. More to the north, and thus in the areas with population
enclaves at varying levels of civilization, the Slavs were selective in their
choices. As a result the archaeologically recorded model of the early
Slavic culture is not uniform. Only in the areas depopulated after the
events of the 5th century, located mainly to the north of the Carpath-
ians, with no attractive cultural benets ‘to be taken’, the archaeologi-
cally detectable remains of the so-called Slavic model of material culture
are to be found. Why, however, did the Slavs not take advantage of their
neighbors’ experiences? One cause may be the collapse of the existing
trade routes and bonds, which at the threshold of the 6th century led
to the isolation of many cultural groups inhabiting the Polish lands.
When these areas were being settled in the early 6th century the Slavs
were not numerous enough to reproduce these bonds quickly. However,
there still remains the question of the surprising poverty of their mate-
rial culture. It seems that while solving this problem the researchers did
not take into account the numerous Byzantine writers who mentioned
the Slavs’ amazing mobility, and for several generations representatives
of that people could be seen almost all over Europe. Such a lifestyle,
typical for the nomads rather than land cultivators and cattle rearers,
made the Slavs similar to the former in the phase of searching for the
new places to settle. For the nomads it is quite normal and natural to
be permanently on the move but the long and hard journeys did not
make the Slavs nomadic. Yet their material culture from the earliest
phase is not only unusually poor but also unique in this part of the
continent. The poorness and simplicity of the cultural inventory during
their settling of Europe could thus have been caused by the lack of
conditions for making any labor-consuming material goods due to the
lack of stable settlement and economy. This may be the reason why in
central Europe the earliest Slavs did not possess a developed inventory
of tools, including the potter’s wheel, ornaments, and other elements
of material culture characteristic for the other peoples of the discussed
period. It is therefore quite probable that while settling the new areas,
the Slavs limited themselves to producing the simplest objects basic to
everyday existence; the Prague type pots are a good example. They
represent the simplest possible forms, are undecorated and hand-made
of commonly available raw materials without the use of the wheel.
Such production yielded wares made with a minimum of effort, unat-
tractive in appearance but with relatively good technical parameters.
The basic needs do not include, e.g., the widespread production of
72 chapter three

ornaments which, as it is often stressed, appear rarely among the Slavs.

The situation of the Slavs at the outset of their migration resembles
to some extent that of the Wild West pioneers; although generally
during the 19th century they were farmers they made trips in family
groups just like the nomads (although they were not nomads!) across
the vast expanses of the American prairies. For that reason they took
only the basic necessities with them. Their material culture (including
the elements of female attire) was much simpler and poorer than in
the settled population. The situation changed rapidly, however, as more
and more settlers arrived and, especially when production and farm-
ing were instituted. As a result new settlements were established, the
economy began to thrive and there appeared trade routes along which
craftsmen and traders started to travel. All in all, from the historical
perspective, the pioneers, like many centuries before them the Slavs,
achieved an unquestionable success.
It may be thus said that the period of the early Slavic culture and
its material manifestations tted the times of unstable economy during
the search for and occupation of new settlement oikumenes.25 This was the
time when the right choices were made as well as, certainly, errors. The
Slavs settled the areas of Little Poland but were not equally attracted to
Silesia which was just as fertile. They existed in various parts of agri-
culturally less attractive Mazovia and Podlasie, but not so much in the
fertile Kuiavia. Assuming the possibility of migration of groups of Slavs,
in the 6th century this phenomenon was limited and has left archaeo-
logical evidence only for some parts of Poland. What happened in the
areas with no traces of their presence? Did their inhabitants depart in
a body? If so this would be an unprecedented case in the history of
the early Mediaeval Europe. So perhaps the lack of material traces of
the Slavs is due to the fact that, like the migrating Germanic peoples,
they sometimes assimilated and adopted the local culture. This thesis is
partly supported by the data from northern Poland where the cultural
collapse of the 5th century was not so acute as in other regions. It is
believed that the rst early Mediaeval pottery assemblages from that
area are those of the Sukov-Dziedzice type, equivalent to the Prague

Some instructive examples for comparative studies have been provided by recent
research on the migrations of the Anglo-Saxons to the British Isles in the context of
the earliest forms of their houses (see, e.g., 2002, and especially: J. Tipper 2004; with
the quoted literature).
how did the slavs get to polish lands? 73

phase.26 Yet there no houses with sunken oor characteristic for the
Slavs or the typically Slavic burial rites are found there. The pre-Slavic
artifacts unearthed in this area may be dated to the late 6th and early
7th centuries. Could Pomerania, afuent at the threshold of the Middle
Ages, launch the assimilative mechanisms similar to the ones described
for the Danubian south, as a result of which it is difcult to distinguish
the Slavic features in these areas even though it is known that the Slavs
had settled there? This situation is similar to what went on in southern
Italy in the Longobardic period where that people settled when the
Apennine Peninsula was being occupied, but like the Slavs in Pomera-
nia, did not leave any clear traces in the material culture. In contrast,
in northern and central Italy, the presence of the Longobards in the
phase of settling these areas is clearly marked both in the settlements
and burial grounds; they had characteristic ornaments, weapons, pot-
tery, burial rites and structures.
There used to be a hypothesis of so-called ‘Slavs’ second current
of development’ connected with the Tornov-Klenica groups in Silesia
and southern Great Poland. They were said to link the Late Roman
tradition and the early Slav culture.27 In theory such a situation is pos-
sible, however, the recent tree-ring datings from the settlements with
the Tornow type pottery from the core areas of its distribution (Lower
Lusatia) have revealed that these sites should be dated to a much later
period, that is the late 8th or sometimes the 9th century.28
* * *
Thus there are still many problems to solve. However, the 6th century
Slavs seen in the context of their migrations from the broader European
perspective as ‘people on the move’ are not necessarily a crude cultural
isolate or a bizarre ideology from the end of the Migration Period. In
the light of the remarks presented above they were a quite conservative
people of considerable adaptive skills, farmers but just as mobile as
nomads. While settling the new areas they accepted the ‘crude model
of material culture’ but used, wherever possible, the cultural benets
of their world. This last mentioned feature must have played a decisive
part in their success as the co-founders of Early Mediaeval Europe.

cosiqski 1972.
Kostrzewski 1960.
Cf. Henning 1998.


1. ‘Tribal’ geography and archaeology

About the mid seventh century, the peoples inhabiting the Polish lands
entered into a phase of settlement consolidation. That was the time of
the slow disappearance of the relatively egalitarian material culture of the
early Slavic period, lasting well into the 8th, or as some believe, even the
9th century, and at the same time of the formation of qualitatively
new settlement structures. In the old landscape of the pre-state period,
besides the scattered open settlements, there now appeared fortied
ones, consisting of one to several households. Economic growth fostered
the processes of concentration which lead to the birth of territorial
communities. It is assumed that the smallest ones occupied areas of
c. 3–4 square kilometers, and more rarely of 10 –12 square kilometers.
Several (and sometimes even more than a dozen) such units constituted
structures called opola, identied with so-called ‘small tribes’. They
utilized areas from 50 to 150 square kilometers, rarely larger ones and
were separated by forest or uninhabited areas.1
The term ‘tribal geography’ used in the title of this chapter may
be a little confusing. This is so mainly because it is impossible to use
with respect to the communities of the pre-state period the traditional
denition of a tribe as it implicitly assumes a relative isolation of the
group from others.2 Neither can we be certain if and in what conditions

These issues are the focus of interest of both historians and archaeologists. They
have been studied at the regional level and also for the whole area of Polish lands
(cf. Lalik 1967; cowmiaqski 1973; Kurnatowska 1991; 2002; Tyszkiewicz L.A. 1993;
Movdzioch 2000; Tyszkiewicz J. 2003).
In recent decades cultural anthropologists have been gradually departing from the
term ‘tribe’ in favor of ‘ethnic group.’ The latter term usually denotes a self-identifying
socio-cultural system having a sense of distinctiveness from the other ones. An important
feature of an ethnic group is its dynamic character, the state of constant transforma-
tion and interaction with neighbors. This was in many respects the situation in Polish
lands in the pre-state period. Archaeological discoveries conrm the existence of large
zones of exchange both of regional and interregional character (cf. Buko in print). For
the above reasons, attaching excessive importance to the tribal names established in
76 chapter four

peoples described below considered the names assigned to them as ones

indicating their distinctiveness or they were given to them (when? in
what circumstance?) by outsiders. Regardless of that and many other
doubts, it remains a fact that whereas in the early Slavic period the
written sources contain only general mentions of the Slavs, in the pre-
state period individual communities are no longer anonymous. Names
such as Vislane, Goplanie, Slenzanie, and many other ones were known
to the Byzantine and Frankish authors who connected them with some
episodes of European political history. Bearing in mind the reservations
mentioned above, we consider the tribal names used below mainly as
conventional terms used to denote larger communities (ethnic groups
according to the denition from modern anthropology), inhabiting
concrete territories in a denable chronological interval.3
The basic, although not the only, source of knowledge about the
earliest history of the communities inhabiting Polish lands is the work
from the rst half of the ninth century known as the Bavarian Geographer.
It contains a list of the peoples inhabiting the areas to the east of the
Elbe and to the north of the Danube and states how many civitates
(strongholds? territories?) each of the named groups have. Attempts are
made to identify the peoples mentioned on the basis of the similarities
of the names with those known from other sources and their place in
the list.
For Pomerania the names of: Uelunzani (Wielunczanie? Wolinianie?)
and Prissani (Pyrzyczanie?) are mentioned. The occupation of that area
has been well testied by archaeology, although it is hard to accept the

tradition or the chroniclers’ records or studying the extent of the territories of ethnic
groups is for many researchers of secondary importance. However, the problem is more
complicated. So far the archaeologists’ conclusions have been based on the results of
empirical research of modern ethnic groups inhabiting various parts of the world (more
on the subject in: Kobyliqski and Olsen 1991; Jenkins 1997; Jones 1997; with further
literature). Therefore it is difcult to transfer the conclusions, which do not make up a
coherent theory yet, onto ancient communities inhabiting the Polish lands more than
1000 years ago. These are the reasons why in this book the traditionally applied term
‘tribe’ is used. Here it is mainly a synonym of regional and local communities living in
the Polish lands between the 7th and mid-9th century with names established in written
sources and/or identied by the results of archaeological investigations. The possibilities
of recognizing local communities, so-called ‘small tribes’ by the use of archaeological
methods were indicated many years ago (cf. Hilczerówna 1965; with literature).
More about tribal geography of Polish lands: Hilczerówna 1965; cowmiaqski
1958; 1973; Labuda 1988; 1996; Leciejewicz 2000; Zaj[czkowski 1962; all with fur-
ther literature.
mysteries of the pre-state period 77

70 civitates assigned to these peoples by the writer. Surprisingly, the list

does not contain anything which might correspond to the archaeologi-
cally testied settlement groups from the area of Szczecin or the lower
Pars\ta river. Neither do we learn anything about the peoples of Eastern
Pomerania, where in the area of modern Gdaqsk and in its hinterland
numerous settlement concentrations have been found by archaeologists
and dated to the period at least from the 9th century (Fig. 32). Many
researchers have stressed the differences between the development of
these areas and those of Western Pomerania which was settled by
the Slavs from the 6th century. In the pre-state period, the area from
Szczecin to the lower Pars\ta river was dominated by two large settle-
ment concentrations located on the Oder river and seven smaller ones

Figure 32. ‘Tribal’ map of Polish lands. Settlement concentrations identied

by means of archaeological investigations are marked in black and the names
of the peoples mentioned in written sources, in gray (by A. Buko; digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki).
78 chapter four

distinguished in the basin of the Pars\ta and Rega rivers.4 However,

Eastern Pomerania was inhabited, as it seems, by 6 to 8 small territorial
groups. And although links of Western Pomerania with the Polabian
Slavs are visible in the material culture, the cultural depending on
borders between respective parts of Pomerania look quite differently
whether they are drawn by the historians, archaeologists, or linguists.
The main debate concerns the cultural afliation of the Szczecin
region. The main question is whether in the pre-state period Szczecin
was the main town of an independent settlement unit or was the area
belonging to it inhabited by the Wkrzanie, mentioned in the written
sources. This question concerns also the afliation of the areas on the
lower Oder river located on the border between the Veleti, Lutize and
In Great Poland, separated from Pomerania by a belt of the forests
on the Notem river, the problems have a different character. First and
foremost, it is not known why the Bavarian Geographer’s list does not men-
tion the Polanie, who eventually created the Piast state, but instead lists
the Goplanie (Glopeani? ) with more than 400 civitates, who for unknown
reasons disappeared into obscurity. After many years of research there
are still no data allowing to locate these people precisely. There thus
arises the question if the Polanie and Goplanie may be two names (an
earlier one and a later one) referring to one people, and if so, what
factors then caused (or enforced) the change of the name? When did
it happen? If, however, these were two different entities, then the what
was the fate of the Goplanie who in the 9th century had the greatest
number of strongholds and what were the circumstances of the appear-
ance (where from?) of the Polanie in history? Was this name invented
to denote Mieszko’s state? If so, why was it the same as the one used
in the same period but in reference to one of the peoples in the Kievan
Rus? It is also curious that the number of the civitates given by the
Bavarian Geographer for the Goplanie is incomparably larger than those
he mentions for the other ones. Does this reect the actual rank of that
mysterious people or perhaps, as some believe, these are reminiscences
of an old legend? The suggested legendary trace becomes more evident
when we try to locate the seats of the Goplanie. Traditionally we locate
their indigenous territory around a lake of with a similar name (Lake
Gopdo) and their center was in the stronghold of Kruszwica on its shores.

cosiqski 1982.
mysteries of the pre-state period 79

Although in that area there are traces of earlier settlement, the origins
of Kruszwica itself date back to the late 10th century and the reasons
for the appearance of this center were quite different (cf. Chapter 9).
Finally, it should be added that the more recent analyses of settlement
evidence does not support the assumption of the existence of either a
powerful people of Goplanie or Polanie in the pre-state period.5
In the area of Great Poland, there is considerable archaeological
evidence for a settlement concentration on the upper and middle Obra
river, although there is no name for it in the Bavarian Geographer. The
name ‘Obrzanie’, however, appears in the toponymic material from
Moravia, at the moment it can not be established if it denotes the
population that moved there from the Obra river area, as some believe,6
or should be interpreted in another way.
The Bavarian Geographer does not mention either any settlement
concentration for Early Medieval Mazovia. However, archaeological
investigations have clearly revealed that before the Polish state appeared
in this region, there were at least three clearly distinguishable territorial
units, conventionally labeled by archaeologists the ‘Pdock’, ‘Drohiczyn’,
and ‘c\czyca’ ones;7 moreover archaeologists have also distinguished
several local groups in the Bzura and Narew river valleys and on the
Vistula (Fig. 33). The huge potential of the ‘tribes’ living there is clearly
indicated by the fact that in the early 10th century, and thus before the
Polish state was established, across the considerable areas which they
were occupying, they developed an intensive action of building strong-
holds.8 Who initiated it and who posed the danger for Mazovia at that
time has not been established univocally. The origin of the tribal name
‘Mazovians’, which rst appeared quite late (namely in the Russian
Primary Chronicle with reference to events of 1041), is also unknown.
Who, when, in what circumstances and with respect to which territorial
group used it for the rst time still remains a mystery.
For the territory of Little Poland the names of L\dziane and Vis-
lane appear in several sources. It is not clear, however, which parts of
the region were occupied by these peoples and what part they played
in creating the Early Medieval settlement structure of Little Poland.
They may be used here as an example of the difculties that may be

Cf. Kurnatowska 2000; 2002.
Cf. Modzioch 2000.
Dulinicz 1999; cf. also Tyszkiewicz J. 2003.
Dulinicz 1997.
80 chapter four

Figure 33. Main settlement concentrations in Mazovia in the pre-state period

(after M. Dulinicz, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

experienced reconstructing the territories of groups known from the

written records used in conjunction with the archaeological and other
Some researchers believe that both the Cracow and Sandomierz
Lands belonged to so-called State of the Vislane. Others are of the
opinion that before the appearance of the Polish state, the area of
eastern Little Poland (including the Sandomierz Land) was the native
territory of the L\dziane (or L\dzanie) whereas the Cracow Land was
inhabited by the Vislane.9 They stress that in later times the region was
divided into two separate parts, the Cracow and Sandomierz Land, and
this is further testied by the fact that Gallus Anonymous, mentions that
Little Poland had two main capitals in Cracow and Sandomierz, and
this division may have occurred much earlier. It is also worth noting
that in the 12th and 13th centuries there were no organizational and

More on the subject: Lalik 1967; Labuda 1988; cowmiaqski 1973; Zaj[czkowski
mysteries of the pre-state period 81

political bonds between the two lands and the Sandomierz and Cracow
princes had separate titles.10
The name L\dziane and its derivatives appeared, among other places,
in the work De administrando imperio by the Byzantine emperor, Constan-
tine Porphyrogenitus, from the rst half of the 10th century and in the
text of the Bavarian Geographer mentioned above. The latter states that
the discussed people had as many as 98 civitates; it is hard to determine
now if these were true strongholds or rather settlement centers. It was
also assumed that presence of the L\dziane in south-eastern Poland is
testied by the work by Porphyrogenitus who put them on the list of the
peoples neighboring with Kievan Rus and paying tribute to it, so being
its dependent. According to Gerard Labuda11 the L\dziane mentioned
in the source from 981 were in the 10th century an independent tribe,
having a tributary relation to Rus. It was also assumed that their main
territories were the areas on the upper Bug, San, and Wisdoka rivers
and the Carpathian Plateau. The territory of the L\dziane therefore
would have been the region extending to the Vistula river in the area
of the lower San river, and thus the area of the Sandomierz Upland
was believed to belong to the Vislane.
The hypothesis according to which the territory of the Vislane
extended across to Sandomierz has some weak points. First and foremost
it does not take into account the differences in the historical traditions
of the Cracow and Sandomierz Lands, which are strongly stressed by
many historians dealing with the Medieval period. The archaeological
evidence from both areas also reveals some diversities between them.
The fundamental differences in the settlement patterns of the tribal
period between the Witlica Land (understood as: belonging to the
Vislane) and the Sandomierz-Zdota concentration to the west were
noticed many years ago. There is a wide gap in the distribution of
known settlements of the period running across the area between the
Cracow and Sandomierz Lands in the pre-state period. This blank area
in the settlement pattern corresponds to the belt of the Staszów for-
est, traces of which can be found between the Holy Cross Mountains
and the towns of Podaniec and Koprzywnica; its modern remains are
locally named Rytwiaqska and Szyddowska Forests. They denitively

Cf. Lalik 1967.
82 chapter four

separated the Sandomierz Land from Witlica Land even in the 16th
century. Among the settlements of the Sandomierz Land there were no
strongholds of the type which characterize the Cracow Land, that is
the so-called ‘great strongholds of the Vislane’ (Wielkie grody wiularskie).
It is also worth noting that these strongholds are characterized by the
mass appearance of the so-called Cracow White pottery, while these
vessels are very rare in the Sandomierz Land. From the anthropological
point of view, the population series from the cemeteries in Witlica and
Sandomierz Lands are incomparable if a common ‘Vislanian ’ compo-
nent is sought. Finally, there is a perceptible lack of pre-state strongholds
on the left bank of the Vistula to the north of the Nida river valley.
The Cracow and Sandomierz Lands are therefore in many respects
completely different.12
On the other hand, there are many arguments for locating the original
territory of the L\dzianie to the south west of Sandomierz. Toponymic
analyses indicate that in the area of Przemytl there are place names
which originally represented the language of the proto-Polish ethnic
substrate overlain by Ruthenian names.13 This suggestive evidence may
be a trace of the presence of West Slavic tribes in the areas on the
upper Bug, Dniester and San rivers. Archaeological excavations have
conrmed the existence of strongholds from the pre-state period in
these areas and in Przemytl itself there is one of the monumental Little
Polish mounds (cf. Chapter 7). Thus if the territory of the L\dzianie is
shifted from Sandomierz to the south east and the lands of the Vislane
to Cracow Land, then a new picture of ‘tribal’ geography of the region
will be obtained. Sandomierz and Lublin Lands would together make
up a separate group of territories limited on the north by the Radom
Forest and the territories of the Mazovians, to the northwest by the
Polanie, on the west by the Vislane and on the south-east, L\dzianie.
In Lublin Land, the core of the settlement comprised most probably
the settlement clusters around Chodlik and Lublin itself. In Sandomierz
Land, in turn, at least four settlement complexes can be distinguished in
the pre-state period. These concentrations of settlements and cemeteries
are typical examples of borderland settlements with evident traits of
territorial distinctiveness. The settlement group in Sandomierz Land,
occupying the area from the town of coniów in the south-west to that

Cf. Buko 1998, 24ff.
Nalepa 1991.
mysteries of the pre-state period 83

of Zawichost in the north-east and the Kamienna river in the north,

occupied the territories adjoining the north-western periphery of the
L\dzianie. The ‘Sandomierz’ settlement group located at a distance
from the central lands of the L\dzianie and separated by a forest from
the land of the Vislane in the north, probably retained autonomy
characteristic for the borderlands.14
Stanisdawa Hoczyk-Siwkowa15 in her recent analysis allows for the
possibility of distinguishing not four but even thirteen settlement concen-
trations in Little Poland. In most cases they were identied on uplands
but also in valleys between the uplands and in depressions. The main
settlement axes were middle-sized rivers and other water courses. These
territories were spaced about 30 km away one from another. In this
context there arises the question if it is justied to distinguish just two
‘small’ and two ‘large’ territorial communities. It can not be excluded
that their actual number within a region was originally larger although
at the current stage of research it is difcult to venture any univocal
answers to these questions. However, the opinion that each settlement
concentration distinguished by the archaeologist is equivalent to a ‘tribal’
unit does not seem justied. In the case of the Sandomierz and Lublin
concentrations there appear at least several additional elements which
make them different from the other ones. First and foremost these are
the mysterious ‘umigrody’, which make up the territorial bulwarks of
Sandomierz and Lublin (Cf. Chapter 5). Furthermore, in these lands,
in contrast to the other areas, there appeared the leading political and
administrative centers of the early-Piast state.
While in Little Poland recent debate has focused on the interrelations
between the Vislane and L\dzianie and the part played by so-called
‘small tribes’ located between them, in Silesia the situation is differ-
ent. In contrast to the other regions there exists the most complete
list of “tribal” territories conrmed by various sources. The Bavarian
Geographer mentions by name four Silesian ‘tribes’ (Sleenzane, Dadodesani,
Opolini, Golensizi ), Thietmar’s Chronicle mentions the Diedesizi and
Silensi, and the so-called Prague Document (the foundation charter of the
Prague bishopric written in 1086) talks about the Zlasane, Trebouane,
Pobarane and Dedosize. The identication of the majority of these ter-
ritorial communities does not inspire any controversies. The Dadodesani

Buko 1998; with literature.
84 chapter four

mentioned by the chronicler are most probably Dziadoszanie, located

in the Gdogów-Barycz area and the Sleenzane (Silensi) are Slenzanie,
bordering with them from the south and inhabiting the left bank of
the Oder river and the area of Mount sl\va; the Bavarian Geographer
states that they had fteen civitates. It has not been yet agreed if the
settlement concentration identied in the basin of the Kaczawa river
should be linked with the Trzebowianie (Trebouane) mentioned in the
Prague Document or their territory should be rather included in the domain
of the Slenzanie. There are, however, no doubts that to the west of
them, that is at the source of the Lusatian Neisse, was the territory of
the Besunzane (Bievunczanie) mentioned by the Bavarian Geographer. Still
further to the south were the Opolanie (Opolini ) with 20 civitates and
in the area of the Moravian Gate there were probably the territories
of the God\szyce (Golensizi ) to whom the Geographer ascribed as few
as 5 civitates.
The interpretation of the Prague Document from 1086, and so a source
later than the Bavarian Geographer, still remains a problem. Besides the
ones already known, there appear names which are a subject of con-
troversy (Fig. 34). These include the mysterious Poborane, traditionally
identied with the Bobrzanie located on the Bobr river. The problem
is that no clear archaeological indications of “tribal” settlement have
been found on the Bobr until as late as the 12th century, which makes it
impossible to locate a separate territorial organization there. According
to Sdawomir Mo<Odzioch this name may refer to a documented tribal
group from the upper Obra river, whose original name ‘Poobrzanie’
(= Poborane) would correspond to the one from the Prague Document.
However, the discussion, in which also historians of the Middle Ages
are taking part, is far from reaching a successful conclusion.16

2. The rst Early Medieval strongholds: when did they appear?

The origins and stages of establishing the strongholds are the key issue
in the archaeology of the pre-state period. Archaeologists have been
debating whether the Slavic strongholds, common in the period of the
formation of the state, were a dynamic phenomenon which appeared

In the long-lasting debate both the historians and the archaeologists have been
expressing their opinions. Its results so far do not give any hope of agreement (cf.
Modzioch 2000; Tyszkiewicz L.A. 1993; all with literature).
mysteries of the pre-state period 85

Figure 34. Early Medieval settlements in Silesia and their relationship to the
‘tribes’ known from written sources (after S. Mo<Odzioch, digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki).

in Polish lands in different places and at different chronological periods

or whether even the earliest ones are relatively late and refer, as some
believe, to the developed pre-state period. It is known that in the early
Slavic culture the Slavs erected defensive structures in Polish lands (cf.
Chapter 3). However, the number of the examples that have been
identied is surprisingly small in comparison to the general number
of archaeological sites from that period. It is not known why the Slavs,
despite knowing how to build strongholds, made use of that skill very
seldom. It is commonly assumed that the lack of strongholds and
the presence of open settlements is one of the features distinguishing
the Slavs’ egalitarian material culture in the period when they were
86 chapter four

occupying new territories. It was also proposed that the strongholds

became common among the Slavs after the Avars had been defeated
by Charlemagne, that is from the 9th century. The assumption was that
strongholds were erected on the initiative of the military leaders who
managed to gain production surpluses and loot from military expedi-
tions and then organize the local population and get them to work
collectively to construct these complex monuments. In this way, at the
turn of the 8th and 9th centuries a new stage of erecting strongholds
in a coordinated way began in Polish lands and there appeared supra-
tribal organizations based on chiefdom systems of a new, different
quality.17 In the light of the available archaeological data this thesis,
however, seems to be too narrow, rst and foremost because it does not
take into account the fact that in Polish lands there are no testimonies
either of the Avars’ presence or their activities, the traces of elements
of their material culture in the form of single nds are testied only
for a few sites, mainly from Little Poland. For that reason this factor
could not have been signicant. It is also quite clear that all across
Europe the situation was not the same in this respect in all the places
where the Slavs appeared. In Polish lands of the pre-state period also,
the time when strongholds were built seemed to vary according to the
local needs (cf. below).
The hypothesis of the late appearance of strongholds among the
Slavs has returned in recent years as a topic of debate owing to the new
datings of West Slavic strongholds of the so-called Tornow type. These
were small in size but strongly fortied wood and earth constructions
called after the eponymous settlement complex at Tornow near Calau
in Lower Lusatia. The earliest stronghold here was originally thought
to have been built in the 7th century, then successively rebuilt, lasting
till the 9th century. However, the verication carried out by Joachim
Henning18 in the 1970s proved that both the settlement in Tornow
and the whole group of sites of similar type appeared in the late 9th
century at the earliest.
From Polish lands examples of similar structures are known from
Lower Silesia and southern Great Poland (Pop\szyce, Gostyq, Boni-
kowo, Klenica) and other regions. However, some authors believe that
an early (6th–7th century) dating is not very probable. This is indicated

Urbaqczyk 2000, 95.
mysteries of the pre-state period 87

both by the high level of technology of the pottery and other artifacts found
there, which include ornaments dated at the earliest to the 8th century. It
has been agreed that in certain cases some of these sites are much later,
dating even from the times of Mieszko I.19 However, in such a situation
there appears the question of when and by whom such fortications
were built in the area of Poland, as these structures occupy a discrete
area and they are quite uniform. Thus their cultural and political afli-
ation are difcult to determine and it is not surprising that, due to the
scale of the controversy, some researchers do not believe in the new
dating and even in recent publications sites similar to those described
here are referred to the earlier phases of the early Middle Ages.20
In recent years, the datings of some strongholds from other regions
of Poland have been changed. New results of research on the earliest
horizon of strongholds in Mazovia proved that the majority of the
earliest Mazovian strongholds were built in the late 9th and early 10th
century, so just before the Polish state was formed. The investigations
conducted at ten lowland strongholds in ‘Old Mazovia’ allowed the
excavators to establish that at Wola Szyddowska the wood used to build
the stronghold was cut in 882–901/902 and the repairs were made until
911. The stronghold was burnt in unknown circumstances, probably
already in the 10th century. At Mokrzk the wood from the strongholds
was dated to 904 and at Sdupno to 908–909; the fortications of the
settlement in Raciav were dated to a similar time (909). Also the dating
of the well in the stronghold at swi\ck-Strumiany in eastern Mazovia
indicated that the wood used for making it was cut in 903, 914 and
970. These and some other data clearly indicate that at the beginning
of the 10th century there appeared in Mazovia a group of strongholds
which were built in the same time horizon, just after 900.21 In contrast
to the regions discussed before no multi-phase development has been
recorded. It is thus hard to establish what was happening in Mazovia
between the 7th and 8th century and yet the earliest fortications from
the early Slavic period were found in this region, in Szeligi near Pdock,
the origins of which can be referred to the earliest period of the early
Slavic culture; a stronghold dating from the early Slavic times was also
discovered in Hamki in Podlasie (cf. Chapter 3).

Cf. Dulinicz 2001.
E.g., Leciejewicz 2000, 147.
Dulinicz 1997.
88 chapter four

The strongholds of Western Pomerania are assumed to have had their

origins at the turn of the 7th and 8th century; this is the date which
Wdadysdaw cosiqski has assigned to at least six structures located on the
lower Pars\ta river (Fig. 35). These are relatively large upland structures
with an area often larger than 1 ha, resembling the strongholds of the
Feldberg type built by the Veleti. They make up a compact concentra-
tion in the area of modern Kodobrzeg. Some of them (e.g., at Godaqcz
Pomorska) were replaced in the early “tribal” period by new ones, for
example at K\drzyno and Bardy. A major turning point in the pattern
of building strongholds in that area took place in the last quarter of the
9th century. At that time there appeared rather small but very strongly
fortied structures evenly distributed across the whole area.22

Figure 35. Spatial distribution of Early Medieval strongholds on the Parseta

river (after W. cosiqski; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

cosiqski 1996.
mysteries of the pre-state period 89

Pomerania differs from other regions of Poland in its earlier urbaniza-

tion. As early as in the 9th century, there appeared crafts and trade cen-
ters such as Wolin, Szczecin and Kodobrzeg (cf. Chapter 10). The pace
of life in them was determined by trade and long-distance exchange
and their infrastructure had early urban features. Another group was
made up of open crafts and trade settlements created by specialized
craftsmen and merchants, most of whom were not local people. A
specic feature of centers of that type, identied, for example in the
area of Bardy and swielubie, is their multiethnic character. The origins
of their population were identied by examination of the cemeteries
discovered in the hinterlands of these settlements, where the grave
goods indicated the presence of people from Scandinavia (Chapter 15).
However, in the majority of cases these sites disappeared from the
settlement map as early as in the 9th or mid-10th century. From the
point of view of the processes of urbanization, their existence was quite
episodic and thus did not have any valid inuence on the following
settlement processes.23
The strongholds from the pre-state period in Great Poland are, as
in Pomerania, multi-phased (cf. Chapter 9). It is also hard to consider
them as uniform in size, spatial distribution, date of origin, and length
of use. Some of them are connected to the earliest period (the 7th–8th
century) and they may represent an archaic form of strongholds some-
times called fortied villages or refuge settlements. Others are more
advanced in military terms and probably served as military centers.
It is assumed that at least some of them, e.g., Bonikowo, Daleszyn,
or Siemowo, changed their form and functions in the course of time
whereas the other ones existed only in the earliest phase. The next group
of strongholds was built as late as the 9th century. According to Zoa
Kurnatowska24 the turning point in this respect occurred at the end
of the 8th or early 9th century when part of the old centers fell into
decline and the new ones were often built in completely new places.
A different picture was obtained by investigations in Kuiavia and
Chedmno Land. The origins of the strongholds there are now assigned
to the 7th /8th to 8th century. The strongholds were quite small: from
0.05 to 0.5 hectares. There were no medium-sized ones characteristic
for the other regions of Poland, and especially noticeable is the lack

cosiqski 1996; 1997.
1991, 2000.
90 chapter four

of large ones. The strongholds were usually single enclosure ringworks,

circular or oval (or rarely of other shapes, e.g., horseshoe-shaped or
with an opening in the walls—such as at Gronowo). They were usually
located in naturally defensive places, often on peninsulas or islands, and
a location in an upland area was especially preferred in the pre-state
period. In the Krajno and Stargard Lakelands the continued existence
of the strongholds was testied by archaeological excavations and the
beginnings of these settlements go back to the 7th and 8th centuries.
In the Chedmno Lakeland their construction ceased in the 9th century
and were not being built even in the mid-10th century when, for some
unknown reasons no strongholds were built in the whole Chedmno-
Dobrzyq zone.25
In the earliest phase, the central place in the micro-region was occu-
pied by the stronghold at Gronowo located in the basin of the lower
Drw\ca river. It is assumed to be the main center on which the life
of the local community was focused. It lasted until the end of the 8th
century when in many parts of the region the existing “tribal” com-
munities disintegrated into other ones exploiting smaller ecological
niches. These processes were not identical across the whole region. It
has been observed that in the 9th and mid-10th century in the areas
to the west of the Vistula river there occurred a reverse process: the
existing territory was successively enlarged, which is illustrated by the
history of the fortied center at Gruczyn. These phenomena, according
to Wojciech Chudziak,26 may indicate some important changes in the
social organization which took place after the 9th century. Thus in this
area there are no archaeological premises for suggesting the progressive
centralization of power in the pre-state period.
The issue of dating the earliest phase of the strongholds in Great
Poland, Pomerania and the Chedmno Land has not been ultimately settled
yet. Some researchers are convinced that they denitely originated at a
much later date, even as late as the turn of the 8th and 9th centuries.
They base their opinion on the datings of the pre-state strongholds from
other regions and the fact that the earliest phases of the strongholds
have not been veried by means of the dendrochronological method.
On the other hand, it is worth noting that for the different phases of

Chudziak 1996.
mysteries of the pre-state period 91

the strongholds from the pre-state period, ceramic materials of quite

different quality were discovered, which has not been demonstrated
in other regions.
So far in Little Poland no strongholds from the earliest phase have
been found. At most ten such sites are dated to the 8th century and as
many as 25, to the 9th–10th century. In contrast to Great Poland and
Pomerania, the written sources do not mention strongholds which could
be linked with the times before the mid-8th century. It may be said that
in Little Poland fortied settlements appeared at a relatively late date
in comparison to the other regions of Poland. Their distribution in
the region reveals a concentration along the line of the foothills of the
Carpathians, in the eastern part of the Cracow-Cz\stochowa Upland
and in the vicinity of Cracow and Miechów. There are, however, no
strongholds on the left bank of the Vistula to the north of the Nida river
valley. It is also surprising that none of them have been found in the
basins of the Soda, Przemsza, and Skawa rivers. Only a few strongholds
from the pre-state period are known from Sandomierz Land.27
One site at Chodlik in the basin of the Chodelka river between
Sandomierz and Lublin has been the subject of discussions. It was
excavated by Aleksander Gardawski in 1952–1968 and was initially
dated from the 6th to 9th centuries. The earliest dendrochronological
dates obtained recently from a wooden well discovered in the courtyard
indicate, however, that the site was occupied no earlier than the rst half
of the 8th century. At the same time, there are no reasons to assume
that this huge circular enclosure with three rings of ramparts with an
area of more than 7 hectares could have functioned after the origins
of the state.28 The unprecedented quality and wealth of decoration of
pottery from this site excites our admiration. The assemblage has given
rise to the term ‘Chodlik-type pottery’ (cf. Fig. 15) which has been used
for many years to describe similar material.
A peculiarity of Little Poland in contrast to the other regions are
so-called ‘Great strongholds of the Vislane’. This phenomenon was
noticed and described many years ago by Andrzej uaki29 and then

Poleski 1996.
Hoczyk-Siwkowa 2004.
92 chapter four

investigated by Elvbieta Dabrowska.30 There are 10–20 sites assigned

to this group (at least half of them need further verication). They
are usually located in uplands, most often on the slopes of hills, which
in itself is an interesting exception to the general pattern of location
of strongholds in Poland. All of them are fully enclosed by their ram-
parts. They have various forms and patterns of internal layout: there
are both single and multi-enclosure examples. The fortications had
internal timber reinforcement of either the ‘caisson’ or ‘grill’ type, but
the latter is more frequent. As a rule, they are large (3–5 hectares) or
very large (up to 10 hectares) in area. Interestingly, in many cases there
are no traces of internal structures within the walls although sometimes
(Szczaworyv, Stradów) traces of sunken oored huts have been discov-
ered. It is hard to establish the activities carried out by the inhabitants
but it is assumed that metallurgy of iron and colored metals played an
important part in their lives.
The function and dating of this group of strongholds remains debat-
able. Initially it was believed that at least some of them, for example
the largest at Stradów, might have been built as early as the 7th century.
The scope of the undertaking is amazing. What were the real reasons
for making such huge enclosures? Their size is not justied either by
the demographic potential of the neighboring population or, the more
so, by the structures inside, which are quite scarce in comparison to
the area of the stronghold. Moreover, how numerous would the troops
have to be to defend the area along the walls (Fig. 36)? It may seem
that structures of this kind, not very numerous in the region, served rst
and foremost as the manifestations of power; it can not be excluded
that they may have had another, symbolic meaning. In times of danger
they may have been used as refugia for the local population and their
The multi-enclosure stronghold at Stradów with a complicated
arrangement of the ramparts (Fig. 37) has for a number of years been
the subject of excavations. The ramparts were erected with the use of
the ‘caisson’ type of timber reinforcement, combined with the stockade
technique, but no traces can be found of the drystone wall construc-
tion techniques in use at that time in Great Moravia. The pottery and
other evidence discovered in the more recent investigations of the 1990s
revealed that the main stronghold (1.5 hectares in area) and one of its

mysteries of the pre-state period 93

enclosures (so-called Barzyqskie suburb) existed until as late as the

second half of the 11th century. The fortications of the main part of
Stradów were however used for a relatively short time: from the second
half of the 10th century till the second half of the 11th century.31 Such
a dating undermined the chronological concept of these sites being the
characteristic strongholds of the Vislane. However, according to the
most recent dendrochronological dating the origin of the fortications
of one of the enclosures (so-called suburb C) should be put in the 9th
century.32 What conclusion can be drawn from the current attempts at
dating the complex? First and foremost, in this case we are dealing with
a complex of multi-phased fortications of diverse chronology; part of
the fortications belong to the pre-state period and other ones, including
the so-called the central stronghold, was built after the state had been
formed. The earthwork site we call ‘Stradów’ embraces chronologically
and (probably) functionally diverse phenomena. This may explain why
the complex occupies such a large (more than 25 hectares) area, not all
of which was in use perhaps at the same time. It may be also assumed
that the so-called central stronghold, dated to the early Piast period,
was not the earliest part of Stradów.
This issue is connected with another interesting observation that sev-
eral Little Polish strongholds from the pre-state period still functioned
in the 11th century, that is, after the formation of the state. The best
investigated is the one at Naszacowice, which was established in about
the mid-8th century as a multi-enclosure site with a large area. The cen-
ter was rebuilt at least four times, as the investigations by Jacek Poleski33
indicate, and the latest phase is dated to the late 10th or the second
half of the 11th century. The stronghold at Zawada Lanckoroqska was
much smaller (ca 1 hectare) and was built most probably at the turn
of the 8th and 9th centuries. In time it became a two-enclosure site
with an area of 9 hectares. Its last phase is determined by the time
when a hoard of coins was hidden there after the mid-10th century.
The strongholds at B\dzin (the 9th century) and Trzcinica on the Ropa
river (the end of the 8th century) also most probably functioned till the
end of the 10th century; in the last-mentioned case it is assumed that
even until as long as the 1020s.34

Maj, Adamikowa 1992.
Kr[piec 1998.
Kr[piec, Poleski 1996.
94 chapter four

The chronology of the earliest stronghold of the Vislane on the

Wawel Hill in Cracow has not been unraveled so far despite the long-
lasting research. The dendrochronological dates obtained so far are
late and concern fortications built after 1016. Also in the light of
the existing publications, the majority of the structures on the Wawel
Hill, including the earliest monumental ones, date only to the late 10th
century (cf. Chapter 10) so little is known about the Wawel’s topog-
raphy in the pre-state period. There are no clear traces of the use of
the site by the Bohemians or the more so of the Great Moravians. So
far the earliest fortications in Cracow are in the area of Okod, where
they are linked with the period after the year 973. A nd of a hoard
of axe-like currency bars dated to the second half of the 9th century
has come from Okod (13 Kanonicza Street). It consists of 4212 items
weighing altogether more than 4 tons (Fig. 38).35 Its size, weight and
place of deposition indicate, according to some researchers, a well-
developed scal system in the area of modern Cracow as early as the
9th century.36
The large strongholds of Little Poland were built in the centers of
the settlement concentrations. Some researchers see similarities between
these strongholds with those known from the area of Great Moravia.
However, the similarities concern only the size, but all the other ele-
ments are not really comparable. It is assumed that the Little Polish
strongholds could have been the centers of military and administrative
units. It has not been established, however, who ruled them and what
their broader historical meaning was. As they have been excavated
only to a small degree and because of the above discussed difculties
in interpretation, after several decades of research, they still remain
a fascinating mystery and also a characteristic feature of the pre-state
architecture of the southern Polish lands.
An interesting contribution to the studies on the strongholds from the
pre-state period can be made by archaeology where there had occurred
a catastrophe and the sites had been destroyed. A few cases of such

Zaitz 1981.
According to Kazimierz Radwaqski this assumption is suggested, besides the
size of the nd (the largest known in Europe so far), by the fact that the currency
bars were arranged in bunches; each of them had from several to more than a dozen
specimens. This may indicate that these ‘bunches’ were part of a tribute paid to the
local leader. In this context the broader meaning of the nds is underlined, especially
the presence of the huge Krak and Wanda Mounds in Cracow dated to the same
period (Radwaqski 2003).
mysteries of the pre-state period 95

Figure 38. Hoard of axe-shaped currency bars from Kanonicza Street in Cra-
cow: a—stratigraphy of the hoard, b—arrangement of the bundles of bars in
the top layer (after E. Zaitz, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

an occurrence have been noted, especially in sites located in the bor-

derlands between the tribes of God\szyce and Vislane, for example at
Lubomia near Wodzisdaw, Mi\dzytwiecie near Skoczów or Kamieniec
near Pyskowice. Characteristically, the degree of destruction is high
(res) and traces of intentional damage done to the fortications can be
observed, with no sign of later attempts at reconstruction. Additionally,
some of these sites were being enlarged just before the catastrophe.
According to Jerzy Szyddowski37 these phenomena may be connected

96 chapter four

with the attempts made in the second half of the 9th century by the
Moravian prince Sviatopluk (869–94) to occupy Silesia and Little Poland
and the resulting migration of the groups of Moravians to the gained
territories. It is not known, however, why this population did not leave
any traces in the material culture.
In Silesia, the areas where the rst Early Medieval strongholds were
located are often connected with the zones settled at the end of Antiq-
uity.38 It is assumed that the earliest may have been built in the 7th
century. In the lowland part of Lower Silesia, small structures, oval in
shape, of the area of 0.05 to 0.1 hectare with buildings located near
the walls are the most common. Thus these structures are similar to the
ones from Chedmno Land and Kuiavia. Their dating, however, urgently
requires verication. A considerable amount of evidence indicates that
such constructions resemble the Tornow type strongholds; if they belong
to the same group they should have a much later date, even the turn
of the 9th/10th century.
The largest concentration of Early Medieval strongholds has been
recorded for the north-western part of Lower Silesia. In the south-
eastern part, in the area of Mount sl\va, fewer open settlements and
strongholds have been discovered and there are only a few earliest sites
such as Niemcza, Strzegom, or Lubomia. In this area however there are
large and very large strongholds with areas between 1 and 5 hectares.
These traits make them to some extent similar to those known from
Little Poland and Bohemia.
The Silesian strongholds include those with features not found
elsewhere, such as wood and earth ramparts with stone faces or even
stone-wooden-earth ones. More than a dozen such strongholds occur
in the southern and eastern part of Lower Silesia.39 The ramparts with
stone faces were more than 4–6 m wide and 3–3.5 m tall in the earlier
phase. The later walls are generally bigger. The wooden and earth parts
of the fortications were built with the use of the ‘grill’ and ‘caisson’
techniques. They were joined with the stone part in different ways.
The stone face was on the external side and covered the front of the
wall. The most sophisticated constructions of this type so far have been
found at Niemcza and many similar constructional techniques have been
discovered at the stronghold at Dobromierz.40 In that case rectangu-

Lodowski, Szyddowski 1991; Tyszkiewicz L.A. 1993; Movdzioch 2000.
Jaworski 2005.
Kamierczyk 1983.
mysteries of the pre-state period 97

lar stone blocks (60 u 30 u 25 cm) were used and occasionally larger
ones were used both for building the wall and the gate in it (Fig. 39).
The stone was of local origin so easy to obtain.
There are a few similar constructions in other regions of Poland.
Their existence, not entirely explained, has been noted at sites such as
Cracow-Okód, Witlica, Guciów, and recently also Gniezno. Most often
this type of construction occurs in the later phase, namely the turn of
the 10th and 11th centuries. In Silesia, stone-faced fortications were
made between the 9th and the mid-10th century. Their appearance is
linked with the inuences of the techniques used to build the defensive
structures in the areas to the south of the Carpathian Mountains, espe-
cially the Moravian-Bohemian ones, where they commonly occurred
in the 8th–10th century. These strongholds in Silesia are supposed to
have declined and been abandoned in the late 9th and early 10th cen-
tury. Józef Kamierczyk41 links these processes not so much with the
fall of Great Moravia as with natural disasters and/or the migration
of the population who built them caused by the inux of the settlers

Figure 39. Fortied settlement at Dobromierz with stone rampart facing:

reconstruction of the gate (after J. Kamierczyk).

98 chapter four

from the northern part of the region and southern Great Poland; these
phenomena have been archaeologically proven for the rst half of the
10th century.
Another defensive element recognized in various parts of Polish
lands are a number of linear earthworks. They have some common
features. Most often these are earthen embankments sometimes having
elements of wooden construction which are however often difcult to
dene. They have a linear form and usually are quite long (usually
several kilometers). The archaeological material obtained from them
is usually not very plentiful and for that reason it is difcult to date
them precisely. The best known are the so-called Silesian Ramparts
which run along the Bóbr river. Three pairs of parallel embankments
with a system of accompanying ditches have been preserved as well as
two intervalla; the maximum width of these structures in some places
exceeded 47 m. It is assumed that they were built in the pre-state times
and they are connected with the expansion of the Dziadoszanie towards
Lusatia (Fig. 40). According to this conception the earthworks were to
defend the territorial borders of at least several tribal organizations
inhabiting Silesia. Researchers also accept the idea that in the early
Piast period they may have been included into the defensive system
of the Polish state.42
Similar structures also appear in Kuiavia and their origins, according
to Elvbieta Kowalczyk, may be connected with the activeness of the

Figure 40. Silesian linear earthworks: southern line of the ramparts near
Pogorzele (after E. Kowalczyk).

Kowalczyk 1987.
mysteries of the pre-state period 99

Goplanie, although due to the problems with establishing the time of

their origin and use, they may as well be linked to the period beginning
during the rule of Mieszko I till the late 11th century. Similar earthworks
are known from regions beyond the area covered by this publication
(those which used to be occupied by the Prussians) and in the eastern
borderland of the modern country, where the origins of the linear
earthworks at Czermno are linked with the Ruthenian activities in the
region from the late 11th–early 12th century.
Thus, in the light of the research conducted so far, the linear earth-
works of Poland differ in their morphology, location, and time when
they were built. Although these issues have been studied for many years,
they have not yet been settled. The main obstacle is the scarcity of the
archaeological evidence, especially that which could be used for dating.
However, the evidence indicates that these structures bear the marks
of several different approaches to their construction and were not the
work of a single architect. Although they are located on borders it is
not certain against what danger they were to protect. This all means
that these structures which are such intriguing landmarks in the land-
scape of many parts of Poland will remain in the focus of interest of
the next generation of historians and archaeologists.

3. One or many burial rites?

As in the case of the early Slavic period, where the origins of at cre-
mation graves are unknown, for the pre-state period the circumstances
of the appearance of barrow burials remain a subject of controversy.
Although Early Medieval barrows are similar to those of the late Roman
period, the time span which separates these two phenomena, amount-
ing to 200 –300 years, excludes the possibility of any simple relation-
ship between them. The greatest variety of types of barrow burials,
including some constructions unique in the whole area of Poland, can
be observed in eastern Mazovia, especially in the basins of the Liwiec,
Bug, and Krzna rivers. Although these structures were investigated as
early as in the second half of the 19th century, our knowledge about
them is quite unsatisfactory. The mounds rst appeared there in the
6th–7th century, but for an unknown reason none were constructed
in the 8th–9th century. They then reappeared and were constructed
until the 13th century (the latter date is surprisingly late for the bar-
row burials and additionally distinguishes the region from others). The
100 chapter four

mounds identied so-far appear singly or in groups, from several to

several dozen. According to Joanna Kalaga,43 more than 80 of them
have been found. These barrows were medium-sized features, circular,
oval or rectangular in shape, with dimensions from 3.5 to 11 m and
height of 1.2–1.9 m. The burial rites were varied. There were burials
under the barrows (not very numerous), those with the deceased’s bones
within the mound and the most common type are those with the bones
on the tops of the mounds. Also barrows with stones on the outer
surface were found, which are a rarity in Polish lands. At the base of
some of the barrows there were stone walls or constructions made of
wood; there are also examples known which have internal divisions into
two chambers or with a layer of stones inside. Although the barrows
were used at the discussed area until the 13th century no inhumation
burials have been found in them.
A peculiarity of the burial rites from the pre-state period are buri-
als on top of the barrow. The cremated remains of the deceased
were placed at the top of the mound in an urn. Until recently it was
believed that this custom is characteristic of the Eastern Slavs’ rituals;
more recent research has, however, indicated that this type of burial
appeared also in the areas occupied by the Western Slavs, which is
exemplied by the recently excavated cemetery at Kleczanów near
Sandomierz (Chapter 6).
Another version of above-ground burials are so-called graves of the
Alt Käbelich type. Their name is derived from the eponymous cemeter-
ies at Alt Käbelich-Neuenkirchen in Mecklenburg. Similar burial
grounds were found in Western Pomerania and in other areas of Poland,
for example in Little Poland. These usually have shallow (to 40 cm deep),
large, oval or round burial pits over which were built wooden chambers
with both inhumation and cremation burials (Fig. 41, Fig. 42). There
are two views concerning the origin of this phenomenon. According
to Wdadysdaw cosiqski44 burials of this type are characteristic of the
north-western Slavs from the 9th–10th centuries. Other specialists tend
to believe that they represent traces of Scandinavian inuences on the
burial rites among the Wolinianie and Veleti.45
An important aspect of the research on the burial rites of the pre-state
period are the large barrows from Little Poland. The investigations in

Zoll-Adamikowa 1997.
mysteries of the pre-state period 101

Figure 41. Graves of the Alt Käbelich type in Pomerania and Mecklenburg
(after W. cosiqski, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

Figure 42. Graves of the Alt Käbelich type: plans of constructions found within
them (after W. cosiqski; drawing and digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).
102 chapter four

three most representative ones, Krak’s Mound in Cracow, Salve Regina

Mound in Sandomierz and Tartar Mound in Przemytl, have shown that
in each case the mound has a different construction and was formed in a
different way but all seem to have some connection with the attributes of
power. The questions when and for whom they were built and whether
they were the graves of unknown leaders, or should be interpreted in
some other way, remain unanswered (cf. Chapter 7).
For years there has been a debate on the complex issues concern-
ing the passage from cremation to inhumation in Polish lands. Most
often the date of the conversion is regarded as the second half of the
10th century, although some specialists believe the chronology may be
quite different.46 It is worthwhile to recall in this context the debates
on the possibility of an earlier adoption of Christianity initiated after
the War in connection with the discoveries at Witlica and in the 1980s
after the discovery of so-called tablets with supposed traces of writing
from the settlement at Podebdocie (Chapter 8). So far there has been
no agreement whether these tablets are products of the imagination
of the archaeologists, an unimportant accident or a discovery opening
new cognitive horizons. This question concerns also the possibilities of
the arrival in Polish lands of people from the Christian south and their
settling in the local, pagan milieux.
The late pre-state period has provided well-documented discoveries
of inhumation burials dated to the early 10th century. The nds from
Przemytl (Fig. 43) concern the representatives of alien ethnic groups
(Magyars) so they cannot be connected with the conversion after the adop-
tion of Christianity in Poland.47 With regard to the latter, the cemetery at
Niemcza (recorded as ‘Niemcza I’) has a completely different signicance
(Cf. Chapter 15). According to some researchers this is probably one of
the earliest Early Medieval inhumation burials in Polish lands and the
pottery found in the graves is connected with the Avar-Slavic circle and
dated to as early as the 7th–8th century, although such early dating is not
entirely certain.48 What was the nature of these links with the Danubian
areas to the south has not been investigated or explained yet.
The change from cremation to inhumation, the abandoning of a
barrow burial rite in favor of at burials, orienting the deceased towards

G[ssowski 1992.
Koperski 2003.
Cf. Jaworski 2000; 2005.
mysteries of the pre-state period 103

Figure 43. Old-Magyar cemetery in Przemytl, rst half of the 10th century:
a warrior’s burial, Grave 6 and its goods: a—tting of a purse, b—arrowheads,
c –d—belt buckles, e—belt tting, f—bridle bit, g—bone element of composite bow,
h—narrow bladed battle axe (czekan), i—stirrups, j, d—ttings, k—saddle girth
buckle, l—scabbard tting (after A. Koperski, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

the west and gradual limiting of the grave goods are generally believed
to be the features reecting the great changes of ideology in the period
of rejecting pagan rites and adopting Christianity. In this context, dis-
cussions have concerned the supposed connections of Little Poland and
Cracow with Bohemia. However, so far no inhumation burials obviously
belonging to the times from before the end of the 10th century have
been found, nor (except for one possible example, Chapter 10), have
remains of churches connected with the Bohemian episode of history
been discovered. This lack of evidence, even though Poland formally
belonged to the Christian world from the year 966, may be not so
104 chapter four

much due to the weaknesses of the archaeological research but to the

fact that the country began to be Christianized after the administrative
seats of the Church were established at the Gniezno Summit in the
year 1000. There is also no doubt that the new religion only developed
and became more rmly established as late as between the 11th and
mid-13th century and thus at the time when the network of parochial
churches was created.

4. Many questions and few answers

In the studies on the pre-state period, the number of questions still

exceeds the possibilities of answering them. As has been stressed above,
a reliable list of the peoples inhabiting Polish lands before the state
was created is still not known and in some cases even the location of
their territories. Another research problem is the highly controversial
issue of large and small ‘tribal’ organization especially in Pomerania,
Mazovia and Little Poland in the context of the appearance of larger
territorial communities.
The small density of the strongholds discovered by means of
archaeological investigations seems surprising when compared to the
data from the written sources. The number of the identied sites of this
period is in evident contradiction with the information of the Bavarian
Geographer who wrote about tens or even hundreds of civitates belonging
to the peoples he mentioned by name. Perhaps these were not really
strongholds (defensive centers), but were, it seems now more probable,
the name denoting settlement points. This is one of the questions which
so far have not been discussed to a greater extent. The differences in
chronology and the density of strongholds in various regions of Poland
are also surprising. What caused such a disparity? It does not seem prob-
able that this is due to the different degrees of the present knowledge
about various areas. Finally, the chronology of the earliest strongholds
in Poland has not been denitely established so far.
Besides a few examples, little is known about the topography and
character of open settlements located near the fortied centers, which is
caused by the lack of research programs uniform for the whole country.
It is also surprising that part of the settlements from the early Slavic
period were not occupied continually in the following periods whereas
other ones developed also in the Piast state.
Another research problem are the reasons for the rapid rise in the 9th
mysteries of the pre-state period 105

century and the subsequent decline of the large centers of the pagan
cult. Were these the last attempts of the large territorial organizations
at becoming part of the newly forming European states or are there
other interpretations of these phenomena? Why do the most spectacu-
lar features appear only in southern Poland? Who used them and to
what extent? In what circumstances and when did they fall? What is
meant by the notion of the Slavic holy grove? Could these functions
have been fullled also by some old pagan cemeteries? When were
the monumental mounds from Little Poland made and what was their
function? Why are not there any similar features in the other regions
of the country?
* * *
There are thus still many research questions and problems. Some of
them will be discussed more extensively in the following chapters and
illustrated with examples from the investigations of the features from
the pre-state period. Particular attention will be paid to those discoveries
and research issues which have remained attractive for the researchers
despite the passage of time even though they still inspire contradictory
assessments and interpretations.


The mountain occupies a special place in the beliefs of many peoples,

including the pagan Slavs.1 These elevations, especially the ones located
in an open landscape, inspired the conviction that they played an
important role in contacts between the heavens and earth. The top of
a mountain exhibits different atmospheric phenomena from those which
occur at its foot, which inspired awe and fear in people in the past. A
hill clearly distinguished from the rest of the landscape was in many
cases identied with the abode of a god or gods. In Poland the best
known and associated with the most legends are cysa (Bald) Mountain,
located in southern Poland in the eastern part of the cysogóry Chain
in the Holy Cross Mountains, and sl\va Mountain, located 40 km to
the south-west of Wrocdaw. Both of them (especially the latter one)
have been intensively investigated by archaeologists in the past and also
quite recently. However, although a lot of interdisciplinary studies have
been carried out and new evidence obtained, not all the issues have
been completely recognized and explained.

1. Large cult centers of the pre-state period: dysa Góra

The landscape of the Sandomierz Upland is dominated by cysa Góra

(Bald Mountain), also called cysiec. Seen from many places at a dis-
tance of more than 20 kilometers, the mountain is covered with rich
vegetation. Its mysteriousness is enhanced by the steep rocky slopes
and dense forests. It also differs from the neighboring areas because
of its more severe climate. Near the summit can be observed more
often than elsewhere mists, rain and atmospheric discharges. The
view of clouds gathering under the summit of cysiec, which gives the
impression that it is hanging in the air and the view extending to many
dozen kilometers from its summit have an unforgettable impact. The

For more on the subject, cf.: Eliade 2000: 392ff.; Gieysztor 1982: 168f.; cf. also
Banaszkiewicz 1998: 356ff.; Krzak 1986–1990.
108 chapter five

Figure 44. cysa Gora in the Holy Cross Mountains: view of the monastery
from the south (photo: A. Buko).

very summit of cysa Góra, on which Medieval monastic buildings are

located, is at and deprived of vegetation, giving it the name of Bald
Mountain (Fig. 44).
The cysa Góra complex is situated in a region with rich traditions
of settlement in the Early Middle Ages; some of its centers date back
to the beginnings of Christianity in Polish lands. For many years this
has been the destination both of groups of pilgrims and of people
treating the visit as a tourist attraction. The pilgrimages and tourists
usually visit the Benedictine monastery whose tradition dates back to
the rst half of the 12th century.
The main archaeological feature visible on cysiec is a bank of
stones, the remains of a rampart running on a course which is elon-
gated elliptical in plan running around and just below the summit. It is
divided into two parts (Fig. 45). The eastern one, 813 m long, is made
of quartzite rocks covered with broken stones. The preserved height is
today 2.5–3 m and the width at the bottom is as much as 8 m. In the
enclosure there are four gaps, three of which are connected with roads
leading through them and one was probably the original gate. The
western part of the enclosure wall consists of two elements, a 350 m
long northern one and a 150 m long southern one. This part of the
holy mountains 109

structure is interpreted as unnished and the choice of the material

and the way in which the wall was made seem to indicate that it was
built with lesser care.
The excavations in the area of the walls carried out by Eligia and
Jerzy G[ssowski2 proved that the pottery, which was the main type of
nds discovered, was of varying chronology, mostly from the 9th till
the 12th century. The earliest material was found in the lower parts of
the wall. In the eastern part of the structure no ancient material was
uncovered. The amount of pottery collected during the excavations was
quite small: from more than a dozen to less than fty potsherds. This
led the researchers to believe that human groups might have stayed
there only for limited periods of time, perhaps in association with some
traditional holy rites. The cysa Góra complex is also characterized by
the presence of stone sculptures, one of which, called the Pilgrim, stands
at the foot of the mountain in the eastern part (Fig. 46), another one
is in the cemetery at Sdupia Nowa.3 These discoveries are considered
to represent a pagan cult center functioning from the 9th till probably
the 11th–12th century.
The stone rampart visible below the plateau of the summit and not
making up a complete circle could not have been an efcient fortica-
tion protecting the inhabitants against the invaders, it is thus not very
probable that it had a military character. It is more believable that it
had a symbolic meaning: the wall enclosed an area of the mountain
top which could not be entered. Inside, no traces of permanent struc-
tures were found. This may indicate that the whole area was visited
only for short periods of time; this hypothesis is supported by the small
number of pottery nds from such a large area and their even spatial
distribution inside the walls.
The debate on the meaning of the site has been going on for a
number of years. According to Jerzy G[ssowski4 the fact that the most
numerous pottery nds come from the 11th and 12th century may
indicate that the pagan cult at cysa Góra was at its most lively during
the period of the active Christianization of Poland. Historians see this

Some opinions were also expressed about the later date of the statues and thus
their lack of connection with the Early Middle Ages (cf. G[ssowska, Kuczyqski 1975;
Derwich 2000).
110 chapter five

issue in a different way. Marek Derwich5 claims that this is contra-

dicted by the fact that the origins of the monastery date to the rst
half of the 12th century. It would be hard to accept that pagan rites
were celebrated in a place where Christian monks were congregated
at the same time. I believe, however, that these two opinions can be
reconciled at least in part. The pottery from the late pre-state period
and probably that from the 11th century found within the walls might
have been connected with the rites conducted when the summit of
the mountain was used for celebrating the pagan cult. Contrary to the
opinion of some authors, the tradition preserved in the written sources
does not indicate that at that time the monastery already existed at the
top of cysiec. The later material, from the 12th and 13th century is
traces of the presence of human groups but of a different type, after
the Holy Trinity Benedictine monastery had been built on the top of
the mountain. Then the majority of the people arriving at the summit
were (at least formally) Christian pilgrims to whom the archaeologi-
cal remains from that period should be ascribed, including the nds
of broken vessels. It cannot be excluded that various pagan practices
were conducted there in secrecy, although there are no mentions of
them in written sources.
As at sl\va (with the nearby sites of Mount Kotciuszko and Radu-
nia—see below) there are other proven or supposed centers of pagan
cult near cysa Góra, such as Mount Grodowa at Tumlin and at Mount
Dobrzeszewska near Kielce.6

2. The mysteries of Mount tl\wa

The cult function of Mount sl\va is testied by written sources. At the

beginning of the 11th century Thietmar, the bishop of Merseburg and
a historian wrote: “while the detestable rites of the heathen were still
practiced here, this mountain was highly venerated by the populace
because of its unique character and size.” (Thietmar, VII, 59). The
main problem which the archaeologists have been facing for many years
are the difculties in identifying the archaeological remains reecting
that function.

1992, 177ff.
Kuczyqski, Pyzik 1967.
holy mountains 111

The conical Mount sl\va rising to 718 meters above the sea level
looks impressive even today against the background of the slightly roll-
ing landscape (Fig. 47). Due to this, as in the case of the cysa Góra,
it has a specic climate which is caused by the condensation of air
masses, resulting in more frequent rainfalls, atmospheric discharges and
storms. Lack of permanent settlement on the broad slopes also added
mysteriousness to the mountain. This impression was intensied by the
enigmatic stone sculptures and some of them have diagonal crosses
engraved on them similar to crosses found on rocks in some parts of
the rocky slopes. At sl\va and the neighboring Mount Radunia and
Mount Kotciuszko, remains of mysterious stone constructions were also
found. It is not surprising that the local people and tourists have the
impression that this place has a supernatural character.
Although archaeological excavations were rst carried out on Mount
sl\va in the 18th century, they were only intensied after the Second
World War as part of the program of the research on the origins
of the Polish state7 and the work has been continued till today. The
peculiarities of the site and the controversies about its interpretation
are best testied by the results of the investigations conducted so far.
The interest in sl\va and its distant history, especially in the 19th
and early 20th century has at times however even prevented a proper
understanding of the complex. Local inhabitants and tourists from
Wrocdaw frequently visiting the place were responsible for the erection
of constructions imitating ancient ones near the mountain top which
have hindered the work of the archaeologists and caused debates result-
ing from the difculties in distinguishing the original constructions and
their modern imitations.
The remaining part of a structure near the summit is a fragmentarily-
preserved stone wall 3–5 m thick and 5 m tall, tapering slightly towards
the top. It is a dry-stone wall made of well tted boulders; in places the
larger stones were used to construct ‘cells’ which were lled with smaller

A considerable interest in this site was expressed after the War especially by H. Cehak-
Hodubowiczowa, who conducted large-scale archaeological excavations and made an
attempt at interpreting the nds in a broader spatial context (Cehak Hodubowiczowa 1959,
1968). Attempts at interpreting the discoveries were also made by J. Rosen-Przeworska
(1979) who saw Celtic inuence in the mysterious gures on sl\va and W. Korta
(1988); (cf. also: G[ssowski 1975; Sdupecki 1992). The latest verication works were
conducted in recent years by G. Domaqski. The publication summing up the state of
research (Domaqski 2002) contains also a broad outline of the history of research and
a wealth of literature on the subject.
112 chapter five

rocks. The state of preservation makes it difcult to determine whether

this wall entirely surrounded the plateau at the top of the mountain.
The construction was considerably damaged in the Middle Ages when
stones from it were used for building local castles and churches.
On the northern slope of sl\va, a 400 m long semi-circular ram-
part has been found enclosing three sides of the mountain, except the
southern one. The stones are arranged in such a way that the larger
ones make the face and the smaller ones ll in the internal part. The
structure is up to 4 m wide whereas its height does not exceed 1 m
above the surface (Fig. 48). In the vicinity of these structures, frag-
ments of Lusatian Culture pottery have been found. There is no
agreed interpretation of this feature. Helena Cehak-Hodubowicz tended

Figure 48. Distribution of archaeological features around Mount sl\va (after

G. Domaqski, drawing and digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).
holy mountains 113

to accept its cult function due to the similarities in its form to the
circles known from the nearby Mount Radunia and Mount Wievyca
(Kotciuszko). Three other parallel walls, 9 to 12 m long, preserved to
a height of 1 m and 1 to 5 m wide are, according to the researcher,
modern constructions, although a historian, Wacdaw Korta8 tends to
believe that they are of the same date as the other ones. At the summit
remains of a stone gate preserved to the height of 1 m and 3 m wide
have been discovered. So far it has not been established whether the
gate had a military function: closing the road running to the summit
in a hollow-way thus making it difcult for an enemy to reach the top
of the mountain, or had a ritual function, especially as the specialists
can not agree on the subject.
The complex of discoveries at sl\va made so far has been interpreted
quite differently and criticized by Grzegorz Domaqski,9 the director of
the investigations conducted in recent years. He believes that at the
top of the summit are remains of fortications of both the prehistoric
Lusatian Culture as well as Early Medieval ones. The latest rampart
embraced an area of c. 75 u 90 m of the meadow at the top of the
mountain, this is similar to the extent of the much earlier fortied
settlement of the Lusatian Culture. Traces connected with the settle-
ment of the pre-state period have been recorded from many parts of
the mountain; the ones found on the summit are considered to be the
most mysterious. In trenches opened just before the Second World War
and also in the post-war period, numerous fragments of pottery from
the pre-state period were found. At the same time, no features with
which they could be linked were unearthed. Moreover, as Grzegorz
Domaqski claims, this material occurred in the same layers as prehistoric
and modern pottery. This may be caused by the fact that the earlier
structures and features were destroyed in respective settlement phases
when new buildings were erected in the same place. Although large
amounts of material suggest the intensive settlement in the area of the
summit (and so unlike the situation at cysa Góra described above), its
character and specic features remain a mystery. In this situation, it
seems that the suggestions of a fortied settlement, an open settlement
or a cult center put forward earlier, are completely groundless, except
for the relatively late fortied settlement from the 13th century, frag-
ments of whose wall have been preserved till today. A separate small

114 chapter five

fortied settlement, discovered in 1993, located on the eastern slope is

dated to the pre-state period. It was built on a level surface made by
cutting a ledge in the slope and covered with clay and stone slabs. On
that surface structures of wood and small stones were made. On the
west it was adjoined by a pond enclosed by a 7 m wide dyke, near the
site a at ledge cut in the slope was found. The fortied settlement is
dated by pottery to the 9th century and it is one of the smallest such
structures known from Silesia. Its dimensions are 17 u 29 (31) m.
The other early Medieval sites found on Mount sl\va do not have
the character of cult sites. According to Domaqski not one but several
such places are possible. The rst could have been the meadow on the
mountain’s summit as the central cult site. If such an assumption is
adopted then it is possible that the guardians of the place could have
lived in the settlement located near the top. This could have been the
small fortied settlement discussed above which has a very small size and
low defensive value. There is a barrow cemetery dated to the 8th–9th
century 750 meters to the south-west of the summit meadow. Finally the
fortied settlement at B\dkowice located 400 m away could be linked
with the complex. Some researchers believe that the destruction of that
complex in the 10th century testied by the archaeological excavations
may have been an attempt at eliminating the sl\va cult center. Rebuilt
in the 11th century, the fortied settlement, like the whole area of the
mountain survived only as the family estate of the Wdostowic family.
The last episode in the history of the area happened when one of the
biggest Polish feudal owners—Piotr Wdostowic, granted most of the
land to the Augustinian order. However, the monastery at the top of
sl\va was never nished. It is said that its construction was stopped by
the exceptionally severe atmospheric conditions. The monks ultimately
built their monastery at Piasek in Wrocdaw. However, archaeology has
not provided any evidence at what stage the construction works were
stopped because no traces of the monastery have been discovered.
Other problems are connected with the interpretation of the stone
sculptures from sl\va. The so-called gure with a sh has survived till
our times only fragmentarily (head, lower parts of lower limbs and arms
missing). It represents a gure wearing a owing gown and holding a
large sh. There is no agreement whether it is a representation of a
man or a woman. The rst mention of the monument comes from
a document of Henryk the Bearded issued in 1209 which mentions a
stone called Petrey (St Peter?).
Another mysterious sculpture is the so-called ‘mushroom’, which
researchers believe to be a fragment of a human gure. Two very similar
holy mountains 115

Figure 49. Mount sl\va: stone sculpture representing a bear

(photo: S. Rosik).

sculptures resemble schematic bears’ gures (Fig. 49). Another one is

called The Monk and it is interesting because several legends are con-
nected with it. To complete the list one should mention the so-called
sl\va column a stone cylinder 2.4 m high and 45 cm in diameter (a
unnished product?) and worked granite blocks of unknown designa-
tion. Some of these artifacts bear the signs of a diagonal cross.
The interpretation of the above-mentioned nds has inspired some
disagreement. The rst debatable element is the origin of the reli-
gious cult on the summit of Mount sl\va. Wdodzimierz and Helena
Hodubowicz believed that sl\va began to function as a cult site in the
Bronze Age and the times of the Lusatian culture. The gure with sh
is associated by some authors with the area of the Balkan Peninsula
or even farther, the Middle East, where sh was a symbol of fertility.
The images of sh are also known in Scythian, Greek and Celtic art;
the same concerns the bear which was an attribute of goddess Artemis
in Ancient Greece. Thanks to the investigations carried out by Janina
Rosen-Przeworska10 the hypothesis that the sculptures on sl\va are of
Celtic origin became popular. It was based on the fact that nds very

116 chapter five

similar to the ones from sl\va are quite popular in the Celtic world,
especially in Spain. It has not been explained, however, why they
appeared in two areas so distant from each other, but with none found
in the regions between them. For that reason other researchers tend to
associate the sculptures with the pagan period and the Slavs.11
The sculptures on sl\va ceased to be made at the same time when
Romanesque art appeared in Polish lands. Some researchers connect
this fact with building the Augustinian abbey on sl\va in the 12th
century. It cannot be established at present whether the sculptures
and the whole sl\va center originated at the beginning of our era as
a Celtic sanctuary or is a mature product of Slavic culture. Wacdaw
Korta believes the sculptures from sl\va are obviously connected with
the old pagan cult. After the adoption of Christianity some attempts
were probably made to destroy and eliminate them (hence the dam-
age to some). After some time, they were probably used as boundary
stones, which seems to be conrmed by the diagonal crosses on some
of them, formerly interpreted as manifestations of the pagan cult.
Another group of hypotheses interprets the sign of these crosses as a
solar symbol or an abbreviated form of the double axe or labrys known
from the Minoan culture. When analyzing this phenomenon it is worth
noting where the signs were made. It seems that the places were selected
quite accidentally as if the signs are in no way part of the composition
of the whole; this gives the irresistible impression that they were made
later. For that reason the hypothesis associating the discussed symbols
with boundary stones seems much more reliable.
So what is the general meaning of the discoveries made so far? It
seems that the most believable is the hypothesis put forward by Grze-
gorz Domaqski.12 In the light of the investigations conducted recently,
he believes that the function of sl\va, as well as of Mounts Radunia
and Kotciuszko, was determined by symbolic, refugial and economic
behaviors. Doubtless, the mountain had been explored and perhaps also
used in distant prehistoric periods. No direct traces of pagan cult of
the Early Middle Ages in the form of any permanent structures located
at the summit have been found during excavations. This prompts the
question whether such structures were absolutely necessary. A cult func-
tion (or one connected with service of the cult place) could have been

G[ssowski 1975; Sdupecki 1992.
holy mountains 117

fullled by a small fortied settlement located on the slope, which had

no traces of internal structures, together with the neighboring water
reservoir. The name of Mount sl\va itself (tl\z, Slenz) is connected by
some researchers with the cult of water. The symbolic testimonies of
human behavior of the past could have intermingled with utilitarian
activities. The mountain, like the neighboring ones, was a source of
natural raw materials: wood and stone. It is possible that the traces
of exploitation of these materials may have hindered the identica-
tion and proper interpretation of some of the discoveries made so far.
Finally, it should be stated that the sl\va complex includes two similar
phenomena found on the neighboring mountains: Mounts Radunia
and Kotciuszko (Wievyca). This resembles the situation described above
at cysa Góra.

3. Other mountains—supposed places of pagan cult

The other proven and probable places of pagan cult remain overshad-
owed by the two complexes described above. At the northern edge of
Silesian Beskidy Mountains (south-west Poland) Mount Wapiennica is
located. The range called Palenica, to which it belongs, is 5 km to the
west of the town of Bielsko-Biada. The cult site is located at the top
of the hill, at a height of about 700 m above sea level. As in other
previously described cases there is an excellent view from the top. In
the area of the summit Jerzy Szyddowski13 discovered in 1962 a 2 m
tall and 10 m wide stone wall surrounded by a ditch. The researcher
put forward several arguments which, in his opinion, require adding
Wapiennica to the group of sites described above. These include its
location on a hill, the presence of a stone-built enclosure, lack of traces
of permanent settlement, and also the rarely used name ‘Palenica’ for
the summit. However, all these arguments are conjectural and this is
just one of many possible interpretations.
In recent years, more interest has been devoted to the analysis of
the mysterious phenomena from the so-called Kowalowa Góra, a small
hill located near the town of Gostyq (Silesia). The site is located in a
place difcult of access. Originally it was identied as a fort, possibly
from the pre-state period, destroyed in a re. Access to the top of the

118 chapter five

hill is cut off by a 2 m wide and 0.70 m deep ditch. In the ditch pot-
tery and charcoal were found; it is thus possible that res burnt here.
Also a rampart was discovered in the area, yet as has been remarked
by Sdawomir Modzioch,14 it is not a complete circuit and in the area
it encloses there is no distinguishable occupation layer. There were
however ten pits found which had atypical contents. In one of them
the remains of a considerably damaged, partly burnt human skeleton
accompanied by almost complete vessels were discovered. Another fea-
ture was particularly large (10 u 4 m) but did not have a hearth; and
its ll contained very few nds. Another one contained, besides many
different objects, an exceptionally large number of pottery fragments
from which whole vessels were reconstructed. Yet another pit contained
remains of a human skeleton. It would seem that the excavated site was
not a burnt fortied settlement but rather a pagan center of the cult of
the dead, dated to the period between the 10th or perhaps 11th–12th
century, which was suggested by the pottery nds. According to that
conception the burials in the pits at the top of the hill were sacrices
but at the same time graves of the ancestors of the local community.
The hypothesis of the cult character of the hill is apparently supported
by the local tradition naming it the ‘smith’s’ (Kowalowa) hill, and thus
a place connected with re. As the discoveries can be interpreted in
various ways and there is a lack of analogies it is difcult to determine
whether this hypothesis is true or not.
On the Cathedral Hill in Chedm (south-eastern Poland), the highest
chalk elevation in the area today there is the cathedral basilica of the
Blessed Virgin Mary. The northern and at the same time the tallest
part of the hill (220 m above sea level), so-called Wysoka Górka (Tall
Hill) has been the object of interest of the historians and archaeologists
for many years (Fig. 50). The problem of the presence of a pagan cult
site in that place has been repeatedly discussed in literature.15 Legends
mention a pagan k[cina (shrine) with the statue of god Perkun. It was
also said that a holy grove was at the top of the hill, guarded by a white
bear (present in the town’s coat of arms together with three oaks), which
lived in a cave at the foot of the hill. Archaeological excavations car-
ried out in the early 20th century revealed indenite, as it was reported

Cf. Natkaqski 2000; Ruszkowska 2000.
holy mountains 119

Figure 50. Cathedral Hill in Chedm seen from the south (photo: A. Buko,
digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

by the Russian archaeologist, Pavlo Rappoport,16 remains of a ‘pagan

pyre’. During later excavation works conducted on Wysoka Górka in
2000, including by this author, however, no archaeological remains
were found to make this hypothesis more probable. Nevertheless, the
case is not entirely clear because the results of geological auguring
conducted here in the 1960s revealed that the upper parts of the hill
had undergone considerable modications. They were connected with
the works on building and the reconstructions of the sacral-residential
complex erected on that spot in the 13th century by Duke Danylo
Romanovich.17 Thus if the hill had some pagan functions then most
probably any evidence of them could not have survived till our times
due to the scale of the above-mentioned construction works.
The town of Chedm has its namesake located in the vicinity of the
town of Przedborze on the left bank of the Pilica river (central Poland).
On a wide plain there is a hill called Mount Chedmowa or Chedmska
(316 m above sea level).18 Its summit has a fortied settlement with a

Cf. Chapter 10.
Kamiqska 1958.
120 chapter five

diameter of 42 m, surrounded with a ditch and two rows of ramparts

which are up to 5 m high. Two phases of fortications have been
distinguished. The earlier one is dated to the 10th century; soon after-
wards the settlement was burnt and then new ramparts and a ditch
were made. These structures most probably survived until the mid-11th
century. The pagan tradition of this place is consistently mentioned
in local legends and tales. These are both ghost stories and ones nam-
ing the hill as a seat of witches. However, in this case also there is no
archaeological evidence supporting these interpretations.
In recent years the pagan cult center discovered by excavations on
Lech’s Hill in Gniezno (Great Poland) has been widely discussed. The
investigations revealed that originally the hill had two summits: one was
lower and at (at present the cathedral is located there) and the other
one, taller and steep, was in the area where now St George’s church is
standing. On the rst one traces of res thought to be connected with
cultic use of the hill have been found and on the other one have been
found the remains of a stone cairn resembling a monumental barrow
with a diameter up to 12 m and also assumed to be a cult structure.
The stone mound contained pottery from the second half of the 9th
century. On this basis a hypothesis was put forward of the particular
role played by Lech’s Hill in the period when the Polish state was
Recently opinions have been voiced that St. Lawrence’s Hill at Kaddus
near Chedm (Kuiavia) could have had pagan cultic functions. Remark-
ably these pagan practices would be dated to the 10th century. They are
linked with the articial depressions including twin ponds located at the
foot of St. Lawrence’s Hill, which are fed with spring water. Wojciech
Chudziak stressed their sacral function indicated by an offering altar
built within one of them, dated to the second half of the 10th century.
Nearby numerous traces of offerings: corn, animals and even a young
man, were found.20 In the 10th century the area around the hill was
sparsely populated; no fortied settlement from that period was found.
According to the excavator the data indicate that the whole area had a
sacral function for the local tribal community. This was probably why
in this very place a monumental basilica began to be constructed at

These issues are discussed more extensively in Chapters 9 and 10; with literature
and discussion of the context of the discoveries.
Chudziak 2003, 142.
holy mountains 121

St. Lawrence’s Hill after the adoption of Christianity in Poland in the

early 11th century (cf. Chapter 11).
In Mazovia, recent excavations have undermined the thesis put for-
ward by Wdodzimierz Szafraqski21 according to which there was a pagan
cult site on Tumskie Hill in the town of Pdock, a hypothesis frequently
mentioned in past publications written by both historians and archae-
ologists. In his work on Early Medieval Pdock Szafraqski wrote about
the unique nds: a fragment of a 12 year-old girl’s skull found near the
edge of a stone pavement (near the remains of so-called Romanesque
palatium), additionally surrounded with three crushed pottery vessels.
In its nearest vicinity a stone pestle used, according to the author, to
kill the maiden, a phallic object made of antler, a large altar-stone at
which the bloody sacrice was made, a large post hole and remains of
ve pits with traces of res arranged in a semi-circle were uncovered
(interpreted as being for lighting the scene of the sacrice). The nds
were accompanied by traces of iron smelting, which was connected by
the excavator with the magical activities of a wizard-smith. Although
each of the above-mentioned nds was ascribed a certain function by
the excavator, their stratigraphic context is not well-dened. Particularly
acute is the lack of data about the mutual relations of the discovered
objects. Thus it is not entirely known which of the nds were found
in a primary deposit and which were redeposited. The associated pot-
tery should be rather dated to the 11th century than to the pre-state
period. The girls’ skull may have been connected with an Early Medi-
eval cemetery functioning in the vicinity (part of a destroyed grave?)
and the altar-stone and the pestle resemble a quite common type of
corn grinder. How can this mysterious complex of nds be explained
in a different way? It may not be excluded that some of these objects
may be a testimony of some unknown actions of symbolic character
(foundation offering?), whereas the other ones were assigned to the same
context without proper justication.
The site at Radzikowo near Pdock produced a different kind of
evidence. The place was called in local tradition Gaik (Little Grove).22
It is a moraine hill having the form of a truncated cone with an oval
base of a diameter of 40 u 60 m. The full context of the discovery

N.B. names of this kind which still exist in folk tradition are often a reminiscence
of Slavic holy groves.
122 chapter five

is unknown as there is no publication. For that reason, we can only

draw conclusions from the information from interim reports of the
excavations. The research conducted by Iwona D[browska23 in the early
1980s revealed that on the hill were the remains of a whole series of
phenomena apparently connected with cult-religious activities. There
were diverse structural elements including three large oval pits (2.4 u
3.5 m and between 0.6 and 0.8 m deep). On their bases, among burnt
logs and stones, fragments of vessels dated to the early 7th century and
animal bones were found. In one of the pits an iron knife was discov-
ered. There was also an articially raised slope of the hill in which as
many as six levels of wooden constructions and three large (0.5–0.7
m in diameter) post-holes were found. These burnt constructions were
interpreted as the remains of a pile-construction building, 3 m long,
2.6 m wide; it is possible that these were wooden steps leading to the
top. Finally, in the south-western part of the hill a huge (5.4 u 2.2 u 2.1
m) pit and 5 post-holes around it were identied. All these discoveries
were interpreted as a cult site functioning during the whole period of
the Early Middle Ages.24
The discoveries at Modoczki in Podlasie (Fig. 51) are also thought-
provoking. A structure resembling a fortied settlement was discovered
on a small hill among the marshes formed by the Nurzec river owing
nearby. There was a ring wall with a diameter of 35 m and preserved
height of up to 2 m, to which a rampart of similar height and diameter
of 12 m adjoined on the inside on its west side. In the central part
of the enclosed area an elevation was preserved, which adjoined the
larger rampart of from the west. During the eldwork it was recorded
that the central elevation was separated from the rest of the area by a
ditch, the bottom of which was paved with cobblestones and some of
them had traces of burning to high temperatures. These may be the
remains of res burnt in pits (like those found at Trzebiatów, described
below). Inside the structure, in a layer of ash an almost complete vessel
dated to the 10th century was found despite the fact that the number
of pottery fragments from the whole site, as the excavator Dariusz
Krasnod\bski25 states, was quite small. It is also interesting that the
nearest traces of human habitation: an open settlement, was identied

These discoveries have not been fully published yet and they are only known from
short reports (e.g., D[browska, Babim 1981).
holy mountains 123

Figure 51. Modoczki in Podlasie: a presumed cult site (after D. Krasnod\bski,

digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

as close as 50 m to this enclosure. The trial pits here were limited in

scope but revealed that the site functioned from the late 11th till the
late 12th century. It has not been established yet if its inhabitants used
the nearby enclosure and for what purposes.
In northern Poland a possible pagan cult site was identied at Trze-
biatów (Zachodniopomorskie voivodeship). The complex is located on
an elevation of a height of 5–6 m surrounded with marshes (Fig. 52).
The very name of the place, as it has been remarked by Aleksander
Gieysztor,26 indicates giving offerings (from trzeba—a pagan offering).
The site was spotted during rescue excavations conducted on so-called
David’s Hill. In 1931, 100 m away from the bank of the river Rega,
a 10 u 13 m oval structure surrounded with a 1.5 m wide and 0.5 m

1982, 180.
124 chapter five

Figure 52. Cult Circle 1 from Trzebiatów (after W. Filipowiak, digital

processing: M. Trzeciecki).

deep ditch with two large hearths of diameters 1.2 m and 1.3 m was
discovered. Inside the oval three post-holes, triangular in cross-section,
were identied, accompanied by pairs of post-holes located outside.
Two years later a similar complex located 65 m to the south-west
of the above one was discovered. It was remarked that the oval out-
line was slightly smaller (8 u 10 m) and the ditch although narrower
(1 m) was twice as deep (1 m). Inside only one hearth was recorded. It
had a diameter of 1.3 m and outside of the oval three large postholes
(diameters 1–1.3 m) were found. The excavations also revealed that
in the ditches there were fragments of pottery dated to the 9th–10th
century, charcoal and animal bones. The nds from the ditches were
interpreted by Wdadysdaw Filipowiak as remains of offerings. It is
assumed that the res were burnt both in the hearths inside the oval
and in the ditches surrounding them. The post-holes of surprisingly
large diameters may be, according to the excavator, holes left by stone
idols. The complex of features and their context are clearly of symbolic
character yet there is no reliable archaeological evidence supporting the
hypothesis of the stone idols.
A similar role was probably played by the circular ramparts from
Gardno near Sdupsk dated to the 9th–10th century. In the same area
holy mountains 125

near the village of Smoddzino, on the bank of the river cupawa, there
is a high hill (115 m above the sea level) with steep slopes, located c. 7
km away from the sea. In local tradition this hill (Fig. 53) called Rowokód
was believed to be the holy mountain of the Sdowiqcy, inhabiting the
territory in the neighborhood of Lakes Gardno and cebskie.27 Excava-
tions conducted in the area did not yield direct evidence of pagan cults.
However the researchers investigated an oval fortied settlement located
on the south-eastern slope of the hill next to which there is a spring.
Along the rampart, numerous hearths were arranged circularly, which
resembles the situation known from Chedmska Góra near Koszalin. The
artifacts collected from Rowokód, consisting mainly of pottery, come
from various epochs and periods, beginning with the Neolithic until the
recent times. It was established that the structure enjoyed its greatest
importance in the 9th–11th century. Its worth mentioning that at the
top of the hill a chapel of St. Nicholas was built in the Middle Ages
and a cemetery was established around it. Its exact date is not certain.
It is assumed that the chapel could have been built between the 12th/
13th and 15th century. The structure was probably of considerable
importance as numerous pilgrims came to visit it both from Poland
and the rest of Europe. Was the church built on an old cult site? If
not, then why was it not erected near one of the settlements located at
the foot of the hill? These are questions to which no denite answers
have been found.28
Another interesting site is Mount Chedmska (also called Krzyvanka)
located on the terminal moraine to the south-east of the town of Kosza-
lin. Being close to the sea (less than 9 km away) the elevation (137 m
above the sea level) dominates in the area. The excavations were rst
conducted in the 19th century and continued after the Second World
War.29 They revealed traces of prehistoric settlement (the Lusatian and
Pomorska cultures) and features and numerous nds from the Middle
Ages. The Medieval phase is represented by seven hearth pits, two large
res, the outline of a structure (sometimes identied with a pagan k[cina
[shrine]), a damaged boat burial and numerous stray nds. The pits,
which are dated to the 9th–11th century, formed a circle around the
summit. In one of them a vessel full of animal bones was found, which
may be the remains of an offering. Traces of a 4.5 u 2.5 m structure,

Grucza, sl[ski 1970.
These issues have been recently discussed by T. Malinowski (2004).
Janocha 1966; 1974; 1988.
126 chapter five

the presumed k[cina, with a small hearth in the south-western corner

was discovered below the graves of an Early Medieval cemetery. It is
possible that originally the structure could have been larger, even as
large as 14 u 14 m. In this context the discovery of a fragment of
an Early Medieval boat with the limbs of a human skeleton found
inside is particularly interesting. Due to its bad state of preservation it
is difcult to date the nd and to reconstruct its original form. Some
researchers believe that these may be remains of a Scandinavian boat
burial. Although this possibility can not be excluded, it can not be fully
justied either. In the Middle Ages a chapel and then a church with
a cemetery was built on the hill. The remains of both the thirteenth
century chapel (mentioned in written sources after the year 1263) and
of the church from the mid-15th century were identied during the
excavations. According to Henryk Janocha30 there is some evidence that
Mount Chedmska could have had cultic functions as early as the Iron
Age. He also remarks that its heyday was in the Early Middle Ages
when there could have been a pagan shrine at its top. The distinctive
features in this respect are the location and form of the feature, the
distance from permanent settlements and, rst and foremost, the pres-
ence of the isolated burnt structure at the top. Whether or not these are
interpreted as the remains of a pagan shrine must remain conjecture
due to the lack of unequivocal evidence. The hypothesis is to some
extent supported by the fact that the monks were brought to this place
and a Christian church was built at the top of the hill. This resembles
the practices known from the large centers of pagan cult known from
southern Poland discussed above.

4. The mysterious umigrody

A very characteristic group, separate from the ones described above,

comprises a number of upland sites which are distinguished today by
place names of the umigród type and which are thought by scholars
to have been places of pagan cult. In Medieval chronicles we can
often nd descriptions of a terrible monster (sometimes a winged one)
which most often has the shape of a dragon. The re-breathing dragon
is often an invincible creature effectively defending the borders of its

holy mountains 127

kingdom. In the tradition of Eastern Slavs recorded in the Russian

Primary Chronicle these beings appear most often in the context of the
borderlands.31 The reminiscences of the ‘dragon’s’ legends are found in
Polish lands in the names of the mysterious hills of the umigród type.
They appear in southern Poland and, characteristically, in the context
of the borderlands.32 The easternmost umigród near Jasdo is located
on the right bank of the river Wisdoka, near it, in the vicinity of the
old route leading to Hungary and Ruthenia, there is Old umigród
(now a village). umigród in Lublin voivodeship, situated between the
wetlands of the Bystrzyca and Czechówka rivers, is to the south-east of
the modern city center. In Sandomierz, the name refers to the elevation
at Zawichojskie suburb in the northeastern part of the town. Less than
30 km to the west, on the high left bank of the cupawa (Opatówka)
river there is the umigród in Opatów located near the Bernardine
monastery. Today it is in the northern part of old Opatów and has
the shape of a loess headland with an area of about a hectare, it is
also called the old castle. The westernmost site is the umigród on the
Barycz river, whose wetlands separate Silesia from Great Poland. Two
of the above mentioned structures, the Opatów and the Sandomierz
one have been investigated archaeologically and will be dealt with in
greater depth below.
The umigród in Opatów was rst mentioned by Jan Ddugosz, who
refers to it as mons Zmigrod. Apparently there was a fortied settlement
(castle) the ruins of which were visible in the times when the author
was writing his chronicle. Excavations were conducted here several
times after the Second World War. Their results are very modest as
they have not allowed us ultimately to explain what the function of the
structure was. The most useful information was obtained during the
excavations of the late 1990s which provided new evidence concerning
the consecutive phases of use of the hill and the changes it underwent
as a result of man’s intentional activities.33 In the light of these dis-
coveries the earliest phase of settlement at umigród in Opatów (Fig.
54) is connected with the prehistoric times (Late Neolithic and Early
Bronze Age pottery, the remains of pits of which only the bottom parts

These issues are discussed in greater depth by J. Banaszkiewicz (1998; with lit-
erature), who presented them in a broader geographic context and with the extensive
use of the written sources.
Banaszkiewicz 1999, 439ff.
Cf. Florek 2000.
128 chapter five

Figure 54. umigród at Opatów: view of interior of enclosed area

(photo: A. Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

were preserved). It is difcult to say anything more about the human

habitation of these times. It seems, however, almost certain that in that
period the elevation was 80 cm lower than in modern times. The next,
Early Medieval settlement phase, is represented by the remains of a
ditch gradually lled in containing a settlement level with rubbish pits.
The rst early Medieval levels are dated by pottery nds to the period
between the 11th and 13th century. Above it an almost one meter
thick layer of humus was formed which seems to have been the result
of a single leveling action. From the late Middle Ages the whole area
had no structures, retaining its agricultural character until today. The
question whether the ditch dated to the 11th century should be associ-
ated with a completely destroyed rampart or whether it had another
function remains unanswered. The former suggestion is supported by
the presence of the one-meter thick layer above the ditch which may
have come from the destroyed rampart, because otherwise it is difcult
to explain why such a mass of earth was brought there. Although
this reasoning seems quite reasonable, we still do not know why there
are no remains of the earth-wooden construction of the rampart in
this layer. It can not be excluded that this is due to the symbolic (not
military) function of the structure, so the construction could have had
a different construction. It could have been just a simple earth bank
holy mountains 129

enclosing a sacred space. This hypothesis, however, is contradicted by

the presence of archaeological features within the area enclosed by the
rampart, which may suggest that the area had a settlement function
rather than symbolic one.
The situation is quite different in the case of the umigród in Sando-
mierz. Today it is a bipartite hill with an area of c. 2.2 hectares, well
distinguished in the landscape on the edge of the Vistula river ancient
valley. The higher, northern, part of the hill lies 117 m above sea level
whereas the southern one is 10 m lower (Fig. 55). The maximum height
of the escarpments with respect to the base of the Vistula valley is as
much as 25 m. The characteristic shape of headland jutting out into
the valley is the result both of the action of the Vistula waters and of
the location at the periphery of the Upland. Above umigród there is
a water course, which collects the waters from the north-western part
of the town, its outlet is near the northern edge of the hill, and as it
seems, played an important part in shaping its form. In modern times
the greatest changes took place in the northern part of the hill due
to building and re-building of a communication junction located at
its foot. Quite recently in the square where Zawichojska and uwirki i
Wigury Streets meet, one could observe the remains of a loess elevation
which was part of the neighboring hills (so also of umigród), which
was separated by the road. The umigród Hill in Sandomierz has not
become an element of the local tradition and is not mentioned in any
legends. It was rst mentioned in 1568 in the Sandomierz Acta Consu-
laria and then again in the next century. The hill was included in the
program of excavations in Sandomierz as it was hoped that traces a
fortied settlement from the pre-state period would be discovered, or
perhaps a pagan cult site. The investigations were initiated in 1971 by
the Institute of Material Culture (today the Institute of Archaeology
and Ethnology) of the Polish Academy of Sciences as part of the
revitalization program of the Old Town in Sandomierz. At the higher
elevation no traces of using the hill in the early Middle Ages were
found. The material collected during the eld survey (which I know from
personal inspection) was sparse and quite late; the pottery can be
dated from the 13th to the 18th century; a few fragments of Early
Medieval pottery were recorded during the eld survey conducted in
1969. The features uncovered in 1971 conrmed the hypothesis that
the hill was settled in the Early Neolithic. In 1980 the eld work was
continued by a team from the State Archaeological Museum in War-
saw. The investigations considerably broadened our knowledge about
130 chapter five

the settlement on the hill but in distant prehistory. In the light of the
data published so far, umigród was rst settled in the early Stone Age
and the settlement was the most intensive in the period of the so-
called Lublin-Volhynia culture, which is represented in the majority
of the discovered features. The last stage of settlement discovered by
the excavations is dated to the Early Bronze Age, that is the end of
the 2nd millennium B.C. After that there are no traces of inhabita-
tion of the area.34 Unlike the umigród in Opatów discussed above, the
excavations on the Sandomierz hill did not yield any structures from
the Early Middle Ages. Does that mean that they did not exist at all?
This question cannot be answered unequivocally. Let us, however, try
to sum up the current state of knowledge in the light of the results of
research conducted so far. First and foremost it should be stated that
the attempts at solving the mystery of the umigród sites so far have not
brought satisfying answers.35 Some specialists indicate their convenient
location near a communication route. At the same there are no material
sources supporting the hypothesis that there was a fortied settlement
in the case of Sandomierz. An eminent Polish historian (specialist in
the Middle Ages), Tadeusz Lalik, believed that the name of the hill
(part of it, gród, means a fortied settlement) does not necessarily mean
that there was a stronghold there; he suggested that structures of this
kind could have been cult sites and this may explain the lack of traces
of early Medieval settlement at umigród in Sandomierz.36 The results
of the research conducted so far do not conrm the old hypothesis of
the connection of the structure with the presence in Sandomierz of
the nomadic Avars.37 There is more evidence that links the umigród in
Sandomierz with the world of ancient beliefs. Let us recall an interest-
ing detail: near the umigród there are the most efcient water courses
at the edge of Sandomierz Upland and the Vistula valley. Above the
hill there is a stream which collects the water from the north-west part
of the town. The outlet of the water course, today owing at the bot-
tom of a wide ravine extending from God\bice, is at the foot of the
northern edge of the hill. At its foot on its south-east side the Vistula
used to ow in the past.

Kowalewska-Marszadek 1993.
These questions are extensively discussed by E. Kowalczyk (1993); with further
Lalik 1967; 1993.
Cf. Kowalczyk 1977.
holy mountains 131

One may make a reference to folklore and the notion of the wmij
(dragon—not to be confused with wmija—a viper), the protector of the
hearth, who wielded the thunder, assured fertility and fought with water
monsters. This thread is particularly vivid in the mythology of south-
ern Slavs where this bird-like or even anthropomorphic creature was
the protector of the things most important for man: waters and crops.
The wmij appeared in the form of a ery streak or a bird of a solar
character, e.g., an eagle or a rooster. The opposite of the wmij is the
dragon, a water being, which denied access to the live water and lived
in it. The power which destroys it is the re or the heat of the sun. The
wmij attacked dragons devouring or withholding water. Thus a umigród
may be considered, according to Ryszard Tomicki,38 as an enclosed
place (the gród part), a sacral area which not everyone could enter
without breaking the rules. This place was in some way (?) connected
with a being called wmij. An important element in this interpretation is
the mountain itself: in the Slavic model of the Cosmos it denotes the
center. The presence at its top of a structure connected with the cult
of the wmij wielding the thunder is thus an interesting hypothesis.
The evident connection of the umigrod in Sandomierz with the
watery environment located at its foot makes many elements of the
above conception worthy of attention. The lack of Early Medieval struc-
tures in the area of the hill makes the hypothesis that it had a symbolic
(and not habitation) function the more interesting. Thus Tadeusz Lalik’s
observation that the occurrence of the name umigród only in southern
Poland may be connected with a local variant of the belief in the wmij
seems quite justied. It is difcult to state denitely, as the researcher
believes, whether there used to be a church of St Michael at umigród,
destroyed during the Tatars’ incursion in 1259/1260. There are two
premises supporting the hypothesis: the early (10th–11th century)
denomination of the church’s patron and the particularly interesting fact
that St Michael is associated in Scripture with a ght with a dragon. It
should not be, however, forgotten that the location of the church is not
conrmed in the written sources and no traces of it or any associated
burials were discovered during the archaeological excavations.
* * *

132 chapter five

Figure 56. Map of cult sites discussed in the book. Circles denote single features,
ovals—their concentrations (drawing and digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

In conclusion, it should be remarked that the majority of the proven

and supposed hilltop pagan cult sites are located in southern and
northern Poland; while fewer of them are in the central zone of Great
Poland and Mazovia (Fig. 56). It is characteristic that the name Mount
Chedmska (Chedmowa) appears quite frequently in this context regard-
less of the region. It seem also doubtless that although each of the
structures presented above deserves some attention, none of them is not
so interesting as sl\va and cysa Góra. Inasmuch as in the majority of
the discussed cases the supposed cult sites are usually single and distant
from one another, the large mountains in the south of Poland, besides
having a monumental form, are distinguished by having other, similar
structures in the vicinity. For these reasons Silesia and Little Poland,
where also the mysterious vmigrody appear, have in comparison with
the other regions of Poland a unique and specic character.


1. Open air shrines

In the areas with no mountains, pagan rites were celebrated in holy

groves. This is mentioned by historians in both the ancient world and
Medieval times (among them Tacitus, Helmold and Adam of Bremen),
referring to various peoples, the Germans, Balts and Slavs. The main
problem is, however, that it is difcult to nd material remains of such
sites by means of archaeological methods. What would a holy grove
have looked like? Based on the chroniclers’ descriptions it should be
assumed that a holy grove was primeval and untouched by the human
hand and the sacral attributes of the grove would to be extended to the
forest as a whole, a sacralization of the forest was the result. The trees
growing in it (but also natural features, for example large stones or
springs) gained supernatural characteristics thanks to the sacrices (also of
human beings). In the light of the data from the above-mentioned chro-
nicles, the grove was also a place of sanctuary in which no blood (other
than sacricial offerings) could be shed. The grove had a glade which
was a place where people gathered, oracles were said and the sacrices
made. There was a natural link between the holy grove and a spring
within it, or a nearby lake. In such an area, the gods as well as the spirits
of the ancestors were present; the latter were perceived in oddly-shaped
trees or stones, in other words, in various curiosities of nature.1
The existence of these wooded areas where the cult of the ances-
tors was practiced and also the existence of cemeteries where one may
assume similar rites and commemorations took place raises the interest-
ing question of the relationship between them. So far this has not been
sufciently explored. This question concerns especially burial grounds at
which for a variety of reasons the dead were no longer deposited, but
which were most probably still remembered. Their external appearance,
that is, location in a wood and at a distance from the settlement centers,
undoubtedly had its meaning in the settlement landscape of their times.

Cf. Sdupecki 2000.
134 chapter six

Is it thus possible that in some cases such places of collective memory

about the dead later became places of pagan cult and thus gained the
character similar to the holy groves, and if so, in which ones?
This issue has not been investigated in detail. The question however
appeared quite recently during the excavations at one such cemetery
located in woodland at Kleczanów, on the Sandomierz Upland in
Little Poland.

2. An old cemetery and new problems

The burial ground in Kleczanów is located near a national road linking

Sandomierz and Opatów approximately halfway between those two
towns (Fig. 57). Identied in the early 1990s and excavated in recent
years it became the topic of a lively debate due to the surprising fact
that several dozen barrows have survived there for more than 1000
years on a largely deforested loess upland. The area has many traces
of Early Medieval settlement both from the pre-state period and later
times. In Kleczanów itself, a settlement of the 9th century has been
discovered around the parish church. Its features were preserved from
plowing and erosion because of the considerable depth at which they
were located. One of the excavated features was discovered under the
churchyard at the depth of 1.5 m below the present surface.2
In the adjoining areas there are numerous traces of many burial sites,
also from the pre-state period.3 The greatest concentration of crema-
tion barrows is located in the above-mentioned Kleczanów grove, the
only enclave of woodland in this part of the loess upland. It is curious
that local population had no knowledge about the burial ground in this
place. The locals learnt from the archaeologists about the barrows in the
nearby wood, although they repeatedly mentioned the ‘little mounds’
(Fig. 58). No less surprising is the fact that even thought the barrows
were quite well preserved, they were noticed by archaeologists only as
late as in the 1990s.4

The excavations at Kleczanów were conducted as part of an interdisciplinary
research project on the rural settlement on Sandomierz Upland. The complete results
of the investigations are presented in: Buko ed. 1997.
Florek 1994.
They were found during eld survey work conducted in the early 1990s by
archaeologists and students from the Maria Curie-Skdodowska University in Lublin in
cooperation with the Conservator’s Bureau in Tarnobrzeg.
pagan cemetery or holy grove? 135

Figure 57. Above: Kleczanów grove, marked in black; below: plan of the bar-
row cemetery. Features investigated by means of archaeological excavations or
geological drillings are marked in black. Capital letters denote concentrations
of barrows (after M. Florek and J. scibior).

Figure 58. Pagan cemetery in the Kleczanów grove: augering a barrow from
concentration B located near a glade (photo: A. Buko).
136 chapter six

The Kleczanów barrows had circular or ellipsoid shapes. In total 37

of them were discovered (of which 14 were either excavated or sound-
ings were made in them). Their diameters were usually 4–10 m and
average height, 7 m. No internal constructions were found in the bar-
rows. The few nds consisted mainly of heavily fragmented pottery, in
some cases revealing traces of secondary burning, as well as small pieces
of burnt bones. These were found in the outer layers of the mounds,
which is evidence that these were burials which had been made by a
specic (nakurhanowy) rite, where the remains of the dead were scattered
at the top of the mound after it had been constructed. The scatterings
of bones, charcoal and artifacts formed discrete concentrations on the
mounds of the barrows. Most of the mounds had uniform structures
and were raised from yellow loess on the ground surface. The soil was
collected from the surface of the ground in an area in the vicinity of the
mound. Another method was also used, namely around a part (usually
on the south side), about a half or three quarters of the circumference,
a shallow depression was dug on the outer edge of the mound, forming
a quarry ditch at its foot. The investigations revealed that the cemetery
had a heterogeneous structure. There are four clear concentrations of
barrows in the Kleczanów wood. Some of them differ from the others
in their internal structure: most of the analyzed barrows were made
from brown loess, but the three largest ones (concentration A) were built
of black humus and some brown humus was also found at the base of
the mounds. The analyses revealed that within the mounds made of
humus, long-lasting soil processes had taken place.5 For that reason it
may be supposed that these mounds might have been earlier than the
other ones. If that was the case then most probably they were early
prehistoric (from the II and III period of the Bronze Age), since similar
large barrows are known in the area from the Trzciniec culture. Further
analyses may show whether this hypothesis is true. It would seem that
the Early Medieval barrows were not all constructed at the same time
either. For example, the pottery found in Mound 35 located away from
the other ones on the western edge of the cemetery (cf. Fig. 57) should
be dated to the 10th century, or more precisely, to the decline of the
pre-state period or to the beginnings of the state period; in the other
excavated barrows there occur material dated to the 9th century. Such
a large cemetery must have functioned for a certain span of time. It

Florek, scibior 1997.
pagan cemetery or holy grove? 137

is impossible to use for a closer dating of individual mounds the other

nds found on their surface (small pieces of burnt human bones and
objects of daily use of types which are not closely datable such as small
knives and metal costume accessories).
The deceased were probably cremated outside the area of the cem-
etery, as no traces of large res were found, the barrows contained
relatively few fragments of human bones and a few small pieces of
vessels. This means that most of the bones and artifacts remained in
the place where the ritual of burning the dead bodies was carried out.
Such places were looked for but without any success.
It seems that some of the pottery was deposited in the barrow layers
after they had been made; some fragments bear traces of secondary
burning. Close to Barrow 32 a concentration of stones was found which
may be the remains of a hearth. These may be traces of rites connected
with the cult of the dead carried out near the burials.
Among the nds from the barrows were some connected with pagan
cult. Three circular plaques (one made of stone and two ceramic ones)
were discovered in the area of the barrow cemetery and in the vicinity
of the church. The stone disc came from the mantle of Barrow 26,
where it occurred together with numerous small pieces of burnt bones
and pottery (including secondarily burnt fragments). The other two,
made of bodysherds of pottery vessels, were found in the vicinity of
the church in the place where a settlement dated to the same period
existed. Ceramic circular plaques are known from prehistoric cultures.
They appear among the nds of the Lusatian Culture (Late Bronze Age
and Early Iron Age), including in the area of the cult circles at Mount
Radunia and sl\va, and are supposed to represent attributes of ancient
cults.6 Some of them are rather carelessly made and their dimensions
are similar to those found at Kleczanów. They are also known from the
Late Hallstatt period and Roman times. The phenomenon has not been
studied in detail and it is hard to determine how often such artifacts
appear on archaeological sites.7 In many cases, it seems they may be
dismissed as fragments of the bodies of pottery vessel, this concerns
especially those fragments which do not have even edges because they
were poorly made.

Cehak-Hodubowiczowa 1959.
Cf. Buko ed. 1997, 308ff.; with literature.
138 chapter six

Figure 59. The alleged ‘footprint of St. Stanislaw’, imprint in a piece of sand-
stone (marked with a black arrow) incorporated into the foundation of the
chancel in the parish church at Kleczanów (photo: A. Buko).

It is also possible that a trace of the old pagan traditions (so often
adapted and transformed by the Church elsewhere), is represented by
the sandstone block with so-called ‘God’s footprint’ (Fig. 59), located in
the foundation wall of the chancel and formerly comprised the threshold
of the church, believed locally to be the imprint of St Stanisdaw’s foot.8
Such stones, which have unclear links with the pagan cult and Christian-
ization, are often found in the vicinity of churches or in their walls.9
Let us, however, return to some other characteristic features of the
ancient burial ground. One of them is a glade located among the bar-
rows (Fig. 60). It is important because for years it has been the place
where at Whitsun (so-called Zielone twi[tki ) fetes were annually held
by the local people from Kleczanów. The fete concluded the religious
festivities and an important element was a procession of the parish
community to this clearing in Kleczanów grove. Amazingly, the tra-
dition is not reected in any way in the church records. Neither are
any indulgence fairs held at by the church at Kleczanów at Pentecost,
which creates the question of why that is.

St Stanisdaw of Szczepanów (1030–1079), bishop of Cracow, martyred at the
orders of King Bolesdaw the Bold, canonised in 1253 as the rst native Polish saint.
Patron of Poland and Cracow (sharing the patronage of Poland with Saint Adalbert
of Prague and Our Lady the Queen of Poland) (P.B.).
Baruch 1907.
pagan cemetery or holy grove? 139

Figure 60. Kleczanów grove: a glade among the barrows: the traditional site
of annual masses and folk fetes (photo: A. Buko).

3. Forgotten or living tradition?

The above-described phenomena gain a new meaning in the context

of the information from the written sources about the celebrations of
strawa and tryzna (kinds of festivities relating to communal ritual feast-
ing and sport competitions) which were celebrated at cemeteries in the
Middle Ages and even in modern times to commemorate the dead. The
Church tried to abolish them but without full success so an attempt
at limiting the celebrations to certain Christian holy days was made.10
This inspires the question: can the celebrations mentioned above not
be a distant reminiscence of the old festivities in honor of the dead?
If this were the case then we would be dealing with a rare example of
the continuity of a suitably modied custom re-enacted annually in the
same place (remaining unchanged for more than 1000 years) whereas
the meaning of the festivities was completely transformed, as a result of
which the tradition of the ancient cemetery was entirely forgotten.

Cf. Dowiat 1985 p. 316ff. The custom of visiting and cleaning the graves of one’s
ancestors is still practiced in Poland today on All Hallows (All Saints) Day, 1st November,
part of a triduum in the Catholic Church of commemorations of the dead.
140 chapter six

These are not the only premises indicating the symbolic meaning of
the place. The barrows are in a wood which is the only green enclave
in the totally deforested loess plateau. Why did the settlers spare it?
Because the wood separates two settlement zones? Or maybe it has
survived for so many centuries because there are barrows in it? Or
perhaps it was the opposite: the boundaries of elds and clearings
respected features already existing in the landscape? The archaeological
investigations conducted so far indicate that more than 80% of known
barrow cemeteries have been discovered in woodland. If these mounds
had for some reasons become part of arable elds they would be faced
with inevitable and rapid destruction. The period between the begin-
ning of cultivation of the land and the complete degradation of the
barrows generally does not exceed 25–40 years.11 This is supported by
the observations from the Sandomierz Upland. No trace has been left
of the barrow cemeteries at Winiary and Trzebiesdawice excavated in
the period between the two World Wars12 and now arable elds are in
that place.13 The perfect state of preservation of the Kleczanów bar-
rows indicates that the area has never been cultivated. Also the grove
must have been growing in the same place at least from the pre-state
period. If it turns out that the barrows made of black humus should
indeed be dated to earlier periods, the grove would represent a unique
permanence of land use going back to the prehistoric times.
There is another thing worth noting. To the south, below the grove,
some exceptionally abundant springs can be found, which at present
supply with water the nearby shpond. It cannot be excluded that
these springs (Fig. 61) were in the Early Middle Ages a functional ele-
ment of the complex described above. If so, this would be one further
element dening the sacral function of this place. Would then, this
forest with the graves it contains and the springs below them merit
designation as a gaj, a holy grove of the Slavs, as has recently been
suggested by Witold Hensel?14 In the light of the evidence presented
above, this hypothesis seems quite probable. Cemeteries have always
been sacred areas, places where the ancestors were regarded as present
and where their memory lived. It may be recalled that in the case of
the cult center at Gostyq in Silesia, it has been suggested that the rites

Zoll-Adamikowa 1979.
Nosek [1939] 1948.
Florek 1994.
pagan cemetery or holy grove? 141

forest with barrows


Figure 61. Pond and springs below the southern edge of Kleczanów grove
as seen from the south (photo: A. Buko).

celebrated there were closely connected with the cult of the dead (cf.
Chapter 5). In our times, the sacral nature of the Kleczanów grove is
reected in the Whitsun festivities mentioned above.
The barrow cemetery at Winiary near Sandomierz, about 30 km
from the Kleczanów wood, in which mounds were still preserved until
the period between the World Wars, was located on a hill with the curi-
ous name Gaj (Grove); this might refer to the cemetery but could also
be a reection of a pagan grove. It is thus quite probable that there
was some justied connection between the Slavic grove and a burial
ground. This might have been the case when a pagan cemetery, like
the one at Kleczanów, gained, after many years of use, some secondary
sacral function. What would be necessary to prove the hypothesis that
there existed a holy grove in that place? A ditch delimiting the sacred
area would be a good argument. Is it there? So far the answer to this
question has not been found.


1. Monumental mounds, admired throughout the ages

A peculiarity of the lands in southeastern Poland are the monumental

mounds, sometimes called ‘Krakuszowiec type barrows’.1 They differ
from other ones especially in their dimensions: the diameter sometimes
more than 50 m and preserved height up to 10 m. They all can be seen
from a distance and are characteristic landmarks. The mounds are all
located in Little Poland near the old centers of pre-state and early Piast
power: in Przemytl, Sandomierz and Cracow; in the last mentioned
case there are multiple mounds, and this distinguishes Cracow from
the other sites. The mound which gave the group its name is located
in Krakuszowice near Bochnia (an oak is said to have grown on its
top). It was excavated in the 19th century so only its remains have
been preserved till today. No similar structures have been found in the
other regions of Poland.
The Little Polish mounds have fascinated both the researchers and
local historians since the Middle Ages. Various, sometimes completely
imaginary, functions and circumstances of origins were invented for
them. In local legends and written sources the Sandomierz mound
was linked with the Tatars’ invasion, whereas in the case of Cracow
the tales associate the appearance of the mounds with the dynastic
legends connected with the origins of the center; for the Przemytl
mound (which has two names), there are two stories of its origin. As a
result of this early interest, attempts at exploring the mounds were rst
made many years ago. The most famous were the excavations of the
Krak Mound carried out in the period between the two World Wars
by the Polish Academy of Learning in Cracow. In the other cases the
excavations were carried out in the 19th century (in Przemytl) and after
the Second World War (Przemytl, Sandomierz). Their results shed new
light on the questions of the building and functions of the mounds in

The term ‘Krakuszewice-type mounds’ was coined by A. uaki (1974, 120). A
shortened version of this chapter has been published separately (cf. Buko 2004).
144 chapter seven

comparison to the similar structures known from other parts of Europe.

However, the main question asked by the archaeologists and historians
still remains: who built them, when and what for? And although each
of the structures provides some premises for creating hypotheses in this
respect, attempts at nding convincing answers have not brought any
denitive solutions. This view is clearly illustrated by the results of the
excavations of the Przemytl, Sandomierz, and Cracow mounds.

2. Przemyseaw’s (Tatars’) Mound in Przemyul

The mound is located on Zniesienie Hill (356 m above sea level). Its
present relative height is 10 m and its oval bottom part measures 100 u
60 m. The mound has the plan of an acute triangle with its base
oriented towards the west (from that point of view it resembles ‘Salve
Regina’ Mound in Sandomierz; see below). The form, size and location
of the elevation make it one of the most characteristic topographic
points in the town (Fig. 62). In the 16th century a chapel dedicated
to St. Leonard was built, thanks to which the structure can be seen at
many iconographic representations.
The monument in Przemytl is connected with several legends, and
for this reason the mound has a double name. The rst tradition relates
that it commemorates Przemysdaw, the legendary founder of the town in
the early pre-state period (perhaps the 7th century?) after whose death
this monumental mound was built. According to the other group of
local traditions (not conrmed by any historical records), the mound
is the burial of Mirza a leader of the Tatars who led an attack on the
region in 1614. Others believed this was not a barrow but a beacon
hill which, together with other structures of this kind made up a sig-
naling network. Scholarly interest in the structure began in the early
19th century; in 1869 excavations of the mound were conducted by
Teol uebrowski, commissioned by the Cracow Society of Learning.
The results, however, were not very fruitful, at the summit remains
of a modern cemetery were discovered as well as coins dating to the
times of King Jan Kazimierz (the 17th century). One of the reasons
of the failure were the difculties in getting through a layer made up
of rock at a depth of about 2.6 m; this detail is worth remembering
in the context of the later history of the excavations at that site. In the
period between the World Wars, small scale excavations were conducted
two local archaeologists, Antoni Kunysz and Andrzej Koperski. The
monumental mounds in little poland 145

Figure 63. Erosion gully on the slope of Tartars’ Mound with visible rubble
(photo: A. Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

search did not yield many results besides some details supplementing
the existing information.2
An observation made during eldwork carried out by the present
writer in the 1970s seemed to shed more light on the nature of this
mound. An erosion gully was visible on one of the slopes which con-
tained rock waste (Fig. 63) which also gathered at the feet of the hill. The
material exposed by this gully resembled erosion layers from piedmont
areas which form as a result of erosion and degradation of the rock
base. This cast doubt on whether the structure was articial, especially
as in the neighborhood the main soil type from which a mound might
be built was black humus without stones, with characteristics similar to
the loess. These doubts could be only explained by analyzing the internal
structure of the mound. Such an opportunity presented itself in the
second half of the 1990s when geological drillings and archaeological

A review of the excavations of the mound and their main results can be found in:
Kotlarczyk 1969; Koperski 1977; Sosnowska 2000; all with literature.
146 chapter seven

sondages were conducted as well as some archival studies.3 Most of the

geological drillings were interrupted by a layer of eroded sandstone.
The reason was simple: the drill could not penetrate the layer of rock
waste. The deepest hole, located at the foot of the hill in its western part
was 3.25 m; the one at the top of the hill reached as little as 2.70 m
before hitting rock.
The main results of the recent investigations can be summarized as
follows: in the vicinity of Przemysdaw’s Mound there are Carpathian
ysch formations; these rocks are also visible on the western and eastern
slope of the mound itself. Above them Quaternary loess-like powdery
clays were found and still higher, anthropogenic layers. The latter consist
of brown sands with pieces of eroded sandstone and brick, sometimes
separated by lenses of yellow sand. On the southern and northern slopes
the layers consist of rock waste consisting of sandstone, pieces of brick,
mortar, slag, ash and pottery fragments; these layers are situated not
very deep from the surface. On the east slope of the hill are black clay
layers containing fragments of sandstone, charcoal and lenses of yellow
sand, All these formations are covered with surface materials.
The sondages have indicated that under the layer of eroded material
the bedrock occurs everywhere. In a sounding made on a path lead-
ing to the top of the mound under a 20 cm thick layer of sand and
loose rock waste the sloping face of a rock outcrop was found. Another
trench yielded more than a dozen fragments of Early Medieval pot-
tery dated to the late 12th to the rst half of the 13th century; in this
layer burnt pieces of sandstone were found and underneath lay eroded
sandstone and rock waste. On the southern slope of the mound, below
a layer of sand, at a depth of 60–70 cm, rock waste was uncovered.
The pottery obtained in these trenches was the earliest archaeological
material from the site.
New archival studies carried out by Ewa Sosnowska have revealed the
previously unsuspected fact that (as in the case of the Krak Mound in
Cracow, see below), around the Przemysdaw’s Mound there used to be
other, smaller mounds. If these could be shown to be Early Medieval
barrows, would they be proof that a tribal center of the L\dzianie was
located there? This issue must for the moment remain a hypothesis.

The excavations were conducted in 1997 (cf. Sosnowska 2000) within a national
program of investigations nanced by the Committee for Scientic Research com-
memorating the thousandth anniversary of the Gniezno Summit (cf. Chapter 1).
monumental mounds in little poland 147

At present, however, it seems very probable that Przemysdaw’s (Tatar)

Mound is primarily composed of a rock core. At an undetermined time
its upper part was raised, which seems to be shown by a characteristic
break half-way up the slope.4 On the basis of the existing evidence it
cannot be established if this work was done when the chapel was built
on the summit or at some other time.
The investigations conducted so far allow us to state that the mound
in Przemytl had various functions in the past. From the 16th century
at its summit there was St. Leonard’s chapel with a cemetery around
it; its origins are still unclear. From the 19th century the local popula-
tion made pilgrimages to the place on the second day of Easter. There
is also a legend linking the sepulchral origins of the mound with the
early history of the town; both versions of the legend consistently
stress its function as a cemetery but the question still remains: where
was the place for the deceased if the core of the mound is made up
of solid rock?

3. Supposed monumental mounds in the Przemyul region

Besides Przemysdaw’s Mound researchers have been for many years

interested by the structures at Sólca and Komarowice (the latter one
is now in Ukraine). The former (Fig. 64) is c. 50 m in diameter and
has a preserved height of 6 m; the latter is much smaller (diameter
38 m, height 9.5 m). Both are located close one to another and are
characterized by depressions up to 3.5 m deep at the summits. Neither
of these mounds has been explored to any degree by archaeologists.5
From the interior of both mounds however Early Medieval material
has been obtained. There are many problems in their interpretation.
The mysterious depressions in the summits may suggest that they were
not sepulchral, because such features do not occur in the structure of a
barrow mound. Perhaps they are very small ringworks (but the extremely
small area of the central space seems to rule this out). Perhaps they
are some form of pagan cult places similar to the ones found in the
other regions of Poland.6

Sosnowska 2000.
Cf. Kotlarczyk 1969.
In this context one recalls the small enclosures similar to the one discovered at
Modochki in Podlasie (cf. Chapter 5).
148 chapter seven

4. Salve Regina Hill in Sandomierz

This mound is located in the south-eastern outskirts of Sandomierz

(in Krakowskie Przedmietcie district), on the edge of the Vistula river
valley near Salve Regina Street running in a hollow way. It has the
characteristic form of a regular prism, preserved till today, with a
diameter of 40 m and height of 11 m with visibly attened triangular
slopes, the bottom parts of which have a sharp break with the ground
around it (Fig. 65). At the top there is a 19th century stone statue
dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every year in May the local
inhabitants gather around the decorated statue and celebrate a special
service. On the northern side of the mound there is a semi-circular
inscription SALVE REGINA cut in the turf (Fig. 66), which, according
to the local opinion has been here forever and, what is more, is never
overgrown with grass.7
For more than one hundred years Salve Regina Hill has been con-
sidered one of the peculiarities of Sandomierz. The nineteenth century
local historian, Father Melchior Buliqski,8 (1810–1877), wondered
about the form of the landscape feature which looked ‘as if it were
made by the human hand.’ It may be thus assumed that at his time
the knowledge about traditions connected with the hill, its name and
peculiarities were well rooted in Sandomierz. Simultaneously, no one
contemporary to Buliqski was able to determine its original function
and for that reason the author of the monograph only said that in
the old times the hill might have been a place where pagan rites were
celebrated and the present name was given to it after the adoption of
Christianity in order to cover up the former religious practices. Another
group of hypotheses suggests that it was a monumental barrow from the
pre-state period. These suppositions attracted the attention of historians
and archaeologists. The differences of opinion concerned not so much
the function of the mound but the time when it was erected. Its origin
was linked with the Early Bronze Age or to the pre-state period. In the
latter case it was supposed to be the tomb of the legendary founder of

The inscription refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Cz\stochowa) as
Queen of Poland a title bestowed on her in 1656 during the Swedish Wars by King
Jan Kazimierz. The feast of Our Lady Queen of Poland is celebrated on May 3rd
1879, 11.
monumental mounds in little poland 149

the town, Sudomir; according to Tadeusz Lalik’s hypothesis9 a Czech

(or Moravian) who in the period of Czech domination (the early 10th
century) or even Moravian (the second half of the 9th century) might
have arrived here with his retinue and founded the town. After his death,
in order to commemorate the event, a monumental tomb was made
for him and the town was given his name. Local legends also link the
structure with the Tatars’ incursion of the year 1259; in this case this
was to have been a collective burial of the Dominican monks from the
nearby St James’ church, murdered by the invaders.10
The idea of conducting archaeological excavations at Salve Regina
Hill was considered in the early 1970s when a complex interdisciplin-
ary program of rescue excavations was implemented in the Old Town
quarter of Sandomierz. It was hindered by technical difculties con-
nected with excavating such a large feature and the impossibility of
reconciling of so many research priorities. Attempts at obtaining some
data about the feature by means of the geophysical prospection did not
allow the establishment of the character of the mound or its function.
This work however determined that the feature has a complex internal
structure consisting of many layers. In time the research was enriched
by geological techniques. Auguring of the structure was carried out
along its longer north-south axis and in its vicinity. It was established
that the layers inside the mound were formed by the natural processes
of sedimentation in the old Vistula river valley (the lowest level of
layers of sands and silts) or processes connected with forming of the
loess and climatic changes at the end of the Eemian interglacial. These
data, combined with such observations as the lack of traces of inten-
tional human activity in the samples and the horizontal arrangement
of the layers with clear traces of sedimentation processes, indicate that
Salve Regina Hill originated naturally and is not man-made.11 There
still remained the question if any traces of former human activities
survived in the upper parts. In order to nd the answer archaeologi-
cal excavations were carried our on the summit near the stone gure.
Their results were surprising: remains of a cist tomb made of stone
slabs were uncovered. Inside there was a concentration of the bones,
the remains of an animal and scattered bones of at least three humans.

The topic was discussed both by archaeologists and historians. Its key elements
are presented in: Buko 1983, 1998; with literature.
Buko 1983.
150 chapter seven

The feature was dated to the mid-3rd millennium B.C. On this basis
it was determined that Salve Regina Hill had been settled at the end
of the Late Stone Age, almost 4.5 thousand years ago, and its summit
was used for making a burial of the so-called Zdota culture.12 So far this
is the only archaeologically documented premise concerning the func-
tion of the place. It remains however undetermined when and why the
sides of the hill were intentionally shaped by man. Was it done in the
pre-state period when the spot was assigned a symbolic function? Or is
it the monumental base of a burial where the remains were deposited
on, rather than in the mound? These issues will be discussed in the
conclusion of this chapter.

5. The Mounds of Krak and Wanda in Cracow

Cracow is exceptional among these centers in having not one, but

three giant mounds, two of which, Krak’s Mound and Wanda’s Mound
have survived until today, and the third one (Esterka’s Mound) has
been completely destroyed in the past. Krak’s Mound, the largest of
the three (Fig. 67), is located in the Krzemionki Hills on an elevation
called R\kawka (271 m above sea level). On a second, slightly lower
hill called Góra [The Hill] (but also Benedict’s Hill or Lasota’s Hill), a
church dedicated to St Benedict is located.
The mound, which has the form of a truncated cone, of diameter
of c. 50 m and height of 14 m, obtained its present form after the
reconstruction made in the 1950s. This was necessitated by the state
the feature had been left in by the excavations of the 1930s (Fig. 68).
It is assumed that originally the structure was more than 16 m tall and
had a diameter of as much as 63 m. Archaeologists do not agree if the
excavations carried out before the Second World War were properly
conducted. However, the investigations were preceded by consultations
in the competent milieux. At the Polish Academy of Learning a special
committee composed of eminent scholars representing the humanities
and natural and technical sciences was established. The research team
was directed by recognized specialists: Józef uurowski and after his
death, Roman Jakimowicz. The results were published after the War by
Rudolf Jamka.13 The excavations were carried out using the following

Cf. Buko 1998; with further literature.
monumental mounds in little poland 151

Figure 67. Krak’s Mound in Cracow (photo: A. Buko).

Figure 68. Excavations of Krak’s Mound in the 1930s: the upper part of the
mound already excavated (after R. Jamka).
152 chapter seven

technique: rst the modern structures (parts of Austrian fortications)

were removed then the upper part of the mound was excavated to
the depth of more than 5 m (that is, approximately 1/3 of its height).
Horizontal levels 25–50 cm thick were explored and documented as
they were removed (cf. Fig. 68). At the depth of 1 m a damaged child’s
skeleton was discovered. Below, at the depth of 2 m the roots of a
large oak and remains of a birch were found: these traces were seen
until the depth of c. 5 m. The researchers could not agree how this
nd should be interpreted. Some believed that these were remains of
a holy tree planted on the top of the mound in the pagan period and
cut after the introduction of Christianity in Cracow. As the age of the
tree was estimated to be about 300 years, the mound was dated to the
7th century and the remains of the birch were even considered to be
remains of an old cross. From a depth of about 3.50 m traces of a
wattle construction and traces of a post were discovered. The remains
of wattle fences were also visible at lower levels. Below 5.33 m (from
the top of the mound) a new technique began to be used: instead of
exploring horizontal layers the so-called funnel technique was applied
gradually decreasing the area of the explored surface. At the depth of
10 m, traces of a post 40 cm in diameter surrounded with stones was
seen; the traces were visible to the depth of 15 m; at the very bottom
the lowest part of the structure was identied: it was a layer of sand.
The data gathered allowed the method of constructing the mound
to be determined. On a layer of postglacial sands covering the Jurassic-
Cretaceous bedrock, a mound of sand was made of a diameter of
c. 15 m and height of 1 m. This was covered with a two meter thick
layer of silt, and the diameter of the mound increased to 30 m and the
height to 3 m. Another layer of sand of thickness of 12 m increased
the diameter to 60 m. The highest part of the mound was made of
a layer of chalk rubble, clay, silt and soil. The mound was stabilized
internally with wattle fence constructions with a central post.
During the exploration pottery, metal and int artifacts as well as
bones were collected. There is a hypothesis that the majority of them
came from settlements which had existed on the site from where
the material for building the mound was taken. The chronological
span of the materials is wide from several prehistoric culture groups
(Mesolithic, Neolithic (mainly int tools), Lusatian, Pomorska, and
Przeworsk Cultures). This material is mixed haphazardly in the layers
of the feature. Finds of the late Middle Ages were also unearthed;
they are assumed to have come from looters’ pits. Artifacts of various
monumental mounds in little poland 153

periods, including modern coins, were located immediately below the

turf. The most important nd for dating the mound is a characteristic
propeller-shaped bronze belt tting of Avar type dating to the late 8th
century. This object (Fig. 69) was discovered at a depth of more than
15 m from the summit. The other dating nd is a silver Bohemian
denar of Boleslav II (972–999), uncovered at the summit at a depth
of c. 50 cm below the humus layer. These two artifacts determine the
broad time span in which the mound was made: between the late 8th
and the late 10th century.
To the great disappointment of the excavators, the excavations did
not recover a primary burial under the mound. It was assumed that this
failure was caused by the fact that the bottom part of the mound was
excavated with the use of the funnel method, which made it impossible
to explore the whole area. It should be, however, remarked that the
funnel was successively expanded and as a result almost 80% of the
base of the mound was in fact uncovered. Another possibility ought to
be taken into account, however, and that is that the reason the burial
was not found was because it was not there in the rst place; this issue
will be discussed below.
The second of the large Cracow mounds (Wanda’s Mound) is
located c. 9 km to the east of Wawel Hill, at the place where the river
Ddubnia ows into the Vistula (on its left bank, thus on the other side
of the river from the Krak Mound). At present this area is part of the
town of Cracow (the Nowa Huta district) but formerly it belonged to
a village called Mogida (a name which means ‘tomb’); it is commonly
believed that the village was named after the mound; if this was the
case, it should be assumed that its function and origin in the Middle
Ages were still remembered. The height of the mound is 14 m and
its diameter reaches 45 m. Its form has been affected by a number of
changes, including Austrian military fortication works from the 19th
century (Fig. 70). Wanda’s Mound has never been excavated, but it is
known that in its nearest vicinity artifacts from the Late Stone Age
were found. The assumption that the mound comes from the Early
Middle Ages is based on associating its form and legendary tradition
with Krak’s Mound. According to Medieval legends the structure was
the grave of Wanda, the daughter of the mythical Krak.14

Zoll-Adamikowa 1977; with literature.
154 chapter seven

Still less is known about the third of the Cracow mounds, namely
Esterka’s Mound. It was situated on the Rudawa river, more than 3 km
to the northwest of Wawel Hill in the gardens of the royal palace at
cobzów. The mound was excavated at the end of the 18th century on
the initiative of King Stanisdaw August Poniatowski. It was expected to
contain the Medieval burial of Esterka, a concubine of King Kazimierz
the Great (who ruled 1333–1370). The investigations ended in failure
as the mound turned out to be empty. In the 1950s the mound was
completely destroyed during the construction of a sports stadium. On
the basis of the preserved iconography it can be ascertained that the
mound was 8 m tall and had a diameter of c. 30 m at the base.15

6. Other monumental mounds in Little Poland

Several other mounds are known from the region of Little Poland
which are of a size much greater than the average dimensions of the
mounds from the cemeteries of the pre-state period. They are clearly
smaller than the examples discussed above, but denitely larger than
the hundreds of mounds known from barrow cemeteries in Polish
lands (the diameters are usually much smaller than 10 m and gener-
ally range between 4 and 7 m). These larger structures are in eastern
Little Poland; the greatest number of them has been identied in the
Sandomierz region.16
The mound at Leszczków near Sandomierz (Fig. 71) though partly
destroyed by plowing still looks impressive. It is almost 7.7 m tall and
has a diameter of 22–24 m at the base; it seems that originally the
diameter was denitely greater.17 The collapsed soil on its sides has
yielded materials from various epochs, from the Neolithic to the Roman
period Przeworsk Culture. If this mound is not of Roman date, it may
be dated to the Early Middle Ages. No local legends or traditions are
connected with this monument. There are, however, some tales about

Radwaqski 1999–2000.
The Sandomierz mounds, including the ones discussed below, were investigated
in detail by M. Florek (1994); cf. also J. G[ssowski 1969; both publications with
The feature, located in a private eld, is successively plowed around during
every season. Its diameter is thus decreasing, which is aggravated by erosion of the
slopes. Unless an urgent conservator’s intervention is made, the feature may be facing
complete destruction.
monumental mounds in little poland 155

Figure 71. Eroding mound, Early Medieval barrow(?) at Leszczków near

Sandomierz (photo: M. Florek).

the so-called Kwacad’s Tomb at Zdota near Sandomierz. The earthwork

has a diameter of 14–16 m and a height reaching 2.5 m and is located
on a loess elevation thanks to which it is well visible from a distance. It
is interesting not only because of its name, indicating the burial function
but also including the name of the mysterious Kwacad buried in it. It
cannot be established denitely whether this is a memory of a local
leader from the pre-state period, or whether the origin of the name is
different. The mound is located in a place for which the tradition of
burying people of high social status existed. At the edge of the mound
the burial of an adult man from the Early Bronze Age was found. It
is the richest burial of the Mierzanowice culture population from the
Polish lands. The presence of the barrow (?) is connected with the
tradition of so-called R\kawka which has been recorded by the well-
known specialist in the Sandomierz region, Roman Koseda.18 This was
a Slavic rite connected with the cult of the dead celebrated on the
day of spring equinox. The rites included throwing various foodstuffs
(a similar custom, going back to the times of pre-state Poland, is con-
nected with the area of the Krak Mound in Cracow). So far, however,

156 chapter seven

excavations have not conrmed the presence of an Early Medieval

burial in Kwacad’s Tomb.
In swi\cica near Sandomierz, there are two large mounds. The
rst one has a diameter of almost 24 m and the height of 4 m. Partly
damaged by erosion it probably dates from the Bronze Age. The sec-
ond one is much smaller (the diameter at the base is c. 9 m and the
height is 2 m) and was investigated in the 1970s by Andrzej Kempisty.
It is dated to the Roman period and in its second phase to the Early
Middle Ages (the 7th century?). The later burial probably dug into an
earlier barrow existing at that place (Fig. 72). No more details can be
ascertained because the results of the excavations have still not been
At the village of Husynne in Hrubieszów district (southeastern
Poland), a mound known locally as the Moon Grave has been preserved
till today. It was excavated in the 1950s. It is 5.5 m tall and the diameter
at the base is almost 27.5 m (Fig. 73). The mound contained material
from various periods, the latest material is from the pre-state period (the
9th century). At a height of c. 3.5 m above the base of the mound, a

Figure 73. Early Medieval barrow at Husynne near Hrubieszów, 9th century
(photo: A. Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).
monumental mounds in little poland 157

hearth with several dozen unidentied bone fragments was found. The
function of the feature has not been denitely determined.19

7. The European context

In the other regions of Poland, no equally large mounds have been

found. Similar structures can be found in different parts of Europe,
often ones quite distant from Little Poland. The large mounds of
Kievan Rus are the nearest; their presence relates to the ‘Varangian’
episode. A detailed description of the burial rites thanks to which the
huge mound was created was described by an Arab traveler, Ibn Fadlan,
who witnessed the burial of a rich Rus (Scandinavian). The events took
place in the 920s somewhere on the Volga river. The main elements of
the burial was a large boat and the deceased dressed in his best clothes.
The boat was pulled to the land and various offerings were put in it:
food, drinks, animals. One of his women-slaves who chose death of
her own will also participated. All the gifts were burnt on the pyre and
in the nal stage a large mound was made on the spot and at its top
a post with the deceased’s name was erected.20
Some of the best known mounds are the Chernigov ones found in
the tribal territory of the Severjane (Chernaya Mogila, Gulbishche,
Bezymianny) and the complex of necropolises of Gnezdovo near
Smolensk. For the issues discussed here the Chernaya Mogila at
Chernigov (height 11 m, diameter at the base: 40 m) is particularly
interesting. As in the case of the Krak Mound, the construction began
with a small mound raised of sand. The main difference is that in
Chernaya Mogila at the top of the barrow the dead and their grave
goods were cremated and the remains were discovered during the
excavations. In the context of our discussion we may also mention the
sopki, multiple burials in barrows which are characteristic for the area
of Novgorod; some of them have diameters reaching 90 m and heights
of 10 m. They are numerous in the area of Lake Ilmen, and on the
rivers Volkhov Lovat, Msta and their tributaries. The large Ruthenian

uurowski, Mikodajczyk 1955. The excavations were conducted as part of the
Millennium program. The mound (which I know from personal inspection in the
summer 2002), is now badly damaged. Due to the large craters it seems as if it had
not one but three summits. This is probably the result of not lling up the trenches (?)
after the previous excavations; it cannot be excluded that they are looters’ pits.
Cf. Lewicki 1955.
158 chapter seven

barrows are connected either with the local power elites or (especially
in the early phase) with the Varangians.21
In Sweden the so-called royal barrows are known mainly from Old
Uppsala where they are dated to the 6th century, although according
to the Swedish researchers, the process of monumentalization of the
center began in the 5th century; the nal stage was ended with a re in
the 9th century.22 There are more than 250 such large barrows, dated
most often to the period of Great Migrations or the Viking period,
and 50 of them are considered to be royal barrows. Their greatest
concentration is in Uppland, the central part of the country.23 In this
context the monumental mounds from Jelling in Denmark should also
be mentioned. The southern one resembles Krak’s Mound in structure
(with the central post and internal constructions); the Danish structures
are dated to the mid-10th century.24 Many monumental mounds had
been constructed in Denmark from the Early Bronze Age onwards but
then they ceased to be built in the Iron Age ( Jastorf Culture). The
tradition returned in the Viking period.
In Norway there are the famous ship barrows from Vestfold, which
was the domain of the Ynlinge dynasty. The best known ones, from
Oseberg and Gokstad, excavated in the 19th century contained, besides
the splendid Viking boats, valuable grave goods. A complex of large
barrows can be also found at Borre located to the north of Oseberg.
The majority of these nds is dated to the Viking period (the 9th–
10th century).25
In the above-mentioned territories the monumental early Medieval
barrows differ in chronology, structure, and origin from the ones in
Poland, although their formation is connected with the territorial
centers of power. Despite expectations, the remains of the dead were
not always found in each of them or even indirect testimonies of the
sepulchral function of these structures. Their only common feature is
the size and form which serve a symbolic aim, to commemorate the
people or events from the past.

From the wealth of literature of the subject the following can be recommended:
Samokvasov 1874; Godubieva 1949; Sedov 1970; Bul’kin 1975; all with literature.
Linquist 1936; Duczko 1998; Sjöberg 2000.
Arrhenius 1995.
Dyggve 1948; Krogh 1993.
These and many other similar structures presented in a broader spatial context
are discussed by: Vvan de Noort 1993; Müller-Wille 1992; 1997; all with literature.
monumental mounds in little poland 159

8. The Great Mounds of Little Poland: when and why were they raised?

The names of Krak and Wanda, which were given to the Cracow
mounds, appear already in the chronicle of the Medieval historian,
Wincenty Kaddubek. In the following centuries, other chronicles also
take up the issue. The circumstance of raising the mound and the
course of prince Krak’s burial were briey presented by Jan Ddugosz
(1415–1480 in his Annales seu cronici incliti regni Poloniae Book I) who
stated that the population:
according to the custom of the time buried him with due honor and
grief on Lasota’s Hill, which is facing Cracow. In order that the grave
were more durable and permanent and so that the descendants would
not forget about it, Krak’s two sons, following the special instructions
which their father had given them when he still lived, articially raised
the mound cleverly adding sand to it so that the summit, where the body
was deposited, dominated over all the surrounding hills.
The custom of rewarding the eminent Cracow rulers so that the
descendants would remember them is conrmed by the fact that Lech,
Krak’s son, who killed his own brother, did not get a mound, but on the
contrary, he ended badly, removed from power. His sister, Wanda, how-
ever, who took the throne after him, was given a huge mound-barrow
to commemorate her heroic gesture (having taken the vows of chastity
she rejected a German prince Rytygier and after having vanquished
him, gave her life to the gods, jumping into the Vistula). Ddugosz called
her mound equally ‘noble’ as her father’s. After that the settlement in
which the mound was raised was called Mogiea (tomb).
This supposed ‘tribal’ dynasty recorded by the medieval chronicler
can be quite probably associated, according to some specialists, to the
brief but stormy episode of the state of the Vislane, whose center is
said to have been in Cracow. In this context both the lack of Krak’s
legendary ancestors and the fact that the dynastic legend ended with
the person of Wanda, the mythical daughter of the ruler, are consid-
ered signicant. Thus the monumental mounds in Cracow dated to the
late pre-state period are, as Kazimierz Radwaqski has recently stated,26
material testimonies of that stormy epoch. The mounds of Krak and
of Wanda are 8 km away from each other but within sight, could be
a reection of their symbolic role, mainly connected with the strong

160 chapter seven

center of power (this is to some extent evidenced by the nd of the

exceptionally heavy and large hoard of axe-like currency bars from
Kanonicza Street discussed in Chapter 4). Krak’s Mound, like the
Kwacad’s Tomb in Zdota Sandomierska described above, is associated
with the so-called R\kawka mentioned above. The name R\kawka,
was preserved in old iconography and as a synonym of the name of
the hill. Kazimierz Radwaqski does not exclude the possibility that this
is why the church located there is dedicated to St. Benedict, as this
saint’s day is celebrated on March 21st. Wanda’s Mound, in turn, is
associated with the pagan Midsummer’s Eve celebrations (the festival
known as sobótka and the oating of wreaths in the river) and also the
solemn celebration of Wanda’s day by the monastery at Mogida dedi-
cated to St. John the Baptist. Thus the situation may be similar to that
of Krak’s Mound: the old pagan customs were replaced by elements
of the Christian cult.
So far attention has been drawn to the similarities of the monumental
Little Polish mounds to the royal barrows from Scandinavia. In this
context we should recall the iconographic sources which testify to the
original presence of numerous small tumuli around the Cracow and
Przemytl mounds which are no longer in existence today. This situ-
ation to some extent resembles that in the area of the Scandinavian
royal barrows in Old Uppsala. In an engraving from the early 19th
century to the right of Krak’s Mound, some smaller ones are visible.
Like the eld surrounding them they were subjected to plowing, which
resulted in their ultimate destruction in the past.27 Also the wattle
construction and especially the central post discovered in the center of
Krak’s Mound have analogies in Scandinavian barrows (the western
mound in Old Uppsala, the southern mound in Jelling). In turn the
way of raising the mound, including making a small mound at rst,
reveals considerable similarities to the Chernaya Mogila in Chernigov
in Ukraine. It is difcult to make statements about the other Cracow
mounds as they have not been excavated. Should thus the origins of
Krak’s Mound, and perhaps also the other structures from Cracow be
linked with the Viking tradition?28 This hypothesis is quite attractive
but not very probable. There are no premises to believe that Cracow or

Were these really articial mounds (barrows) or only anomalies of the morphology
of the land? This can not be denitely stated on the basis of the uncertain data. A
group of ‘barrow-like’ structures is still visible in the vicinity of Krak’s Mound.
This possibility was suggested many years ago by Roman Jakimowicz (1934).
monumental mounds in little poland 161

the rest of Little Poland were settled by Scandinavians. Besides, if the

Little Polish mounds were to be some kind of a ‘sign’ of the presence
of Scandinavian arrivals to the Polish lands then why there are no such
phenomena in the regions where the Scandinavians’ presence has been
testied, that is in Pomerania, Kuiavia or Great Poland?
In the case of the Salve Regina Mound in Sandomierz the situation
is even more complex. In fact, besides the local tradition (of unknown
duration) there are no premises to accept its Early Medieval origins.
Although the local tradition associates this mound with the Tatars’
threat, there is no material evidence indicating the period in which it
was formed. The excavation of the mound did not yield any ultimate
explanation of its origins and function because in its basic shape it is
a natural loess hill. Yet in the past the structure was subject to man’s
intentional intervention as a result of which its original form was
considerably changed. The slopes gained steeper escarpments and the
mound obtained the form of a regular prism. It is also worth stressing
two elements: the collective human effort which resulted in shifting
large masses of soil and the power which inspired that activity, which
was, it would seems some form of organized ‘tribal’ power. Was it
built as an imitation of the Cracow Mounds? In our interpretations
we should take into account rst of all the similarity of the dating of
Krak’s Mound and of the monumental mounds from other parts of
Europe. From that point of view the location of Salve Regina Mound is
also important, as in the case of Cracow and other places it was raised
in a location for which we have testimonies of signicant centers of
pre-state (tribal) and early state power.
The situation is different in the case of the Przemysdaw’s (Tatars’)
Mound in Przemytl. Its double name suggests the possibility of different
datings: one concerning the birth of the town (Przemysdaw’s Mound)
and the other, the nomads’ incursion (Tatars’ Mound). The time of
its creation and its function are equally complicated. Early medieval
material (which I know from personal inspection) was found in the
layers on the side of the hill, but should be associated at the earliest
with the secondhalf of the 12th century and thus a much later epoch
than expected. No far-reaching conclusions can be drawn from this
fact as the material comes from layers close to the surface and their
location near replaces (?) may only indicate that at that time res were
made on a mound already in existence and into which the remains
of broken vessels were thrown. The question of the construction of
the structure is also complex. Studying the archival data about the
162 chapter seven

excavations conducted by Teol uebrawski, I saw the notes in which

he wrote that it was impossible to penetrate the layer of rock which
appeared in the trench as little as 3 m from the top of the mound.
On this basis he made a drawing which indicates that the mound was
raised only in its upper part and inside has a rock outcrop. The recent
investigations by Ewa Sosnowska29 seem to conrm the conjecture:
inside the mound is lled with eroded rock material and on one of the
slopes, solid rock is located directly under the turf. Thus in the case
of the Przemytl structure we are dealing with a construction method
between that used for making the Cracow mound which was entirely
built by man and the Salve Regina Mound where an already existing
natural hill was modied. The Przemytl mound has one more feature
in common with the Sandomierz one: the triangular base, whereas the
Cracow mounds have bases similar to an oval. However, in Cracow
there were as many as three large mounds. In Sandomierz and Przemytl
we have a category of large mounds of a type which cannot be found
in the Cracow region.
Assuming that in all the cases discussed above we are dealing with
symbolic structures from the pre-state period, there arises a question
whether the Little Polish mounds, like the other European mounds, had
a sepulchral function? There is no single answer to this question. Unlike
the best known mounds inside which either the remains of the dead
(e.g., in Chernigov) or elements of grave goods (e.g., in Old Uppsala), the
Little Polish monumental mounds were ‘constructed’ in such a way that
they have no room for a burial chamber in the middle of the interior.
In the Cracow example, this space is lled with the wattle construction
with a central post in the middle, in the Sandomierz mound, because
it is a natural loess hill and in the Przemytl one, because it is a rock
outcrop. Thus their symbolic function seems to have been the most
prominent. However, even in the case of the Scandinavian mounds,
as the research conducted so far has indicated, these functions are not
contradictory but rather overlap.
In the case of barrow burials from the Slavic countries the burial
rite where the remains were deposited on top of a mound appeared
the most frequently in the pre-state period. This type of burial was
testied for the burial rites both of the eastern and of the western
Slavs. Thus it is possible that, if they had originally had a sepulchral

monumental mounds in little poland 163

function, such a type of burial was used at the monumental mounds.

Does that mean that in Cracow, Sandomierz and Przemytl only the
bases of the burials, that is, the monumental mounds have survived,
whereas the most crucial part (the remains of the dead) located at the
top was destroyed? Undoubtedly, such a concept of burial entails the
short existence of its original form (cf. Chapter 6). At the rst pretext,
such as for example military action, the remains of even the most
eminent ruler were desecrated and destroyed. Yet the base of such a
tomb remained unchanged and owing to that had the chance to survive
till modern times.
Among the existing interpretations of the Little Polish mounds,
there is also the theory of their Celtic origin which has been fostered
especially by Józef Kotlarczyk. According to him, the orientation of
the pairs of mounds (Krak-Wanda and Sólca-Komarowice) at the
same angle with respect to the parallel latitude, and also the mound
located to the east is in both cases smaller than the one on the west.
He drew attention to the azimuths linking these pairs of mounds which
are in accordance with the azimuths of the sunrise at certain times of
year. He concluded that these monuments could have determined the
beginnings of the Celtic seasons and other Celtic rites.30 This hypoth-
esis, however, does not seem acceptable because it does not take into
account all the Little Polish monumental mounds and their broader
contexts and it is in discord with the fact that Early Medieval material
was found inside Krak’s Mound, which makes it impossible for it to
have an earlier dating.
What should be the next step in studying the Little Polish monu-
mental mounds? First of all, Wanda’s mound ought to be investigated
as a matter of urgency and its relation to Krak’s Mound established.
Such investigations should consist of several stages, rst geophysical
surveys should be made as well as drillings. The latter method, as the
investigations of the Salve Regina Mound have shown has two consid-
erable advantages; it allows the researcher to get an overview of the
stratigraphy of the structure and to obtain samples of its layers which
can undergo detailed multidisciplinary analyses.
It is a mystery why there are no similar structures in the other
regions of Poland. This concerns especially Great Poland, the region
where the Piast state was formed. It is also surprising that there are no

Kotlarczyk 1969.
164 chapter seven

Figure 74. Map of distribution of monumental and large mounds in Little

Poland presented in the book (drawing and digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

monumental mounds in Pomerania, the region where archaeological

investigations have been revealing direct traces of the Scandinavians’
presence. The monumental mounds in Little Poland (Fig. 74) should
thus be considered as one of the regional peculiarities connected with
the formation of proto-state structures in various parts of Europe.31
Attempts have recently been made to link the appearance of monu-
mental mounds with the process of centralization of power in Slav
lands after the collapse of the Avars. They have thus been treated as
the material evidence of the creation of systems of so-called chiefdoms
including rivalry for power.32 It is difcult to agree with this opinion,

Leszek Sdupecki (1998) came to similar conclusions a few years ago in his analysis
of the Krak and Wanda mounds of Cracow in their wider comparative context.
Cf. Urbaqczyk 2000, 64.
monumental mounds in little poland 165

especially since the appearance of these monumental mounds is associ-

ated only with Little Poland, while the model mentioned above would
mean they would appear in other regions too, and above all in Great
Poland where the Polish state emerged.
It would be interesting to learn if these mounds were inspired by
new arrivals, for whom the idea of such monumental structures was
familiar or perhaps they were inspired by local tradition (or imitation)
of the customs seen elsewhere and remembered. At the present stage
of research either of these options is equally probable.


1. A fascinating discovery

PodebÜocie, a small village 100 km south of Warsaw, became part of

history thanks to the discovery of three modest looking pieces of red
clay called by archaeologists the ‘tablets of PodebÜocie’ which aroused
a huge scientic controversy. They were found in 1986 during excava-
tions directed by Professor Jerzy G[ssowski of Warsaw University in
two features of an Early Medieval settlement dated to the 7th/8th
century (Phase I) and the 9th–mid-11th century (Phase II). At least
one of the features where the nd was made was dated to the pre-
state period whereas the other one is still a subject of analyses. All the
objects discussed below had a common feature: they have mysterious
signs resembling a script on their surfaces.
The complex at PodebÜocie, lies several kilometers away from the
course of the Vistula river. It consists of a fortied settlement on a
promontory (Fig. 75), three adjoining settlements, a cemetery of cre-
mation barrows and another cremation burial ground in the nearby
Stasin.1 Although the stronghold was discovered in 1971, systematic
archaeological investigations began in 1984. The excavations of the
settlement where the tablets were found were completed in 1992 after
eight seasons of eldwork. The discovery of the tablets themselves was
made in 1986 during excavations in the northern part of the complex,
on the site of the open settlement No. 3, just below the stronghold. The
most interesting of the discovered features here was one of the sunken
oored huts which contained fragments of pottery vessels decorated
with gural ornament—rare in the Early Middle Ages—and two of the
clay tablet fragments with the signs resembling the letters of the Greek
alphabet. A fragment of the third tablet was found in a pit located in
the neighboring trench.2

Cf. Marczak 1995.
The description of the site, the nds and their archaeological context can be
found in the numerous works by E. Marczak, included in the bibliography, especially:
Marczak 1993, 1998, 1999; Cf. also Barford, Marczak 1992.
168 chapter eight

Feature No. 10 (Fig. 76) where the two tablets were found appears
to be the remains of a sunken oored hut with an occupation level
c. 40 cm below the ground surface. In the north-western corner of the
feature there were remains of an oven. Besides the two fragments of
tablets, as many as 1420 pottery fragments were found there, including
ones covered with solar and zoomorphic ornaments. The other nds
from the feature were not special in any respect. These are: an iron
knife, a semi-nished bone chisel, a clay spindlewhorl, and a fragment
of an arrowhead. Among the (numerous) animal remains cattle bones
were the most common. Thus, besides a few artifacts, the nds were
similar to those from the other features in the settlement.
Feature 13, in which the third tablet was found, was similar in shape
to a 1 u 3 m rectangle. The occupation layer inside it was 40 cm thick.
Besides the tablet the pit contained: a fragment of an iron tting, 166
fragments of pottery and animal bones. These items, however, will
not be discussed further in this text, which will focus on the above-

Figure 76. PodebÜocie, settlement 3, Features 10 and 13 where the tablets and
pottery with the solar and zoomorphic ornament were found are indicated.
Features marked in gray represent settlement Phase I (after E. Marczak, by
A. Buko and M. Trzeciecki).
the earliest medieval script in poland? 169

mentioned tablets, which have been the subject of the avid interest of
many researchers.

2. What was found on the tablets from Podebeocie?

The rst tablet (Fig. 77) is regular in shape, similar to a rectangle with
sides 47 u 27 mm, and 12–15 mm thick. Its upper surface is smooth
and at whereas the lower one bearing characteristic irregularities was
probably broken off. The nd has a different fabric from the other two
(the clay is paler in color and small grains of sand are visible). This
attribute should be borne in mind because it will be mentioned in the
later part of the discussion. On the at surface signs in the form of
regular incisions, made with a sharp tool in wet clay, are visible. The
signs make up two lines.
The second tablet is 40 u 32 u 25 mm and has an irregular shape;
its original edges were damaged and then partly eroded, which is indi-
cated by the rounded edges of the nd. As in the former case, one of
the surfaces is at and smooth. It has two rows of signs made with a
sharp tool in wet clay. The signs are fewer than on the rst fragment,
but they are larger and clearer (Fig. 78).
The third nd has triangular form (70 u 75 mm) and was part of
a larger object, which is indicated by the irregular and partly eroded
edges. On the at and smooth surface there are 13 signs in two rows.
Some of them, located on the edge of the fragment have only been
partially preserved (Fig. 79).
The discovery and the initial interpretation of the signs divided
the scientic milieu. In a debate presented in the magazine Kultura
in 1987 many scientists expressed their opinions. Some of them were
ready to accept the importance of the discovery with all the resulting
consequences. Others considered the signs as accidental imprints of
plants. A third group suggested that all these objects were products
of a cunning fabricator who managed to deceive the archaeologists.
I remember one scientic meetings at this time at which some of the
assembled scholars seem to have considered the taking of sides for or
against one of the concepts as a test for scientic reliability (or naivety)
of those present. Such a negative approach was partly caused by the
fact that the debate developed before both the artifacts and the contexts
in which they were found were properly analyzed. So why did these
mysterious signs inspire such a controversy?
170 chapter eight

Jerzy G[ssowski3 tended to believe that they represented samples

of the earliest Medieval script in Polish lands. What is more, he pro-
posed the presence of groups of Christians in Polish lands before the
new religion was ofcially adopted. Tadeusz Wasilewski,4 a specialist
in Byzantine history, went even further: he assumed that the signs on
tablets 2 and 3 were letters of the Greek script (symbols: I X C H),
which, according to him, were an abbreviation (in Latin translitera-
tion) I(sus) CH(ristos) N(ika)—Jesus Christ Conquer. Edward Tryjarski,5 a
Turkologist, interpreted one of the tablets in a quite different way. The
signs (an attempt at deciphering only one tablet was made), could—he
said—be read as runic signs of the Turkic alphabet. The inscription
was deciphered as: Pay back the debt! Cheat. The researcher, however,
added that due to various reasons (the Turks wrote down also texts in
other languages, e.g., Iranian ones) his proposed reading did not have
to be the only right one.

3. The tablets in the light of the most recent analyses

After the emotions of the late 1980s, which were expressed mainly
(but not only) in the press and in unofcial discussions, the debate was
discontinued. In the 1990s, owing to a grant from the Committee for
Scientic Research (KBN) obtained by Ewa Marczak from the Institute
of Archaeology at Warsaw University, various experts’ reports were
made in specialist laboratories. The results proved to be very interest-
ing. The analyses conducted in the Central Forensic Laboratory of the
Polish Police in Warsaw have proved beyond any doubt that the signs
visible on the tablets are not, as had been suggested, accidental imprints
of plants but were intentionally made with a tool using a scratching
movement in wet (soft) clay, that is before the objects were red.6
Still more fascinating are the results of the petrographic analyses
conducted at the University of Science and Technology in Cracow by
Maciej Pawlikowski. The analyses revealed that the tablets were made
of different fabrics. Two tablets, Nos. 2 and 3 (cf. Fig. 78, 79), were
produced from similar raw materials and show many resemblances

1987, 1991.
Marczak 1998.
the earliest medieval script in poland? 171

to the fabrics of the clay used as daub in the walls of the houses at
PodebÜocie. However, according to the researcher, the third tablet (cf.
Fig. 77) was made of clays not to be found in this region of Europe,
which makes it petrographically different from the other ones. The
observable features of the raw material and thermically transformed
silt minerals are typical for the weathered soils of the terra rosa type,
which occur on the Mediterranean lime stones. The conclusion of the
petrographer is clear: one of the discussed plaques was imported to
PodebÜocie, most probably from the south.7
Another step in explaining the mysteries of the clay tablets from
PodebÜocie is the suggestion of how the inscriptions should be inter-
preted, put forward by Tomasz PÜóciennik.8 He profoundly criticized the
existing attempts at reading the signs. He also stated that the original
drawings which many had based their interpretations on were imprecise
and in reality they look slightly differently, which has a considerable
inuence on their reading and interpretation (Fig. 80). According to
PÜóciennik it is characteristic that the inscriptions on tablets 2 and 3
differ only in the shape of the last sign (No. 4) resembling, respectively,
letters I and H. Both these signs, called in Byzantine Greek iota and
eta have the same phonetic value: that of vowel i. Thus if the script
were read backwards (this is a situation sometimes met in Medieval
epigraphy) both tablets present the Greek monogram of Christ: ICXC.
He noticed also some other details. The imprecise rendering of letter
C (the Greek sigma, sign No. 3 on the tablets), seems to indicate that
the person who was making the inscriptions was illiterate and was
reproducing the signs from memory.
It is quite obvious that this interpretation does not differ consider-
ably from the one earlier suggested by Tadeusz Wasilewski: in the latter
case the script was understood as an exclamation and in the former,
a monogram. However, the deciphered subject is the same: in both
cases we deal with the world of Christian beliefs and there is a direct
connection with Christ’s name.
To complete the existing knowledge about the tablets, one circum-
stance which went unnoticed in the earlier discussions should be remem-
bered. Namely, together with the two tablets some interesting pieces

Marczak 1999.
172 chapter eight

Figure 80. Two interpretations of the form of the signs from Tablets 2 and 3.
Veried forms of signs are on the right (after T. PÜóciennik).

of pottery with a specic kind of decoration were found. These were

fragments of vessels with solar and zoomorphic ornaments discovered
in the same feature as the two analyzed tablets. In the pre-state period,
the typical ornaments on pottery were horizontal and wavy lines in
various congurations. The representations of the sun, and engraved
gures (Fig. 81) or zigzags with circles inside deserve a detailed analysis.
Only a few examples of gural representations are known on Early
Medieval pottery from Polish lands. Still rarer is the ornament of
circles resembling the sun. The decorations found on the pottery from
PodebÜocie are unique for that period not only in Mazovia but also in
the other regions in Poland. I have seen a similar type of ornament,
i.e., concentric sun rays, on some vessels coming from the Carolingian
period found in the western Balkans and they were dated to the 9th
the earliest medieval script in poland? 173

century.9 Who, and why in this place, had come up with the idea of
decorating clay vessels in such a way remains a mystery. Thus not only
the tablets but also the above-described decorative motifs make the
nds from PodebÜocie special.
It is worthwhile mentioning one more mystery connected with
PodebÜocie, namely the results of the analyses of the animal bones
discovered in the stronghold. According to the archaeozoologist, Alicja
Lasota-Moskalewska, we see here a model of consumption rarely seen
in Polish lands of the Early Middle Ages. It is characteristic of a steppe
(nomadic) population, and is manifested by the specic structure of the
herds of animals raised (and also consumed). Its specic feature is the
high proportion of sheep/goat together with a smaller proportion than
is usual of bones of cattle and pigs. These data may indicate that the
settlement complex at PodebÜocie was inhabited by a culturally diversi-
ed population. And although this hypothesis has been criticized10 for,
i.a., the small size of the analyzed assemblage, it is worth noting.
So what is currently known about the tablets? First and foremost,
it should be stated that the complexes from PodebÜocie are character-
ized with a signicant number of nds unique in the whole of Poland.
The problem of the tablets cannot be considered separately from these
other nds. The greatest difculty is posed by their precise dating. The
stratigraphical data suggest that feature 10 where two of the tablets
were found should be included in the earlier (pre-state) phase. Feature
13 (with one tablet) cannot be dated because it was considerably dam-
aged.11 The results of specialist examinations indicate that the features
on the described discoveries cannot have been accidental. Do the tablets
represent the traces of the earliest Medieval script found in Polish lands?
No ultimate conclusion can be made now as the discovered material
is still being analyzed. It is however justied to say that the analyses
conducted so far make the hypothesis more and more probable. So why
do other researchers react so emotionally to the discovery? Probably
partly because of the fact that the discoveries similar to the presented

Knic 1999, Fig. C9.
Barford 2000.
The attempt at dating a horse bone found in feature 10 made at the Radiocarbon
Dating Laboratory at the Silesian Technical University yielded a date ranging from
the late 6th till the late 7th century. Such an early date cannot be directly linked with
the remaining elements in the feature’s lling.
174 chapter eight

one are quite exceptional. The Polish lands at the discussed time were
pagan, yet before the mid-10th century anonymous Christians traveled
in various regions of our country so their direct contacts with the local
pagan population were quite probable. Their new religion, however,
though typical of the neighbors from the west and south could not have
been accepted in the pagan world. A change of the system of beliefs,
that is the rejection of the ancestors’ faith, would have meant the col-
lapse of the centuries-old social system. It was, however, possible that
in some places anonymous Christians (for example slaves, prisoners of
war, travelers or settlers) left traces similar to the ones described above.
Even if this was the case, the phenomena had marginal effect and did
not nd any reection in the existing beliefs. The great conversion
began after the year 966 when the beginnings of the Polish state were
rst formed. This date, however, does not denote a rm watershed, the
Christianization of the country took a long time and was hampered
by many difculties, and in its course the Church and its institutions
adapted the Latin script.


1. Between archaeology, dynastic tradition and legend

The rst to write about the origins of the Polish state was the chronicler
known as Gallus Anonymous who compiled his narrative in the early 12th
century.1 In his text he mentioned the legendary ancestors of Mieszko
I, the rst historical ruler of Poland. He gives a very precise account of
the hospitality offered in his mean hut in Gniezno by the wheelwright
Piast (originator of the Piast dynasty) to two mysterious guests, but
then makes only brief mention of Mieszko’s predecessors. According
to his narrative, Piast’s son Siemowit is said to have achieved the most;
having gained power with social, and probably also God’s, approval, he
deposed the bad king Popiel and his offspring, they were banished from
the kingdom (but it is not known where they settled). It is related how
the tyrant ended his life: sent to an island he perishes, eaten by mice.
Siemowit (according to the chronicle the real founder of the dynasty)
owing to his hard work and knightly deeds became remembered by the
future generations as the one who considerably expanded the kingdom
(but we are not told what new territories he gained). His successor
Lestek, the narrative continues, equaled his father in his military prow-
ess, goodness and courage. There is, however, no information allowing
us to assess his contribution in forming the territorial base of the state
(perhaps everything been already done in that respect). The stress laid
by the chronicler on Lestek’s knightly valor perhaps allows us to believe
that the ruler at least effectively defended his inheritance. Still briefer
are the mentions concerning Mieszko’s father, Siemomysd, who in the
chronicle is described as the one ‘who increased the glory of his ances-
tors three times both in his birth and dignity’. At best it may be guessed

The conventional name for this epic narrative of great historical and literary
importance written in Latin in the court of the Polish ruler Bolesdaw Wrymouth between
1112 and 1116 derives from the fact that its anonymous author is believed to have
been a Benedictine monk, most likely from Provence. In recent years the debate about
the identity of its author has however been reopened. The text mainly glories the gesta
of Bolesdaw Wrymouth, but mentions his predecessors to put this in context (P.B.).
176 chapter nine

that his rule was a time of peace, for the chronicle does not mention
any military matters. At the same time, as Gallus Anonymous remarks, it
was a period in which the country ruled by Siemomysd was sunken in
pagan blindness: this is how his story about Mieszko’s regaining sight
at the age of seven can be understood, just as the boy miraculously
gained sight during a pagan feast, so the nation he was one day to rule
was to gain its spiritual sight when it accepted Christianity.2
The above-discussed text presenting the origins of the state and
dynasty suggested to scholars that the history of Poland should be
considered as beginning not so much with the pivotal year 966, that is
the date of adopting Christianity, but at least three generations earlier.
The attempts at nding archaeological justication for the hypothesis
of the early origins of the state were rst made before the Second
World War and then after it within the boundaries of the research
program on the origins of the Polish state, which embraced dozens
of sites all over Poland (Fig. 82). The key aim of these investigations
was to nd the earliest ‘tribal’ phase of the leading centers. However,
the problem turned out to be a complex one and the archaeological
interpretations carried a high risk of error from the very outset. Often
any traces of pre-state settlement in the earliest Polish towns were iden-
tied as testimonies of the rst phase of the fortied center. However,
in many cases such nds may only indicate that there was some settle-
ment in the investigated area in the pre-state period. Combining these
uncertain, often not scientically justied, claims with the content of
written sources resulted in the belief, harbored for many years, that
the state formed in the period from the 8th till the early 10th century.
According to this conception the state was the outcome of slow inter-
nal socio-economic and cultural development, including the political
‘maturing’ of ‘tribal’ communities. At the same time the towns were
evolving from the nuclear forms of the pre-state period to developed
early urban-stronghold centers of the Piast times. In this approach the
earlier (‘tribal’) strongholds were treated mainly as a stage at which the
town-shaping processes were initiated and then accelerated as a result
of the origination of the early Piast state.3

Gallus I, 4.
These conceptions are reected in many publications of that time both by histo-
rians (cf., cowmiaqski 1973; Mitkiewicz 1976) and archaeologists (e.g. Hensel 1963,
1964, 1974; Leciejewicz 1972).
how poland came into being 177

Figure 82. Main archaeological sites investigated in Poland during the Millen-
nium period (after W. Hensel; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

Another widely discussed problem were the circumstances in which

the state originated.4 According to the dynastic legends, the area from
which the territory was expanded in the pre-state period was Great
Poland. For that reason before the Polish state originated that region
must have gained the highest degree of political, economic, and ter-
ritorial integration. This is in contradiction with general knowledge
and information from the written sources which seem to indicate that
in the 9th century the area with the greatest potential for forming the
state was Little Poland. However, according to the dynastic legend, the
new dynasty formed in the second half of the 9th century not in Little
Poland but in the state of the Polanie.

These issues were analyzed by Polish Medieval historians many times (cf. Labuda
1988; cowmiaqski 1973; Mitkiewicz 1976; Potkaqski 1965; Strzelczyk 1992, 2000;
Samsonowicz; 2000, 2001; with literature).
178 chapter nine

2. Where Poland began: Great Poland just before the rise of the state

In contrast to the neighboring regions, Great Poland did not have to

face any external threats in the pre-state period. This not only improved
the long term stabilization of settlement but also helped the develop-
ment of supra-tribal political and economic structures. The process
of forming the region was a long-lasting one and connected with the
creation of centers of hierarchical power. Archaeological methods allow
the recognition of the construction of new strongholds (cf. Chapter 4).
The early 10th century saw the fall of the ‘tribal’ strongholds on the
Obra river, most probably after their conquest by the Polanie. More
strongholds ceased to function in other parts of Great Poland. The
research has proved that among dozens of them located in this region
a considerable majority was destroyed in the rst half of the 10th cen-
tury.5 This drastically changed the settlement structure especially in the
western and south-western part of the region. At the time when the
Piasts appeared on the stage, the population became less dense and in
some areas disappeared altogether. The situation was different at the
Poznaq-Gniezno area. There a considerable development of the settle-
ment network can be observed: there was up to 10 people per square
kilometer, that is, much more than the average assumed for the whole
area of Polish lands of that time.6 It is supposed that these phenomena
were the result of displacements of large masses of people. Of the c. 90
strongholds in Great Poland of the pre-state period, only 13 were
redeveloped and still used in the times of the origination of the state.
The remaining ones were forgotten (Fig. 83). In the discussed period, it
is also possible to see the diversication of the areas in the density of
population and the distribution of strongholds. The core of the Gniezno
state, less densely populated in the previous period, came to the fore.
The concentrations of complex strongholds with huge fortications and
elements of monumental architecture recorded for the area originated,
according to recent dendrochronological analyses, from the 930s and
940s and the second half of that century. Particularly favorable condi-
tions of settlement appeared around Gniezno, Poznaq, Ostrów Lednicki
and Giecz, and resulted in an increase of the population. For that reason
the strongholds were built quite close one to another; often the distances

These issues are now better understood thanks to numerous excavations but
especially new dendrochronological datings (cf. Kr[piec 1998).
Kurnatowski (1994) 1995; Kurnatowski Z. & S. 1997.
how poland came into being 179

Figure 83. Pre-state and early state strongholds in Great Poland: 1—pre-state
strongholds destroyed after the origination of the state, 2—pre-state strong-
holds which survived and existed in the early Piast period, 3—strongholds build
in the early Piast times (after Z. Kurnatowska; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

between them did not exceed 30 km. Besides the main ones, centers
of a smaller rank surrounded with a network of new settlements were
built. As a result of these processes, at the time of Mieszko’s rule the
strongholds shifted from south-western Great Poland to the central part
of the Gniezno state. The most recent results of dendrochronological
analyses indicate that all the fortications of the center of Gniezno
were made between 940 and 1025 and thus in the times of Mieszko I
and Boleslaw the Brave. In Santok and Mi\dzyrzecz all the defensive
ramparts were almost completely rebuilt in the same period. For two
other fortied centers: Ostrów Lednicki and Moraczewo, which may
be assumed to have existed before the times of Mieszko, their broad
relations to the other early Piast strongholds (chronological and func-
tional) still require an explanation.7

The problems of settlement transformations in Great Poland in the state-forming
period were analyzed in depth by S. Kurnatowski ([1994]1995 and Zoa Kurnatowska
(1991, 2000; 2002); with literature.
180 chapter nine

Besides the Gniezno zone, intensive building activity was carried

out in the Kalisz Upland. Within a radius of 30 km, 24 strongholds
have been identied around Kalisz, which in itself is an unusual phe-
nomenon. Nineteen of them functioned in the early Piast period and
only one came from the pre-state period. The majority are located in
river valleys. All are circular in shape and have a relatively small area
although some had huge ramparts similar to the most advanced ones
built in the early Piast state. To raise them, soil on one or both sides
of the rampart was taken, as a result of which ditches were formed.
Wells were dug in the central parts of the strongholds, and there were
usually some structures along the inside of the ramparts, but usually not
many. Strongholds were either built from scratch or established in places
of earlier settlements. The concentration of the Kalisz strongholds is
associated with the early state period. It is assumed that the program
of building them was initiated by the ruling circles.8 Characteristically,
in the area between the Gniezno concentration and the Kalisz one
only a few defensive structures were built.
These undertakings are explained in various ways. They could have
played a military role with respect to Kalisz itself, in other words, they
were designed to prevent the enemy from reaching the main center of
state administration in that part of Great Poland.
Whereas the new research has shed some light on the rank of
Kalisz at the beginning of the Polish state, the same can not be said
about c\czyca, located to the north-west. At present it is known that
in the 6th–8th century there was a settlement enclosed behind some
kind of fortications (?), although according to Andrzej Abramowicz9
the evidence is scant and not denitive. In Phase II (which lasted until
the 10th century) the settlement was surrounded by a wood and earth
rampart; an external settlement was built just outside it. In Phase
III, dated to the late 10th or early 11th century, the stronghold was
redeveloped and surrounded by three rings of fortications. Soon
afterwards it was burnt in unknown circumstances. It was rebuilt and
lasted for a surprisingly long time, that is, to the mid 14th century.10
However, there are many doubts concerning both the origin, phases

Teske 2000.
Abramowicz et al. 1989.
how poland came into being 181

of development, and the function of the center. These issues can be

only solved by more research.
Interesting evidence has been collected about Kruszwica, the leading
center in the Kuiavia region. The research by Bovena Dzieduszycka and
Wojciech Dzieduszycki11 proved that the center formed relatively late, in
the last quarter of the 10th century. It is believed that it was built for the
purposes of further expansion of the state and Christianization missions
to Pomerania. Before that the main stronghold in the area seems to
have been that at nearby Mietlica. The founding of Kruszwica meant
the end of prosperity of the existing ‘tribal’ centers. However, as the
archaeological investigations have proved, these processes were gradual.
Hence it should be allowed that certain earlier centers co-existed with
the ones built by the Piasts in this part of Kuiavia. In about the 11th
century the population from the old areas was either moved or scat-
tered and the area of the tribal community was depopulated for about
100 years. These phenomena may indicate a strong organizational or
‘tribal’ (?) tradition at the areas around Kruszwica, which for unknown
reasons the Piasts did not dare completely to eliminate at least in the
initial phase.
The origins of the stronghold in Poznaq and its place (political,
religious) in the topography of the earliest town have not been fully
explained yet. This concerns, for example, the details on how the
rampart in the main stronghold on the island at Ostrów Tumski was
built (dated to the second quarter of the 10th century, but the dating
is not yet based on unequivocal evidence) as well as the more recent
interpretations of some of the discoveries. In this context also the
broadly understood relations between that center and Gniezno are also
debated (Chapter 10).
Attention was also focused on the connection between the network of
strongholds built at the time of the rst Piasts and the water routes, for
example the ones along the Warta, Oder, Notem rivers and then along
Gopdo Lake to the estuary of the Vistula river.12 They determined the
trade routes and directions of exchange both at the local and at the inter-
regional scale. This arrangement enhanced the economic development
of the region and creation of a permanent network of roads (Fig. 84),
which was a necessary condition for obtaining raw materials and goods

Kurnatowscy 2001.
182 chapter nine

Figure 84. Main centers of early Piast Poland in the context of the road
network of the 12th–13th centuries (after T. Lalik; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki).

through local and long-distance exchange.13 The archaeological evidence

indicates that at the beginning of the state, Great Poland went through
a period of economic prosperity, in which many new structures were
built and great political and cultural transformations were taking place.
These changes were most probably inspired by the members of the
new Piast dynasty. There is also increasing evidence which allow us

The time when monetary trade economy appeared in Great Poland is a subject
of debate. Recent analyses by S. Suchodolski (2000) indicate that local minting did
not develop in the times of Mieszko I, as it was formerly believed, but in the times
of Boleslaw the Brave. The economic relations between Pomerania and Great Poland
are a separate problem. According to W. cosiqski in the former area money may have
been introduced in the early 9th century whereas in Great Poland such processes were
initiated much later (cosiqski 1996). Various aspects of exchange and early trade in
Polish lands may be found in: A. Buko (in print); with literature.
how poland came into being 183

to determine the period when the Piast revolution entered its decisive
phase. Not so much attention, however, is devoted to the place where
it began.

3. Where did the Piasts come from?

Gallus Anonymous did not have any doubts in this respect; according
to him, the dynasty originated directly from Gniezno. The chronicler
Wincenty Kaddubek (from Cracow) is silent about the site of one of the
dramatic legendary events he describes (when mice eat the bad ruler
Popiel and Piast becomes king). The reader is left to infer that this hap-
pened not in Gniezno, but in Cracow, since it was from here that the
descendents of Lestek came from.14 Jan Ddugosz unequivocally placed
the origins of the dynasty in Gniezno. The choice of the place for the
capital of the state of the Polanie, as he says, was preceded by a long
search and consultations with the locals. This was, says the chronicler,
the rst difcult strategic decision taken by the new ruler:
. . . having easily become the prince of his generation and his tribe, he
looked around and went around, he often discussed with the ones closest
to him what place would be suitable to set up his abode and make the
prince’s residence. Having found at lowlands with fertile soils and mellow
climate, which had many natural lakes and rivers owing from them like
from the parents’ bosom, rich in healthy shes; [Lech] made his camp
and so, upon the decision of Prince Lech himself and also all the elders
who were under his command, the place was designed and chosen as
the rst seat of the kingdom, the capital and town. [Lech] devised and
gave it a Lechite, or Polish, name, Gniezno, which in common language
means nidus [nest].
Ddugosz therefore does not have the slightest doubt that the origins of
the Piast dynasty and their native domains should be looked for in the
area of modern Gniezno.
In Polish historiography the dynastic legends, critically assessed by
whole generations of researchers, have been approached in various
ways, ranging from uncritical acceptance, through partial negation to
acknowledgement that they reect only the main values of a certain

Cf. Labuda 1988, 25.
184 chapter nine

group in society, including acting as a means of gaining power by the

new dynasty.15
Recent dendrochronological dates of the earliest monumental struc-
tures of the Gniezno state indicate that the great breakthrough leading
to the creation of the state began during the reign of Mieszko’s father
and gained real momentum when the rst historical ruler of Poland
came to power (cf. Chapter 10).
The second trend in the debate is whether the Piast dynasty is of
local or foreign origin. Historians point to two circumstances. Many
European states, including the Slavic ones (e.g. Ruthenia, and earlier
the so-called Samo’s empire of the 7th century) were formed with the
contribution of people of Germanic origins. An example of this are
the Varangian troops of Scandinavian origin, whose traces can be
seen among the artifacts discovered in Poland (Chapter 15). The other
factor that has been cited in this debate is the hypothesis that the rst
historical ruler of Poland appeared in the document known as Dagome
iudex (from the late 10th century, it submitted the Polish state to the
protection of the Holy See), under a Scandinavian name, Dago or Dagr.
Although there is another opinion according to which the abbreviation
denotes Mieszko’s Christian name, Dagobert, the former idea has for
many years inspired both Polish and foreign researchers.
Research into the question of the origins of the Piast dynasty was
for a long time avoided by Polish archaeologists, mainly due to the
formal difculties in research. How can the discussed issues be discov-
ered, described, and nally analyzed on the basis of the archaeologi-
cal sources? Yet is archaeology in a hopeless situation? If according
to archaeological evidence it can be shown that Gniezno was formed
during Mieszko’s reign, then the chroniclers’ statements that it existed
already at the time of Mieszko’s predecessors are quite improbable.
Also the extent of destruction of the old tribal centers caused by the
creators of the new dynasty is amazing. It is thus quite understandable
that archaeologists would ask the question: where should one look for
the homeland of those who established the new rule in the times when
Gniezno and Poznaq did not exist on the map of Poland?

The dynastic legend about Piast and Popiel has been analyzed in depth by
J. Banaszkiewicz (1986). The names of the princes of the earliest Polish dynasties were
extensively discussed by G. Labuda 1988, 5–82; with literature.
how poland came into being 185

I suggested in one of my earlier articles16 that this place should be

sought in the area which had a suitable potential of already existing
strongholds before the Polish state originated. However, the problem is
that in the areas with a greatest density of them there exist the most
evident traces of destruction. Did the Piasts destroy the strongholds
because they belonged to their enemies? A well-known military way of
establishing power is to create competitive centers, often in completely
new places. This hypothesis is supported by Sandomierz in Little Poland
(Chapter 10) where the rapid growth and development of the center in
the 970s was accompanied by the abandonment of the older centers in
Zdota and Zawichost-Podgórze. However, in that case it is known who
caused these events, most probably invaders from Great Poland who
can be identied owing to two independent groups of data: archaeo-
logical and anthropological evidence. In Great Poland the situation is
much more complex. It is hard to link the origins of the dynasty with
ethnically alien newcomers because this is not supported either by the
written sources or the archaeological evidence. It is equally improbable
that the Piasts originated outside Great Poland, simply because the most
dynamic changes of the late pre-state period involving strongholds can
be observed in that very region. Also dynastic tradition locates them
there. It might be assumed that the destruction was caused by mutual
invasions of small local settlement communities. This, however, would
not indicate the appearance and stabilization of elites of ‘tribal’ power
but an unimaginable organizational chaos just before the creation of
the state in Great Poland. If the Piast dynasty were strangers in the
area it would be expected that the existing political structures, which
are materially manifested in ‘tribal’ strongholds, would be statisti-
cally evenly distributed in the whole region. However, this is not the
case. There are areas where the traces of destruction are particularly
pronounced and other ones with few or no such traces at all. In this
situation it seems justied to state that among the many pretenders to
power the best organized (economically, politically and militarily) Piast
family came to the fore in the rst half of the 10th century. Where
could their original seats have been? Although it is difcult to answer
this question, it is possible to formulate the conditions which should be
fullled by their family domain. It should be rst of all be manifested as

Cf. Buko 1999.
186 chapter nine

a region with no traces of destruction dating to the time of the state-

forming breakthrough. Besides, these should be the areas (or an area)
where at least one high rank (political, administrative, religious) center
from the pre-state period has survived. The material culture of such a
center should have higher status material culture than the other ones.
The area should be also exceptional in comparison to other parts of
Great Poland in important (economic, military, spiritual) investments
such as stronghold construction.
A good starting point to confront these assumptions with the archaeo-
logical realities would be to compare the maps of strongholds in Great
Poland from the pre-state and early state periods. A detailed analysis
of the data indicates that there are no reasons to look for the Piasts’
domain in south-western Great Poland because the older centers in that
area were systematically destroyed just before the origins of the state
(cf. Fig. 83). What is more, in the rst period of the Gniezno state there
was an evident stagnation in the population increase. Finally, there were
no strongholds from the pre-state times which existed also in the early
state period. The situation is similar in the area of Poznaq, especially
to the west of the town. The modern town is virtually surrounded with
completely destroyed strongholds from the pre-state period, which is
especially curious as it has always been accepted that Poznaq itself
originated quite late in the early state period. It is worth considering
whether this dating was not in some way wrong, and that Poznan
was a strong pagan tribal center in which the Piasts met the strongest
resistance. In this context the most recent results of the investigations
by Hanna Kóoka-Krenz, which indicate earlier origins (in the ninth
century) than had been previously assumed for the Poznaq stronghold
(cf. Chapter 10) should be taken into consideration. If these suggestions
are conrmed it would be understandable why at the junction of the
Warta and Cybina rivers, at a territory difcult in political and ideologi-
cal terms but of crucial strategic importance for the Piast state, there
appeared not only the most important center of the state but also the
rst missionary bishopric. Such actions were not only the most effective
method of pacifying of the ‘old order’ but also a manifestation of the
power of the new dynasty. Its material manifestation (as in Przemytl
located in the borderlands) was in the form of the recently uncovered
residence of the prince (cf. Chapter 10).
In the Gniezno region, there are old centers which survived in the
early state period. There are also ones built by the rst Piasts (the most
numerous) as well as ones which they destroyed. Some of them, such as
how poland came into being 187

Moraczewo, Jankowo, or Mietlica ceased to exist, as the archaeological

evidence indicates, in unclear circumstances soon after the Piasts took
power. Other ones, including Santok, Mi\dzyrzecz, or Nakdo on the
Notem river, survived, but most probably because they were frontier forts,
their existence earlier and later on determined by strategic reasons.
The situation is completely different in south-eastern Great Poland.
In the light of archaeological evidence and dendrochronological dating,
Kalisz is probably one of the few fortied Great Polish centers from
the pre-state period which did not suffer the fate of the other ones
when the Piast dynasty took power. There is much evidence that the
stronghold built in the Piast times was on the same site as its ‘tribal’
predecessor.17 Was it a direct continuation of an earlier settlement the
reconstruction of which was enforced by the change of the hydrological
conditions (the level of river Prosna became higher) or is there another
interpretation? The fact remains that also during the period of the
rst Piasts the stronghold at Zawodzie in Kalisz, located in the center
of the state, played an important part. Finally, it is curious that the
founders of the Gniezno state undertook such large-scale investments
in that area. To recapitulate: in a short period of time during the rule
of Mieszko and Bolesdaw the Brave several completely new fortied
settlements were built from scratch around the one in Kalisz. This was
accompanied by an intensive colonization of the areas around. In the
Kalisz stronghold, unique remains of the earliest wooden church of the
11th century were discovered. That (cf. Chapter 10) clearly indicates
the high rank of Kalisz in the state-formation period, according to all
scholars the earliest missionary outposts were the earliest links of the
church organization. Building in Kalisz one of the rst churches in
Poland (and one of the two known from Great Poland from that period)
should be considered in context of the important symbolic part played
by the stronghold at Zawodzie. As the earlier excavations18 revealed
this is where an early Slavic cemetery with a stone barrow is located.
According to Gallus Anonymous when Kalisz was captured by Bolesdaw
Wrymouth during his conict with his brother Zbigniew who sought
refuge in the town it became a sign of his political success; this was
the place of residence and also nal rest of Mieszko the Old (dux totius
Poloniae 1173–1202) and his son Mieszko Mieszkowic.

Cf. Baranowski 1998.
Cf. D[browski 1962; Baranowski 1998.
188 chapter nine

It may seem that the described phenomena is telling proof of the

enriching (also in military terms) of their own family domain, poor
in strongholds, in the time when the Piasts could afford such actions.
Thus perhaps it is south-eastern Great Poland and its main stronghold,
Kalisz, that was the origin of the Piast dynasty in the period preceding
the origin of the Gniezno state. If this were the case, then establishing
the capital in Gniezno would be a logical attempt at a ‘compromise’
acceptable both by the Piast invaders and the conquered population.
Before the inception of the Gniezno state, in that place had been a
sacrum of the local community(?), a pagan religious center whose func-
tion was clearly strengthened after the conversion to Christianity in 966
by the formation an episcopal see there in the year 1000. The dynastic
legends indicate that one of the most important decisions made by the
new dynasty was to take over the holy places of respective tribal com-
munities. In time, these places became centers of the new power.19
There is also another interesting aspect. Recently remains of a so-
far unknown stronghold have been identied in the district of Kalisz-
Wydarte. If the initial chronological and functional diagnoses of the
discovery are conrmed then it would be a very rare case in Polish
lands, making the place additionally unique. Was the stronghold of
Kalisz and Kalisz Land the place where the Piast revolution began? It
is impossible to answer this question in this book, as there still remain
many questions to answer. Some authors do not agree about the dat-
ing of the earliest stronghold at Kalisz-Zawodzie. However, it is hard
to ignore the fact that the successive dendrochronological dates for the
earliest phases of that settlement consistently refer to the second half
of the 9th century.
Zoa Kurnatowska has recently formulated a competing proposal
according to which the main place in the Piast demesne was occupied
by the site of Giecz. This is suggested by the recent discoveries, espe-
cially the latest dendrochronological datings of the earliest phase of
the stronghold referring to the pre-state period. According to Gallus
Anonymous Giecz was also an important place on the map of Poland
for it provided Bolesdaw the Brave with 300 armored warriors (that is,
cavalry) and 2000 shield-carrying warriors.20 Besides, Giecz had one of

These issues are discussed in greater detail by J. Banaszkiewicz (1986a; 1986b;
1998); with literature.
Gall, I, 8.
how poland came into being 189

the few palatia of the early state period, discovered many years ago in
the southern part of the stronghold (Chapter 11). This discovery is no
less important because of the fact that, as it is believed, the construc-
tion was never nished. In recent years other important discoveries
have been made in Giecz.21 One of them is a huge basilica located in
the northern part of the stronghold; a proof of the high rank of the
place (Chapter 11). An important argument is provided by the latest
dendrochronological datings suggesting that the stronghold was built in
the pre-state period, that is in the 2nd half of the 9th century. Could
that not mean that it was Giecz that was the Piasts’ family domain?
According to Zoa Kurnatowska22 this hypothesis is supported by the
fact that Giecz is the only one of the ve strongholds in the Gniezno
Land which goes back to the pre-state period and which retained its
importance when the state was being formed. This hypothesis certainly
deserves attention. However, as in the other cases there are some debat-
able issues. The advantage of Giecz over Kalisz is based, among other
things, on the implicit premise (which has not been proved) that the
latter is chronologically later.23 There are some other issues. Unlike
in the area of Kalisz, in the vicinity of Giecz there are examples of
strongholds from the pre-state period which were destroyed in the early
state period (why and by whom?) but there are no traces of investments
similar to those in the Kalisz region (except for Giecz itself ). Finally, in
the context of the hypothetical family domain at Giecz, it is a mystery
not only why the construction of the prince’s residence was abandoned
but also why the stronghold itself was neglected and abandoned in
the Early Middle Ages. Was it only caused by the depopulation of the
center after 1039 due to the invasion by the Bohemian prince Bretyslav
I, who is said to have moved the population to Hedoany in Bohemia?
How would we explain the fact that the Piast dynasty forgot so quickly
about its family nest?
As we can see there are still many problems to solve. There is also the
possibility that there could be more than one place connected with the

Krzysztoak 2000.
2000, 64.
The ‘rejuvenation’ of Kalisz may be observed on the maps of fortied settlements
in publications by Z. Kurnatowska issued after the year 2000; in the earlier works of
that author it was consistently marked as dating from the pre-state period. The early
origins of the site are clearly supported by the archaeologists investigating that center
and their suppositions are based, among other things, on the numerous dendro dates
from Kalisz-Zawodzie (cf. Baranowski 1998; Baranowski Krapiec 1998).
190 chapter nine

early Piasts’ family domain. At the moment it may be only said that at
the current stage of research, Giecz and Kalisz, the supposed centers of
the Piasts’ family domain (like Poznaq and Gniezno in times after the
origination of the state), are a pair of sites ‘competing’ for primacy.

4. From Great Poland to Little Poland: the rst step of expansion

of the Piasts

It has been frequently stressed that the idea of unication did not
come from Little Poland, a land rich in natural resources and earlier
organized politically, but from a region of a clearly lesser economic
potential, and which appeared on the political map of Central Europe
relatively late, that is, when the Gniezno state originated.24 There are
at least two reasons for such a state of affairs. Firstly, Little Poland had
never been a single territorial, cultural or political unit. The division
into Cracow and Sandomierz Lands has been noted above. Secondly,
at the period when the state was formed, the two regions had differ-
ent ranks. Little Poland was subordinated at that time at least to two
separate political entities. The Cracow Land became subordinated to
Great Moravia and then, from the early 10th century, to the state of
Bohemian Premyslids. Its eastern part, as Constantine Porphyrogenitus
says in his work De administrando imperio, belonged to the group paying
tribute to Kievan Rus, and thus was politically dependent on it as late
as in the rst half of the 10th century.25 In the late 9th century, Little
Poland moved from the stage of organizational and economic prosperity
to political catastrophe. The fall of the political rank of the L\dzianie
and Vislane, the main communities of the region, was accompanied
by the increased investments made in Great Poland. Their material
testimony are tens of strongholds built in the 10th century, which
resulted in an unprecedented deforestation and cutting down the most
valuable species of trees. Most probably Little Poland with Cracow was
from the very start an area desired by the founders of the new dynasty.
However, also the Bohemian Premyslids had similar aspirations and
what is more, in the period when Mieszko’s state was being created,
they already had gained Cracow and at least the western part of the
region. That is why the basic task of the Piast dynasty was to create

E.g. Lalik 1967.
Cf. Labuda 1988, 206.
how poland came into being 191

a strategic outpost there. Such functions could have been fullled by

a center which would take over the main political and administrative
functions of the Gniezno state in the region, at least until Cracow was
gained from the Bohemians. The archaeological data seem to indicate
that the area of modern Sandomierz was chosen. In the 10th century in
Sandomierz Land changes following a pattern surprisingly similar to the
ones in Great Poland can be observed. The burnt older strongholds in
Podgórze near Zawichost and farther to the east in Lublin (Staromiejskie
Hill) are most probably testimonies of the dramatic changes to which
the old tribal territories were subjected at the beginning of the Polish
state. As in Great Poland, the new administrative and political centers
were built in the mid-10th century in places different than before:
instead of the tribal stronghold at Zawichost-Podgórze the center of
royal authority of the Piasts was built in Sandomierz.26
One new center, even of the highest rank, however, was not enough
to defend the frontiers with the strong Kievan Rus neighbor behind
it. It is thus highly probable that at the same time as Sandomierz (or
soon afterwards) there appeared on the map of Poland the new political
and administrative centers in Lublin and Przemytl. Most probably the
triangle outlined by the three strongholds was to serve as administrative
and military support of the Gniezno state in Little Poland (Fig. 85);
further research is necessary to determine if the easternmost ones
completed the of the system of defense of the frontier between Poland
and Kievan Rus, the core of which seem to be the still mysterious
Cherven strongholds.27
In contrast to Sandomierz, in the area of Lublin there had existed an
earlier stronghold surrounded by two ramparts of pre-state date located
on the northern part of Staromiejskie [Old Town] Hill. Together with
a complex of accompanying open settlements on Czwartek Hill and
defense points (?) at Motycz and umigród, it was an administrative and
political center of an earlier settlement concentration. The establishment
of Piast power in that area may be associated with two phenomena. The
rst comprises traces of a great re which destroyed the stronghold in
Lublin. Furthermore, for over a hundred years the area became empty.
The population returned to that place in the second half of the 12th
century due to a newly formed settlement belonging to the archdeacon,

Buko 1998.
Buko 2000 with literature.
192 chapter nine

Figure 85. Hypothetical scenario of the Piast expansion in eastern Little

Poland. Places where the earliest sacral structures were discovered are marked
with crosses (after Z. Kurnatowska, modied by A. Buko & M. Trzeciecki).

when the area on the northern part of the hill was settled for good.28
Was this place treated by the Piasts as one ‘contaminated’ by ‘tribal’
tradition? Was the aim to wipe out the memory of the importance of
the Staromiejskie Hill as the domain of the local tribal community?
What was the role of the Lublin-umigród in this context (cf. Chapter 5)?
It thus seems certain that after the fall of the tribal stronghold, the
earliest Piast stronghold was built in another place. Many authors share
the opinion that to the north of the Czechówka river, a new economic
and administrative hinterland was developed during the time of the
rst Piasts. One of its elements was the earlier stronghold on Czwartek
Hill where after some time the rst parish church of St. Nicholas was

Rozwadka 1997.
how poland came into being 193

built. There is no agreement, however, whether the rst Piast stronghold

was located on Kirkut (Grodzisko) Hill or it existed all the time on the
Zamkowe [Castle] Hill.29
Many similar issues connected with the town-forming mechanisms
were raised by the excavations of medieval Przemytl30 although there
is not enough evidence to identify a pre-Piast fortied center. Perhaps
it was on Trzech Krzyvy [Three Crosses] Hill, where during recent
excavations remains of stone and earth fortications have been discov-
ered, but it has been almost surely established that the earliest Piast
stronghold was built on the Castle Hill before the end of the 10th
century. In the same place, at the periphery of the state, remains of
monumental structures: a rotunda and a palatium erected in the late
10th or the rst quarter of the 10th century, were identied. These
two buildings were clear manifestations of the power of the state and
the new religion (Chapter 10).
The origins of Chedm located in the Polish-Ruthenian borderland
still remain a mystery. From the 11th century an intensive increase of
population can be observed in the Chedm Land.31 This concerns the
regions of Kunów and Uhaq to the south and on the right bank of the
Bug river the settlement concentrates around Lubomla. There are also
concentrations along the Uherka river (the area of Chedm) and on the
Huczwa river. It may be inferred that at least part of that settlement
was sited along trade routes such as the one on the Bug river leading
towards Ruthenia. According to the recent archaeological investigations,
the ethnic and cultural character of the population kept changing. It
may be assumed that in the 11th and 12th centuries it comprised both
Polish and Ruthenian elements. In Chedm the main problem is the
mysterious shift of the settlement concentration from Chedm-Biedawin,
located in the marshy valley of the Uherka river, to the modern Old
Town (Cathedral Mount), which took place in the 10th century. In the
former area there are traces of settlement both from the Late Roman
period (the Przeworsk culture) and of the earlier phases of the Early
Middle Ages. In the center of the modern town, in turn, no traces

The case is difcult to solve because each of the Polish specialists dealing with
these problems has a different opinion (cf. Hoczyk-Siwkowa 1996; Rozwadka 1997;
Kutydowska 2003). An extensive review of the literature on the origins of Lublin may
be found in the work by A. Rozwadka quoted above.
Cf. Kunysz 1981; Sosnowska 1993.
Buko 2004; with literature.
194 chapter nine

of settlement earlier than the 10th century have so far been found.
The investigations focused on the top of Cathedral Hill, especially its
northern part known as Wysoka Górka (Chapter 10). This is the place
where the origins of the town have been sought for several decades. At
the present stage of research there exist several hypotheses. According
to the rst, the palace of the ruler of Halich-Volynia, Danylo (Daniel)
Romanovych was built in the rst half of the 13th century on the ruins
of a nearby stronghold, the origin of which is not quite certain. There
are also opinions that Chedm was one of the Cherven strongholds, on
the ruins of which the prince Danylo (crowned in Drohiczyn in 1253
with the agreement of Pope Innocent IV as the king of Ruthenia)
built a new stronghold and moved there the capital of his principal-
ity from Halicz in 1239. Thus, as Andrzej Poppe believes, it is highly
probable that Chedm might have existed already in the 11th century.
In this model, the information about Danylo’s new investments in the
town and building the stronghold may mean that the ruler not so much
erected as just redeveloped the fortress which had gone into decline in
the 12th century. A Russian archaeologist, Pavlo Rappoport,32 stated,
when discussing the results of the excavations conducted in Chedm at
Wysoka Górka in 1910–1912, that Danylo’s stronghold was built over
an earlier one. Others believe, however, that Chedm came into existence
much later. Jerzy Kdoczowski says that both the stronghold and its
associated open settlements developed as late as the 13th century, that
is, during the king Danylo Romanovych’s rule in the Halich-Volynia
principality;33 these issues are discussed in Chapter 10 below.
There are similar problems concerning the earliest phase at Zawichost
near Sandomierz (Chapter 11), and Opatów, still poorly known today,
but with umigród located in its vicinity (Chapter 5); so far it has been
established that their origins most probably go back to the 11th cen-
tury. If this is true, then in eastern Little Poland, as in Great Poland,
it would seem there were deep structural changes connected with the
appearance of the centers of the Piast power. There was a profound
change of the existing settlement structures, in particular the intensive
urbanization of eastern Little Poland. This resulted in the creation of
at least several urban centers ranking high in the system of the early
Piast state and which have remained towns till today. The described

Kdoczowski 1958.
how poland came into being 195

events were initiated by the Polanie, as the archaeological evidence from

Sandomierz indicates (Chapter 10). It is no accident that one of the
main political and administrative centers of the state and at the same
time a strategic base of attack to the south-east and west was formed
in Sandomierz Land. There are many premises indicating that like in
Sandomierz, also in Lublin and Przemytl, the Polanie were the driving
force. The choice of Sandomierz as the main center of the state pro-
vided a unique chance of controlling, along the valley of the San river,
the territory of the L\dzianie and the whole borderland. These processes
most probably began before the year 981 when, according to the Halich-
Volynian Chronicle, Vladimir, duke of Kievan Rus took Przemytl and the
Cherven strongholds from the ‘Lachs’ (Poles). The expansion of the
Polanie into this region was certainly encouraged by the unclear status of
these areas around the mid-10th century. To some extent this resembles
the situation of the year 1002 when Bolesdaw the Brave occupied the
area of Moravia, which had been deserted after the fall of the Great
Moravian state, and built strongholds there designed to be long lasting.
This example is also important for another reason: as in Sandomierz,
in Moravia pottery having the stylistic features typical of Great Poland
and occurring only in the strongholds connected with Bolesdaw the
Brave’s expedition, is the indication of his military and demographic
expansion.34 The creation of Sandomierz may be thus treated as an
element of a strategic plan of building the Polish state and also form-
ing a new region for the Civitas Schinesghe.35 The newly formed center
was located in an area relatively easy to conquer (a political periphery
occupied by the settlement community of the ‘Sandomierzanie’) but
also strategically important. It was easy to occupy these lands not only
due to the military potential of the Gniezno state but also because of
the weakness of the neighboring ‘tribal’ organizations.36 There still
remains the question how far to the east the Piast expansion reached
in Little Poland. Some historians associate the name Peremyshl, used in
the reference in the Russian Primary Chronicle to Vladimir’s expeditions

These issues have been investigated by Czech archaeologists for a long time.
They were broadly discussed by C. Staña (1991; 1998); recently they have become the
subject of a broader research project (oral communication by Dr. Rudolf Prohazka
from Brno, 2004).
This name is used in the document Dagome Iudex (see below) to refer to an area
which most scholars accept was the extent of the state of Mieszko I (P.B.).
Buko 1998, 83.
196 chapter nine

against the Lachs in 981 with Peremil on the Styr river.37 Although the
issue has not been ultimately resolved it should be noted that there is,
as yet, no archaeological evidence supporting this hypothesis.

5. Towards the north: the Piasts on the Bay of Gdarsk

The expansion of the Piasts to the southeast in the 970s was probably
the earliest but not the only episode of this type. There is much evidence
that suggests that alongside the above-described events, there was also an
expansion of the Piasts to the areas near the Vistula river estuary. In this
case their aspirations were clearly more modest, for they only built (or
took over) the coastal site of Gdaqsk, which, however, ensured effective
control over the coast. In this understanding Gdaqsk, like Sandomierz
in Little Poland, might have been the main point supporting the new
power. It is however, curious, that whereas in the former case new
important centers were built in the borderland, in Eastern Pomerania
archaeology has not revealed a similar phenomenon. A fuller knowledge
about the origins of Gdaqsk would provide answers for many of the
existing questions. However, the interpretations of recent discoveries
are unclear, and thus can serve as a basis for formulating various, often
contradictory, hypotheses.38 In the earlier archaeological literature it
was postulated that Gdaqsk originated in the last quarter of the 10th
century. Yet the wooden elements of structures discovered under the
Town Hall, dated to the 930s have inspired other hypotheses about the
earliest (pre-state) stronghold, earlier than so-called ‘ducal stronghold’,
erected to the north on the Motdawa river.39 Wdadysdaw cosiqski even
considered the possibility that these are traces of the Piasts’ interest in
Eastern Pomerania even before the mid-10th century.40 The problem
thus concerns a basic issue: did the Piasts build a completely new cen-
ter or was it created alongside another one, existing from tribal times?
In the latter case the new stronghold, competing with the other one,
took over more and more the prerogatives of the old center, which was
bound to lead to its decline. This is not the only issue connected with

Cf. Kuczyqski 1955.
Cf. Javdvewski 1961; Zbierski 1978; Lepówna 1998; Paner 1998.
The issues outlined in this chapter have been broadly discussed in many publica-
tions (cf. Chapter 10).
cosiqski 2001.
how poland came into being 197

the establishment of Piast power on the Baltic; these questions will be

discussed more extensively in Chapter 10.
Another problem making the reconstruction of settlement situation at
the outset of the state more difcult is the poor state of research in the
Gdaqsk region. In fact it is not known which of the local centers were
founded by the early Piasts. A good example are the origins of Puck
located c. 50 km to the north of Gdaqsk. There is a well established
view that the center appeared relatively late, at the end of the Early
Middle Ages, whereas the discoveries in the Bay of Puck of old wharfs
associated with archaeological material dated to the pre-state period
as well as signicant pottery assemblages collected from the area of
the town and dated to the 9th century indicate that this view should
be urgently reconsidered.41 It is quite possible that Puck existed earlier
than Gdaqsk as a crafts and trade center serving the local hinterland.
In contrast to the other early coastal centers there are no imports con-
nected with the zone of exchange in the Baltic littoral.42 If that was the
case then Early Medieval Gdaqsk was not only competition but could
have posed a threat to the very existence of Puck or even be the cause
of its fall in the 10th–11th centuries. It is possible that there are three
periods in the early history of Puck: the oldest (‘tribal’) one, indicated
by the discoveries mentioned above, a period of decline when the town
might have been even deserted, caused by the appearance of the Piasts
in the Gdaqsk Bay (there are no nds datable to that period) and the
revival of the center at the end of the 13th century (Early Middle
Ages), represented by many archaeological nds. The word ‘revival’
does not indicate that there was any direct connection between the
settlement center from the late pre-state period and the one of the end
of the Middle Ages. I mean here only the reuse of a location favor-
able for settlement. If that was the case, it should be assumed that the
unprecedented development of the whole Gdaqsk agglomeration of
the 11th and 12th centuries stimulated the development of a network
of settlements on the Gdaqsk Bay. A possible effect of these complex
and overlapping processes might have been the reappearance of the
town of Puck in the 13th century, this time for good.

Especially the Early Medieval pottery (known to me from personal inspection)
which was produced by the investigations of M. Auch a few years ago (2001).
The issues concerning the origins of the earliest crafts and trade centers on the
Baltic Sea littoral have been recently discussed from many aspects by M. Bogucki in
his doctoral dissertation (2005).
198 chapter nine

Figure 86. Settlement network in Eastern Pomerania in the period of state

formation (after L.J. cuka; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

One more question which should be urgently veried is the settlement

distribution in that part of the Bay. According to Leon Jan cuka43 before
Gdaqsk originated, in the area of modern Gdaqsk, Gdynia and Sopot
there existed a dense network of settlements; strongholds connected with
them have been identied in the area of modern Sopot and Gdynia-
Oksywie (Fig. 86). cuka believes that the earlier system of settlements
went into decline when the stronghold was built in Gdaqsk. This may
indicate that it took over the functions and prerogatives of the earlier
tribal centers on the shores of the Gdaqsk Bay. Some indirect indica-
tions concerning the chronology of these events have been provided
by the recent excavations at Janów Pomorski, the assumed crafts and
trade center of Truso, located on Lake Druvno in the territory of the

how poland came into being 199

Prussians. The archaeological material, including numerous imports

collected in that settlement suggests that between the 9th and early
11th century this was a vibrant center.44 The rst settlers, however,
may have arrived earlier (the second half of the 8th century?) and the
ultimate decline of Truso, which took place in the mid-11th century,
was preceded and caused by some unknown events. They may have
been connected with the Piasts’ expansion towards the estuary of the
Vistula river, which ended with building Gdaqsk. The appearance in the
970s of a strong rival in long distance trade, additionally politically and
militarily supported by the Piast state led to the decline and ultimate
fall of Truso in the 11th century. If that was the case, the situation
would be similar to that of Puck, which, however, after a decline (?)
in the early Piast period began to exist again, although was not able
to compete with Gdaqsk again. Due to the poor state of research any
further statements, and the more so, conclusions, seem quite risky and
without any evidence to support them. One can only state that when
the Piasts were occupying Eastern Pomerania, they used a completely
different strategy from the one used in Little Poland. They invested in
building one economically strong coastal center and did not try any
further urbanization of the region.

6. ‘Forgotten’ Mazovia or a strategic territorial reserve?

While in the majority of the regions in Poland the state formation

process seen in the light of the archaeological evidence forms a logical
sequence of well-denable events, in Mazovia, any attempts at linking
the origins of the region with the processes occurring in the other parts
of the country seem quite risky. It is impossible to apply the schemes
of interpretation presented above to the process of incorporation of
Mazovia into the Polish lands.45 Some of the Mazovian strongholds
which have dendrochronological datings, such as Wola Szyddowska,
Mokrzk, Sdupno, Raci[v and some other ones, appeared on the map of
‘tribal’ Poland relatively late, that is, in the late 9th or early 10th century.
These settlements are scattered over a large area of Mazovia. They

Jagodziqski 2001.
In the historical syntheses it is assumed that the process of incorporation of
Mazovia in the Polish state began early (the 9th century) and had several stages [cf.
Gieysztor, Samsonowicz (ed.) 1994]; with further literature.
200 chapter nine

originated quite late for the tribal period and too early to consider them
as coming from the early state time.46 These data may indicate that in
the Old Mazovia there existed a well-organized system of strongholds
built c. 900, thus before Mieszko’s rule. This may be treated as mate-
rial archaeological testimonies of power centers being created there
just before the Piast revolution in Great Poland.
The late ‘awakening’ of Mazovia had a mysterious and dramatic
end. Part of the strongholds existed for a very short time, not exceed-
ing one generation. Why were they built at such a late date and why
were they destroyed so soon? Were they built in order to gain political
autonomy in the face of the threat coming from the west in the shape
of the neighboring Polanie? If that was so, then the attempt proved to
be a failure, which is indicated by their short duration and rapid, dra-
matic end. These may be the traces of the Piasts’ eastward expansion
of as early as the c. mid-10th century and the opinion that Mazovia
was incorporated into the Gniezno state by the Piasts at quite an early
date may be justied. This hypothesis is in accordance with the written
sources, especially the text by Ibrahim ibn Yaqub and the document
Dagome iudex47 which clearly state that Mieszko’s country bordered to
the north with the Prussians. The neighbors were probably tiresome,
which seems to be suggested by the remains of linear ramparts along
the Mazovian-Prussian frontier, similar to the ones identied in other
regions of the country (Fig. 87).48 Surprisingly, no early foundations of
state centers have been uncovered in Mazovia and the Pdock bishopric
was erected at quite a late date (the second half of the 11th century).
Here we touch on another key issue, which is the earliest dating of
Pdock—the principal center of the region. In the light of the recent
investigations, it is clear that the stronghold was built on uninhabited
land no earlier than the late 10th century (Chapter 10). However, if the
Piasts appeared here in about the mid-10th century, where then was
the ‘Pdock before Pdock’? In the literature there are several hypotheses.
According to the rst one, the earlier center could have been located
in Proboszczewice in the near neighborhood of the town, where traces

Dulinicz 1997, 1999.
A summary of an ofcial document no longer extant but which seems to have
been drawn up in the early 990s. It is found in a register compiled by a curial cardinal
during the papacy of Gregory VII, c. 1080. The document is named after the rst
two words, and it describes the boundaries of the Shinesghe civitas, most probably the
realm of Mieszko I (P.B.).
Kowalczyk 2003 and Fig. 87.
how poland came into being 201

Figure 87. Linear earthwork (the so-called Swedish wall) at Zimna Woda,
part of the zone of fortications on the Mazovian-Prussian border (after
E. Kowalczyk).

of a massive stronghold apparently pre-dating Pdock were found. The

archaeological excavations conducted there have not yielded the data to
support this hypothesis; attempts at establishing a dendrochronological
date ended in failure.49
Another topic of research are the relations between Pdock and the
town Wdocdawek, a little further down the Vistula. The latter gained
particular importance in the light of a hypothesis put forward by Jan
Powierski.50 This hypothesis suggests that in the 10th century there
existed a ‘tribal state’ in Mazovia, headed by a ‘Wdodzisdaw’, an alleged
party to a treaty made between Kievan Rus and Byzantium in the
mid-10th century. In this model, Wdocdawek (Wdodzisdaw’s town) would
have been the earlier capital of Mazovia. It is in such terms that Gallus
Anonymous refers to the place while stressing that its military standing
was similar to the leading centers of the Gniezno state. The problem
is interesting and deserves additional research but it is problematic

Dulinicz 2000, 147ff.
202 chapter nine

that the existing dates for the earliest phase of the stronghold do not
go back beyond the second half of the 10th century. The advantage
of Wdocdawek over Pdock is that as early as the mid-9th century there
existed an open crafts settlement here at the junction of the Zgdowi[czka
and Vistula rivers.51 Thus the stronghold in Wdocdawek was built in a
place where a settlement concentration existed in the pre-state period.
It is not known yet why the open settlement was burnt in the mid-10th
century and a stronghold was built in its place. There is also a view
that the importance of Wdocdawek which the written sources seem to
reect, is due to the fact that the Piast expansion to the east began
there and ended (even before Pdock was founded), in the creation of
the strongholds in Wdocdawek and Kruszwica. The question, however,
cannot be settled as the hypothesis that Wdocdawek is earlier than Pdock
has not yet been sufciently supported by the material evidence. It
should be, nevertheless, assumed that Pdock came to be as a result of
a political act of the Gniezno Piasts. The center appeared quite sud-
denly and was built from scratch. This way of forming state centers
is known both from Great Poland and Little Poland (see above). It
cannot be determined yet when it happened. The pottery cannot be
dated closely enough to state whether the 980s are in question or the
end of the century. Neither is the current state of knowledge about the
dating of the inhumation cemeteries in Mazovia helpful in this respect.
However, the written sources concerning Mieszko’s state, including the
document, Dagome iudex, which says that Mieszko’s state had borders
with the Prussians and Rus (Ruthenia), seem to indicate quite clearly
that the process of incorporating Mazovia into the Gniezno state must
have ended before the last decade of the 10th century.
It is surprising that the degree of urbanization of Mazovia (cf.
Chapter 10) is so low in comparison to the other regions of Poland
under the early Piasts. The rst mention about the castellan strong-
hold in Ciechanów appears as late as 1113–1124. It is, however, quite
probable that the settlement complex in the valley of the cydynia river
might have formed already at the end of the 10th century because of
the trade routes leading from Mazovia to Prussia and towards Kievan
Rus. The importance of the area is also indicated by the silver hoard
dated to the 970s discovered in Ciechanów.52 The case may be similar

Krut-Horonziak 1998, 108.
This very interesting assemblage of nds has been recently published (cf. Nowa-
kiewicz 2003).
how poland came into being 203

Figure 88. Main settlement centers and discoveries in Mazovia: 1—centers

of secular power, 2—centers of ecclesiastic power, 3—production structures
and workshops, 4—places inhabited for a longer time by various cultural and
ethnic groups, 5—custom houses from the 11th cent., 6—nds of single coins
in archaeological layers, 7—nds of scales or weights, 8—port (after M. Dulinicz;
digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

in Sierpc, the castellan stronghold, recorded with the date 1065 in

the so-called Mogilno Forgery,53 as there are intensive traces of earlier
settlement in the area and the center was located on the trade route
leading from the center of Mazovia to the north and north west. The
same document mentions also Wyszogród, a Mazovian center which,
unlike the other ones, developed continually from the 7th century.54
As in Little Poland, the settlement pattern in Mazovia is quite diverse
(Fig. 88). Besides Old Mazovia (also known in the literature as ‘Pdock
Mazovia’) there is the area of eastern Mazovia (modern Podlasie) which
had a different culture,55 and to the south west are the ‘c\czyca’ and

A document purporting to list the foundation grants of the Benedictine monastic
house at Mogilno of the times of Bolesdaw II the Bold. The document is however
regarded by most scholars as a compilation of the 12th (?) century (P.B.).
Dulinicz 1999.
Cf. Tyszkiewicz J. 1974.
204 chapter nine

‘Czersk’ regions. There is also a discrete settlement concentration in the

area of Grodzisk on the Liwiec river. Each of these units developed at
a different pace, which results in different problems to interpret.
Eastern Mazovia exhibits archaeologically conrmed differences in
material culture, which lasted during the whole 11th and 12th century.
It is manifested in, among other things, the production of characteristic
vessels of the Drohiczyn type. More recent excavations conducted in
the 1990s revealed some other elements, such as the existence in close
vicinity (from several to more than a dozen km apart) of strongholds
such as Krasna Wiet, Modoczki, Paszkowszczyzna and some others,
which, although located at the same territory had different histories.
In many cases there was a settlement continuity from the beginnings
of the Early Middle Ages until the 12th century (e.g., Klukowicze or
Hamki). According to Dariusz Krasnod\bski56 the longevity of settle-
ments and strongholds might have reected the long-lasting process
of settling these areas by the population coming from Volynia at the
beginning of the early Middle Ages. Thus the earliest strongholds in
eastern Mazovia may have formed a network of outposts on the trade
route leading from the Caspian and Black Seas to the territories of
the Western Slavs and the Baltic Sea. According to the archaeologi-
cal evidence the period of important changes in settlement structures
began to appear in Podlasie quite late, that is, at the end of the 11th
and especially in the 12th century. At that time the centers which had
been functioning for several centuries were ultimately abandoned and
new strongholds were built at a distance of several kilometers away.
Around the new fortications was created a network of open settlements
functionally linked to them. It should be determined in the near future
whether the ‘new’ strongholds in modern Podlasie were traces of the
expansion of Kievan Rus or that coming from Mazovia.
To the south of the discussed areas archaeological eldwork has been
conducted in the basin of the Liwiec river in recent years. Traces of
a small settlement enclave were discovered, which was formed in the
late 9th or early 10th century. According to Wojciech Wróblewski57 the
initial population arrived from the areas to the east of the Bug river.
The next population groups which began to come in the late 10th
century had closer cultural bonds with the areas of Old Mazovia and

how poland came into being 205

the territory near the town of Czersk. There followed a long process of
settling these lands, in which a major role was most probably played by
the stronghold in Liwiec (Grodzisk on the Liwiec river) built in the 10th
century. This site, together with the whole territory, was incorporated
into the Piast realms most probably in the early 11th century. From
that time the area of Grodzisk on the Liwiec became the focal point
for the communities in this part of Mazovia.
Even at the very beginning of the existence of the state, Mazovia
differed considerably from the other regions. Why did the reminiscences
of different burial rites last there through the 11th and even 12th cen-
tury? Why are the traces of the Piasts activeness so poorly represented
for the state formation period? These phenomena may have different
explanations. The formal incorporation of Mazovia (at least its western
part) into the Gniezno state may have happened relatively early, around
the mid-10th century, which is indirectly indicated by the recent dates
for the burning of strongholds of the pre-state period. At the same
time, it seems that the Piasts’ main interests during the early stage of
the functioning of the state were not focused on Mazovia but on the
regions of eastern Little Poland and Eastern Pomerania. The ‘Mazovian’
territories devoid at that time of any state-forming incentives and sub-
stantial investments were perhaps rather a potential area for further use.
The location of Mazovia, in close vicinity to the center of the Gniezno
state, was favorable for exerting military and political control over the
region. However, it retained, as it is indicated by the archaeological
evidence, many characteristic elements of its traditional culture. The
change in perception of the place of Mazovia in the structures of the
Polish states may have occurred in the last decades (or even the last
decade) of the 10th century when the decision to build the stronghold
on Tumskie Hill in Pdock was taken. However, it seems that for many
years the vast areas of Mazovia resembled the ‘borderland’, an area
where refugees and the oppressed from Great Poland took shelter after
invasion of the Bohemian prince Bretyslav I and the pagan reaction
of the 1030s.58 Thus it was a region where various cultural traditions
survived and mixed. This hypothesis is supported by the mysterious
phenomenon of graves with stone constructions (Chapter 15) which
was present there during the whole 11th and 12th centuries, and, in
its easternmost part, in the area of Horodyszcze, almost all forms of

Gallus Anonymous, I, 19.
206 chapter nine

the Early Medieval burial rites lasting well into the 13th century have
been archaeologically documented. In the context of poor urbaniza-
tion and lack of a separate diocese until the second half of the 11th
century all these factors seem to indicate that in the early phase of the
state Mazovia served as a kind of ‘territorial reserve. For that reason
the Piasts did not pay so much attention to the development of that
region in comparison to the other ones. Such a policy must have led to
the formation and consolidation of the tendencies towards autonomy
of Mazovia. This view is supported not only by the phenomenon of
so-called ‘Miecdaw’s state’59 from the mid-11th century but also by the
archaeologically recorded cultural mosaic and the long-lasting co-exis-
tence of the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ in the material and spiritual culture
of the region.

7. From the Baltic Sea to the Sudeten Mountains:

Silesia and Western Pomerania

As we have seen there are many premises for dating the Piast expan-
sion into eastern Little Poland and Pomerania in the 970s. In the next
decade, that is the 980s, the Piasts’ attention seems to have been focused
on creating and strengthening the western frontier of the state, that
is, on the territories located along almost the whole Oder river: from
Silesia to Western Pomerania. The written sources mention the Gniezno
Piasts’ activeness in these regions. Widukind, a monk from Corvey, wrote
about ghts between Mieszko and the Wolinianie allied with the Saxon
count Wichman; the latter, who rebelled against Otto I, found allies
among the Slavs. The struggle ended favorably for Mieszko and with a
defeat of both the Wolinianie and Wichman, who was taken prisoner.
Thietmar’s chronicle, in turn, mentions a dispute of 985 between the
prince of the Polanie, Mieszko I, and Boleslav I, the Bohemian one.
The events described by the chronicler60 took place somewhere in the
territory of the Sdupianie, as Mieszko’s auxiliary troops, offered to him
by Empress Theophano, made a camp there. The Bohemian troops must
have been stationed quite near as one of the German knights and then

In 1034 during the chaos following the death of Mieszko II, Mazovia split tem-
porarily from Poland under Miecdaw an independent ruler (the former cup-bearer of
Mieszko II and governor of Mazovia). Miecdaw was defeated by Kazimierz the Restorer
in 1046 (?) with help from Kievan troops (P.B.).
Thietmar, IV, 11–12.
how poland came into being 207

others were caught by them. On the Oder river there also appeared
Boleslav I from Bohemia, who sent envoys to Mieszko with the proposal
to return the occupied territory called by the chronicler regnum ablatum.
Mieszko’s agreement over this was the condition set by the Bohemian
for freeing his German allies. Although there is no agreement about
what can be meant by the chronicler’s enigmatic term, archaeological
evidence allows us to identify it with the territory of Silesia.

8. Bohemian or Piast Silesia?

There are several main issues in the study of the place occupied by
Silesia in building the territorial base of the Polish state. The rst
concerns the cultural and political environment of the region at the
end of the pre-state period and in the times when the state was being
formed. Many authors mention the similarities and differences in the
patterns of development of settlement in Silesia with respect to Little
Poland adjacent to it on the east. Both regions neighbored on the
north with Great Poland, the place where the Piast state originated,
and with the state of the Bohemian Premyslids to the south. The latter
was an important political factor inuencing the two regions. There
was also a curious difference in the number of the settlement com-
munities existing in the period immediately before the origins of the
state: as many as seven in Silesia and two mentioned in the written
sources for Little Poland (Chapter 4). According to Lech Tyszkiewicz,61
the older pre-state (tribal) centers in Silesia became in time the seats
of Piast administration. This was not, however, a rule; some of them
for example were located at the peripheries of the later state. It has
also been remarked that many of the Bavarian Geographer’s civitates
did not obtain the status of strongholds in Mieszko’s and Bolesdaw the
Brave’s state. Although the written sources show the existence of many
settlement communities in Silesia in the pre-state period, surprisingly
there was no tradition of creating centers of power, so typical of Little
Poland. In Silesia, however, there is the mysterious fortied complex
at Niemcza, which may have originated as early as at the turn of the
8th and 9th century.62 Yet, even though phenomena unique in Polish
lands can be found there, e.g., the rst Early Medieval inhumation

Domaqski 1993.
208 chapter nine

cemetery (Niemcza I), or defensive ramparts faced with stones from

the pre-state period, it was not Niemcza, but Wrocdaw located 40 km
to the north that became the main center in early Piast times. Was it
due to the fact that the settlement complex at Niemcza developed in
connection with the events taking place in the south, in the territory
of the Great Moravian and then Bohemian state? If this was the case
then the creation of the Piast sedes regni principalis in Wrocdaw should
be treated as a political counterbalance, effective in the long term, to
the political inuence from the south. The large centers of pagan cult
(Chapter 5) can be found both in Silesia and Little Poland. Could it
be so that they were built as an ideological reaction to the spread of
Christianity, which may have taken place even in the pre-state period?
Interestingly, in both regions attempts at creating centers of Christian
cult were also made: the Augustinian monastery on Mount sl\va and
the Benedictine one on cysa Góra. Silesia and Little Poland are also
similar in that it is in these two regions (and nowhere else) there occur
mysterious proper nouns of the umigrody type, which have been sub-
ject to many specialist analyses for many years. Were these, as Tadeusz
Lalik63 believed, the northernmost reaches of the belief in the Slavic
vmij (cf. Chapter 5)?
It cannot be determined whether the arrivals from the south played
any part in settling these territories and what it was. Possibly, as
Krzysztof Wachowski64 believes, the appearance of inhumation buri-
als in Silesia is the result of the Great Moravian inuence, although
the chronology of the graves is still not very precise due to the lack of
clear dating elements.
Silesia occupies the second place after Great Poland in the number
and importance of early urban centers (cf. Chapter 10). Such a signi-
cant number of thousand-year-old Silesian towns may be due to the fact
that some of them, like in Great Poland, were borderline strongholds.
They were built near fords and important trade routes connecting
Silesia with Great Poland (Milicz), Little Poland (Racibórz), Bohemia
(Strzegom, Legnica), and the German Empire (Bolesdawiec, Krosno
Odrzaqskie). It was under their protection that Wrocdaw and Opole
ourished, places which have retained their status till modern times.

how poland came into being 209

The extent of Bohemian inuences on the earliest Wrocdaw is a

widely debated issue. The material premises are at present the datings
of the earliest rampart which might have been built, according to the
dendrochronological analyses, as early as in the rst half of the 10th
century and thus before that center was incorporated into the Piast
state.65 If that was the case, then it is difcult to explain why the rampart
contains elements which exhibit the so-called hook-construction66 so
typical of the strongholds built by the Piasts. What is the meaning of
the other dendrochronological dates obtained from the rampart which
indicate that the fortications were made in the 980s? Are these traces
of an earlier stronghold or, as is equally probable, only an indication
that wood for building the rampart was taken from some earlier struc-
tures? These are not the only problems in interpreting the results of
archaeological excavations in Silesia. Sdawomir Modzioch questions the
commonly accepted claim that Silesia belonged to the Bohemian state.
He contradicts the early (Bohemian) chronology of Wrocdaw with the
opinion that there are no small nds from that period, and the thesis
of early Christianization of Silesia with the presence of a pagan temple
built in Wrocdaw in the 1030s. The latter discovery would indicate that
Christianity had not taken deep root in Silesia then. The difference
between the region and Bohemia is also underlined by geographical
factors, direct contact between the two regions was very different, Silesia
is separated from the Bohemian Basin by a mountain chain with few
passes. There were also economic differences. From the 10th century in
Silesia silver was deposited on a much larger scale than in Bohemia.67
This line of thinking, however, leads to some other problems. For if the
traces of a pagan shrine from the stronghold at Wrocdaw may prove
the supercial Christianization of the local communities, then how
should one interpret discovery of the remains of one of the earliest
churches in Polish lands made by Edmund Madachowicz and his team
in the crypt of Wrocdaw cathedral (Chapter 10)? An early Christian
church seems quite natural in the Wrocdaw stronghold but a supposed
pagan shrine can be considered as an ephemeral structure which could

Jaworski, Rzenik 1998.
The use of forked branches to anchor timber elements of the rampart facing to
the body of the rampart, regarded by Polish archaeologists as a characteristic feature
of the early Piast stronghold construction (P.B.).
Modzioch 2000.
210 chapter nine

have had no real signicance in a region which had been Christianized

at an earlier date.
Unlike the situation in Great Poland, in Silesia there are no traces
of drastic changes in the settlement structure at the outset of the Polish
state and the leading urban centers are at least several years earlier
(the mid-980s) than their rst appearance in the written sources (the
pages of Thietmar’s chronicle). It looks as if they were built as part
of an intentionally organized action, which is indirectly conrmed by
the very similar dendrochronological dates (the mid 980s) obtained
for the earliest phases at Wrocdaw, Opole, and Gdogów. Were these
centers (and perhaps a few other ones?) part of the great investments
conducted in Silesia by the rulers from Gniezno? The results of the
excavations conducted in Opole by Janina Bukowska-Gedigowa and
Bogusdaw Gediga68 indicate that the features from the pre-state period
found here should be associated with the levels preceding the stronghold
at Ostrówek. The rst fortications and thus the fortied center are
associated with the 980s. The case of Niemcza is also characteristic;
pottery from two chronological phases, the period between the 7th
and mid-10th century and from the second half of the 10th century
till the 13th century, was found there. The stronghold, as Grzegorz
Domaqski69 stresses, was built between the mid-10th century and the
year 990. From the very beginning it played an important administrative
and military role. However, Niemcza never became an urban center.
In this context the question arises of the relationship between that
center and Wrocdaw, located 40 km away. Was the latter intended by
the Piast rulers to become a counterbalance to the center in Niemcza,
representing perhaps different cultural traditions?
The archaeological evidence indicates the mid-980s as the time when
the main centers in the region were created. This may suggest that the
mysterious conict between Mieszko and Bohemian Boleslav I (935–972)
might have been a dramatic attempt at saving the Bohemian domain
in Silesia, perhaps existing in name only and which had rather loose
links with the Bohemian political center since the Piasts could build
their own centers of power in a ‘foreign’ territory. In contrast to the
other regions, building new strongholds in Silesia was not accompanied
by burning and destruction of the earlier centers. This resembles in

how poland came into being 211

some way the situation known from the Cracow Land where in the late
980s the Piasts made a successful attempt at winning Cracow and other
strongholds of western Little Poland from the Bohemians (cf. below).

9. Western Pomerania: ‘urban republics’ and old ‘tribal’ territories

Whereas it may be said that in Silesia new centers of power were built
and established, in the state formation period in Western Pomerania
rst and foremost attempts at incorporating and rebuilding ones already
existing were made. Besides, in the pre-state period the development
of the Pomeranian centers followed a different course. The location
on the sea coast and trade relations fostered the early development of
crafts and trade centers following their own rules and retaining in the
Piast times their own specic character. This concerned both ideology
and economy, including exchange. According to the results of recent
investigations, Western Pomerania achieved a high level of monetary
trade economy earlier than in the other regions of the state, that is,
in the pre-state period.70 The earliest ‘towns’ on the Baltic coast were
primarily centers of intensive trade exchange and quickly developing
crafts. The main element of their topography was, besides the strong-
hold, the port (Fig. 89). Besides its role in the long-distance exchange it
had many other, equally important, functions. The development of the
earliest crafts and trade centers was also enhanced by the multiethnicity
of their inhabitants, which was reected both in the written sources
and in the material culture.71
In the archaeological literature one may nd opinions that the early
Piast crafts and trade centers in Western Pomerania are specic because
they developed from earlier centers of the ‘tribal’ period.72 They prob-
ably played similar roles as the later crafts and trade centers but also
had important political functions. It may be thus said that during almost
the whole 10th century it was not the Piasts from Gniezno but the
north-Polabian and Pomeranian Slavs and the Scandinavian arrivals
that decided on the trends of development of economic and political
life in these territories. In such conditions not only technical skills in

cosiqski 1996, 1997.
The origins of the towns in Western Pomerania located on the Baltic Sea have been
subject of many analyses (for more on the subject cf. Chapter 10; with literature).
cosiqski 1996.
212 chapter nine

the scope of material culture but also the customs and the sphere of
social behaviors were transferred. This hypothesis can be illustrated
by the example of Wolin, described in the next chapter, which devel-
oped continually from the late 7th century, starting as an agricultural
and-shing settlement, through a crafts and trade center to become
a settlement complex having early urban features.73 Szczecin, located
to the west of Wolin, developed in much the same way. The earliest
stronghold there dates back to the late 8th century. Its occupation by
the Piasts from Gniezno in the 980s created a comfortable starting
point for further expansion to the west: to the territories of the Veleti
and Obodrites.
In the western part of the region, Kodobrzeg (Fig. 89) played a key
role at the outset of the Polish state. The earliest stronghold was built
to replace another tribal center at Bardy located on the right bank of
the Pars\ta river. Before the arrival of the Piasts, its inhabitants were
involved in shing, animal husbandry and crafts. They also made salt
from sea water, using the nearby salines. The compactly arranged homes
in the stronghold and well-developed crafts indicate that already in the
10th century the earliest Kodobrzeg and the neighboring settlements had
the character of a crafts and trade center and after the fall of Bardy it
served as the main tribal center in the area. The situation continued
until the second half of the 10th century when it was entirely rede-
veloped. The ramparts were rebuilt, in part reusing beams taken from
an earlier construction. According to the recent dendrochronological
analyses, the rampart of the stronghold was built in the 980s with the
use of the ‘hook construction’ characteristic for many such structures
of the early Piast monarchy. Kodobrzeg must have played an important
role in the policy of the rst Piasts. It is therefore not surprising that
the above-described investments were accompanied by many changes
in crafts. This nds expression, for example, in a more advanced mode
of pottery production. These changes may indicate important trans-
formations in the social structure of the inhabitants when the center
was taken over by the Piasts. The importance of Kodobrzeg in the
newly formed organization of the state of the Polanie was established
for good when a bishopric was created there at the Gniezno Summit
in the year 1000.74

Filipowiak, Gundlach 1992.
Leciejewicz, R\bkowski 2000.
how poland came into being 213

The Piasts seem to have found unsuitable for their purposes the
‘cosmopolitan’ center of Wolin, the best known center in the region
which had already reached the peak of its greatness before the rise
of the Piast state (Chapter 10). This is perhaps why the neighboring
Kamieq, located only 6 km away from the Baltic Sea, developed so
rapidly in the next decades. It originated in the 9th century, initially it
was a shing village and from the 10th century it was a settlement in
the Wolin agglomeration.75 In the pre-Piast period it quickly became an
independent urban center with a stronghold built close to the coast in
the 11th century. It had favorable conditions for agriculture and shing
and was located on the water route leading from the north to the south
(its axis was the Oder river and the Baltic Sea) and on the route to
Hamburg through Wolin and towards Novgorod. Near Kamieq there
was also a junction of sea and land routes leading towards Kodobrzeg,
Gdaqsk and Szczecin. The town began to develop intensively from
the 11th century owing to the growth of local market. The natural
resources in Kamieq included the deposits of amber and the salines
located near the town; there also developed local trade in the salt from
Kodobrzeg. In its eastern part a port (with a customs house) was built
and along the river Karpina, numerous shing villages. In its western
part, in the area occupied later by the medieval chartered town, from
the 11th century there developed a large fortied settlement. Outside
the ramparts there was St. Nicholas’ church with a biritual cemetery
dated to the 9th–12th century. Before 1188 a bishopric was founded
there.76 Other centers developing in the region, such as Biadogard,
Pyrzyce or Stargard originated in the 9th century as fortied centers
taken over and rebuilt by the rst Piasts. This development was due
to their importance within the old “tribal” territorial units (and later
castellanies) and to their location on the routes from Great Poland to
the Baltic trade emporia.77
The turn of the 10th and 11th centuries brought about changes and
a pronounced development of the settlement network in Pomerania.
Characteristically, the growth in numbers affected primarily the open
settlements. Only a few of the large tribal strongholds survived and the
other ones were incorporated into the system of the early Piast state.

Filipowiak 1959.
Filipowiak 1959.
cosiqski 1996.
214 chapter nine

It has been also recorded that only 8 per cent of barrow burials
corresponded to the areas inhabited in the late pre-state period. The
presence of such necropolises in the former settlement voids is treated
as a proof that the previously empty areas were settled. This process is
especially evident in the 11th century. According to Wdadysdaw cosiqski,
the assemblages of grave goods in barrow cemeteries with no military
equipment indicate that the deceased differed in their social status. In
turn the barrow cemeteries from the 11th century may be interpreted,
cosiqski believes, as cemeteries of free peasants. The fact that such
people were settled at the periphery and in areas between the local
communities is considered as a manifestation of opposition to the new
faith; in this understanding the peripheral settlement zones settled in
the 11th century served as refuges. This settlement might have been
stimulated by the new rulers. The fact that in most cases the cemeteries
are small may indicate that the settlers made up small groups and thus
their villages consisted of at most several homesteads. These settlers
clearly represented a lower demographic potential than the population
buried at the same time at at cemeteries.78
According to the archaeological evidence, Western Pomerania and
its main centers, formed before the birth of the state, constituted valu-
able economic capital for the Piasts. However, their inhabitants had a
sense of their own power and strength. For that reason the ght for
Pomerania was so dramatic at Mieszko’s times. The incorporation
of the region into Poland, like the early Christianization testied by
establishing a bishopric in Kodobrzeg as early as 1000, did not eradicate
the pagan beliefs existing there nor did it form a lasting bond with the
Gniezno state. This is shown by the later history of Pomerania which
split away from Poland within a few decades and especially the second-
ary Christianizing mission conducted in the 12th century by Otto of
Bamberg. These activities were accompanied by the (re)conquest of
these lands by Bolesdaw Wrymouth, who also encountered consider-
able difculties.

10. Cracow Land: the last stage of the state formation process

Cosmas of Prague’s Bohemian Chronicle provides evidence suggesting

that the action aimed at regaining Cracow from the Bohemians had

cosiqski (1980) 1981.
how poland came into being 215

a military character.79 However, the archaeological evidence does not

indicate any dramatic military actions in the region. On the contrary,
they rather suggest that in the late 980s, most probably between 987
and 989, a peaceful transformation took place in Cracow Land, yet its
details are outside the scope of archaeological observation. First of all,
there are no traces that the appearance of a new power in Cracow Land
led to any basic changes in the settlement structure. No new political or
administrative centers were built and these functions were taken over by
the existing strongholds of the Vislane. This concerns especially Cracow,
Stradów and Naszacowice.80 It is possible that there were more such
centers in Cracow Land. Why did the Piasts spare not only Cracow,
the supposed capital of the state of the Vislane, but at least three other
strongholds crucial in the tribal period? It is possible that they survived
because at the moment of the Piasts’ conquest of Cracow Land they
already belonged to them. This claim contains, however, a contradiction,
because according to the written sources Cracow and western Little
Poland were incorporated about 989 or at most one—two years ear-
lier.81 If we assume that Bolesdaw the Brave resided in Cracow earlier82
then it is possible that the spared strongholds had crews loyal not to
the Bohemians but to Mieszko’s son. In that case it was not necessary
to kill them after Cracow was taken over, which is clearly indicated by
the archaeological data. It is possible that the land of the Vislane had
well-organized economy and the resistance of the local centers of power
was minimal (which resembles the above-described case of Silesia) so
there was no reason to destroy the existing structures.
An issue which has not been settled yet is the dating of the earliest
remains of the pre-Romanesque architecture on Wawel Hill in Cracow.83
As the discoveries are ambiguous in meaning and fragmentary, little can
be said about that. There also remains the question if some of these
structures could have been built already around the mid-10th century

According to the Chronica Boëmorum: Nam dux Poloniensis (Mesco), quo non fuit alter
dolosior homo, mox urbem Krakov abstulit dolo, omnibus quos ibi invenit Boemiis extinctis gladio (after:
G. Labuda 1988, 268; with a description of the events and analysis of the context).
The chronicle was written between 1119 and 1125.
Radwaqski 1976, 1998; Poleski 1996.
Labuda 1988, 292.
This is how many historians interpret the document Dagome Iudex in which two
other sons are mentioned, they also draw attention to the fact that Cracow is named
as one of the territories forming the boundary (i.e., apparently a separate neighbor
of ) the Shinesghe civitas which the document concerns (P.B.).
Pianowski 1999.
216 chapter nine

and thus in the times of the Bohemian domination. This problem will
be discussed more extensively in Chapter 10. The situation in Witlica
to the east is more complex. During the recent excavations, no traces
of ‘tribal’ or early Piast Witlica were found.84 From the earlier periods
only redeposited fragments of vessels dated to the 9th century have
been uncovered. However, although there are no well-documented
discoveries, it is quite improbable that Witlica did not exist in the state-
formation period (Chapter 10).
The former strongholds of the Vislane such as Stradów, Naszacowice
or Zawada Lanckoroqska most probably functioned well into the 11th
century85 and gradually disappeared due the changes in the organiza-
tion of the state which took place during the 11th century. Surprisingly
their disappearance was not accompanied by the building of any new
centers. Curiously at the beginning of the Polish state, the Cracow
Land had a low level of urbanization, which is particularly noticeable
if we compare it with the situation in the eastern part of the region
described above.

11. Summing up

Archaeological excavations conducted in various parts of the country

have revealed a similar but not identical scenario of events which took
place in Polish lands in the 10th century. As a result a dramatic, some-
times even catastrophic fall of many existing centers took place. These
events were accompanied by a permanent or temporary depopulation
of the former settlement zones around them. Soon afterwards the Piast
centers were built in new places, thus beginning the one thousand year
long history of the nation and state. The scenario of these events is not
equally evident for various regions. It is most clearly documented in
Great Poland, Mazovia and eastern part of Little Poland. In Cracow
Land, the last region incorporated into the Polish state, more frequently
we nd that the old centers were taken over and lasted for some time
(e.g., Naszacowice or Stradów) or permanently (e.g., Cracow-Wawel). In
Silesia the leading centers seem to have appeared several years earlier
(the mid-980s) in comparison to the time when the written sources tell
us that Silesia was incorporated into the Polish state. This may suggest

G[ssowski 1997, 2004; Gliqski 1998.
Kr[piec, Poleski 1996; Poleski 1996.
how poland came into being 217

Figure 90. Supposed course of events from the second half of the 10th cent.,
associated with the incorporation of areas in the Gniezno state (by A. Buko &
M. Trzeciecki).

that the areas were successively being occupied already in the 980s. In
Pomerania the patterns according to which the fortied urban centers
appeared were diverse. Either they were built from scratch, replacing the
existing settlement structures (Gdaqsk) or attempts of differing degrees
of effectiveness of incorporating pre-existing arrangements in the state
organization were made, which was typical of Western Pomerania.
At the present stage of research, one may at best tentatively outline
the stages by which the territorial basis of the state was created (Fig. 90).
In the light of recent archaeological evidence and dendrochronological
datings, it may be assumed that by the late 960s the Piasts were orga-
nizing the core of the Gniezno state. Furthermore, it is possible that at
that time (the mid-10th century) they also occupied the western part of
Mazovia. Such a scenario is indirectly supported by the disasters which
befell the tribal strongholds located there. Their fall may have happened
as a result of a quick, well-coordinated action of the Gniezno rulers
who effectively stopped the growth of their eastern neighbor. However,
218 chapter nine

if that was the case, the Piasts did not afterwards become involved in
the process of creating the organization of the state in that region,
which is indirectly testied by the lack of investments from the 10th
century. On the contrary, Pdock, the main Piast stronghold in Mazovia
was built in the late 10th century at the earliest. If that assumption is
correct then until the end of that century Mazovia was a second-rank
territory in the policy of the Piasts from Gniezno. At the same time it
was a region where the urbanization appeared the latest, and also, in its
eastern part, so did Christianization. This hypothesis may provide the
reasons why the cultural picture of Mazovia in the early state period was
different from the other regions and also explain the complex processes
of the mixing of various cultural trends in this area.
The second turning point in building the territorial basis of the state
was in the 970s. It should be associated with the activeness of the Piasts
in the ‘eastern wall’ made up by the areas of eastern Little Poland and
Eastern Pomerania adjacent to Mazovia. It seems that at that time the
earliest towns in Little Poland such as Lublin, Przemytl and, especially,
Sandomierz, the main Piast center in that part of the country, were built.
In the north the main effort of the Piasts was concentrated on taking
over or building the Gdaqsk agglomeration. In this way the expansion
extended from the sources to the estuary of the Vistula.86 In the light
of the existing archaeological data it seems justied to state that in both
regions, like in Mazovia, activities of military character prevailed.
The 980s were, as the archaeological sources indicate, the time of
building the ‘western wall’ of the state. The available dendrochrono-
logical data suggest that in the middle of the decade strongholds in
Western Pomerania and Silesia were built. This required large scale
military operations which are mentioned in the written sources of the
period. Whereas in Western Pomerania the Piasts attempted to incor-
porate the zones of the existing centers into their state organization, in
Silesia they built the main centers from scratch. The period of forming
the state was crowned by the Piasts taking the town of Cracow and
Cracow Land from the Bohemians in the 980s. The best starting point
for such an attempt was the well-developed Sandomierz Land with its
central town of Sandomierz, most probably ruled by the Piasts at that

This is not quite accurate, in reality the territory extended from the upper Vistula
to its mouth, the source of the Vistula lies in the Carpathian foothills well to the west
of Cracow, the author is using gurative language (P.B.).
how poland came into being 219

time. It may be possible that Sandomierz, a town located at a strate-

gically crucial point, was so well organized because of the expected
military action in Cracow Land. It is also worth noting in this context
that in western Little Poland there are no traces of destruction of ear-
lier settlement centers. On the contrary, the main strongholds of the
region, headed by Cracow, continued developing after they had been
taken over by the Piasts.
In the times of Mieszko and Bolesdaw the Brave Poland, in the mod-
ern understanding of that expression, was a country in which profound
structural changes took place. All the main state centers obtained defense
systems of strongholds and many of them were built from scratch. On
the state frontiers, large investments were made to create the systems of
permanent defense in the form of linear earthworks, traces of which
survive in the landscapes of Silesia, Kuiavia and Mazovia and which
survived in the toponyms such as brona (the term dervives from bronin-
to defend) in Little Poland. Although in the last-mentioned case the
earliest references date to as late as the rst half of the 13th century,
many researchers believe that these defensive structures (unfortunately
not yet identied archaeologically) might have existed already in the
state-formation period. This supposition is indirectly conrmed by the
context of in which permanent elements of territorial defense such as
linear earthworks and the zasieki (expanses of deliberately felled forests
creating obstacles to passage) appeared in other regions of the country
(cf. Fig. 87). According to Elvbieta Kowalczyk87 brony could have been
individual points of defense of important routes, including the ones
located in narrow Carpathian valleys.
The large investments connected with constructing strongholds
and the buildings inside them required huge amounts of wood. This
resulted in considerable changes of the natural landscape, in particular,
deforestation of large areas of land.88 The processes of fortifying the
country and of early urbanization were accompanied by demographic
changes perceptible thanks to the studies on the settlement zones in
the area of Ostrów Lednicki, Kruszwica, or Kalisz. The new demo-
graphic situation also manifested itself in the population shifts, which
has been identied for example at the cemeteries of Piaski-Rochy or
Early Medieval Sandomierz (cf. Chapter 15). These data shed new light

Tobolski 2000.
220 chapter nine

on the part played by the rst historical ruler of Poland. The scale of
changes which took place at that time reect the eminent position of
the ruler who had at his disposal an apparatus for managing the state
and a well-trained, professional army. There arises the question whether
the army of 3000 armored warriors mentioned by Ibrahim ibn Yaqub
was composed of the subjects of the prince of the Polanie or did he
use foreign mercenaries? The second possibility may be indicated by
the excavations at some cemeteries which apparently contain graves
of Scandinavian warriors (Chapter 15). They were probably elite (in
the understanding of that time) units for special purposes. These tasks
doubtlessly included a rapid pacication of the areas incorporated into
the Gniezno state. Possibly this is the context in which the anthropologi-
cally different male population believed to be the arrivals from Great
Poland identied at the Saint James cemetery in Sandomierz should be
considered, or the cemetery of Scandinavian warriors (?) in cubowo
near Ostrów Lednicki. In the latter case, the hypothesis is supported
by the fact that the greatest archaeologically recorded concentration
of Scandinavian type weapons has been found there (Chapters 11
and 15).
The successful Piasts’ conquests, probably begun before Mieszko
gained power, were justied by the fact that the settlement structures of
the 10th century and their political organizations did not have chances
of survival in the light of the events taking part in Europe such as the
creation of the Christian states. This concerned the military sphere.
Military power was based on a levy of the population and not a well-
trained, professional army. It also concerned the ideological one because
regional leaders could not depart from the holy faith of their ancestors,
which was the source of social consciousness without the danger of
losing power (and probably also their life). In the economic sphere an
important limiting factor was the insufcient productive potential of
individual peoples which did not have an efcient economic apparatus.
Finally, in the political sphere an insurmountable barrier was formed
by the fragmentation of old local communities and the inevitable
conicts connected with it resulting from the individual aspirations,
quarrels and rivalries. This weakened their military power and was
taken advantage of by more advanced early state structures to realize
their own purposes.
The events which took place in Poland at the times of Mieszko I
cannot be considered separately from the situation in the 10th century
how poland came into being 221

in Central Europe.89 In the south Great Moravia had fallen after the
Magyars’ invasion in 906 and was succeeded by the Bohemian tribes.
Although there were often bloody rivalries within their ‘tribal’ organiza-
tion, the Premyslid dynasty soon emerged from the chaos. Its represen-
tatives effectively eliminated their greatest opponents, the Slavniks. In
the rst half of the 10th century the Bohemians occupied Moravia and
Slovakia, they also gained Silesia and at least part of Little Poland. In
this way the Premyslid state became one of the most powerful of the
Slavic states in the 10th century. At the same time in the east the Kievan
state was at its peak. During the rule of Sviatoslav it had achieved
a high level of internal consolidation and also conducted successful
military expeditions, including those that resulted in the elimination
of the Khazars, the conquest of Bulgaria and invasions of Byzantium.
The country was to adopt a new religion soon, which was indicated by
the presence of many Christians in the court, including Princess Olga,
Sviatoslav’s mother. Still more spectacular events were occurring beyond
the western frontier: in the kingdom of the Eastern Franks where the
successive rulers of the Saxon dynasty gained an epoch-making suc-
cess: the coronation of Otto I as the Emperor in 962. In this way a
completely new political situation appeared in Western Europe. The
Frankish Empire was considered as a symbol of an international state
referring to the ancient traditions of Rome. This was the background to
the changes which occurred in Polish lands during the reign of Mieszko
I, they were part of a more general trend of state-forming processes
in Central Europe. The profound structural changes and political and
ideological transformations of regional settlement communities were a
condition necessary if the Lechici, the later Poles,90 were to retain their
cultural and ethnic identity in the community of European nations.

Comprehensive reviews of the situation in Europe at the turn of the 10th
and 11th centuries can be found in many earlier and more recent publications, for
example Manteuffel 1994; Zientara 1996: Strzelczyk 2000; Samsonowicz (ed.) 2001;
Samsonowicz 2002; Urbaqczyk (ed.) 2001; with literature.
Until the end of the 10th century the name ‘Mieszko’s country,’ civitas Schinesghe,
Sclavinia and a few other ones (cf. Strzelczyk 1999, 84) were used to denote Poland.
The circumstances in which the name Polonia (Polska) was rst used, which appeared in
the written sources as late as in the early 11th century, have not been fully explained.
A German historian, J. Fried, believes that this could have taken place at the Gniezno
Summit in the year 1000 (cf. Fried 1998, 2000).


The formation of the territorial basis of the state was accompanied

by the appearance and rapid development of strongholds: main or
local centers of territorial power. This in turn stimulated regional
economic development. In the main centers, known in the written
sources as sedes regni principales, the rst sacral structures were built and
church administrative system was organized. They formed the centers
of the economic and public life of local societies; these processes were
highly accelerated as the monetary exchange and the institution of
the market developed in the course of the 11th century.1 Dozens of
auxiliary settlements developed around the centers; their inhabitants’
duty was to produce the goods necessary to fulll the needs of the
ruler (cf. Chapter 12). The stronghold centers became also the places
of exchange, development of crafts and for collecting and storing the
tributes given to the ruler by the local communities. These important
economic functions increased the importance of many of the centers
and fostered population growth. Owing to this more and more ancillary
settlements with various functions appeared immediately adjacent to
the fortied centers. During the 11th and 12th centuries the stronghold
complexes, founded by the rst Piasts, increasingly took on the attributes
of early urban centers.2
For many decades, the results of the Millennium research project
of the 1950s and 1960s were the main source of knowledge about the
origins of Polish towns. In the light of the concepts of that period, the

These issues have been a subject of debate for many years. The opinions of the
authors who believe that the circulation of money used as a means of payment, began
early but mainly in Pomerania (cosiqski 1996: 169) are contradicted by the view accord-
ing to which bullion became common on the internal market on a national scale even
before the end of the 10th century (e.g., Kiersnowski 1960: 426ff.; Suchodolski 1971).
A denitely later time, that is the 11th century, or, more precisely, its second half, is
suggested by S. Tabaczyqski (1987, 207ff.); all quoted works with literature.
A review of the problems connected with the origins of the earliest urban-strong-
hold centers in Polish lands as seen in the light of archaeological data may be found
both in earlier (e.g., Hensel 1963; Leciejewicz 1962; cowmiaqski 1973), and more recent
works (e.g., Mo,zdzioch 1994; 1999); all quoted works with literature.
224 chapter ten

Slavic town of the early Middle Ages was perceived as a culmination

of the slow socio-economic and political changes which had been
taking place in central and eastern Europe for centuries. A condi-
tion of their creation was a sufciently high degree of development
of the agrarian and livestock-rearing economy, capable of supplying
sustenance for population groups not directly occupied in agriculture.
The predecessors of the early urban settlements were craft and trade
centers. The direct connection of the stronghold and the ancillary
settlements immediately adjacent ( podgrodzie) often also fortied, thus
formed a new type of settlement. It was assumed that various factors
were involved in creating towns although it was generally believed that
a decisive role was played by crafts, development of the market and
exchange, political determinants and those connected with the cult.
The rst phases of the earliest towns were called ‘proto-towns’ (zalËawki
miast) and their origins were dated to the pre-state period, usually to
the late 8th or 9th century.3
The progress in research and especially the more extensive use of
dendrochronology (for dating) which took place in the 1990s resulted
in a critical re-evaluation of many of these assumptions. There are,
indeed, examples of early crafts and trade centers, mainly from Western
Pomerania, or from Cracow in Little Poland, the origins of which go
back to the pre-state period, but in the majority of cases Polish towns
began after the appearance of the state, that is from 2nd half of the
10th century. Some of these urban-stronghold centers (this is the
appropriate name for the phase of urban centers prior to the rise of
Medieval chartered towns) played a key part in the process of creat-
ing and strengthening the state and many of them have retained their
high standing till today. However, not all the early Piast strongholds
became towns, although the importance of some of them (e.g., Giecz,
Ostrów Lednicki, Czermno-Cherven) during the rule of the rst Piast
monarchy is obvious. There are also examples of early urban centers
such as Kruszwica, Chedmno-Kaddus or Witlica, which did not keep
their high standing till modern times. According to the geographical
location of the earliest centers in the Polish lands (excluding the ter-
ritories occupied by the Prussians), some characteristic features can
be distinguished. The greatest number of early towns can be found

Hensel 1963.
towns still under investigation 225

Figure 91. Polish towns with a history of a thousand years. Early urban
centers whose origins are determined by archaeological evidence are marked
with black circles; the centers which require further verication are marked
with white circles. Bishoprics created at the Gniezno Summit are marked with
crosses (after A. Buko; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

in Great Poland where 16 towns out of the total of 47 have a history

going back one thousand years to the early Piast period.4
The other extreme is Mazovia, where only 4 such centers may be
identied. In all the other regions the number of towns is similar and
oscillates between 8 and 10 (Fig. 91).
On the Baltic Sea coast the earliest towns appeared in two concen-
trations: the west- and the east-Pomeranian; the latter one is clearly

The gures given here are only approximate. In the case of some of the sites
included in this discussion the dates of the origin of the centers have not yet been
satisfactorily established.
226 chapter ten

less numerous. The Cracow land was urbanized to a small degree as

besides Cracow, only Witlica can be taken into account. The map (cf.
Fig. 91) also shows large areas which were not urbanized in the early
stages of the state. They include a wide zone in Pomerania, between
the Baltic coast and the areas on the Notem river, the area of central
and eastern Poland (southern Mazovia, Podlasie), and the piedmont
areas located in the south of the country.
If the high status of the town in modern Poland is to be used as a
criterion in the classication then in all the analyzed macroregions pairs
of such towns can be distinguished. In the Baltic zone these are Gdaqsk
and Szczecin, in Great Poland and Kuiavia, Poznaq and Bydgoszcz,
in Little Poland, Cracow and Lublin, in Silesia, Wrocdaw and Opole.
Let us note that no urban metropolis (in the modern understanding
of the word) existed in Mazovia in the Early Middle Ages. The center
which gained the most in the recent millennium is denitely Lublin,
and the ones that lost the most are Wolin, Puck, Kruszwica, Gniezno,
Sandomierz, Zawichost, Witlica and Niemcza. Other ones (e.g., Pdock,
Kalisz, Kodobrzeg) today occupy a position which is incomparably low
in comparison to their rank in the past. There are also centers which
for many Poles are not monuments of our history, although they have
existed for a thousand years; these are Pszczew, Bnin (at present part
of the town of Kórnik), Nakdo, srem or Pyrzyce.5
Archaeological investigations bring many new elements helping to
learn more about the origins and the earliest stages of development of
historical Polish towns. The results obtained do not always provide de-
nite answers. In this chapter will be presented examples of urban centers
where recent excavations have provided the greatest surprises, revealing
many important but also controversial and unclear discoveries.

1. The capitals of the Gniezno state: contested priority

The above title refers to the outdated debate—one still alive among
researchers—about the priority of the main centers in the Gniezno
state. Most often the rank of the capital is granted to Gniezno. This
is where Gallus Anonymous places the events connected with Siemowit’s
feast at which his blind son gained his sight, which occurred according

Buko 2001.
towns still under investigation 227

to dynastic legend in Piast’s hut. Gniezno is where the rst archbishop’s

seat was located, which was decided during the Gniezno Summit of
1000 A.D., it is where the relics of the rst martyr, St. Adalbert, were
deposited, it is there that Bolesdaw the Brave received emperor Otto III.
Finally, which is for some historians the decisive factor, the document
Dagome Iudex submits civitas Schinesghe, that is the Gniezno state, to the
protection of the Holy See. The rst Polish coins have the same name
as the place of mintage: Gnezdun civitas. According to Gallus Anonymous
Gniezno provided the greatest number of warriors to Bolesdaw the
Brave’s military forces (army) and had many other important assets,
mentioned in the literature on the subject.6
However, there are arguments also in favor of Poznaq having the
dominant role. Even before the Second World War, Witold Hensel
noticed that the area enclosed by the defensive ramparts in Poznaq
was much larger than that in Gniezno. He suggested on that basis
that after the baptism of Poland in 966 and establishing in Poznaq
the rst missionary bishopric (in 968) Mieszko I moved the capital
from Gniezno to Poznaq. Only after his death, that is after 992, did,
he suggests, Gniezno became again the capital city.7 It was Poznaq, as
Thietmar recorded in his chronicle, which was the seat of Jordan ( the
rst missionary bishop). According to the recent archaeological discover-
ies, the center was created by Mieszko’s predecessors. Some specialists
also believe that there are not only the remains of the earliest church
in Poland here but also those of a baptistery dating to the times of the
conversion of Poland to Christianity. In the earliest cathedral in Poznaq,
as some researchers believe, the rst (historic) Polish rulers, Mieszko I
and Bolesdaw the Brave, were buried. Finally, the recent excavations at
Ostrów Tumski by a team led by Hanna Kóoka-Krenz have revealed
the remains of the prince’s palatium, apparently of Mieszko I.
The debate about the priority of these two centers has excited the
academic milieu for some time. And although it would be more proper
to talk not about one capital in the late 10th century but about the main
centers of the state,8 the debate has been enriched by the increasing
number of discoveries made in the two centers.

Cf. Labuda 2000.
G. Labuda (2000) reviews the debate conducted for many years both by the his-
torians and archaeologists. Cf. also: Wójtowicz 2000.
Cf. Mo,zdzioch 1999; Urbaqczyk 2001.
228 chapter ten

Figure 92. Cross-section of Lech’s Hill in Gniezno with the most important
discoveries (after T. Sawicki; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

2. From the legendary Lech to Mieszko I

In the light of the earlier9 as well as recent10 investigations, Gniezno

was the place where the initiatives aiming at creating the state were
concentrated. According to the legends it goes back to the times of
Lech, the tribal ancestor of the nation, who, standing on a hill later
named after him to commemorate the event, decided to set up a town
on that spot. As late as in the 19th century this legendary gure was
still believed to be the founder of a stronghold postulated as having
stood on the site of the later cathedral. According to legends it was
surrounded by a rampart and a pagan shrine was built nearby.
Lech’s Hill in Gniezno distinguishes itself in the lowland landscape
of Great Poland with its atypical and steep-sided form. Originally it
had two summits, a taller and steeper side on the north (the area of
the later St. George’s church) and a broader one on which the cathe-
dral now stands (Fig. 92). The whole complex, resembling an elevated
island, towered over the landscape consisting of lakes, marshes and
The nds from the earliest phase of settlement at Lech’s Hill are
difcult to interpret. Under the modern cathedral, remains of a large

Kostrzewski 1939; Mikodajczyk 1972, 1973.
Sawicki 2000; Kurnatowska 2004.
towns still under investigation 229

hearth were identied quite a long ago. It was a 80 u 100 cm quad-

rangular structure paved with stones set in clay with sides faced with
wood. The feature was associated with thick layers of ash, which,
according to the discoverers, suggested that it was used for a long time.
The whole area was not built over, which inspired the conclusion that it
had a cult function. At the same time, i.e., before the year 940, on the
higher part of the hill a mound of cobblestones, resembling a barrow
and with a diameter of c. 12 m was raised. Its remains were identied
at a depth of 1.2–2.10 m below the existing ground surface. It has
not been ultimately established if these were remains of a barrow or
rather of a stone bank enclosing an area. It was, however, recorded
that the construction was separated from the other part of the elevation
with a ditch. The feature was below the remains of the foundations
of a masonry building dated to the beginning of the 11th century. In
the gaps between the stones, pottery fragments dated to the period
between the late 8th and mid-10th century were found; this is the time
span when the construction was probably used. Underneath it was a
layer of burnt material overlying the bedrock. Lack of any functional
connections between these discoveries, their mysterious form (barrow?
bank?) and the fact that they were separated from the rest of the hill
by a ditch are, for some researchers, premises indicating their symbolic
(cult) function.11
This interpretation gains some support from local legends and tales
which suggest that both the cathedral and St. George’s church stand
on the remains of old pagan shrines. The end of pagan cult site on
Lech’s Hill is marked by the construction of the earliest stronghold in
the place where the cathedral is today and the building of a church on
the higher part of the summit where the pagan structures supposedly
were (cf. Fig. 92).
The second important structure identied by archaeologists in this
area is the stronghold built on Lech’s Hill. In the earlier publications the
defensive structures investigated in the period before the Second World
War by a team supervised by Józef Kostrzewski were dated to the late
8th century.12 More recent excavations conducted by Tomasz Sawicki
have yielded a different chronology of the layers of the stronghold. It
should be explained that the new chronology is based on more than a

Sawicki 1999, 20ff.
Cf. Kostrzewski ed. 1939.
230 chapter ten

Figure 93. Developmental phases of the fortied settlement at Lech’s Hill in

Gniezno (after T. Sawicki; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

hundred dendrochronological dates obtained from samples taken from

various parts of the fortications. The earliest phase when the stronghold
consisted of two parts and had ramparts of earth-and-wood construc-
tions with the faces strengthened by the so-called ‘hook construction’
was identied in the place where the cathedral is standing today; the
fragments of the rampart of that phase were identied 25 m to the
north of St. George’s church. The fortications made with the use
of the timberwork in the so-called ‘grill’ (rusztowa) construction have
a characteristic feature in the form of a stone face; constructions of
that type did appear in the 8th century but mainly at the areas to the
south of modern Poland. In Gniezno this fact is quite surprising as it
towns still under investigation 231

represents a unique case of applying this technique so far to the north.

It has been impossible to establish whether this is a trace of Bohemian
inuence on local construction techniques (as some believe coming
to the court through Mieszko’s Bohemian wife, DËabrówka) or a local
invention of those who built the stronghold. The dendrochronological
evidence demonstrates that the earliest complex of fortications was
built in c. 940 and existed till c. 980.13 In the next phase the area was
expanded; this concerns especially an extension of the enclosed area to
the northern part of Lech’s Hill. The development of the stronghold
was completed in the rst quarter of the 11th century (Fig. 93). Thus
the program of building Gniezno, the rst capital of the state, was not
only consistently carried out but also completed during the lifetime of
the rst two historical rulers of Poland.
A problem for researchers is the lack until now of concrete remains
of any masonry buildings indicating the rank of the center at the time
of the Gniezno Summit in 1000 A.D. when Otto III came here. The
geomorphological investigations indicate that the culmination of Lech’s
Hill was rather small in area. For that reason during every redevelop-
ment of the existing structures, any traces of previous ones may have
been completely destroyed. In the vicinity of St. George’s church a
fragment of a stone wall with gypsum mortar tentatively dated to the
10th/11th century has been recently discovered. It is possible that
these are the remains of a sacral or palatial structure associated with
the Gniezno Summit. The scale of destruction during the consecutive
phases of development of Lech’s Hill is best indicated by the fact that
in the place where the cathedral is standing today, some remains of
pre-Romanesque architecture have been found but their state of pres-
ervation makes it hard not only to recreate the plan of the building
of Mieszko’s time but even that of the later cathedral established at
the Gniezno Summit in 1000.14 Until recently it was believed that a
gypsum tombstone is what remained of the earliest church. The Latin
inscription on it says that in this place the mortal remains of three
brothers were deposited. Sadly, it is impossible to determine whether
the tomb marks the place of rest of the remains of the eremites known

Sawicki 1998.
This is the church to which Emperor Otto III made a pilgrimage and in which
lie not only the remains of St. Adalbert, but also, as tradition has it, of DËabrówka,
Mieszko’s rst wife.
232 chapter ten

from the ‘Life of ve Brothers’ murdered at Mi‰edzyrzecz in 1003 or

whether the inscription has a different meaning.15
Another unsolved problem is where the relics of the martyred St.
Adalbert were deposited in Gniezno. Due to the lack of remains of
the earliest cathedral in Gniezno, in part due to the high degree of
disturbance due to later rebuildings, a number of hypotheses have been
proposed, but they all lack support in properly documented archaeo-
logical evidence. The written sources, including Thietmar’s chronicle,
indicate that during Otto’s III pilgrimage to Gniezno the relics of the
martyr were placed at an altar specially built for that purpose. Most
probably this was a kind of Medieval confessio, that is a reliquary attached
to an altar. As part of the Millennium project of the 1950s and 1960s
much of the area inside the Gothic cathedral was investigated, and
the most recent re-analysis of the results of the old excavations has
indicated that in one of the trenches in the nave of the cathedral there
were remains of two mysterious structures. Although they were badly
disturbed, it was possible to outline their hypothetical form. The rst,
according to Tomasz Janiak,16 had the shape of a simple rotunda. To
this had then been added a northern and a south-western annex. The
latter (if correctly reconstructed) is of extremely unusual form, in plan
like the segment of a circle, with a axial gable wall (Fig. 94). This atypi-
cal structure is interpreted by Janiak as the place where St. Adalbert
was buried immediately after his tragic death among the Prussians in
spring 997. Did Otto III visit the saint’s grave located in this rotunda?
This question can not be given a clear answer. Some specialists allow
for another interpretation. According to this concept, the construc-
tion of a huge aisled basilica was started before the year 1000. This
was to function as a memoria of the cult of its patron. Its construction
was subordinated to the earlier confessio of St. Adalbert, adjusting the
plan of the later building to its geometric center. Thus even before
Emperor Otto’s visit, the earliest confessio would have been dismantled
and replaced with a new church with an altar and a rectangular burial
chapel underneath it. The weakness of such a hypothesis is due to the
fragmentary preservation of the structures and lack of a sufciently
strong basis for dating them. Only the stratigraphic position of the
discoveries and their relations to the later layers are certain. For that
reason such hypotheses should be treated with caution.

Cf. K7rbis 2000.
towns still under investigation 233

Figure 94. Remains of the earliest church, rotunda under the Gniezno
cathedral—presumed to be St. Adalbert’s rst grave (after T. Janiak; digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki).

3. A strong contender for primacy

Poznaq became one of the centers of the Piast state in different cir-
cumstances than Gniezno. The focus of the Early Medieval complex
was the area of Ostrów Tumski [Tumski Island], at the junction of
the Warta and Cybina rivers. Initially it consisted of two small eleva-
tions separated by a marshy ditch and was settled perhaps already at
the beginning of the 10th century. This characteristic landscape was
noticed and fully utilized by the builders of the stronghold which was
erected in the northern part of Ostrów Tumski. The location excel-
lently tted the communication network of the region: it was close
both to the water and the land route. For that reason this center
played an important part in expanding the Piast domain in almost all
directions.17 The results of the excavations conducted since 1999 by
the team directed by Hanna Kóoka-Krenz have indicated that under
the Psalterists’ Residence (a late Gothic building near the cathedral)
and in the trenches to the north of the Gothic church of the Blessed

Kara 1998.
234 chapter ten

Virgin Mary at a depth of 6 m from the surface the base of a defen-

sive rampart was located. This earliest stronghold could have been in
existence, the excavators believe, as early as the end of the ninth cen-
tury, and about the middle of the 10th century it was rebuilt.18 Thus
this rampart would have been earlier than the remains discovered in
previous excavations in the trenches under the cathedral and in the
cathedral yard, so far dated to the second quarter of the 10th century.
It can not be excluded, however, that in fact the two parts represent
one rampart surrounding the site on which now stands the church of
the BVM. Therefore it is possible that around the mid-10th century
a small stronghold enclosing an area of approximately 40 m in diam-
eter was built on the elevation in the northern part of the island. The
latest dendrochronological dates obtained for the feature indicate that
the terminus post quem for its constructions is 892. It could have existed
until about the mid-10th century when it was considerably rebuilt. In
that period the fortications were changed and in some places even
completely dismantled. Part of the demolition material was used to
ll in areas of boggy ground (Fig. 95). At that time the interior of the
stronghold was re-planned: the eastern part had a sacral function (this
is where the cathedral was located later) whereas in the western one
the prince’s palace and chapel were erected.
The most interesting discoveries have been recently made near
the church of the BVM. The structures were rst seen in restricted
excavations in this area soon after the Second World War, during the
Millennium project excavations, however, the most recent studies con-
ducted by Hanna Kóoka-Krenz have demonstrated that they should
be dated not to the 11th century, as was originally believed, but to the
times of Mieszko I. The nds in question are remains of consider-
ably damaged but still recognizable foundations running parallel to
the church wall. Their total width together with the foundation offset,
visible on the eastern side was as much as 2 m. In some places only
the robber trench of the wall was found with remains of white and
pink gypsum mortar, probably coming from the above-ground parts of
the structure. The rectangular palace building had a N-S orientation
and its walls were 11.90 (11.20) u 27.25 m (western wall). It rested on
the foundations of small rocks of different origins (mainly granite and
gneiss) alternating with layers of soil with lumps of raw clay. The walls

Kóoka-Krenz 2000; Kóoka-Krenz, Kara, Makowiecki 2004.
towns still under investigation 235

Figure 95. External facing of the stronghold in Poznaq with a stone

reinforcement of base, tentative reconstruction (after B. Kostrzewski).

were made of stone slabs with gypsum mortar; they were plastered on
both faces. Lime mortar was used to make the oor on a foundation
layer of broken stone and also to provide a hard surface to the sur-
rounding area on the outside. The entrance to the palatium was in the
west wall. On the southern side remains of a room (8.80 u 5.80 m)
were discovered. The dendrochronological analysis of wooden rein-
forcement of a sand layer making the underlying ground rmer has
indicated that the timber was cut between the years 910 and 941. On
the basis of the archaeological and stratigraphical data the remains of
the palace building were dated to the second half of the 10th century.
It is assumed that the described building had a chapel the remains of
which are thought to be under the chancel of the Gothic church of
the BVM. The structures most probably made up a complex similar
236 chapter ten

Figure 96. Plan of the remains of a structure identied near the Church of
the Blessed Virgin Mary church on Ostrów Tumski in Poznaq identied as a
palatium (after H. Kóoka-Krenz; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

to the one known for example from Ostrów Lednicki (Fig. 96). It is
assumed that the complex was built by Mieszko I after his baptism.19
The high standing of the complex is indicated by the recent discov-
ery (2002) of a goldsmith’s workshop adjacent to the palace building.
Numerous gold ornaments and production remains were found in it,
which is unique for that period, as the main precious metal which
was used at that time, known, e.g., from the hoards, was silver.20 The
discovery seems indirectly to conrm the importance of the structure

Kóoka-Krenz 2000.
Cf. Kóoka-Krenz, Kara, Makowiecki 2004, 24.
towns still under investigation 237

Figure 97. Baptistery (?) in Poznaq at the moment of discovery

(after K. Józefowiczówna).

as such a workshop could have functioned only in the nearest vicinity

of the prince’s court. It is tentatively suggested that the complex was
destroyed about the middle of the 11th century during the invasion of
the Bohemian prince Bretyslav I.
A discovery in Poznaq which has for many years remained the subject
of controversy is a feature interpreted as the remains of a baptistery.
In 1952, under the nave of the cathedral, relics of a circular lime bowl
with a diameter of c. 4 m lying on a base of broken stone were discov-
ered. The bowl was made of a layer of a lime mortar, at in section,
with a thickened and raised edge. From the original structure about
a quarter of the perimeter has been preserved. In the middle a trace
of a quadrangular post 23 cm across was identied. Outside the bowl
traces of stone settings, apparently connected with other posts belonging
to the same structure (Fig. 97) were found. Krystyna Józefowiczówna21
considered this feature to be the remains of a baptismal font, serving
for mass baptisms of adults, dated to the second half of the 10th

1963; 1967.
238 chapter ten

century. According to that interpretation it was a relic from the times

of the missionary bishop Jordan. The construction with a central post
which supported the roof and wooden posts around the bowl, fencing
off the place where liturgical rites were performed, was thought to be
the earliest baptistery in Polish lands. Although this opinion was shared
by some researchers, others were skeptical. They inclined to the view
that such features are remains of workshops connected with erecting
the sacral buildings and used for preparing the mortar. The bowls
were places where lime was mixed and the central post was part of
a treadmill.22 In recent years, however, the debate about the Poznaq
discovery has been reopened. The most negative and also the most
extensively-argued opinion about the possibility that it could have been
connected with the rites of baptism was expressed by Teresa Rodziqska-
ChorËavy.23 She rejected the possibility of the above interpretation as
the Poznaq features differ from the baptisteries of that period in their
construction, e.g., they did not have a roof with a central post, wooden
steps leading to a depression that was too shallow and many other
ones. She stressed that the typological features, construction and the
context of other such discoveries in Europe do not allow for such pos-
sibility. Zoa Kurnatowska24 saw these issues in a completely different
light. She reanalysed the documentation from the excavations of the
Millennium research project and came to the conclusion that under
the Poznaq cathedral there were remains of a square building with a
baptismal font inside. Such structures were typical for the missionary
areas and thus for Great Poland under the bishop Jordan’s jurisdiction.
The supposed baptistery building would thus be attached on the east to
a so far undiscovered sacral building. According to this interpretation
the baptistery was in the central part of the rst cathedral (Fig. 98)
and its origin should be associated with building the rst missionary
station in Poznaq. In time, when the bishop’s cathedral was built, the
baptistery, partly dismantled, was included in it.

This discussion has a long history; the topic was broached also by Krystyna
Józefowiczówna (1967). In the 1990s these issues were taken up by the new genera-
tion of researchers who criticized the attempts at associating these devices with the
rites of baptism (cf. Urbaqczyk 1995; Rodziqska-ChorËavy 1997; Kóoka-Krenz, Kara,
Makowiecki 2004, 147).
towns still under investigation 239

Figure 98. Plan of the probable baptistery in the context of Poznaq cathedral
(after Z. Kurnatowska; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

Thus the interpretation of the discoveries is quite complex. Are we

dealing with the relics of a separate building of the earliest baptistery
or should the remains be interpreted in a different way? This can not
be settled at the moment in the light of such a great discrepancy of
opinions. It is not clear whether the assumed baptistery functioned
along with an existing church whose traces have not been discovered
so far, or whether the context of its existence in the landscape of Early
Medieval Poznaq was quite different.
Equally mysterious is the issue of the masonry remains of the tombs
in Poznaq cathedral, initially identied as the graves of Mieszko I and
Bolesdaw the Brave (Fig. 99). The rst one, of which approximately
half was preserved, had the shape of a tumba raised above the oor
of the church with a ceiling and a oor of lime mortar over a base of
broken limestone. The tomb was dug into the oor of the earliest pre-
Romanesque cathedral so it was later than the rst church. The other
tomb lay to the east, and only the remains of the stone casing were
preserved. As in the former case, there is a layer of poured lime mortar
forming the base of the grave and remains of a limestone slab which
was the cover. Around both tombs traces of a quadrangular enclosure
in the form of a low wall with an entrance on the northern side were
discovered. It is assumed that originally there could have been an altar
between the two tombs. Both burials had been exhumed some time in
240 chapter ten

Figure 99. Presumed tombs of Mieszko I and Bolesdaw the Brave in Poznaq
cathedral (after Z. Kurnatowska, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

the past. At the moment of discovery in the 1950s they contained only
traces of rust and corroded iron, interpreted as the remains of cofn
xtures. The tombs are believed to be the place where the rst historical
rulers of Poland: Mieszko I and Bolesdaw the Brave had been laid to
rest.25 Other scholars, however, do not accept this hypothesis. The most
extreme standpoint was expressed by Antoni GËasiorowski.26 He believes
that the presence of a central burial raised above the oor and located
in the nave in an 11th century cathedral is quite improbable. This
opinion, especially the part concerning the external form of a burial
located in such a place seems quite justied. In early Christian Europe
the burials in media ecclasiae were usually located under the oor of the
church in a special crypt. Their place was marked inside by an altar
raised above the oor. A raised tumba in the main aisle of the church
would differ considerably from the generally adopted pattern.
It is also necessary to identify the people buried in the tombs. Antoni
GËasiorowski27 indicates that Mieszko died in 992, so would have been
buried before the year 1000, and yet this grave was cut through the

Kurnatowska 2000, 19ff.
2000, 114ff.
towns still under investigation 241

oor of the cathedral. In the case of Bolesdaw the Brave he stresses

the lack of any stronger ties of that ruler with Poznaq. For that reason
the natural place for his burial seems more likely to have been the
cathedral in Gniezno which he had founded and, what is more, where
his friend the martyr St. Adalbert was buried. Whose remains were
therefore deposited in Poznaq in the monumental tombs and what
did the grave originally look like? Were these burials of the rst rulers
of Poland or rather of the bishops of Poznaq, Jordan and Unger? In
that case, however, the form of the graves would seem inappropriate
to their functions in life. Also if these were the burials of bishops, we
must wonder why there is a lack of the graves of their successors in
the near vicinity. For these reasons the question of the identity of the
persons originally resting in these tombs will certainly be one which
will not go away.

4. Kalisz: The Stronghold on the Amber Route

There are few towns in Poland that provoke as many questions and
hypotheses connected with the early urbanization of Polish lands as
Kalisz. One of them is connected with the long-lasting debate about
Ptolemy’s Calisia on the Amber Route. According some interpretations
of that text, the origins of Kalisz should go back to the times of this
second century A.D. Alexandrian geographer. Although it is hardly
possible to prove the direct connection between the Przeworsk Culture
settlement which existed in the area and the later town, the myth of a
town which has a history of almost 2000 years is still alive.
Obviously the trade routes were one of the reasons why the place
had such a high standing from the very start and the numerous hoards
from the Early Middle Ages dated to the 10th–11th century indicate
that the Kalisz route played an important part also at the beginning of
the Polish state. An interesting phenomenon are the strongholds form-
ing a circle around Kalisz, which were established at the beginning of
the Polish state (cf. Fig. 83). Most of them were built from scratch and
settled by a population brought from elsewhere. In some cases, e.g., at
Piaski (Baszków) these were, as the archaeological investigations revealed,
prisoners of war of Pomeranian origin (Chapter 15).28 The debate on

Teske 2000.
242 chapter ten

the concentration of strongholds around Kalisz is not over yet. The

hypothesis according to which they are proof of strengthening of the
Gniezno state and points of military support for the invasion on Silesia
and Little Poland planned by the Piasts is contradicted with another
one stressing the functional connection of the phenomenon with the
Piasts’ earliest domain (cf. Chapter 9).
Kalisz itself has also yielded archaeological discoveries of high rank.
One of them is the cremation cemetery at Kalisz-Zawodzie with a
stone barrow located in the place where later a fortied settlement
and a church were built. Such places, embedded in the new reality
of the Piast state and proving the continuity of the settlement, may
mark the earlier centers of “tribal” communities. Such phenomena
are encountered both in leading centers of the Piast state (Gniezno)
and of the Bohemian Premyslids (Prague). The pagan cemetery func-
tioning between the 6th/7th and 8th century was located on sandy
islands or the original bank of the Prosna river. Its main element was
an oval-shaped stone barrow with a diameter of c. 2.5 m and height
of at least 1 m. On the stones and under them traces of re and
remains of burnt bones have been preserved. The cremation burials in
the cemetery contained fragments of clay vessels representing archaic
forms and techniques of production. Directly above the burial ground
the remains of the earliest fortied settlement were found (Fig. 100).
It was discovered by Iwona and Krzysztof DËabrowski in the 1950s
and 1960s; the discovery was conrmed by Tadeusz Baranowski in
the 1990s.29 Detailed analyses have proved that the frequent changes
of the form of the fortied settlement were caused by the changes of
the bed of the Prosna river. When the rst fortications were built,
the long axis of the sandy island on which the stronghold was located
was no wider than 75 m. The site was protected from the inuence of
water by wooden piles and stones of large dimensions brought there
intentionally for that purpose. In this way the river bed was gradually
moved away from the fortied settlement towards the west.
The earliest stronghold at Kalisz is dated by means of pottery and
dendrochronological analyses to the second half of the 9th century.30
The discussion on the subject can be divided into two threads. The
rst concerns the tribal organization which inhabited the area at that

Cf. Baranowski (ed.) 1998; Baranowski 2004.
Cf. Baranowski 2004, 288.
towns still under investigation 243

Figure 100. Stronghold, Fortied settlement at Kalisz-Zawodzie during the

excavations, in the foreground remains of St. Paul’s Cathedral can be seen in
the trench (Archive of the Polish Academy of Science Institute of Archaeology
and Ethnology in Warsaw).

time. According to some author (Stanisdaw Trawkowski for example)

they were the Wiercianie (Verizane according to the Bavarian Geographer)
whereas others (Henryk cowmianski among them) include the areas on
the Prosna river in the domain of the Goplanie. The second theme of
discussion is the issue whether the earlier fortied settlement existed at
all. At the present stage of research there are no substantial arguments
justifying the need to modify the hypothesis about the 9th century
origin of the fortied settlement in Kalisz. This view is additionally
supported by the most recent discovery (from the fall of 2002) made
in Kalisz-Wydarte. During a eld survey fragments of clay vessels,
lumps of burnt clay and charcoal were found.31 The analysis of the
area where the material was scattered revealed that there is a still vis-
ible large oval-shaped feature with preserved earthworks 1.5 m high.
Many factors seem to indicate that these are the remains of a second

This material (which I know from personal inspection) represent both the late
pre-state period (so-called Phase C of the Early Middle Ages; A.D. 850–950) and the
early Piast period. Among the pottery I inspected, the more numerous were nds
from the rst group.
244 chapter ten

and previously unknown fortied settlement in Kalisz.32 A ‘tribal’ crafts

and trade settlement located nearby investigated in the 1970s yielded
many valuable nds, including a gilded bronze Merovingian ornament
unique in Polish lands. It still remains to be proven if the settlement had
functional connections with the possible stronghold at Kalisz-Wydarte.
It cannot be, however, excluded that in Kalisz-Wydarte we are dealing
with a second center in which the Early Medieval town was formed,
and this in itself is a phenomenon deserving deeper analyses.
In Kalisz-Zawodzie, in turn, the older fortied settlement is under
the fortications of the Piast one, dated to the 10th and 11th century.
The chronological gaps between the stages of construction of the for-
tications create problems in interpreting them (Fig. 101). It is possible
that the numerous improvements and developments of the fortied
settlement were caused by the changes of the river bed which made it
necessary to rebuild the ramparts on different lines. The 11th century
phase yielded several interesting discoveries. One of them is a wooden
structure within which a barrel was found with, among other things, a
horse skull inside and several others next to it. There were also many
other nds, including ones connected with trade, e.g., a Ruthenian-
Byzantine lead seal representing a knight with a spear, and a gure in
the attitude of an orans on the reverse. The most interesting are the
remains of a wooden church of post-frame construction identied
within the remains of St. Paul’s collegiate church. It was aisle-less with
a rectangular chancel (Fig. 102). The structure, unique in Poland, is
dated to the rst half of the 11th century.33
The crisis of the late 1030s did not harm Kalisz. The town remained
an administrative center, rst as a castellany and in the 12th century, in
the period of fragmentation, as the capital of the duchy and residence
of Mieszko the Old. The most spectacular discovery of that time are
the remains of the stone collegiate church of St. Paul (cf. Fig. 102). It is
similar to a group of aisle-less churches with a shallow apsidal chancel.
In comparison to other churches known from Great Poland from that
period it is characterized with a rich plan and a wealth of decorative
details. Not much of the 12th century church has been preserved until
our times: stone foundations, architectural details of the walls, and
parts of the decoration, that is, stained glass. The above-ground part of
the structure was most probably built from ashlar blocks. The marshy

Baranowski, K‰edzierski 2002.
Baranowski 1998, 52.
towns still under investigation 245

Figure 101. Extent of the respective phases of the stronghold at Kalisz-

Zawodzie (after T. Baranowski; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

ground was made more stable by piling, which indicates a high level of
engineering skills and is not known in any other sacral buildings of that
time. During the research of the 1960s in the central part of the apse
of the collegiate church, two badly disturbed features were found. They
are interpreted as the graves of Mieszko the Old (buried in 1202) and
his son, Mieszko Mieszkowic (died in 1193). The rank of the deceased
buried in the rst grave is indicated by gilded ornamented plaques, silver
coins of the 11th century and two other coins from the late 11th and
early 13th century. In the second one the remains of a wooden cross
covered with a gilded bronze sheet was found.34 However, it is not certain

Baranowski 1998.
246 chapter ten

Figure 102. Plan of the earliest wooden church in Kalisz, the early 11th
century superimposed on the plan of St. Paul’s Collegiate Church of the 12th
century and their reconstructions (after T. Baranowski; digital processing:
M. Trzeciecki).

whether this if that is the place where the two princes were buried or
even if that was the original location of the two tombs.
In the 13th century, Kalisz became the center of an archdeaconry; the
same century saw the end of the fortied settlement at Zawodzie, which
was captured and burnt by Henryk the Bearded during the struggles
for succession after the death of Wdadysdaw Spindleshanks. As a result
in the second half of that century the town was moved to a fork of
the Prosna river and the center in Kalisz-Zawodzie declined.

5. Wolin: The town with twelve gates

The early origin of the main Baltic centers in Western Pomerania, which
differentiates them from the ones from the other parts of the country,
resulted from the fact that already in the pre-state times there appeared
towns still under investigation 247

a large zone of exchange embracing the whole of the Baltic littoral

and, more broadly, Europe. Among them Wolin played a particularly
important role. Ibrahim ibn Yaqub wrote of the Vetlaba people:
They have a huge town on the Ocean, which has twelve gates. It has a
haven for which they use tree trunks cut in half. They ght with Meszko
and their military strength [is] huge. They do not have a king and do not
allow one [ruler] to dominate them; they are governed by the elders.35
The description clearly shows that in Mieszko’s time Wolin and its
inhabitants—for it is thought that this text refers to the Wolinianie—
were independent and probably ruled by a council of elders. The
center was thus probably an urban republic with its own authorities.
We may also guess that the afuence of the town was based on long-
distance maritime trade, which can be deduced from the existence of
the landing place mentioned by the traveler. The town retained its
importance for a long time, Adam of Bremen (11th century) refers to
it as a nobilissima civitas. Scandinavian tradition names this town as the
seat of the legendary Jomsvikings who performed heroic military deeds
in the Baltic. Here in Jumne, says Adam of Bremen, the Danish king,
Harald Bluetooth, sought refuge in 986 during the period of unrest
in his country.
As bets such a cosmopolitan center, Wolin has several different names
in the written sources and the earliest Scandinavian sagas. There is the
above-mentioned Jumne, but also Wineta, Jom or Jomsborg (though it is
believed that the last one is an articial form which was created as late
as in the 12th century).36 The long history and wealth of “tribal” Wolin
became the basis for often incredible stories about the mythical Wineta,
which, due to the conceit of its inhabitants, disappeared under the sea
like Atlantis. For even in the Middle Ages it was hard to associate a
center of that standing with the declining Wolin. Already in the 19th
century archaeological excavations were conducted there in order to
uncover the remains of the Baltic center mentioned in the chronicles
and sagas. The research, initially conducted by German archaeologists,
led to the conclusion as early as in the 19th century that the legendary

Quoted after: Labuda 1999, 148.
These issues have been extensively discussed both in earlier and later literature
(cf., i.a., Koczy 1932; Labuda 1954; among the more recent publications, especially:
Halldórsson 2000).
248 chapter ten

Wineta is modern Wolin. The eld work was continued before the
Second World War and then after the War.
So far it has been established that Wolin developed by the end of the
8th century on the estuary of the Dziwna and swina rivers (the area
of the modern Old Town) as a shermen’s village.37 Soon afterwards,
in the 9th century, it became an important trade emporium located on
the routes leading to the territory of the Baltic Prussians and Novgorod
in the east, and Haithabu and Starigard to the west.
At that time a densely built-up settlement covering an area of 6
hectares, surrounded with a palisade was built. It existed until the 12th
century. The earliest dendrochronological dates indicate that the wood
used for the buildings located in the area of the Silver Hill was cut in
the years 838–902.38 The 10th century was the time of the greatest
prosperity for the town. New districts came into being, as did a rede-
veloped port with large storage houses, and a 300 m long wharf. The
constructions in the port were built of oak logs fastened to the banks
of the river by wooden ties with hooked ends. The successive phases
of development of the port took place from the north towards the
south. The wharfs had jetties whose respective levels have been dated
from 900 till 995.
The wolin agglomeration contained several distinct districts with
different functions. In the northern part on the Silver Hill there was
a settlement of shermen and craftsmen; in that place also hoards
of silver dated to the 11th century were discovered (thus giving the
hill its name). Farther to the south, along the river Dziwna numerous
settlement centers 100–300 m wide extended along almost 3 km of the
shore. The whole arrangement was surrounded by cemeteries. A barrow
cemetery, dated to the 9th–11th century was situated on the Hangmen’s
Hill to the south. On ‘Mdynówka’ Hill to the north was a biritual cem-
etery functioning from the 10th till the 12th century (Fig. 103). It has
been estimated that in the period between the 10th and 12th century
the whole agglomeration was inhabited by 5 to 10 thousand people.
The diversication of the burial rites in Wolin probably resulted from

So far there has been no monographic publication of the excavated evidence
from Wolin; only the pottery has been successively analyzed by B. Stanisdawski (1997,
1998) for several years. This part of the chapter is mainly based on material presented
by Leciejewicz 1962; Filipowiak, Gundlach 1992; Filipowiak 1995. Several articles
concerning the investigations in Wolin can be found in a festschrift dedicated to
W. Filipowiak [cf. Wilgocki et al. (ed.) 2001], cf. also recently: W. Filipowiak 2004.
Wavny 2001.
towns still under investigation 249

Figure 103. Topography of Wolin in the Early Middle Ages (after W. Filipowiak
and Gundlach; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

the fact that besides the local people the place was inhabited by the
arrivals from various parts of Europe. The written sources indicate that
there were, for instance, Greek (Ruthenian?), Saxon and Scandinavian
The layout of Wolin did not change much between the 9th and
12th century. The main street ran along the east-west axis. The earli-
est streets of the 9th century were paved with planks set on beams.
In the rst half of the 10th century the beams were transversal and
the planks were longitudinal. In that century the streets were 205 cm
wide and there were also narrow passages between the houses. To a
250 chapter ten

degree not yet found at any other center in the Polish lands of that
period there was a great diversity in the techniques used for building
the structures here. The rst group are buildings made in wattle and
daub construction most often with the dimensions 5 u 6 m in which
the vertical elements were oak spars in the corners and in the middle
of the walls. This skeleton was interwoven with twigs and plastered with
clay. The ridged roof rested on posts and the hearth was located in the
middle opposite the entrance. Such buildings usually did not have a
oor and may have consisted of one or two rooms. Another type are
palisade (stave-built) buildings dated to the period of the 9th and the
rst half of the 10th century. In that case the walls were held together
by horizontal beams; buildings of this construction were discovered in
the area of the Market and on Silver Hill. Similar constructions were
found in the areas inhabited by the Germans. The same cultural zone
is represented by houses of frame construction where horizontal planks
are placed between rows of posts. Their roofs most often rested on
posts and the structures had one room (or, more rarely, two) although
their oor area seems quite large (up to 15 m in length and 6.5 m
in width). The hearths were located either by the eastern or western
wall. The typical Slavic ‘log-cabin’ construction technique, either built
from planks and logs, was relatively uncommon in Wolin. The most
interesting discovery from the area of the town are the remains of a
pagan shrine (Fig. 104) and a wooden idol with four faces identied
with the pagan god Svantevit (Fig. 105).
The multiethnic character of Wolin reected, among other things, in
various traditions followed in building homes, forms of burial rites, and
specialized artisans’ workshops, including the places where amber was
worked, are traits which differentiate this center from the other ones.
The town ourished until the second half of the 11th century when
Kamieq became the main center in the area, followed later by Szczecin
together with the rapidly developing Kodobrzeg. Wolin’s prosperity was
ended by the Danes’ invasion in 1173 after which the town declined.
The fall was accompanied with silting the bed of the river Dziwna,
which made the port inaccessible for large ships.

6. Early state or pre-state Gdarsk?

Whereas the origins of the main towns of Western Pomerania are quite
evident, in Eastern Pomerania the situation is more complicated. This
can be best illustrated by the beginnings of Gdaqsk, the largest center
towns still under investigation 251

Figure 104. Stratication and selected wooden structures of the Early

Medieval Wolin, remains of a pagan shrine (after Filipowiak and Gundlach;
digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

in the region, which, as it has been assumed for years, was created at
the initiative of the rst Piasts most probably in the 970s. This inter-
pretation was based on the results of the investigations of the ‘ducal’
stronghold situated on an elevation in a marshy area at the junction
of the Vistula and Motdawa rivers. During the Millennium research
project of the 1950s and 1960s, as many as 17 settlement levels were
distinguished there, dated between 970–980 (the earliest level) and the
early 14th century (identiable on this site by the destruction layers
formed when Gdaqsk was captured and burnt by the Teutonic Knights
in 1308). The main center in Eastern Pomerania was considered a clas-
sic example of a stronghold built from scratch in the early phase of the
state period. According to that concept a multi-functional town with a
port district was to develop around the Piast stronghold.39
There was a second concentration of Early Medieval Gdaqsk 400 m
away to the west of the ducal stronghold, near the church of St.
Nicholas and St. Catherine. This is where a trade route ran in the 11th

Javdvewski 1961.
252 chapter ten

Figure 105. Wolin. A wooden gurine representing a four-headed god found

near the shrine (after Filipowiak and Gundlach).

century. It went through Pruszcz Gdaqski, swiecie, Gniew, Tczew to the

west towards Sdupsk, Kodobrzeg and Szczecin. In that place it crossed
a local route leading towards Kartuzy and Chmielno; its extension was
a track going to the stronghold and port (Fig. 106). This is what must
have fostered the development of a market settlement. It occupied an
area with a diameter of approximately 300 m and its archaeological
traces were discovered by means of augering, when settlement layers
dating to 980–1140 were encountered. More recent investigations in
advance of redevelopment in this rapidly developing city have proved
the existence in the area of well preserved settlement structures dated
to the 9th–10th century located under the remains of an 11th century
settlement.40 The excavations have also revealed that near St. Catherine

Of particular interest are the excavations conducted by the Institute of Archaeology
towns still under investigation 253

Figure 106. Topography of Early Medieval Gdaqsk (digital processing:

M. Trzeciecki).

and St. Nicholas’ church a teeming crafts and port district was formed
after some time, that is, after the founding of a chartered town accord-
ing to the Lubeck law.
An important element in the plan of Early Medieval Gdaqsk are the
structures discovered in a trench in the crypt under St. Nicholas’ church.
These are the foundations of a stone and wood construction burnt in
a re, which have been interpreted as elements of fortications of with
internal caisson type timber reinforcements. This structure predates

of Warsaw University in the area of the Dominican Center [cf. Godembnik (ed.) 2001,
2002a]. The most interesting discoveries of recent years are also the traces of the
earliest St. Nicholas’ church and the cemetery accompanying it identied nearby on
the Market Hall site (excavations of the Archaeological Museum in Gdaqsk). For the
most recent results and discuission of the plan of Early Medieval Gdaqsk cf. Paner
2004; Paner (ed.) 1998; with literature.
254 chapter ten

the building of the church, and analysis of pottery discovered there

allowed the construction to be dated to before the 13th century. The
researchers from Gdaqsk are not unanimous on how to interpret this
discovery. Some believe that these fortications are the northern part
of the ramparts of the trading village. Others claim that these are the
remains of a fort located in the area of the market square. Burnt in
the late 11th century, probably at the time of the ghts for Pomerania
during Wdadysdaw Herman’s reign, it was never rebuilt and nally (from
1227) became a topographical point known as the Dominican Field and
the Dominican Mount. To the north of St. Nicholas’ church a silted
water course was located, with a section of a wharf with a part of a
jetty reaching up to the market square were discovered; from the late
12th century port facilities were most probably located there.
The third settlement concentration in the earliest part of the town
was located in the area of the Ddugi Targ [Long Market] of the Later
Medieval town, near the present site of the Town Hall. This is where
the second port and trade settlement was supposedly located.41
The origins of organized settlement processes in the discussed areas
are dated to the 10th century, but some specialists tend to assume that
each of the concentrations was surrounded by its own system of for-
tications, which would be unique for the discussed period. There are
also scholars who believe that each of the settlements had a different
character: the one near the stronghold is claimed to be more Slavic
whereas the one identied near the modern Town Hall is assumed to
be connected with German colonization. It is known that the town
founded in the 13th century according to the Lubeck law developed
in that very area. Hence some assume that next to that center there
could have been established a town founded according to the ‘Polish’
law. Others go even further: both founded centers could have been
developing independently (and thus had their own fortications?) until
the time when the ‘Lubeck’ part dominated over the ‘Polish’ one.42
This complex vision of the origins of Gdaqsk is difcult to verify. It
is also contradicted by a competing scenario resulting from the most
recent archaeological discoveries, namely of some settlement structures
from the area of the modern Town Hall dated to the pre-state period.
Some believe that 600 m to the southwest of the main Piast stronghold,

Cf. Zbierski 1964; 1978.
Lepówna 1998.
towns still under investigation 255

in the settlement located in the area of modern Dduga Street and Ddugi
Targ a stronghold, separated from the main one by marshes, was built.
It would have been developing from at least the ninth century and
would have still been functioning in the tenth century. This interpreta-
tion is based on the observation of a small length (about ten meters) of
what seems to be a rampart discovered under the Town Hall.43 Was it
a direct continuation of the earlier pre-state settlement or something
completely new? It is hard to determine today. However, quite sur-
prisingly no nds typical for the early crafts and trade centers of the
Baltic littoral have been found in the vicinity. Neither is it clear what
the relations between the discussed stronghold and the so-called ducal
stronghold was. Perhaps it was a secondary outlying fort subordinated
to the latter. The possible fortications identied in the area of the
Town Hall are supposed to have functioned until the end of the 12th
or the early 13th century. Wdadysdaw cosiqski allows for the possibility
that the remains located under the Town Hall, dated to the 930s may
be in fact the remains of the rst (earliest) stronghold which would be
almost 100 years earlier than the one located at the junction of the
Vistula and Motdawa rivers. According to this interpretation the earliest
Gdaqsk would consist of two parts: a stronghold erected in the 930s
(the one under the Town Hall) and a large crafts and trade settlement
with a landing place dating even as early as from the mid-9th century.
The construction of strongholds, even as early as the rst half of the
tenth century, would represent the time when the piasts appeared in
the region of the mouth of the Vistula.44

Paner 1998, 2005.
Cf. cosiqski 2001, 58. In the discussion of the chronology of the earliest pot-
tery presented by that author the comments on the high technological advancement
of the products made in the earliest phase of the fortied settlement in Gdaqsk with
respect to chronologically comparable materials from the late 10th century from the
main centers of Western Pomerania do not seem a convincing argument for dating.
In Western Pomerania the situation was slightly different. The crafts and trade centers
continually developed from the 9th century (archaeologically manifested by, among
other things, numerous fragments of ceramic vessels) had been overlapping with the
effects of the activity of specialist workshops of the early Piast period. Thus depending
on the settlement phase, nds of various levels of technological advancement appear
in successive layers in denite proportions. In the area in Gdaqsk where the ducal
stronghold was built, there was no earlier stronghold, and thus no material relating to
such a phase. This resembles the case of other fortied settlements built by the Piasts in
the early state period such as Pdock in Mazovia or Sandomierz in Little Poland, where
only technologically well developed pottery appeared from the very start.
256 chapter ten

Clearly, there are many problems to investigate. Especially mysterious

are the several strongholds (two? three?) functioning at the same time
in the area of the Gdaqsk agglomeration. There are more questions:
were these really strongholds, parts of some other type of construc-
tions, or remains of fortications of various parts of the same early
urban complex? And if it was one complex then why were they built at
such large distances apart? What were the relationships (chronological,
functional) between them? Can the discoveries under the Town Hall
and St. Nicholas’ church certainly be considered as fortications? Could
the Piasts really have organized, as Wdadysdaw cosiqski has recently
suggested, the Gdaqsk domain already in the 930s, long before the
Gniezno state was established in Great Poland?
These questions cannot be answered yet. However, some things
are already certain. First of all, before the Piast stronghold was built,
there was dense settlement in the area. This means that Gdaqsk, like
the main centers of Western Pomerania, originated earlier. It is also
worth recalling that the rst Piasts, when occupying former ‘tribal’ ter-
ritories, usually built their own center in a new place. This principle is
reected by the location of so-called ducal stronghold at the junction
of the Vistula and Motdawa rivers. Furthermore, there are no doubts
that Gdaqsk with its own name (urbs Gyddanyzc) appeared on the map
of Poland already in the 10th century. This is the place from where
St. Adalbert, having baptized the masses of local population, set off
in spring 997 to his last Christianizing mission, ended with a martyr’s
death among the Prussians.

7. The origins of Peock still unknown

Unlike Great Poland, Mazovia has few towns dating from the begin-
nings of the state. This scarcity is probably due to the constant danger
from the pagan Balts (Prussians), Lithuanians, Yatvingians and even
Pomeranians. The main early urban center is Pdock, located on the
transit route along the Bug and Vistula rivers leading to Ruthenia and
near the regional routes to Prussian territory and Great Poland, which
became the capital of a principality in 1138.45 The question of the
earliest structures on the Tumskie Hill, the highest point in the area

Dulinicz 1999.
towns still under investigation 257

Figure 107. Pdock. Tumskie Hill as seen from the north (photo: M. Trzeciecki).

(Fig. 107), has not been settled till today. Here are traces not only of
the earliest episodes of the history of the town but also some fascinating
discoveries which are frustratingly difcult to verify. The nds in ques-
tion are a group of material associated with the late pre-state period
described by Wdodzimierz Szafraqski46 as proof that the hill functioned
as a cult site before the beginnings of the state. The hypothesis, which
has been recently veried negatively, was for many years a key feature
in the discussions on the origins of Pdock. Tumskie Hill was treated by
many historians and archaeologists as a place where religious meetings
of the elders of the tribe used to take place, which was to result in the
formation of a center of political power there. Today it is clear that this
hypothesis has absolutely no support in the source material. Particularly
surprising is the lack of nds from Pdock which may be earlier than
the late 10th century. Was the center built from scratch as late as that?
If so, why did this take place so late and why in that particular place
where no traces of earlier ‘tribal’ settlement have been found?

258 chapter ten

Figure 108. Topography of Early Medieval Pdock ( after A. Godembnik, digital

processing: M. Trzeciecki).

Clearly, the part played by Tumskie Hill in the process of forming the
earliest fortied and urban center is crucial. A stronghold was built
here, most probably in the late 10th century, on the top of a hill about
2 hectares and rising almost 50 m above the Vistula. According to
Wdodzimierz Szafraqski it was built on the northern part of the Hill
(where the Mazovian Museum is located today) whereas in the southern
part a second fortied enclosure stood, within which a Romanesque
cathedral and another masonry church were built. The results of the
latest investigations suggest a slightly different picture, but are not
entirely clear. Namely, it was suggested that there had been a stronghold
on the southern part of the hilltop, but in the early 11th century the
fortications were rebuilt, and the whole hill was enclosed by a huge
wood and earth rampart. In the southern part it was erected in the same
place as the old defensive wall but in the northern one it extended well
beyond it, embracing part of the former residential area (Fig. 108). The
authors of this conception suggested that the stone tower incorporated
into the system of the fortications was built there already in the 11th
century, but this seems doubtful. The structure, previously identied
by Wdodzimierz Szafraqski as the remains of Wdadysdaw Herman’s
palatium is in fact much later and dates to the 12th century.47 Only as

This hypothesis quite recently suggested by A. Godembnik (1999, 85) has been
abandoned in the most recent publication (cf. Godembnik (ed.) 2002b; cf. also Godembnik
2004). The extent to which scholarly visions of the origins and development of the
towns still under investigation 259

Figure 109. Pdock Cathedral as seen from north-east (photo: M. Trzeciecki).

late as in the 13th century the stone rotunda could have been built on
the southern part of the hill.
The hypotheses about the archaeology of this complex constantly
undergo modications, which is well illustrated by the recent monograph

earliest Pdock are discrepant is indicated by two articles on the same subject issued in
the same publication and prepared by two different long-term researchers of Pdock (cf.
Godembnik 1998; Kordala 1998). In this context it is not surprising that the idea of
Pdock as the capital of Mazovia even at the turn of the 10th and 11th century may
be questioned (cf. Dulinicz 1999).
260 chapter ten

on the origins of Pdock.48 The author assumes that in the late 10th or
early 11th century on the original at upper part of the hill with two
peaks (on the north and the south divided by a transverse ravine), a
fortied settlement was built with one line of ramparts. This supposition
is supported by the fact that there are no traces of fortications sepa-
rating the ducal fortied settlement from the area with the cathedral.
In this context, the presence of an eroded ravine which apparently
served to drain water from the northern part of the hill until the Late
Middle Ages, is thought-provoking. We know nothing about the course
of any fortications which would have closed its end, so how was this
side of the stronghold defended? Where was the original gate? Our
doubts are raised by the exceptionally large area of the earliest forti-
ed settlement, with one (?) system of ramparts embracing an area of
more than 2 hectares.
The central point of Tumskie Hill was the cathedral: the seat of
the diocese founded in 1076 (Fig. 109). It probably replaced an earlier
church, which is supposed to date to the beginnings of the fortied
settlement. However, there are no material remains even of the later
collegiate church, founded by Wdadysdaw Herman, built on the same
spot and destroyed during an invasion of the Pomeranians in the early
12th century. In the mid-12th century another church founded on the
incentive of Bishop Alexander of Malonne was built. Its main attrac-
tion was to be the two leaves of a bronze door decorated with reliefs
representing Biblical scenes and the gure of the founder. Made in the
12th century in Magdeburg, the doors never got to Pdock; in unknown
circumstances they ended up in St. Sophia’s church in Novgorod where
they are called the ‘Sigtuna Door’. In Pdock cathedral there is an exact
copy (Fig. 110).
No traces of the original form of Bishop Alexander of Malonne’s
cathedral have, however, been preserved. Recent investigations by
Robert Kunkel49 have proved that despite appearances, the body of
the present church is not Romanesque, but was built as late as the
16th century, resembling its Romanesque predecessor only in the loca-
tion and measurements. Tradition has it that in Pdock cathedral the
Polish ruler Wdadysdaw Herman was buried, while others believe that

Cf. Godembnik (ed.) 2002.
towns still under investigation 261

Bolesdaw Wrymouth was interred here too. This was also the place
of the ultimate rest of at least some of the dukes of the period of
feudal fragmentation. Their original tombs, however, have not been
located. One of the archaeological highlights of the 1970s were the
excavations in the cathedral crypt (I had the opportunity to take part
in them) conducted under the guidance of Wdodzimierz Szafraqski.
Their aim was to identify, on the basis of the bones, the members of
the prince’s family whose remains were deposited together in one cofn
in the 19th century.50
In the 11th century, Pdock expanded beyond Tumskie Hill. The con-
secutive parts of the Early Medieval town developed to the north and
south-west of the hill (cf. Fig. 108). Initially the most important was the
settlement located to the north, in the area of modern Narutowicza
Square, and in 1237 it became a chartered town. On the west it was
adjoined by the settlement zone around St. Nicholas’ collegiate church,
which served as a service area for prince Konrad of Mazovia’s resi-
dence. According to some historians this is where the canons’ school
was located even before 1180. To the north the settlement was adjoined
by St. Giles’ church (a votive foundation from the late 11th or the 12th
century) located in the vicinity of the New Market; next to it there
was a cemetery. The church has not been found by archaeologists yet.
Finally within the same area from the second half of the 12th century
there developed a Jews’ district.
Pdock is one of the six Polish towns in which the Dominicans arrived
probably already in 1225. The monastery was built in the southern part
of the town on a site adjoining the market settlement and the trade
and transit service area near the ford across the Vistula. Although the
district began to develop intensively only in the mid-12th century, there
also exist hypotheses that it played an important part much earlier.51

An important part in the process of identifying the remains were the physical
ailments of the rulers mentioned in the chronicles, which were reected in the bones.
A fragment of a spine of a 60–65 year old man stiffened with bony tissue growth was
assigned to Wdadysdaw Herman, who in his last years was ailing and could not move
from an armchair; and a skull of a 50–55 man with traces of mechanical injuries
which had healed, to Bolesdaw Wrymouth. I remember the impression made on the
participants in the excavations by a mandible with malocclusion, which was presumed
part of Wrymouth’s skull. Comparisons of the data from the written sources with the
details of the discovered bones were used to identify the remains of the other members
of the prince’s family.
Cf. Godembnik (ed.) 2002, with literature.
262 chapter ten

Furthermore, very little is known about the area of left bank Pdock,
the modern Radziwie quarter. According to the written sources St.
Benedict’s church, known from 1187 and given the name capella, was
situated there. Wdodzimierz Szafraqski52 states that the mansion of the
11th century Palatine Sieciech was located there; some even believe that
an earlier, pre-state center might have been there, but this hypothesis
has not been proved so far. In Radziwie there was a port on the Vistula
river (not identied yet) mentioned in the sources from the 1230s. It
was an important center of trade and exchange. However, like many
of the elements of topography of the earliest town it is still waiting
for its discoverers.

8. Sandomierz: First large investment of the Piasts in Little Poland?

The greatest discovery from the area of Sandomierz, which is also

unique in the whole of Poland, is the chess set dated to the 12th cen-
tury. It was found during the excavations conducted in the 1960s in
a semi sunken oored hut near the church of St. James. The almost
complete antler set consists of 29 pieces for two players (Fig. 111). The
traces of usage visible on the pieces suggest that this exclusive game
might have been known even to the inhabitants of the pre-chartered
town.53 Owing to that, the archaeological nd has become symbolic
of the high cultural standing of the town whose origin, despite many
years of research, is still subject to debate.
Sandomierz, along with Cracow and Wrocdaw, is called by Gallus
Anonymous a sedes regni principalis, one of the main state centers, which
raises the question why two towns of such high standing existed in the
same region at the very outset of the state. The excavations conducted
since the 1950s have not conrmed the hypothesis of the Bohemian (or
even Great Moravian, as some believed) origin of that center.
The idea sprang from the very name of the town. Researchers tend
to agree that it is derived from a personal name, reputedly named
Sudomir, or S‰edomir (like Wrocdaw named after Vratislav or Cracow
after Krak). It is, however, hard to interpret the name Sudomir because
it is not conrmed to have appeared in Polish lands in the Early Middle
Ages. Curiously enough, names of similar form were used at that time

Gassowska 1964.
towns still under investigation 263

Figure 111. Deer antler chess set, Sandomierz, St. James’ settlement, 12th
century (after A. Buko).

to the south of the Carpathian Mountains, in Bohemia and Moravia.

On that basis Tadeusz Lalik suggested that Sudomir might have been
Moravian or Bohemian by origin and came to Sandomierz with a troop
of warriors, strengthening the inuence of the rulers from the south,
the Bohemian Premyslids or even Great Moravian Mojmirids.54 This
hypothesis becomes more attractive in the context of the views on the
history of the lands of southern Poland before the mid-10th century
especially in connection with their political links with Bohemia and
Moravia in the 9th and early 10th century. Its main drawback is the lack
of archaeological proof indicating (directly or indirectly) the existence
of such inuences. This concerns, among other things, the possibility of
earlier adoption from neighbors from the south of Christianity, dis-
seminated in Moravia in the 9th century by Cyril and Methodius and
then by their disciples.
The pre-Piast origins of Sandomierz were also supposed to be indi-
cated by the existence of the mysterious Salve Regina Hill located at
the western edge of the town (Chapter 7). The hill was believed to be

Lalik 1993, 54.
264 chapter ten

a large barrow of the pre-state times, perhaps a burial of the person

who had established the stronghold.55 Although, as we have seen,
recent investigations have proved that this was not a true barrow but
a natural hill which had been remodeled in the past, this hypothesis
was accepted for many years.
The excavations of the 1970s demonstrated that there are more
arguments for linking the origins of Sandomierz with the policy of
the rst Piasts (Chapter 9). The material evidence for this was rst
provided by the results of the analyses of the Early Medieval pottery
from Sandomierz, published in the early 1980s. In the earliest settle-
ment layers in Sandomierz, dated to the second half of the 10th and
the 11th century, numerous pottery nds similar in stylistic features and
raw material to the West Slavic biconical vessels were discovered. Such
products, made only of iron rich clays do not have any analogies for
that period in Little Poland except for Sandomierz.56 Stylistically and
technologically similar vessels appear commonly and in mass quantities,
however, mainly in the areas of Great Poland.
Such a phenomenon cannot be accidental. On the contrary, archae-
ologists assume that qualitative and quantitative changes in production
techniques and styles of the vessels most often reect profound social
transformations which inuence both the producers and the users. A
rapid change of the methods of production or forms of the produced
vessels is often a testimony of extensive social changes, including the
inux of a new population. Phenomena similar to the described ones
most often suggest the presence at a given area of re-settled potters
who in the new place try to make their products using the same pat-
terns as in the old one; this concerns the raw materials, technology
and style. The described phenomena may thus be a material indica-
tion of the movement of groups of Polanie from Great Poland to the
area of modern Sandomierz. The core population probably consisted
of representatives of the Piast prince, leading a group of warriors,
merchant-craftsmen (including probably potters). Obviously, in such a
mixed group the last-mentioned ones were not the most important, but
(unlike the other social groups which did not leave any traces percep-
tible to the archaeologist of their presence), the results of the potter’s
work are quite permanent, due to the mass scale of production and
indestructibility of the material.

Cf. GËassowski 1967.
Cf. Buko 1998, 55ff., with literature.
towns still under investigation 265

The second type of material evidence for the presence of migrants

from Great Poland was provided by the results of the excavations in
the earliest cemetery in Sandomierz located on St. James’ Hill and
dated to the 11th century. Teresa Rysiewska and Henryk Rysiewski
re-analyzed the human skeletal material from the burial ground and
its archaeological context and decided that the cultural diversication
of the cemetery is due to the fact that men who had come from Great
Poland were buried there in two phases. The earlier phase of these
burials (after the mid-10th century) occurred in the southern part of
the cemetery and the later one (the 11th century) were in the north-
ern part. The accompanying women’s burials were, according to their
hypothesis, of the representatives of the local population whom the
arrivals from Great Poland had married (cf. Chapter 15).
The third premise is the character of population transformations
in the 10th century archaeologically documented in the Sandomierz
Land. Their mechanisms are very similar to the activities of the early
Piasts in Great Poland (Chapter 9). One may even venture a claim
that the origins of early Piast Sandomierz follow exactly the scenario
reconstructed by the archaeologists for the territory of the Gniezno
state. The layout of the earliest town is particularly compact and logi-
cally planned. Such an arrangement (Fig. 112) looks like a result of
a single settlement action. Most of the pottery assemblages from the
oldest phases of settlement here, dated to the second half of the 10th
and the 11th century, are technologically very advanced, it is among
these assemblages that the traces of the presence of the Polanie in
Sandomierz was rst identied.
The events connected with building the earliest Sandomierz may
be quite reliably dated to the 970s. This is rst of all indicated by the
results of the excavations in the earliest town cemetery located on St.
James’ Hill. The analysis of grave goods demonstrates it was founded
at the turn of the 10th and 11th century. If that was the case then the
builders of the town must have arrived a generation earlier, that is, in
the mid-970s.57 Thus only one decade after the baptism of Poland, the
Piast state was active in this part of Little Poland.58

Buko 1998, 84.
The author’s hypothesis presented in this part of the book is the most recent but
not the only one which may be found in the literature of the subject. The other concepts
both the earlier and the later ones, referring partly to earlier views (e.g., Tabaczyqski
1996, 483), should be taken into account in the debate, which is far from nished.
266 chapter ten

Figure 112. Topography of 11th century Sandomierz: 1–3—fortied parts of

the town (A. Buko, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

9. Zawichost: intriguing rival of Sandomierz

Located on the high bank of the Vistula river, Zawichost is surpris-

ingly close (17 km) to Sandomierz. This is apparently (besides Western
Pomerania vide: Wolin—Kamieq), the only case in Medieval Poland of
two centers of such high rank situated so close together.59 Both were
located at a strategic junction of roads which allowed control of a

This was indicated many years ago by Tadeusz Lalik, who was responsible for
some interesting ideas on the interrelations of these two centers (cf. Lalik 1967, 48).
towns still under investigation 267

ford across the Vistula. In Sandomierz the route led to Przemytl and
Halicz and in Zawichost, towards Vladimir Volynski and Kiev. The
Sandomierz and Zawichost junction played a pivotal role in control-
ling the routes leading from Poland to Ruthenia both at a regional and
international scale.
The main issue which engrosses the researchers is the relations
between the two centers in the early stages of the state. There was
a hypothesis that Zawichost did not compete with Sandomierz, but
rather was an ‘indispensable complement’; the two towns, as Tadeusz
Lalik wrote,60 formed a specic tandem blocking important fords on
the Vistula, which, combined with the administrative and political
functions, had a strategic character in this part of Little Poland. In
contrast to Sandomierz, the information about the earliest Zawichost
can be found in the written sources rather than from the archaeological
evidence. Hence all the discussions of the original topography of that
center can be only hypothetical.
In search for the roots of Zawichost, the dedication of the vanished
St. Maurice’s church (known only from the written sources) was taken
into account. Teresa Dunin-WËasowicz assumed that it was the church
mentioned in the written sources before 1191 which could have been
built even at the turn of the 10th and 11th century. The dedication
was one of the earliest and, what is more, it refers to the symbols of
the Gniezno Summit of 1000 A.D. and St Maurice’s spear, a copy of
which Otto III gave to the Polish ruler during the meeting.61 The fact
that Zawichost was also near to the strongholds in Roztocze district
also indicates it might have also been a kind of fortied bulwark of
the early Piast state on the Vistula; in this case Saint Maurice, a knight
and a martyr, seems to be a suitable patron for that place.62 The early
chronology and high rank of Zawichost are indicated indirectly by
other groups of evidence. In the late 12th century it had as many as
three parishes (whereas Sandomierz until the time of its chartering in

1967, 48.
St Maurice was revered in Burgundy as the leader of the apocryphal Christian
Theban Legion martyred in St Moritz supposedly at the end of the fourth century
for disobeying orders which conicted with their beliefs. His relics were installed in
Magdeburg cathedral in 961. In later legend he is supposed to have carried the spear
used to pierce Christ’s side, and which is the inspiration of the relic (‘Spear of Destiny’)
now in Vienna’s Burghof. The spear in Cracow—purportedly that presented by Otto
III to the Polish king—was modeled on the latter (P.B.).
Dunin-WËasowicz 1999, 256.
268 chapter ten

1287 had only one). This fact is sometimes interpreted as proof that
Zawichost had a far greater population. The importance of Zawichost
in the 11th century may be also indicated by the fact that besides the
church of St. Maurice, the collegiate church of the Ascension of the
Blessed Virgin Mary is dated to the same period, that is, the times
of the reigns of Bolesdaw the Bold (1076–9) or Wdadysdaw Herman
(1079–1102). The community of canons founded there enhanced not
only the local parish network but also made the place more important
in the process of Christianization of the country. Interestingly, despite
the closeness of Sandomierz, Zawichost not only retained its position
as a center of a castellany, but became one of the three, together with
Sandomierz and Lublin, seats of a territorial archdeaconry.
An enigmatic remark by the fteenth century Polish historian Jan
Ddugosz, who called Zawichost caput terrae Sandomiriensis suggested to
researchers63 that the ‘tribal’ center preceding Sandomierz should be
sought in the area of Zawichost and its predecessor was to be the forti-
ed settlement identied at Zawichost-Podgórze (Fig. 113). However,
this is not the only possible line of thought. In the past also the site
of a castle (which lasted until the times of the Swedish invasion) on
an island in the Vistula which today no longer exists was taken into
account. According to some authors that place was particularly suit-
able for a fortied settlement. The fact that the island has been washed
away by the Vistula has considerably limited the chances of verifying
this hypothesis.
Also Trójca, with the church with an archaic dedication to the Holy
Trinity built on a characteristic elevation, located two kilometers away
from Zawichost, was taken into account as the possible fortied center.
A silver hoard dated to the 11th century found there many years ago
may indicate the importance of long-distance exchange in the forma-
tion of the earliest center. Some researchers believe that Trójca and
Podgórze, at the edges of Zawichost, are the places which were settled
before the development of the Early Medieval town. The settlement
complex at Trójca is also interesting due to its location at the crossing
of important Early Medieval roads going towards Sandomierz and
Opatów with Ruthenian routes and the one along the Vistula leading
to Solec. In the 12th century, that was the main junction in Zawichost.
It is thus understandable that some researchers consider Trójca and

Tabaczyqscy 1999.
towns still under investigation 269

Figure 113. Early Medieval settlement in the area of Zawichost

(after D. Wyczódkowski, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

the Holy Trinity church as the remains of the earliest Zawichost.64

This hypothesis would be certainly strengthened by the discovery of
a fortied settlement there. Unfortunately the geophysical surveys and
archaeological soundings conducted near the church in the second half
of the 1990s yielded a negative result.65
The greatest discovery of the recent years (and also the earliest
Romanesque structure so far uncovered in Zawichost) are the remains
of a church on the edge of the high Vistula scarp. Only the foundations
remain, the rest of the church has been washed away by the Vistula.

Cf. WËasowicz 1967, 120ff.
The geophysical survey was conducted under the direction of Krzysztof Misiewicz
in the mid-1990s as part of a program of research on the Zawichost settlement com-
plex, coordinated by Stanisdaw Tabaczyqski.
270 chapter ten

Figure 115. The Zawichost tetrakonch, tentative reconstruction of the church

body (after R. Kunkiel; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

The plan can be reconstructed as a tetraconch (Figs. 114, 115). 66 There

is no agreement about its cultural afnities, chronology or function.
Although many researchers accept a relatively early chronology of the
feature, such a dating (the 11th century ?) is weakened by the nature
of the archaeological material discovered in association with the church
which cannot be assigned a date earlier than the middle of the twelfth
century.67 The analyses conducted so far indicate that the tetraconch

Tabaczyqski 2000.
The large amounts of pottery fragments of evidently eastern characteristics,
such as the white slip on the surface, are thought-provoking. Comparable and equally
abundant material is known to me from Early Medieval Chedm. In this context, the
far smaller quantities of similar vessels from Sandomierz, located relatively close to
towns still under investigation 271

Figure 116. Fragments of the Romanesque wall of the central apse under the
chancel of the church of the BVM at Zawichost (photo: A. Buko).

at Zawichost is directly connected with the accompanying nds of

eastern provenience. The origin of the structure, however, has not been
explained. Was there a colony of population of Ruthenian origin in
Zawichost and the nds are traces of that? Another research mystery
is connected with the parish church of the Blessed Virgin Mary located
nearby, the remains of which were uncovered during the recent archaeo-
logical excavations (Fig. 116). Mentioned in a Bull of Pope Eugene III
of 1148 it was granted the cagów fortied settlement among other
things. According to Tadeusz Lalik,68 this is the only example of such
a grant for a church in Early Medieval Poland, therefore the church
must have had a special role. Although the circumstances of its origin
as well as its founder are unknown, it is assumed that it may have been
built in the second half of the 11th century at the latest.
In the light of the recent research, the material culture of Sandomierz
and Zawichost are not really comparable. To recapitulate: in Sandomierz
we have a rare case of pottery vessels made according to the style char-
acteristic for Great Poland, which cannot be found in the settlement

Zawichost, is a mystery, to which I have drawn attention in another publication (cf.

Buko 1998, 55).
1993, 53.
272 chapter ten

contexts of Early Medieval Zawichost. The two centers differ also in the
scale at which vessels with eastern characteristics were used in everyday
life. In Sandomierz there were only a relatively few examples, and in
Zawichost, much larger amounts, which makes the latter similar to the
assemblages from the stronghold and town of Chedm—sited close to the
present Ukrainian border. There is therefore a direct, archaeologically
testied connection between the material culture of Early Medieval
Sandomierz and Great Poland, on the one hand, and of Zawichost
and the culture of the eastern zone, on the other one. What is the
reason for the existence of such an evident cultural border between
the two centers? At the present stage of research it is difcult to make
any denite statements. Possibly some solutions will be brought about
by further archaeological investigations in Zawichost. However, even
the currently available data demonstrate that the two centers followed
entirely different patterns of development. Also the external inuences
to which they yielded were diverse, that it can be said that the two
centers in a sense ‘turned their backs’ on one another. This enforced
competition and cooperation, but at the same time either of the centers
retained the possibility of following its own path.

10. Mysteries of the Cathedral Hill in Cheem

Located in the eastern borderlands of Little Poland, Chedm was not as

lucky as the other Polish towns. Although archaeological excavations
have been undertaken there many times, they were never part of a
coordinated interdisciplinary research program. Those fascinated by the
past of the town took interest both in various discoveries and the places
connected with legends and mentioned in written sources. In this context
the place called Wysoka Górka [High Hill] is particularly important.
This is a characteristic elevation in the center of the town and con-
sidered the remains of an Early Medieval stronghold. It is located on
the northern edge of the Cathedral Hill (Fig. 117). For decades it was
connected with attempts at establishing the date when Chedm originated
(Chapter 9). The key moment in the history of the town was when
Danylo Romanovich (Prince of Halich-Volynia 1238–1264) located on
the Chedm Hill not only his own residence but also the episcopal see
(moved from the neighboring Uhrusk) with the Orthodox cathedral
church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary; as early as in the 13th
century the cult of the Our Lady of Chedm began to develop. The
towns still under investigation 273

Figure 117. Plan of archaeological sites in Chedm (by M. Auch and

M. Trzeciecki).

holy icon brought to Chedm in unknown circumstances before 1260

has been a holy relic of the Ruthenian, Polish and Ukrainian nations
for 800 years.69 This Patroness was to have protected the town against
disasters, especially the Tatar invasions of 1240, 1256, and 1260. The
majority of so-far unidentied Early Medieval churches, of St. John,

The painting made on three cypress planks, lost in 1915 when the Russians were
withdrawing from the town and found almost 100 years later in the museum in cuck,
was painted, according to Volodimir Aleksandrovich (2001) possibly as early as in the
11th century ordered by the highest ruling circles in Constantinople.
274 chapter ten

St. Cosmas and Damian, and of the Holy Trinity, go back to the times
when the town became Danylo Romanovich’s capital and abounded
in elements of Ruthenian-Byzantine culture. The basilica of the BVM
which is still standing at the top of the Cathedral Hill today, after many
transformations, still functions as the main church in Chedm (but is now
a Roman Catholic church). According to the written sources70 this is the
place where the remains both of Danylo Romanovich and his brother,
Vasilko, and their successors, are resting.
The area of Wysoka Górka, located to the north of the basilica
has been excavated three times. In the early 20th century, Russian
archaeologists attempted to uncover the walls of the prince’s residence.
The results of the investigations of the Archaeological Commission
from St. Petersburg were published in the 1950s thanks to a Russian
archaeologist, Pavlo Rappoport.71 In the 1960 researchers from Cracow
and Lublin conducted excavations directed by Wiktor Zin. They
yielded some new information about the architecture of the palaces
and revealed the remains of a rectangular tower from the times of
Kazimierz the Great embedded in the wall of the palace (Fig. 118).
The complete results have not been published yet so only some interim
reports prepared by the author of the excavations and his collaborators
are available.72 According to them at Wysoka Górka there was a monu-
mental palatial building adjoined from the east with a sacral structure
identied with the Orthodox church dedicated to St. John Chrysostom.
Some knowledge about the interior decoration may be gained from
the rich architectural details taken away by the Russians and deposited
in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Many researchers agree
that the prince’s palace was built on the ruins of an earlier fortied
settlement existing before the times of Danylo. Wiktor Zin reported
that these were wood and earth ramparts of earth-lled timber boxes.
The Russian researchers who conducted the investigations in the early
20th century noticed something more, the earliest phase of the site was
apparently a pagan cult site with a sacred re, the traces of which they
discovered during their excavations at Wysoka Górka.73 Although no
full publication of these discoveries has ever appeared, they recall local

Sielicki 1987.
Cf. Zin, Grabski 1967; Gurba, Kutydowska 1970.
Cf. Rapoport 1954.
towns still under investigation 275

Figure 118. Elements of monumental architecture at Wysoka Górka with

old trenches, in gray and trenches from 2001, in black (after J. Gurba and
I. Kutydowska; by M. Trzeciecki and M. Auch).

legends, which mention a pagan holy oak grove guarded by a white

bear living in a chalk cave at the foot of the hill (cf. Chapter 5).
More details about the layout of structures at Wysoka Górka were
provided by ‘verication’ investigations conducted by the present author
and a research team from Chedm in the summer of 2001. For the rst
time the remains of palace wall has been planned and described in the
context of the stratigraphy of the southern escarpment of the hill. It
has been recorded that the above-ground part of the building is in a
good state of preservation and its foundations based on the limestone
bedrock, go almost 4 m beneath the present ground level. The width
of the top of the wall in the explored section was 2.20 m (Fig. 119). It
has been established that the residential complex consisted in its second
276 chapter ten

Figure 119. Fragment of a wall of Danylo’s palace uncovered in 2001

(photo: A. Buko).

and third phases of at least three elements. It was a huge 38 m long

and 22 m wide palatial-sacral structure oriented on an east-west axis
resting on the original bedrock of the hill and raised c. 3 m above the
present summit of the Chedm Hill. It seems probable that after some
time the area of the palace was redeveloped (for unknown reasons) on
its southern side. On the escarpment were terraced stone constructions
consisting of at least three steps, each 1.80 m long and up to 70 cm high.
There were the foundations of a rubble-lled timber box construction,
towns still under investigation 277

possibly a rampart. The lower part of the escarpment was faced with
a layer of stones taken from the chalk bedrock and adjoined the moat
of up to 15 m wide. In this way the Chedm residence complex became
an architectural complex characteristic for urban centers and unique in
this part of Europe, although from the historical point of view it was
only a short, episode only several decades long, in the one thousand
years of the existence of the town. During the excavations, no traces
of an earlier stronghold or of the supposed pagan shrine, were found.
It was impossible to establish whether this was because the trench was
too small or whether there are no such structures.
In Danylo’s Chedm there were favorable conditions for the mixing
of various cultural traditions. Particularly important in this context is
the information recorded in the Hypatian Codex that when developing
Chedm, Danylo ‘began calling in Germans and Ruthenians, foreigners
and the Lachy.’ This information has been suggestively reected during
the recent investigations in one of the districts of the town of Danylo
Romanovich’s time. The settlement was identied in the mid-1990s in
the area to the south of Cathedral Hill in the grounds of the second-
ary school at Czarnieckiego Street.74 During the excavations, many
remains of habitations and features connected with production and
other activities were explored and documented (Fig. 120). The western
part of the settlement was considered as a zone in which production
was concentrated because of the numerous remains of metallurgic
workshops (smithing hearths) and features connected with iron smelting
found there. In the eastern part of the settlement the densely-spaced
buildings are assumed to be the traces of houses of various constructions
and sizes. Among them there are large above-ground structures made
of wood, probably of residential character. The houses were located
within specic plots, the borders of which, marked by the trenches for
beams visible in the chalky bedrock, have been identied in the western
part of the site. In the settlement layers also fragments of glazed vessels
were found as well as numerous objects of bronze: rings, belt buckles
and a fragment of a traveling icon, a nd unique in Poland, as well
as a mould (Fig. 121) for making golden kolty (headdress ornaments of
Byzantine and East Slavic type).

Rescue excavations were conducted there by archaeologists from Chedm directed
by Stanisdaw Godub in cooperation with the present author; the initial results of the
excavations have been presented in: Godub, Dzieqkowski 2002.
278 chapter ten

Figure 120. Chedm, Site 144, district of the town from Danylo’s time, explor-
ation of industrial features (photo: A. Buko).

The archaeological evidence from these sites indicates that Chedm in

the time of Danylo’s rule is a key center for understanding some epi-
sodes which are still poorly-understood in the early history of Polish
and Ruthenian statehood. It still remains to be determined when and
in what circumstances the earliest town originated.75

An area particularly interesting for archaeologists is the territory of Chedm-Biedawin
where in recent years rich traces of both prehistoric and Early Medieval settlement
have been discovered (cf. Ruszkowska 1990 and Chapter 9 of this book).
towns still under investigation 279

11. Przemyul: The center at the periphery

Przemytl, lying close to the modern border of Poland, is situated at

the periphery. For that reason, as in the case of Chedm, it has yielded
discoveries for which no analogies can be found in other parts of the
The town is sited at the mouth of the so-called Przemytl Gate, a
depression 60 km wide between the edge of the Carpathians and the
range of hills known as Roztocze providing an easy route between the
San and Dniester basins which already in the pre-state period played
a pivotal role in long-distance trade, for example with the Byzantine
Empire and the Arab world.
We have seen (Chapter 7) that one of the Little Polish monumental
mounds is located in Przemytl itself, its presence suggests that a center
of ‘tribal’ power associated with the west-Slavic Lachy-L‰edzianie was
being formed here. In recent years an inhumation cemetery of nomadic
Magyars, dated to the early 10th century was found (cf. Chapter 4).
The fact that besides burials of mounted warriors, graves of women
and children were discovered may indicate attempts at settling perma-
nently in the area.
One of the problems that has been repeatedly taken up by archae-
ologists is the location of the earliest fortied settlement. Despite many
attempts, its traces have not been found. One of the suspected locations
is the Hill of Three Crosses (Fig. 122). Yet, although during recent
investigations, the remains of stone and earth constructions were dis-
covered there, there was a lack of dating elements which would allow
its origin and function to be denitively established.76
Przemytl entered Polish political history in 981 owing to a short
remark made in Old Ruthenian chronicles. The Russian Primary
Chronicle under the date 6489 (981) says: W leto 6489 ide Volodymer
k Lacham i zaja hrady ich Peremyshl, Cherven i iny hrady [In the year 6489
Vladimir went to the Lachy and occupied their fortied settlements:
Peremyshl, Cherven and other fortied settlements]. For almost fty
years this remark has divided the scientic milieu; I leave aside the
discussion whether the name ‘Lachy’ used by the chronicler concerns
the L‰edziane or Lachy-Polanie, which in recent years has been a sub-
ject of separate analyses. Some researchers tend to say that the name

Cf. Sosnowska 2000.
280 chapter ten

Peremyshl denotes Przemytl whereas others believe that it may be also

Peremil on the Styr river, located further to the northeast.77 Assuming
that it is indeed Przemytl (this view is shared by the majority of the
scientic milieu) the remark in the chronicle would be proof that a
center of power of the Polanie had been established there by Mieszko
I before the year 981.
Wherever the earlier stronghold had been, the Piast stronghold was
built on Castle Hill and thus in the place with no traces of earlier settle-
ment. Such a location, as we remember (Chapter 9) ts the scenario of
building the main centers of the Gniezno state testied archaeologically
in Great Poland and eastern Little Poland. The date of 981 seems to be
acceptable also as a caesura in the history of the development of the
town. As the investigations on the origins of Sandomierz have indicated
(cf. above) the main Piast center in eastern Little Poland was formed
most probably in the 970s. According to this concept, the formation of
the next centers in the eastern borderlands of Little Poland, including
Lublin and Przemytl, would have taken place at a similar time, making
up the consecutive elements of one process (Chapter 9).
The high rank of Przemytl in the early Piast state is conrmed by the
monumental buildings which have survived there till today. The stone
palatium with a rotunda, built most probably at the turn of the tenth
and eleventh centuries in the times of Bolesdaw the Brave, resembles the
constructions known from the main centers of the Gniezno state (Fig.
123, 124). This an example of the unication of building programs
across the whole territory of the Piast state. However, the entrance to
the church did not lead from the palatium, as in the other cases, but
from the open area in the center of the stronghold. This may indicate
that the structure functioned not only as a palace chapel but also as
the church of the fortied settlement.78 This hypothesis seems to be
supported to some extent by the form of the church: a simple, one-apse
rotunda, and thus a church of missionary character. The layout of the
sacral-palatial complex in Przemytl may be interpreted as a manifesta-
tion of the ruler’s might reecting the rank of the center at the very
outset of the Polish state.

More on this, Skrzypek (1962); with a broad discussion and literature of the
subject (cf. also: Labuda 1988: 167ff. and Chapter 9).
Sosnowska 2001.
towns still under investigation 281

Figure 124. Przemytl, two possible reconstructions of the palatium

(after E. Sosnowska).

In recent years intensive investigations have been conducted in another

rotunda in Przemytl, dedicated to St. Nicholas (the dedication is testied
by the documents from the late 13th century), the remains of which are
under the chancel of the cathedral church. The structure was discovered
during the excavations of 1961 but the recent ‘verication’ works have
brought some new facts. The structure was determined to have been a
simple rotunda with a semi-circular apse. The most interesting result of
the recent investigations, however, are the remains of a circular raised
gallery inside it. This hypothesis is based on the remains of founda-
tions visible within the nave which have been interpreted as a base of
282 chapter ten

a colonnade. Zbigniew Pianowski and Michad Proksa have suggested79

that the structure had an additional practical advantage: in case of
danger it would have provided shelter for more people; it is hard to
determine to what extent this hypothesis is justied (the more so that
it is not certain that its builders had the defensive aspect in mind). The
dating of the church is also an important problem. Depending on the
adopted interpretation, the proposed dates fall between the extremes
of the mid-12th and the early 14th century. The model for the archi-
tecture has been sought in the style of sacral buildings in western and
southern Europe (Italy); and it has been suggested that settlers from
these areas inspired the building of the church.
Another valuable discovery is the potters’ village found in the area
of Zasanie. This is one of the few archaeologically investigated Early
Medieval potters’ workshops with a service background in Poland.
Workshops of this kind were usually established, due to the re hazard,
outside the city walls and densely built-up areas. That is why it is very
difcult to discover them during archaeological investigations. The
workshop in Przemytl consisted of 12 two-chamber updraught kilns.
Next to each of them there were accompanying features, most often
in the form of pits of various functions. The analysis of production
waste from the pits next to the kilns has proved that various products
were made there, including korchaga amphorae, generally considered as
imports from the area of Kievan Rus. The potters’ village at Przemytl-
Zasanie functioned from the 11th till the turn of the 13th and 14th
century.80 In the early 1030s, Przemytl was occupied by the Ruthenians
and from 1087 it became the capital of the west-Ruthenian duchy the
rst ruler of which was Ruryk Rostislavich. At that time in the town
there appeared buildings characteristic of the eastern cultural zone,
among which the most opulent was the Orthodox church dedicated to
the Blessed Virgin Mary built by prince Volodar (1092–1124).
Throughout the Early Middle Ages, the standing of Przemytl is
indicated by the nds suggesting broad external connections. In this
context one should mention a huge hoard of 700 Islamic silver coins
from the second half of the 10th century, glass beads and imported
textiles. The importance of Przemytl is also supported by the mentions
of the site in written sources such as the account of the 12th century

Kunysz 1981.
towns still under investigation 283

Arabic geographer Al-Idrisi. Most probably the most important contacts

were those with Byzantium. In Przemytl a Byzantine cameo of chal-
cedony, unique for this part of Europe (Fig. 125) was found; another
artifact worth noting is a Byzantine seal from Nicomedia dated to the
11th–12th century. The Ruthenian-Byzantine cultural zone is also
represented by the green and silver glazed vessels found in Przemytl.
The multidirectional exchange was fostered by the Jewish merchants
whose district at the area of the town is testied already in the 11th
century in the written sources; so far no archaeological traces of it
have been discovered.81

12. Wislica: in the shadow of a pagan prince

Today a small village in swi‰etokrzyskie voivodeship in the south of

Poland, it rst appeared in the written sources in 1224 as Vislicia.
In the period after the Second World War, it gained a greater fame
than many leading centers of the Polish state. This was due to two
elements. The rst one is a brief but important remark in The Life of
St. Methodius, where a similar name appears in a story concerning an
anonymous pagan prince who, in the second half of the 9th century,
made life so very difcult for the Christians (inhabiting his own land
or his neighbors’ from the south?) that he attracted the attention of
his contemporaries. His actions worried Bishop Methodius, who at
that time had his seat in (not dened place) Slovakia, so much that he
decided to bring him to reason. The events and their conclusions are
duly related in the hagiographer’s text:
He had the gift of prophecy and many of his prophecies came true; we’ll
tell one or two of them here. A very powerful pagan prince, who had a
seat at Vislech [on the Vistula] mocked the Christians and did them much
harm. [Methodius] sent a messenger to him who was to tell him: ‘It will
be good for you, son, to be christened of your own will and in your own
land, lest you will be forcibly christened in captivity and in someone else’s
land; mark you my words . . .’ And this is what happened.82

A description of that and many other important discoveries made in Przemytl
can be found in the monograph by A. Kunysz (1981); with earlier literature.
A detailed analysis of the quotation with a broader historical context and a review
of literature has been presented by G. Labuda (1988, 125–166).
284 chapter ten

The name of the prince’s seat at Vislech mentioned in the Chronicle

is associated with Witlica by many researchers. However, the text does
not indicate if the name denotes a town and not, e.g., the river Vistula.
Notwithstanding, it is not very probable that the name of the prince’s
seat should be the name of a river. Therefore the idea of identifying
the name with Witlica seemed promising.
There was another reason for which the scientists’ interest focused
on the above-mentioned center. Quite a long time ago an opinion
was expressed according to which Witlica was to be the capital of the
‘tribal state’ of the Vislanie. This view was shared by one of the most
eminent specialists in the Middle Ages, Karol Potkaqski, who in his
work, Kraków przed Piastami, [Cracow before the Piasts] published in the late
19th century, placed great emphasis on the part played by that center.83
However, there were no data to make the hypothesis of its early origin
probable. The opportunity appeared when Witlica was included in
the ‘Millennium’ program of research into the origins of the Polish
state.84 One may imagine how stressful for the research team were the
expectations of a positive verication of the above quoted mention
from the Chronicle; at the beginning of the eldwork it seemed that
the researchers would be lucky. Few other centers could boast of such
spectacular discoveries; not only their number but also quality were
amazing. For how can one explain the presence of two fortied settle-
ments of different dates (?), two rotundas with adjoining palatial struc-
tures, remains of several churches, including one whose plan resembled
the archaic ‘Great Moravian’ architecture, a magnicent oor slab with
gural engravings discovered in the crypt of the collegiate church, and
especially a so-called ‘baptismal font’ with an adjoining platform, on
which the bishop giving the baptism would stand? All these spectacular
nds made Witlica famous.85
Four sites were chosen for excavation. The rst one was the prominent
earthwork site with an area of about 2 hectares, located approximately
500 away from the modern town on the ood plain of the Nida river
(Fig. 126). Despite great expectations it did not yield spectacular dis-

Potkaqski 1965.
The eldwork was initiated already in 1948 within the newly formed Center for
the Research on Polish Middle Ages at Warsaw University and Warsaw Technical
University. The leading part in that team was played by archaeologists from Warsaw:
Wdodzimierz Antoniewicz and Zoa Wartodowska; the latter then directed the research
at Witlica (cf. Chapter 1).
Cf. Antoniewicz 1961, 1968.
towns still under investigation 285

Figure 126. Stronghold on the Nida river at Witlica: an aerial view

(photo: K. Trela).

coveries, especially in the context of the presumed early origins of the

center. It has been established that the fortications were of two main
The stronghold of Phase I had a timber reinforced earthen rampart
(the so-called grill-technique) and in the enclosed area eleven huts of
log-cabin and wattlework were found. The whole complex had appar-
ently been destroyed by re. At the gate fragments of the burnt wall-
walk were found. However, the attention of the researchers focused
on two discoveries. The rst one was a antler (knife?) handle with the
representations of 6 busts of young women (Fig. 127). The excavator
Zoa Wartodowska86 assumed that this object was connected with the
pagan cult, she concluded that the female busts were water sprites
(wiey) and the island on which the stronghold was located had been a
pagan cult site.87 The weakness of this reasoning lies in the fact that an
interpretation of one object was used to determine the function of the
whole site. The second important nd from this phase of use of the

Wartodowska 1962.
286 chapter ten

Figure 127. Stronghold at Witlica, antler knife handle with female busts (after
Z. Wartodowska).

site was a hoard of silver coins (more than 500 items), and the date of
its deposition was determined as the end of the 11th century.88
In the rampart of the fortied settlement of Phase II, mysterious
walls of gypsum rock set in mortar were discovered. One of the build-
ings inside the fortied settlement also had stone foundations. Most
probably the inhabitants of the fortied settlement repeatedly suffered
from ooding of the river Nida; this is indicated, among other things
by the traces of frequent repairs of the walls and repeated raising the
levels of the oors in the structures inside the stronghold. This phase
of the fortied settlement was roughly dated by its excavators to the
mid-13th century. As a result between the two periods of function of
the fortied settlement there appeared a gap, lasting almost 150 years,
which was difcult to explain.89
The above issues were approached in a different way by the archae-
ologists who in the 1990s carried out smaller-scale investigations to
verify the conclusions reached by the excavators of the Millennium
project, the results of which had never been fully published. According

Suchodolski 1960.
Wartodowska 1963.
towns still under investigation 287

to Waldemar Gliqski90 in the stronghold on the ‘island’, not two, but

three settlement phases can be distinguished. Phase I, from the turn of
the 10th and 11th centuries till the 1180s; Phase II dated from the rst
half of the 12th century till the time of the invasion of the Polovtsy
and Ruthenians (they are believed to have destroyed the town and
the fortied settlement in 1135), and Phase III from the time after the
invasion until the mid-13th century. The excavations proved that the
remains of the wood-and-earth rampart built with the use of the grille
technique is cut through on the inside by the foundations of a massive
stone wall in which material from the turn of the 13th and 14th cen-
tury was found. This has been interpreted as traces of some unknown
rebuilding of these fortications. The excavators connected this with
the wars that were taking place in the early 14th century between the
Bohemian king Wenceslas II with Wdadysdaw the Short, who was trying
to bring the area under his control as part of his efforts to reunite the
Polish kingdom after the period of feudal fragmentation. The collegiate
church at Witlica was also fortied at this time.
During the ‘verication’ excavations conducted in 1997 in the rampart
of the eastern part of the stronghold, remains of a dry-stone wall (i.e.,
built without the use of mortar), with an external face, were found. It
was assumed that this wall was earlier than the stone wall described
above. In that area there were no traces of the grill construction of
the earlier rampart.91 What is the meaning of this discovery? Does it
conrm the existence of an earlier ‘stone’ fortied settlement, and if
it does, then what was its chronology and origin? Is it an unknown
indication of the inuence from the south, where such constructions
are quite frequent? If that was the case then how can the lack of
archaeological material from the pre-state period in the occupation
layers of the stronghold be explained? These are questions to which
no answers have been found so far.
The second fortied settlement at Witlica is located on an elevation
on the west side of the island in the town, that is, the so-called Regia.
The name, coming from the times of Jan Ddugosz, refers to the place
where a castle built in the times of Wdadysdaw the Short or Kazimierz
the Great had been situated (Fig. 128). According to the original exca-
vator, Zoa Wartodowska92 the earliest fortied settlement on this site

Gliqski 1998.
288 chapter ten

Figure 128. Topography of Witlica and archaeological sites in the area of the
town (after W. Gliqski; digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

was oval in shape and was 140 u 100 m. Inside it a smaller, interior
rampart was thought to enclose an area 60 u 50 m. The end of the
complex was assumed to have been associated with Sviatopluk’s inva-
sion of 879. The ‘verication’ excavations of the 1990s have, however,
indicated that this chronology cannot be maintained. The stronghold
had two phases, which allows the period in which it functioned to
be referred to a much later period, that is, the 11th–12th centuries.
There was no material whatsoever that would allow the existence of a
stronghold here in the pre-state period. It is still necessary to establish
what the relationships between and functions of the two fortied settle-
ments were in the period (the 11th–12th century) when they existed
simultaneously in a single center. Why were two fortied settlements
built approximately at the same time (the early 11th century?) and then
functioned at least to the second half of the 12th century? Perhaps the
stronghold on the island is earlier and the one at the Regia was built by
another (competing?) center of power? But if that was the case, then
why was the earlier fortied settlement maintained for such a long time?
These issues have not been analyzed in depth yet. Due to the presence
towns still under investigation 289

Figure 129. The palatia and rotundas in Witlica (after Z. Wartodowska; digital
processing: M. Trzeciecki).

of pottery from the pre-state period in the materials from the Regia,93
it seems that this mysterious episode from the history of Witlica has
not been settled denitely.
Directly above the remains of the fortied settlement at the Regia
there are mysterious remains of masonry structures. They form a
complex unique in the Polish lands especially due to the doubling of
the structures there, that is, of two palatia each with accompanying
rotundas. The rst one, Zoa Wartodowska suggested, was partly situ-
ated overlying the lling of the moat of the earlier stronghold. Both
structures (Fig. 129) had, according to their discoverers, two wings. The
northern wing consisted of a rectangular structure 9.8 m wide and
28 m long with adjoining it on the east a rotunda 12 m in diameter
with internal conches. The latter was built from broken stone set in
lime mortar. The eastern wing also comprise a bipartite rectangular
structure with dimensions of 12 u 26 m. Next to it there was a rotunda
with a diameter of 9.8 m and an apse with a radius of 4 m. In this
case the rotunda’s walls had a lime mortar, but in the southern part,
with gypsum mortar. The yard in the angle between the two structures
was cut by burial pits dated by Zoa Wartodowska to the 11th/12th

I know the materials from personal inspection.
290 chapter ten

century—13th century. Some of the graves are contemporary with the

period of functioning of the ‘multi-conch rotunda’. This is conrmed
by their characteristic orientation: the burials form six circles surround-
ing the rotunda. The complex was dated to the 10th and 11th century
and the whole was interpreted as the residence complex of the Cracow
bishops. It was thought to have functioned until the second quarter of
the 12th century when it was destroyed by Ruthenians and Polovtsy
led by Boris Kolomanovich.
These discoveries were interpreted differently after the ‘verication’
excavations of the 1990s. According to Waldemar Gliqski94 these struc-
tures are stratigraphically later than the fortied settlement dated to the
11th to second half of the 12th century. Hence this is the date which
determines the terminus post quem for building the structures discussed
above. The complex was interpreted as the residence of Kazimierz the
Just who ruled the Witlica Duchy created for him between 1166 and
1173. This does not, however, solve the problems connected with the
interpretation of the discoveries. The residential complex uncovered at
Witlica seems to parallel the Rhineland architectural traditions of the
Ottonian period and analogies to it can also be found in Giecz and
Ostrów Lednicki, dated to the late 10th and mid-11th century. Why
are the discoveries from Witlica so much later? For whom were such
architectural forms erected? Why are there two sets of them? These
questions also cannot be given a denitive answer.95
The third site excavated by Zoa Wartodowska is the area adjoin-
ing the chancel of the collegiate church at Witlica. On Batalionów
Chdopskich Street was discovered a complex of mysterious features
connected by her with the prophecy recounted in The Life of Saint
Methodius mentioned above. The most important is the feature which
was for long regarded as a baptismal font. This was a 37 cm deep
depression with the diameter of more than 4 m with a characteristic
clay oor on its southern side was called. The structure abuts (is cut
by) the wall of St. Nicholas’ church. The discovery (Fig. 130) inspired
vivid debates and arguments especially when it was announced that
it was a baptismal font dated to the 9th century and connected with
the Cyrillo-Methodian rite. The depression was to have held the holy
water for baptism, and the clay oor at its edge was supposed to be the

Cf. also Rodziqska-ChorËavy 1998.
towns still under investigation 291

Figure 130. St. Nicholas’ church and the so-called baptismal font in Witlica
(after various authors, digital processing: M. Trzeciecki).

remains of a podium for the bishop performing the rite. In this case
the dating was based on the nd of a fragment of a pottery vessel with
a high footring (so-called ‘cup with an empty foot’), which according
to the present knowledge can not be assigned any precise chronology
and neither does the material used for making the ‘podium’. Taking
into account the humidity of the surroundings this kind of material
does not seem suitable for the assumed functions. In the subsequent
discussions on the meaning of the discovery, other solutions have been
suggested. The ‘font’ was conside