Refutation of the Myth: New Fortified Settlement from Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age in Wielkopolska Region (Poland)

By Nowakowski, Jacek; Raczkowski, Wlodzimierz | Antiquity, December 2000 | Go to article overview

Refutation of the Myth: New Fortified Settlement from Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age in Wielkopolska Region (Poland)


Nowakowski, Jacek, Raczkowski, Wlodzimierz, Antiquity


Polish archaeology is characterized by the culture-historical approach (Kobylinski 1991; Minta-Tworzowska & Raczkowski 1996). The limited theoretical discussion has led to a situation in which stereotypes of research procedures have been formed and strengthened and many scientific myths uncritically accepted. One of those myths is the belief that field-walking survey is the best method of collecting data on new archaeological sites. Other methods, like aerial survey or geophysical prospection, play a secondary role. As a result archaeological prospection in Poland is based on field-walking survey while other methods are treated as the harmless hobbies of a few archaeologists.

The role of field-walking survey was strengthened when, after several years of discussions among Polish archaeologists, the assumptions and aims of a nation-wide programme -- Polish Archaeological Record (AZP) -- were formulated. That programme commenced in 1978 (Jaskanis 1992). Now, after 20 years, we can see that the incredible increase of information about archaeological sites in different regions of Poland has brought about a fundamental revision of ideas about various aspects of past settlement systems. Now, most Polish archaeologists believe that, as a result of some tens of years' research, they have identified almost all the sites, and think they now have the opportunity for objective reconstruction of settlement systems in different regions.

It is commonly accepted that the introduction of aerial photography in Polish archaeology took place in Biskupin in 1930s where a fortified settlement of the so-called Lausitz Culture was discovered. From 1935 Zdzislaw Rajewski and Wojciech Kocka regularly made photographic documentation of developments in the excavation work and the wooden constructions discovered. For this purpose they used an anchored balloon from which a camera was suspended. This allowed them to take vertical photographs from a height of 5-150 metres (Kostrzewski 1938). Such photographs supplied very precise information about the spatial arrangement of the site and its condition. In the period before the Second World War aerial photographs were also utilized for documentary purposes of other excavations and to record Early Medieval stronghold sites which were already known. Since then, there has been little opportunity to take archaeological aerial photographs (e.g. Kobylinski 1999).

Nevertheless, from time to time aerial survey has been undertaken, especially in the Wielkopolska region. One such reconnaissance was carried out in March 1999 and refuted the myth about complete knowledge of past settlement systems. In the course of that aerial survey a structure was discovered and classified as a fortified settlement (FIGURE 1). Low in the valley of the Obra river, a clear circular area, several tens of metres in diameter, was identified and photographed. It was the drier ground of a small local elevation with a cover of high vegetation.

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Field survey of the site (Jurkowo, comm. Krzywin, site 49) in May 2000 identified a rampart preserved to a height of 0.5 m. The inside of the fortified settlement is 70 m in diameter, the outside about 105 m. …

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