Barczewo (Pologne): "Warmia Pompeii" - fourteenth century settlement

PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland

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Photo: Fotolia

Archaeologists discovered the remains of the first medieval location of today’s Barczewo. Scientists called the ancient settlement "Warmia Pompeii", because it settlement remained virtually unchanged after the cataclysm, which was the invasion of the Lithuanian troops of Duke Kestutis’.

Polish-German archaeological group conducts research project led by Dr. Arkadiusz Koperkiewicz of the University of Gdańsk and Felix Biermann from the University of Göttingen.

Alt Wartenburg, inhabited by settlers from Silesia, was located near present Barczewko, between the lake Wadąg and the river Orzechówka, approx. 5 km from today’s Barczewo. The settlement was destroyed during the Duke Kestutis’ invasion in the mid-14th century.

Archaeologists preparing to search for the village used modern methods. They determined the location with the help of, among others, aerial photos, which show the changes in the shape of earth layers.

"We found what we expected based on historical sources. After aerial photographs and geophysical surveys we were expecting the remains of the city burnt down in 1354. We had specific location of excavations and we began to explore the area of interest" - told PAP Dr. Arkadiusz Koperkiewicz.

"We found the remains of two buildings just outside the gate, and in the central part a pit remaining after the main building in the settlement, a town hall, church or a defensive structure, a castle" - said the scientist.

He added that the buildings had dimensions of 4 x 4 meters at the base; noted that they were planned and built in the same way, with entrances to basements. They were built of wood and clay, and the basements had stone foundations. "We found many objects, including so-called grey ceramics, made on a wheel, different from the one manufactured by local Prussians. We found bronze ornaments, belt buckles, a spur, weaving spindles, a padlock, a Gothic key, crossbow bolts and heads as well as one side minted coins" - said Dr. Koperkiewicz.

The coins allowed archaeologists to determine the dating of the settlement.

"We have not found human remains. Even if there was a tragic event, this area was not completely abandoned, a few years later today’s Barczewo was founded, large part of the population continued to live here, their loved ones were probably buried in the nearby cemetery" - said the scientist.

First Barczewo location search project bears the name "Warmia Pompeii".

"This is a provocative name; we know what Pompeii is for archaeology. Here we have a similar situation, a sudden, historically documented event due to which we have well-preserved structure of one of the oldest towns in the area. This is a perfect place for archaeologists, because you can watch +stopped time+" - said Dr. Koperkiewicz.

He reminded that the second half of the fourteenth century was a very hot period in the area. This was the beginning of the attempted conquest of Lithuania by the Teutonic Knights, armed expeditions of Teutonic Knights to Lithuania and Lithuanian raids deep into the Teutonic State.