Hillfort, Podebłocie
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl
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The hill fort in Podebłocie is an example of a promontory fort, one of the few sites of this type investigated on a large scale. It is the centre of the settlement complex, which includes three open settlements (site 2, 3, 5), presumed cremation barrow cemetery (site 4) and cremation cemetery in the nearby village of Stasin (site 6).

Location and description

The hill fort, known locally as ‘The Castle’, is located at the western end of the village. It is situated on the high edge of the valley of the Vistula River, a few kilometres away from its current bed, on a promontory of a high plain. The defensive qualities of the location of the hill fort are still identifiable; an erosion channel in which the Pieradło stream flows separates the hill fort on its western and northern side, whereas on the southern side, a steep slope descends into the waterlogged valley of the Vistula River. Site 2 is located on the north-eastern side of the hill fort, and site 5 on the south-eastern side of it. Site 3 is situated on the north-eastern side of the hill fort, on the opposite bank of the aforementioned stream. The barrow cemetery in Podebłocie is located around 200 m to the north of the hill fort, and the cemetery in Stasin around 700 m to the north-west of it.

Due to the fact that the hill fort is located on a promontory, it has the shape that approximates to that of an equilateral triangle with side length of around 140 m. On the eastern and northern side, a double line of ramparts and moats separates it from the promontory. The inner rampart is 2-2.5 m high, counting from the bottom of the inner moat, and the outer rampart is 3-4 m high, counting from the bottom of the outer moat which flows in a natural erosion channel. The fortifications of the hill fort and both cemeteries are overgrown with forest. The area of the settlements and the maidan of the hill fort is used as arable land.

History

Archeological investigations of the hill fort revealed traces of Neolithic settlements, i.e., New Stone Age and Early Bronze Age. The open settlement dates back to the 7th century AD. Researchers date the first phase of the fortified settlement to the second half of the 8th century - early 9th century. The second phase of the settlement occurred at the beginning of the 9th century - 12th century.

Condition and results of archaeological research

The hill fort in Podebłocie was discovered during archaeological investigations in 1971. Excavations of the hill fort were conducted between 1981 and 1995. Researchers also carried out surface investigations and research excavations of varying scope of the remaining sites included in the settlement complex: site 2 — discovered in 1984, investigated between 1991 and 1992; site 3 — discovered in 1983, investigated between 1984 and 1992; site 5 — discovered in 1993, investigated between 1994 and 1995; cemetery 4 — discovered in 1987, investigated between 1987 and 1989; cemetery 6 — discovered in 1993, subject only to surface surveys. All investigations were conducted by expeditions from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw within the framework of one research project.

As a result of many years of archaeological investigations the functioning of the hill fort in Podebłocie was divided into two phases. During the first phase the wooden and earthen rampart was erected on the eastern side of the maidan, with its inner side adjoining a row of wooden buildings. The rampart on its outer side adjoined a single moat. An archeological investigation uncovered a large earth lodge in the eastern part of the maidan and a ditch running along the promontory on the west site, which were associated with that phase. The hill fort was most likely destroyed during hostilities, which, in addition to the traces of fire, could be evidenced by arrowheads found in the burnt layer. One of them was stuck in the structure of the rampart. Researchers date the first phase to the second half of the 8th century - the early 9th century. The double system of ramparts and the complex of earth lodges located around the maidan should be linked to the second phase of the fortified settlement. The ramparts of the fortified settlement were constructed of wood and earth, and were erected after levelling the previous fortifications. At that time, the fortified settlement was surrounded by two moats. The entrance gate was on the north side. Researches date the second phase to the early 9th century - 12th century. As regards the movable monuments, investigations of the hill fort uncovered a total of about 21,500 fragments of pottery, around 2,900 animal remains, 74 metal objects (arrowheads, knives, fragments of harness), 12 stone monuments (e.g. whetstones) and 15 bone monuments (awls, knife handles).

Investigations of other sites have proven that the buildings of settlement 2 were erected after the construction of the second rampart of the hill fort in the second phase. Settlement 3 was functioning parallel to the first and second phase of the hill fort. Several local cottages show signs of damage corresponding to the burning of the hill fort at the end of the first phase. Investigations of this site also revealed the most interesting monuments from Podebłocie: decorated pottery and clay plaquest with inscriptions (see below). The functioning of settlement 5 is linked to the second phase of the hill fort. Three mounds were investigated in presumed cemetery no 4. Researchers date the site to the late 11th century - early 12th century.

Plaques from Podebłocie

In 1986, an archaeological investigation of the area of ancillary settlement immediately adjacent to the hill fort no. 3 in Podebłocie and, more specifically, of the layer indicating the usable level of one of the half-earth lodges revealed fragments of two fired clay plaques among the remains of a stove, which plaques were inscribed with signs resembling letters of the Greek alphabet. Further investigations of the half-earth lodge have also uncovered more than 1,400 fragments of pottery decorated with unique ornament with solar and animal motifs. Fragments of the third plaque were found in the pit neighbouring the structure. The plaques were subject to analyses of raw materials, the results of which showed that two of them were made of local clay used in Podebłocie for covering walls of dwellings. The results of the tests of the third one indicated that it was imported from the Mediterranean region. Characters engraved on the two ‘local’ plaques were read by Tomasz Płóciennik and interpreted as a Greek monogram that form an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ ‘ICXC’. According to the researcher, an inaccurate shape of one of the letters on the plaque made of the local raw material seems to indicate that the person who made the inscription was illiterate and only recreated previously seen characters. The finds have not been dated precisely. Researchers date the half-earth lodge from which two of the plaques come to the older phase of the functioning of the ancillary settlement (7th/8th c. - late 9th c.), i.e., pagan times before the founding of the Polish state, based on the analysis of the arrangement of the accumulated strata. If the dating is correct, we are dealing with the oldest known traces of writing and the earliest known traces of Christianity in the current Polish territory.

The hill fort is located near the road from Podebłocie to the west.

Compiled by Agnieszka Oniszczuk, National Heritage Board of Poland, 25.09.2014 r.

Bibliography

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  • Marczak E., „Tabliczki” z Podebłocia: nie rozwiązana zagadka [w:] Studia z dziejów cywilizacji, A. Buko (ed.), Warsaw 1998, pp. 93-102.
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  • Marczak E., Cmentarzysko ciałopalne z okresu wczesnego średniowiecza w Stasinie, gm. Trojanów, woj. siedleckie. Wyniki badań powierzchniowych. Komunikat, Światowit, vol. 2 (43), Fasc. B, 2000, pp. 153-157.
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General information

  • Type: hillfort
  • Chronology: 2 poł. VIII – XII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Podebłocie
  • Location: Voivodeship mazowieckie, district garwoliński, commune Trojanów
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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