Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lusatian culture cemetery revealed in Poland

A large Lusatian culture community cemetery dating back 2500 years from the late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, was excavated by archaeologists in Łęgowo near Wągrowiec, Poland.

“We examined 151 graves, which contained cremations…we counted more than a thousand ceramic artefacts and pots placed in the graves by mourners” – Marcin Krzepkowski, head of research explained to Science and Scholarship in Poland (PAP).

A range of cremated burials

Cremated remains from this period – contemporary with the famous fortified settlement in Biskupin – were normally placed in urns.

Common practices observed in the Łęgowo cemetery consisted of:

  • urns with bowl like lids
  • inverted vessels
  • Scoops and cups placed on their sides within larger ceramic containers.

In addition, the grave pits usually contained a dozen or so other vessels. In a few cases, there were as many as 40.

“Among the thousand vessels we have discovered there are richly ornamented examples. For the last journey, the deceased also received bronze items, including pins, a sickle and a razor” – said Krzepkowski.

Child graves

Especially moving are the graves of children. The youngest of which were buried with miniature vessels and even clay rattles.

In one of the child graves the archaeologists found a spoon whose handle contained the stylised head of a bird and in another, a richly decorated bowl showed the figure of a bird.

“A quite unique discovery in this part of the Poland is a small rectangular clay object, associated with the cult of hearth and home, so-called moon idol. Such objects are usually found in Silesian cemeteries, mostly from the area of Wrocław” – said the archaeologist.

The Lusatian Culture

The people of what is called the Lusatian culture lived in the basin of the Vistula and Oder rivers, as well in today’s Saxony, Brandenburg, northern Czech Republic and Lusatia. These people were mainly cereal farmers, who also bred cattle, pigs and goats. The society straddled the end of the Bronze Age and the advent of the Iron Age and in addition to open settlements, there were also fortified towns, considered by many to be tribal centres.

The areas occupied by the Lusatian culture is well known  for the bronze treasures that have come to light including both personal ornaments and tools (mainly axes and sickles).

The first record regarding excavating a cemetery of the Lusatian in the Wągrowiec area dates from the fifteenth century AD. The chronicler Jan Długosz wrote that “born from the womb of the earth are pots, by themselves, only by the art of nature, without any human helping, of all sorts of different shapes, similar to those people use, though delicate and soft, while still rooted in their family soil in the ground, yet when they are removed they become tight and hardened in the sun or wind”.

Excavations at the cemetery in Łęgowo were completed in September 2013 and although the site was already known to archaeologists from nineteenth century documentary sources, more extensive work was possible due to the planned extension of the provincial road No. 196 and preceding rescue excavations.

The work was carried out by the Regional Museum in Wągrowiec, in collaboration with Arthur Dębski (Mos Maiorum Archaeology and Preservation Laboratory) and Marcin Krzepkowski (Laboratory of Archaeological Documentation).

Past Horizons. 2013. “Lusatian culture cemetery revealed in Poland”. Past Horizons. Posted: November 6, 2013. Available online:

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