Monday, February 15, 2010

Archaeologists discover burial site in Poland

Medieval archaeologists from the Poznań branch of the Polish Academy of Sciences Archaeology and Ethnology Institutes (IAE PAN) archaeology rescue team and the National Artifact Research and Documentation Center (KOBiDZ) have discovered in Bodzia in central Poland the largest-known burial site from the Piast Dynasty.

Dr. Iwona Sobkowiak-Tabaka, the head of the archaeology rescue team from the Poznań IAE PAN, said, “This discovery is important for the whole of Europe, as the burial chambers from the late 10th century or early 11th century were made in a Scandinavian style. There is no other graveyard like this one in the whole of Poland. They are full of riches, which show that the status of the people buried in them was high."

Similar burial sites, that have been equipped with richest have been discovered in Kałdus and Sowinki, but archaeologists only discovered single graves. Discovering many graves in Bodzia came as a big surprise to both archaeologists and historians.

The research was coordinated by Sobkowiak-Tabaka and Dr. Michał Kara – the chairman of the Early medieval laboratory.

Archaeologists examined a few dozen burial chambers, in which both men and women, and sometimes children were buried. The graves were divided by a system of narrow trench filled with a dark brown humus, that was the remains of a fence probably built in framework made of board.

Most of the dead were rested on their backs, with the arms lying along their body. The corpse were placed in wooden boxes with iron fittings, that were later wrapped in cloth. We know about this, because traces of the cloth were found on the iron fittings.

According to Dr. Małgorzata Grupa, from the Nicholas Copernicus University in Toruń’s Archaeology Institute, who is an expert in conservation, this is the earliest discovered burial site in Poland with coffins wrapped in cloth. Also scientists discovered on one of the coins, which was given as a gift to the dead person, a fragment of a silk cloth, that was probably imported from the east. So far traces of this material has been found in main forts such as Poznań, Opole and Wrocław. An analysis made by Melania Klichowska decades ago on 10th century cloths from in Ostrów Tumski in Poznań – in which they found silkworms cocoons – suggests that the cloth may have been produced locally.

The research was funded by the General Board of National Roads and Motorways in Bydgoszcz (GDDKiA), IAE PAN- Archaeology Rescue Team and KOBiDZ, that prepared photogramettry documentation of the site. The results will be studied by a team of scientists lead by Prof. Andrzej Buko – the director of IAE PAN.

The Piast dynasty was the first historical ruling dynasty of Poland, beginning in the later half of the tenth century and lasting until 1370.