Invisible traces of human presence. Stories from Polish caves

Caves have been an object of human fascination since the dawn of time. These mysterious, closed spaces served various functions in the past – from temporary shelters or flint workshops to places of burial or worship. Human history is recorded here in long stratigraphic sequences, with each layer being a part of a long-forgotten story. We try to read these stories and reconstruct the lives of ancient people. Usually, we use for this purpose artefacts: objects left or lost by the former inhabitants of the caves or by people visiting them. Sometimes our reconstruction is not clear – there are too few objects or they are too well hidden. However, every human activity leaves behind something more than artefacts. It leaves behind chemical traces. We just need to learn to read them properly.

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The lecture about Pre-Pottery Neolithic communities

The Faculty of Archaeology at the University of Warsaw will organize the lecture by Professor Ian Kuijt (Dept of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame) titled “Social abstraction, egalitarianism, and Pre-Pottery Neolithic communities: Reconsidering the evolution of the world’s first villages“. It is scheduled for 13th October, 11:30-13:00, room 212 in the building of the Faculty, ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28, 00-927 Warszawa. The lecture will be available also online; to receive the link please contact Aldona Mueller Bieniek (a.muellerbie@uw.edu.pl).

Reconsidering the evolution of the world’s first villages

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Polish computer application in archaeology

From April 2nd to April 6th, 2023, the 50th International Conference on Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology was held in Amsterdam. Polish archaeology was represented by a strong interdisciplinary group, which prepared two sessions and presented 10 presentations and 2 posters.

Photogrammetric model of a barrow during excavation with markings showing the location of various monuments
by J. Stępnik

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The Story of a Little Rodent in a Changing World

The summer of 9,750 BC (or 11,700 years before present) was warmer and rainier than usual in the area of the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. At sunset, a solitary narrow-headed vole was walking across the hills, down to the Sąspow River and up to the highlands, in search of its favourite food to store for the winter, mainly shoots of grasses and sedges, every year more and more scarce and harder to find due to the advance of the forest. These were times of changes: only a few decades before, his great-grandparents were living in a suitable tundra environment with all the necessities: enough food in the summer, enough snow and ice in the winter to store their favourite grass seeds; in all the valleys were plenty of voles of his kind. Now all had changed. The solitary rodent was starving; he was the last of his kind in southern Poland. All his “family” moved northwards a long time ago because of global warming and the advance of the great forest.

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Mysteries of Koziarnia Cave. Part two – puzzle solved

The excavations in Koziarnia Cave were a bit of an earthquake. Seriously. The seismograph working continuously deeper in the cave recorded each hit of the rock pick. Geophysicists paid the price so that we, archaeologists, could eventually reveal the mysteries of Koziarnia Cave.

The inside of Koziarnia Cave during excavations in 2017. Note the mist appearing in the in the cave on hot summer days
© M. Kot, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence

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Mysteries of Koziarnia Cave. Part one – turbulent history of the cave

This cave used to be a dwelling for the Neanderthals, a dance floor and a bowling club. In the past it was inhabited by humans and cave bears in turns. At some other time there was a pen for livestock. Hence the name – Koziarnia (goat barn)…

View of the entrance to Koziarnia Cave
© M. Bogacki, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence

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The origin of Late Neolithic amber ornaments in Poland

The area of the south-eastern shores of the Baltic Sea was in prehistory and is still today an area abundant in deposits of raw amber, as indicated, among other things, by the numerous Late Neolithic (3rd millennium BC) amber workshops and amber ornaments found on archaeological sites located in the Vistula Fens, south of the Gulf of Gdańsk. Therefore, it is puzzling that relatively few finished amber ornaments come from both these areas and the nearby region of north-eastern Poland. Among the few contemporary known ornaments are those from sites: Ząbie 10, Supraśl 3 and Supraśl 6, which are unique in this part of the prehistoric world. The selected artifacts were thus subjected to stylistic and technological analysis in order to determine where they were made, also taking into account the type of raw material used. The research showed that although the amber ornaments were most likely produced from material extracted in the south-eastern Baltic coastal zone (succinite, gedanite and gedano-succinite), they have no direct analogues there. 

Uszkodzone i niedokończone na różnych etapach obróbki wytwory bursztynowe pochodzące z warsztatów bursztyniarskich w okolicach wsi Niedźwiedziówka © K. Kwiatkowska, na licencji CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
Damaged and unfinished amber artefacts at various stages of processing from amber workshops near the Niedźwiedziówka village
© K. Kwiatkowska, on licence CC BY-ND 4.0

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Eneolithic Travelers of the Bell Beakers in north-east Poland

In Supraśl, on the Polish-Belarusian border, unique objects of Bell Beaker communities were discovered. They might have been linked to distant regions of the Atlantic coast and the British Isles. Is it possible that the artefacts would be the traces of the Eneolithic travelers, who like Marco Polo, travelled thousands of miles in search of new, valuable and exotic raw materials and objects?

Obiekt rytualny ze stanowiska 3 w Supraślu © A. Cetwińska
Ritual feature from site 3 at  Supraśl
© A. Cetwińska

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