The medieval gift that won’t stop giving! Remote village is archeological paradise with researchers finding thousands of treasures

In the last year researchers have found thousands of medieval treasures in the small village of Owidz. Bartosz Świątkowski

A remote village in the north of Poland has become a goldmine for archeologists looking for ancient treasure.

The medieval stronghold of Owidz was once a regional centre located on an important trade route and strategic military structure.

Now, with a population of just 445 people, it has become a paradise for archaeologists and tourists alike with this year’s excavations revealing thousands of fragments of ceramic vessels, coins and amulets - and even a sacrificed dog’s skull buried under the threshold of a house, reports science website Nauka w Polsce.

The medieval stronghold of Owidz was once a regional centre located on an important trade route and strategic military structure.P. Muntowski

The research is being carried out by a Polish-Danish team as part of the ArchaeoBalt project. Employees, students and volunteers from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the University of Gdańsk and the University of Aarhus who participate in it ended their work in July.

In the last two seasons, researchers have discovered a surprising number of ceramic vessels fragments. Bartosz Świątkowski from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology of the University of Gdańsk, told PAP: "It's a total of over 11,000 pieces! ”

Along with Karolina Czonstke from the same university he conducted excavations on a relatively small area – the square of the stronghold of about 50m2.

Bartosz Świątkowski from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology of the University of Gdańsk said: “These types of discoveries are most common in northern Europe, but their form is simpler and they were used as pendants, unlike the ones we found in Owidz.”Nordcon/Facebook

The stronghold in Owidz is one of the largest medieval buildings of this type in Eastern Pomerania.

Located on the top of the moraine hill in the bend of the Wierzyca River, it was built in the times of King Bolesław Chrobry to strengthen the Polish rule over Pomerania.

It was probably destroyed in 1090 at the behest of Władysław Herman, who then destroyed a large part of Pomeranian castles in order to prevent local rebellion.

Despite the destruction, it was still used in the following centuries, the defensive characteristics being used by the Swedish army during the 1655-1660 invasion.

The archaeologists also found a sacrificed dog’s skull buried under the threshold of a house.Bartosz Świątkowski

Moreover, Owidz was located on "the road of merchants", leading from Gdańsk to Greater Poland. The inhabitants of Owidz were also craftsmen, dealing with pottery, blacksmithing, horns, amber craft and spinning.

Due to the various activities of Owidz inhabitants, the archaeologists were able to find a variety of artefacts: jewellery, elements of horse harness, awls and silver coins from Germany.

Miniature amulets made of iron were among the rarer discoveries. One is a tiny hatchet and the other is a miniature shield which, despite its very small size, has rivets and umbo (the central part of the shield, which is supposed to give it power) reproduced on it.

Karolina Czonstke from the University of Gdańsk said putting food or animals in the corners of the house or on the threshold during the construction was a custom often used by Slavs.Nordcon/Facebook

"These types of discoveries are most common in northern Europe, but their form is simpler and they were used as pendants, unlike the ones we found in Owidz," Świątkowski said.

Karolina Czonstke added: "A rare find is a dog skull located near the hut entrance. It was placed there as a sacrifice.”

According to the archaeologist, putting food or animals in the corners of the house or on the threshold during the construction was a custom often used by the Slavs.

“Such rituals was supposed to ensure protection and prosperity to the household’s inhabitants, as well as guarantee the favour of house spirits,” added Świątkowski.


Research at Owidz Stronghold are part of ArchaeoBalt project, which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund within the Interreg South Baltic Programme 2014-2020.