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Hill fort, Ostrołęka
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

The conical motte in Ostrołęka and ancillary settlement immediately adjacent to it are part of one settlement complex from the Middle Ages. This centre give rise to the town of Ostrołęka and, therefore, is an invaluable source of information about the earliest history of the town.

Location and description

The hill fort, which is known locally as the ‘Old Town’, is located at the southern end of Ostrołęka, on the left bank of the Narew river, opposite the mouth of the Omulew river. Currently, a waterlogged stretch of land in the Narew oxbow lake area separates the hill fort from the town. Due to the fact that the course of the riverbed had changed, the site was periodically located on an island. The open settlement is situated on the northern and western side of the hill fort.

The hill fort has the shape of a flat cone which is around 45 m in diameter and 4 m in width. The rampart with which the hill fort is crowned was severely damaged by ditches and trenches from the Second World War. In spite of that, its north-eastern part bears visible traces of an entrance gate. The motte is surrounded by a moat which is up to 1 metre deep. During the Second World War the moat was made deeper at several points and served as trenches. The hill fort and the surrounding area are now a wasteland overgrown with grass.


The findings made during archaeological investigations of the site indicate that the hill fort dates back to the 11th-15th century. The ancillary settlement immediately adjacent to the hill fort were functioning from the 12th century to the late 13th century and the early 14th century.

Condition and results of archaeological research

The first archaeological surveys were made in 1914. Inventory research and verifications of the hill fort were carried out in 1957 and 1959. Archaeological investigations were conducted by Marian Majka between 1976 and 1985. In 1982, the hill fort with an ancillary settlement immediately adjacent to it was registered during the surface surveys carried out within the framework of the “Archaeological Picture of Poland” project.


The findings of the investigations indicate that in the 11th-12th century the whole interior of the fortified settlement was occupied by wooden buildings. After the buildings were destroyed by fire, the structure underwent alterations. An investigation of the northern part of the maidan has uncovered relics of a clay domical stove dating back to the 13th c. During this period the greater part of the maidan was built up with one-storey buildings. The largest building which was discovered in the area of the hill fort was dug into a layer of destroyed buildings from the 13th c. It consisted of a basement, ground floor and floors above ground. The structure was built on a floor plan the shape of which approximated that of a square, with sides measuring slightly more than 5 metres. The wooden part of the construction rested on stone foundations which were not bonded using mortar. Researchers date the building to the 14th century.

The construction of the rampart of the hill fort was divided into two phases. Researches discovered traces of fascine which was used for strengthening the earthen structure in the 11th-12th and 14th-15th centuries (date based on fragments of ceramics). Archaeological investigations have shown that half of the height of the rampart featured a box structure, with boxes filled with sand. By contrast, an investigation of the upper part of the rampart revealed the remains of a sandwich construction, where thick wooden beams were arranged in layers, alternately longitudinally and transversely to the line of the rampart. The original base of the rampart was about 6 m wide. Archaeological investigations also uncovered the remains of a wooden structure from the 14th-15th century, interpreted as an entrance gate.

In 1976, an archaeological exploration of the slope of the rampart revealed two rows of postholes, which have been interpreted as the remains of the bridge leading to the fortified settlement. One year later an investigation of the moat uncovered the remains of stone pillars supporting the rampart.

Archaeological exploration of the ancillary settlement immediately adjacent to the fortified centre allowed researchers to identify two phases of settlement in the period from the 12th to the 13th century. Older buildings (12th c.) feature log construction and post construction. These were above-ground cottages, which measured 5 m by 3 m. The buildings from the 13th century included half-earth lodges which featured post construction and measured 3.5 m by 2 m. One of the half-earth lodges probably served as a utility room. It was found that in the 13th century the area of the settlement was extended by filling in a part of the oxbow lake of the eastern Narew river bed. However, no permanent buildings were erected in the area of land formed in this manner.

The hill fort is open to visitors; it is located right alongside the floodbank.

Compiled by Agnieszka Oniszczuk, National Heritage Board of Poland, 20.10.2014 r.


  • Majka M., Ostrołęka, „Informator Archeologiczny”, Badania rok 1976, 1977, pp. 220-221.
  • Majka M., Ostrołęka. Stanowisko Grodzisko - Stare Miasto, „Informator Archeologiczny”, Badania rok 1977, 1978, pp. 187-188.
  • Majka M., Ostrołęka. Stanowisko: Grodzisko Stare, „Informator Archeologiczny”, Badania rok 1978, 1979, pp. 188-189.
  • Majka M., Ostrołęka. Grodzisko „Stare Miasto”, „Informator Archeologiczny”, Badania rok 1979, 1980, pp. 174-175.
  • Majka M., Ostrołęka. Grodzisko - Stare Miasto, osada przygrodowa, „Informator Archeologiczny”, Badania rok 1985, 1986, pp. 138-139.
  • Pyrgała J., Ostrołęka, m. woj., [in:] Grodziska Mazowsza i Podlasia (w granicach dawnego województwa warszawskiego), collective work, Wrocław -Warszawa -Kraków -Gdańsk 1976, pp. 92-93.

General information

  • Type: hillfort
  • Chronology: XI-XV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Ostrołęka
  • Location: Voivodeship mazowieckie, district Ostrołęka, commune Ostrołęka
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland


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