Masuria (Pologne): New archaeological sites discovered

PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland, Szymon Zdziebłowski

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Two previously unknown clusters of barrows in Wężewo. Prepared by C. Sobczak

Four large clusters of barrows, two fortified, destroyed cone fort, ramains of ancient roads, embankments, ditches and other elements of the fortification system of early Medieval Jaćwież have been located in Gołdap and Oleckiego poviats by archaeologists from the National Archaeological Museum in Warsaw.

"We have surveyed a 80 km square area using aircraft laser scanning (LiDAR). The survey covered nine areas around the famous forts and fortified settlements in East Masuria. We believed that there were still many unknown sites with their own landscape forms around these centres - relics of the complex, early Medieval fortification systems. Due to the strong afforestation, north-eastern Poland remains an area poorly explored by archaeologists"- explained Cezary Sobczak, project manager from the Department of Archaeology of Balts, National Archaeological Museum.

The survey covered the area around the forts in Dybowo, Dabrowskie, Grodzisk, Konikowo, Orlinies, Szwałk Mały, Wierzbowo. The analysis of digital elevation models based on the scans provided many details about the construction of forts and information on the conservation status of several sites with their own landscape forms. The big surprise for archaeologists was the discovery in the former East Prussia, area significantly transformed agriculturally, of more than 200 mounds - barrows of various sizes, clustered in four groups.

"The use of LiDAR in East Masuria allowed to prepare detailed, 3D maps of several registered archaeological sites, and identify dozens new sites" - added the archaeologist.

The archaeologists verified the survey results in the field, during the surface examination. At two sites they also carried out non-invasive geophysical surveys. "However, to confirm the function, determine the chronology and cultural affiliation of the newly discovered sites, excavations should be carried" - believes Sobczak.

The results will be used in a project implemented by the Department of Archaeology of Balts entitled "Atlas of Jaćwież Forts". It will be a compendium of knowledge containing all the available materials on Jaćwież forts and defense system, including LIDAR scanning results, aerial photographs, archival documents, excavations and surface survey results, and an environmental sketch.

LiDAR scans on and area and geophysical prospection was carried out in 2013. The project was financed with a grant from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and additional funding from the Mazowieckie Voivodeship, under priority 5 "Protection of archaeological sites" - Modern research methods of Western Jaćwież defense systems. Scanning was carried out by MGGP Aero.