The motte, Zalesie
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

The existing motte is all that remains of an early modern fortalice (often referred to using the Latin term fortalicium), dating back to the 17th century and representing one of the variants of an earthen and wooden fort of the medieval type - a rather archaic solution in the early modern period. It is the only structure of this kind in the Lublin region which has seen any sort of research excavations being made by archaeologists.

Location and description

The fortalice, known locally as “Okopek” (The Motte) is located in the western part of the Zalesie village, on a private plot of land, about 1 kilometre north of the Urzędówka riverbed when calculated in a straight line; the site covers a fragment of an elevated edge of the upland, with the difference between the level of the river valley bottom and the edge of the upland being about 15 metres.

The fortalice occupies an area of about 1 hectare. Its projection resembles a rectangle, with the length of its sides being 38 x 18 metres on the east-west and north-south axis respectively. From the east and the south, the site is protected by vertical slopes of the upland, with a relative height of up to 15 metres. On the western side there are no readily apparent defensive structures; towards the north, on the other hand, the structure is separated from the rest of the site by a natural ravine 2.5 - 3 metres deep and about 25 metres wide. On the southern slope of the ravine lie the remains of a small mount with the height of up to 0.5 metres. The site has been partially destroyed during the 1970s and the 1980s due to both development activities and agricultural works. The south-eastern part of the mound has been destroyed due to the excavation of sand deposited beneath the loess outer layer covering the edge of the upland. In addition, in order to remove the loess outer layer, the western and south-eastern sides of the structure have been bulldozed. The resulting excavation is a few dozen metres long, four metres wide and four metres deep. Until very recently, this trench was used as a waste dump. In addition, the site is being gradually destroyed by the expanding tree roots and the subsidence of the escarpment itself.


The fortalice in Zalesie remained in use during the 17th century.

The first mention of the archaeological site in Zalesie in the literature on the subject was made by Włodzimierz Antoniewicz and Zofia Wartołowska back in 1964, who have designated the site as an early medieval hillfort. In 1967, in connection with the negative results of the site survey, a theory was advanced which stated that the site might in fact originate from an even earlier period. During those times, fragments of an earthen rampart were still discernible among the surrounding terrain. In 1994, a report on the gradual devastation of the site by bulldozing and excavation of soil for construction purposes was drawn up.

Condition and results of archaeological research

The trial excavations on the site were performed in 1996 by Irena Kutyłowska. In the course of the survey, a total of three excavations have been made; two excavations - 2.5 metres wide and 25metres long - were made on the north-south axis and covered the former inner courtyard as well as the northern slope of the ravine, right up to the bottom thereof. Another, third excavation with the dimensions of 2 x 7 metres was made on the north-eastern corner of the structure, where the entrance to the site is currently located. The location and height plan of the site was prepared by Włodzimierz Zieliński in 1996.

During the surface surveys carried out within the framework of the “Archaeological Picture of Poland” project, the site was apparently ignored, with the relevant record sheet being prepared in subsequent years.

In the course of excavations, remnants of artificial fortifications alongside the northern side of the motte have been identified; these took the form of a dry moat about 3 metres wide and 0.6 metres deep, cutting across the slope of the natural ravine. The soil extracted from the moat was used to bolster the wooden structures perched above the moat, at the southern edge of the ravine. These structures took the form of a perimeter wall made of wooden logs, its thickness being approximately 20 centimetres; it was made of horizontally positioned logs placed between vertical posts spaced about 2 metres apart. No traces of any buildings have been found in the inner courtyard of the site. The only discovery made by the archaeologists was a rather thin cultural layer a few moveable artefacts in the form of pottery and fragments of a glass cup, all of them believed to originate from the 17th century. Research proved that the defensive wall has been destroyed by fire, which happened back during the 17th century, as evidenced by the presence of a waste disposal pit containing the remains of 17th-century pottery which was dug on the site of the former dry moat which had been filled with soil at an earlier date. The interpretations of the functions of the site indicate that it might have served as a small fortalice which was most likely not inhabited on a permanent basis; it could have been an ad-hoc, temporary structure or a part of the defensive fortifications accompanying a nearby manor farm.

Unlimited access to the historic site.

compiled by Ewa Prusicka, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Lublin, 17-11-2015.


  • Antoniewicz W., Wartołowska Z., Mapa grodzisk w Polsce, Wrocław 1964.
  • Mitrus E., Grodzisko w Zalesiu, gm. Wilkołaz, woj. lubelskie. Raport o stanie ochrony konserwatorskiej zabytku, Lublin 1994, typescript available at the Archive of the National Heritage Board of Poland, Regional Branch in Lublin
  • Kutyłowska I., „Okopek” w Zalesiu, woj. lubelskie - fortalicjum z XVII wieku, “Archeologia Polski środkowowschodniej”, vol. II., 1997, pp. 186-187.

General information

  • Type: hillfort
  • Chronology: XVII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Zalesie
  • Location: Voivodeship lubelskie, district kraśnicki, commune Wilkołaz
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland


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