7 Must-See Archaeology Sites in Poland
small, 7 Must-See Archaeology Sites in Poland, Archaeological exhibition of finds from Ostrów Lednicki, Podlaskie Museum in Białystok, photo: Grzegorz Dąbrowski / AG, _wystawa_archeologiczna_ag.jpg
Not all spectacular archaeological sites have to be located in the middle of an endless desert or a vast jungle. There are plenty in the temperate-climate landscapes of Poland, where you can visit sites evocative of European history like the ruins of ancient Slavic strongholds and Gothic burial grounds.
In the 1930s (yes, the ideal setting for an Indiana Jones film) a school teacher named Walenty Szwajcer was taking a walk near a lake in today’s central Poland when some unusual wooden stakes protruding from the ground caught his attention. He notified several officials about the find whose further investigation led to the discovery of the remains of an ancient stronghold town. Biskupin, named after a nearby village, turned out to be a remnant of the ancient, central-European Lusatian culture, which dates nearly 3,000 years to the 8th century BCE.
Today it is the crown jewel of Polish archaeology, offering visitors curious attractions such as a partial reconstruction of the wooden town, a museum exhibiting tools, ornaments and weapons discovered on the spot and an experimental archaeology site that incudes animal and crop farming.
Located in a river valley slope in the beautiful Ojców National Park near Kraków, Ciemna Cave is among the country’s most important archaeological sites. That’s because the oldest traces of human settlement from this place are estimated to be a whopping 120,000 years old. Some of the oldest artefacts recovered from the cave, like knifes and tools, are exhibited at the park’s nearby museum. Apart from being historically significant, the 230-metre-long and 6-metre-high cave is also a great natural landmark. Guided tours are available from April to October.
Stone Circles in Odry
This burial ground established by a Goth tribe at the beginning of the Christian era consists of ten stone circles and thirty kurgans (burial mounds). Measuring up to 30 metres in diameter, the circles are among the oldest in Europe, second only to England’s Stonehenge. The site lies in a wonderful natural forest reserve near the northern village of Odry where there’s a museum devoted to these Gothic stones. During September most years, there’s a Gothic fest organised at the reserve, featuring Celtic music, pottery workshops and shows of Gothic fashion.
A sacred place to pagans for hundreds of years, starting from the 7th century BCE. The ancient artefacts that still stand on the hill today suggest Mount Ślęża (pronounced a bit like: Sh-lau-zha) was once the epicentre of some kind of solar religion, maybe of Gallic origin. There are sculptures, among others of animals, that present a diagonal cross symbol. Possibly the most characteristic of them is a sculpture of a bear standing at the peak of the 718-metre-high hill. At the top, you can also find a 19th-century church that stands on the ruins of a mediaeval castle and lodge.
This was one of the leading strongholds of the Polish state during its earliest stages and was possibly even its birthplace. Historians point to Ostrów Lednicki as a plausible location, alongside the town of Ostrów Tumski, for the 966 Baptism of Poland, the symbolic founding date of Poland. The two baptising pools discovered amongst the ruins of the site’s pre-Romanesque 10th-century palace strongly back this theory. The remains of Ostrów Tumski are located on a lake island a half-hour drive away from Poznań and include the palace, a church and fortifications.
If you’d like a remarkable first-hand look at how mining worked over 5,000 years ago, come here. The area of this large archaeological reserve in today’s south-eastern Poland was were Neolithic people used to extract flint from below ground. The pre-historical miners left behind shafts and other such openings that can be visited by tourists today. One of the main attractions of Krzemionki Opatowskie is an almost half-kilometre-long underground sightseeing trail, which goes through a number of very, very old mines. At the nearby museum, you can see exhibitions explaining all about the area’s pre-historical mining and settlements.
About 20 kilometres from Warsaw, the village of Czersk is home to the ruins of a Gothic castle built at the turn of the 14th century. Located on a picturesque Vistula escarpment, they include carefully-preserved towers and walls. Because of its rich history, the Czersk Castle is sometimes called an archaeologist’s paradise. The site’s area has been inhabited since at least 2,000 years ago, so it was and still is a great source of artefacts. For example, in 2009 a 500-hundred-year-old grain boat was found sunken in a lake near the ruins. According to local legend, the castle also hides a very old and valuable treasure…
Author: Marek Kępa, June 2016.