Hillfort of the Lusatian culture, Łubowice
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

Hillfort of the Lusatian culture

Łubowice

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The hillfort of the Lusatian culture in Łubowice (site no. 1 AZP 100-40/51) is believed to originate from the period between the 9th century and the first half of the 6th century B.C., which means that its existence spanned the late Bronze Age (V OEB) and the very beginning of the early Iron Age (HaC). The site is one of the oldest remnants of late Bronze Age and early Iron Age hillforts - a true rarity among archaeological finds. Only about 70 archaeological sites of this kind have been discovered in the Polish territory so far. What makes the site in Łubowice even more unique is that it is the largest prehistoric hillfort discovered in Poland as well as the largest of all hillforts in the Upper Silesia region. Its uniqueness is also emphasized by the fact that during the prehistoric age, the hillfort remained the centre of the surrounding settlement microregion, hence the presence of an extensive network of settlements and burial grounds dating back to the halcyon days of the Łubowice hillfort. Some of these sites have also been inscribed into the register of monuments. It needs to be emphasized that the hillfort is a multicultural site, with traces of Neolithic settlement as well as of the Lusatian (3rd - 4th period of the Bronze Age) and the Przeworsk culture (3rd-4th century) all being present, accompanied by artefacts from the Middle Ages (mid- 13th-15th century). Archaeological surveys have proved the presence of cultural layers and structures containing a large number of moveable artefacts. The remnants of the earthen rampart are no longer visible along the entire circumference of the settlement; however, the height of the surviving parts of the rampart can reach 5 or even 6 metres in places.

Location and description

The fortified settlement is located at the edge of the Głubczyce Plateau, on a tall promontory forming part of the left terrace of the Oder river. The site is irregular in shape, with a roughly oval outline; the total surface area of the site is approximately 26 hectares. The boundaries of the site are relatively easily discernible in the surrounding terrain, even though only a few sections of the earthen rampart remain; the best-preserved parts of the ramparts are the western and northern sections thereof, with the total length of the rampart being more than 1.1 kilometres. The course of the rampart is largely dictated by the shape of the underlying terrain, its designers having sought to exploit the natural defensive features of the promontory.

The hillfort in Łubowice was one of the first archaeological sites in Upper Silesia to receive the attention of archaeologists. Back in 1877, oberleutnant Stöckel, an amateur archaeologist, began the exploration of the site, being the very first to do so. The site was later examined in the years 1928 and 1933, with numerous finds being made by accident as well. After World War II came to an end, the archaeological team of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow stepped in to continue the exploration of the site. Professor Marek Gedl was the first to lead the project, followed later on by Professor Jan Chochorowski. Subsequent excavations took place in 1954, 1962, 1970, 1972-1975 and 1977; they were later resumed in 1998 and have carried on to this day. All in all, an area covering more than 0.11 hectares has been excavated, with the entire site being the most thoroughly explored Lusatian culture hillfort in Upper Silesia.

History

The medieval hillfort remained in use between the 9th century and the first half of the 6th century B.C., i.e. in the late Bronze Age (V OEB) and at the very beginning of the early Iron Age (HaC). It should also be added at this stage that various fortifications began to spring up all over Central and Western Europe during the period in question. The origins of this phenomenon are believed to lie in an increased population density, accompanied by the process of the division of territories, and the growing external threat related predominantly to the so-called Cimmerian horizon, dated at the 9th century BC and involving raids of nomadic peoples from the Black Sea steppes. During the first half of the 6th century B.C., the hillfort has been destroyed by fire and was never rebuilt. So far, no credible evidence exists to back up this claim, yet one may suspect that the direct cause of the hillfort’s downfall was an armed raid by the nomadic Scythians, which have definitely crossed the Moravian Gate on a regular basis, attacking the settlements of the Lusatian culture. One should also add that the growth of the Silesian branch of the Lusatian culture came to a sudden halt somewhere around the mid- 6th century B.C., as evidenced on many archaeological sites related to this particular culture.

Notwithstanding the ancient hillfort, which forms the dominant feature of the site, it needs to be stated that the history of the site itself reaches much further back into the past, since the items unearthed there included both the relics of Neolithic cultures which existed 5 thousand years B.C., artefacts of the early Bronze Age (3 - 2 thousand years B.C.), traces of settlements and burial grounds of the Lusatian culture (3th-5th and 4th-5th periods of the Bronze Age respectively), burial grounds of the Przeworsk culture (3rd-5th century) as well as remnants of a medieval settlement from the mid- 13th-15th century).

Today, parts of the site are taken up by various buildings forming part of the village of Łubowice and a Gothic Revival church, a modern cemetery and ruins of an 18th-century palace of the Eichendorff noble family, which has slipped into a state of decay after World War II.

Condition and results of archaeological research

The excavations made so far have proved that the first settlers representing the Lusatian culture have appeared here in the middle of the Bronze Age, i.e. in the 13th-12th century B.C. The very first settlement to be established here was a non-fortified village; later on, in the late 9th/early 8th century B.C., the existing settlement was surrounded by a relatively simple wooden fence, perched atop a low rampart. The fence performed the function of a defensive wall and consisted of massive piles driven deep into the ground at intervals of 0.5 metres, with the spaces between them being filled with sturdy, highly resilient wattle panels. This wooden fence was remodelled on at least two occasions and was only replaced by the massive earthen rampart partially preserved to the present day in the fourth phase of existence of the hillfort. The structure of the rampart was clearly reminiscent of the earlier solutions, with an earthen structure being constructed on both sides of a wooden fence/palisade not unlike those which had existed there before. This shows that, despite some innovations being made, the overall approach of the builders of the structure was predominantly conservative. Once completed, the rampart had the average width of approximately 12 metres and was crowned with a wooden structure which facilitated the defence of the perimeter and made it easier for the warriors to move around the top section of the rampart. The total height of the rampart was approximately 8 metres. An additional defensive structure created in the course of construction of the rampart was the dry outer moat, which has since disappeared almost completely and is virtually indiscernible from the surrounding terrain. Despite its relatively simple structure, the size and scale of the revetments proves that the civilisation of their builders had a considerable demographic potential and an efficient organisational structure. The buildings situated within the fortified settlement were arranged in an irregular manner, with most of them being clustered in the eastern part of the settlement; in the remaining part of the site - the central and the western sections thereof - the density of man-made structures was relatively low. The total population of the hillfort could not have been very large, hence the theory that the size of the structure was dictated by its function as a place of refuge for the population of the surrounding territories. The hillfort served as a safe haven for the residents of the outlying open settlements; it is believed that these people also actively participated in the construction and alteration works as time went by. The houses located inside the hillfort included both wooden houses and half-earth lodges. These houses came equipped with hearths and cellars hewn in the relatively soft loess surface beneath. The residential structures were accompanied by utility buildings used for various purposes, including food storage.

Partially restricted access to the site - parts of the site form part of privately owned land.

compiled by Michał Bugaj, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 24-09-2014.

Bibliography

  • Blajer W., Epoka brązu i okres halsztacki, [in:] Tomczak E. (ed.), Archeologia Górny Śląsk, Katowice 2013.
  • Chochorowska E., Chochorowski J., Łubowice pradziejowa warownia nad Odrą, “Alma Mater” 2008, no. 99, pp. 106-112.
  • Chochorowski J., Badania wykopaliskowe założeń obronnych grodziska w Łubowicach, woj. Katowice, “Sprawozdania Archeologiczne” 1977, vol. 29, pp. 107-121.
  • Gedl M., Kultura Łużycka na Górnym Śląsku, Wrocław-Warsaw-Cracow 1962.
  • Niesiołowska-Wędzka A., Początki i rozwój grodów kultury łużyckiej, Warsaw-Wrocław-Cracow-Gdańsk 1974.
  • Niesiołowska-Wędzka A., Procesy urbanizacyjne w kulturze łużyckiej w świetle oddziaływań kultur południowych, Wrocław-Warsaw-Cracow-Gdańsk-Łódź 1989.

General information

  • Type: hillfort
  • Chronology: IX – 1. poł. VI w. p.n.e.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Łubowice
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district raciborski, commune Rudnik
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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