Underground army: researchers dig up remains of 2,000-year-old warriors in a field

Researchers at work in the field near the town of Bejsce. Jan Bulas

Archaeologists have discovered a burial ground in southern Poland containing the remains of 2,000-year-old warriors.

The discovery was made near the town of Bejsce in Poland’s Swiętokrzyskie region, around an hour’s drive from Kraków. Located beneath a field, the burial ground has an estimated area of around 1 hectare, roughly the size of a rugby pitch.

During research this spring, which focused on the earth just under the field, archaeologists found many fragments of urns. Surprised by how many burned bones they found, they decided to start digging.

Already, the archaeologists have found four swords from around 2,000 years ago.Jan Bulas

The graves, which contain cremated remains, are in a poor condition because the field was used for farming.

“We do not know exactly how many graves were in the cemetery, because the research is still at an initial stage, and the graves were destroyed and often spread over a large area of the field,” said Jan Bulas of the Institute of Archaeology at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, who is leading the research.  

 During research this spring, which focused on the earth just under the field, archaeologists found many fragments of urns.Jan Bulas

Despite the graves’ damaged condition, the research has been fruitful: after closer examination, rusty and apparently shapeless items found there have turned out to be fragments of swords. Already, the archaeologists have found four swords from around 2,000 years ago, twice as many as in the nearby burial ground from a similar time in Michałowice, which has been searched completely.

 The graves, which contain cremated remains, are in a poor condition because the field was used for farming.Jan Bulas

They also found mysterious square structures similar to those from other burial grounds in southern Poland from that period. Their function is still unclear, but Bulas says they may have served to demarcate land in the burial ground for specific clans or families.

 'We do not know exactly how many graves were in the cemetery,' said Jan Bulas.Jan Bulas

For now, the researchers are unsure who the warriors buried there were. Bulas suggests they may have been from the Lugii, a tribal confederation that lived in what is now south and central Poland in around 100 BC-300 AD, which was mentioned by Roman authors.

The archaeologists plan to continue their research in the burial ground in coming years. They hope to find more preserved graves there in the future, before illegal treasure-hunters using metal detectors get to them.