Hillfort, Żmijowiska
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

During the early Middle Ages, the hillfort was one of a group of powerful fortified structures clustered inside the Chodelska Valley. It is estimated that the settlement complex in Żmijowiska occupied an area of approx. 2.92 hectares. The entire complex consisted of the strongly fortified hillfort as well as the extensive northern and southern ancillary settlements. The partially reconstructed hillfort has later served as the basis for the establishment of an archaeological open-air museum known as the Museum of Old Slavic Culture - the only open, themed museum in Poland where visitors can experience archaeology first hand and which they can explore on their own regardless of the time of the day. Available attractions include the surviving remnants of the fortifications that had once surrounded the Slavic hillfort, supplemented by the partially reconstructed parts of the defensive structures: the hillfort gate along with the drawbridge, the earthen and wooden rampart as well as the pre-rampart in the form of the so-called “Polish fence”.

Location and description

The hillfort is located in the eastern part of the village of Żmijowiska, about 0.5 kilometres south-east of the clustered village buildings when calculated in a straight line and about two kilometres north of the hillfort in Chodlik. It is situated on an elongated, sandy mound with a surface of 1.5 hectares, positioned at the fork of the Chodelka and Jankówka rivers. The site is known by its local name of “Szwedzkie Okopy” (“Swedish Trenches”).

The settlement complex in Żmijowiska consists of the remnants of a hillfort as well as of two auxiliary settlements. The hillfort is an example of a lowland fortified complex with a surface area of approximately 0.1 hectares and the diameter of approx. 35 metres, designed as a ring fort with a single rampart. The rampart is protected by a double moat. Today, about one-third of the circumference of the rampart, located in the western and the north-western parts of the complex, remain visible in the surrounding terrain. The rest of the rampart has unfortunately been bulldozed during the 1990s. Apart from the hillfort itself, there are also remnants of open ancillary settlements located south and north of the hillfort. Today, the site of the settlement complex in Żmijowiska remains under the protection and care of the Vistula Riverside Museum in Kazimierz Dolny. In years 2005-2012, the Museum has implemented a highly innovative project known as the “Museum of Old Slavic Culture - an open themed museum”, which also involved the reconstruction of parts of the hillfort. The open-air museum has been opened to the public in 2012.


The hillfort in what is now known as the village of Żmijowiska remained in use during the early Middle Ages (late 9th century - 10th century). Unfortunately, the currently available data is insufficient to determine the moment of the hillfort’s destruction or the chronological relations between the hillfort and the surrounding open settlements.

The hillfort in Żmijowiska was originally discovered by A. Chotyński back in 1907. In 1965, during the research programme of the settlement complex in Chodlik, led by A. Gardawski and spanning a number of seasons, the site in Żmijowiska was explored by S. Hoczyk, with the erstwhile designation of the site being “Chodlik - site no. 4”. In 1966, the results of the survey were verified by A. Gardawski, who concluded that the site was, in fact, the Żmijowiska hillfort - a place largely forgotten by the research community and absent from publications on the subject.

Condition and results of archaeological research

The first archaeological works on the site were performed in 1965 by S. Hoczyk; these were subsequently followed up in years 2002-2003 by P. Lis. In years 2006-2007, the exploration of the site was carried on by P. Lis and A. Kacprzak, while in years 2010-2011 A. Kacprzak and S. Załuski performed further works linked to the preparations to establish an archaeological open-air museum on the site of the former settlement.

The location and height plan of the site was drawn up by Ł. Rejniewicz and J. Leszczyńska in 2002.

Surface surveys of the site within the framework of the ‘Archaeological Picture of Poland’ project were carried out in 1980 and were supplemented by the survey performed by P. Lis in 2009.

In 2002, M. Krąpiec carried out dendrochronological and dendrological analyses of the burned-out wood samples discovered in the course of archaeological research.

In the course of the research performed it has been determined that the hillfort originally had a rather small diameter - 25 metres when calculated from the outer rampart; however, the system of fortifications of the hillfort was remarkably sophisticated for its day. The mainstay of the entire system was the earthen rampart reinforced by a wooden structure on top. The height of the earthen structure was more than 2 metres from its base, with the width being up to approx. 6 metres, tapering to a rather more modest 2 metres at the top, where the wooden revetments rose. The rampart was reinforced on both sides by a wall made of wooden logs positioned horizontally on short, transverse supports and held together by piles driven into the earthen structure either vertically or diagonally. No traces of any structures projecting from the apex of the rampart have been identified in the course of the survey. It is believed that the structure may have been a palisade or a fence made of interwoven tree branches, supported by vertical posts. The ramparts of the hillfort were originally protected by two shallow trenches with the depth of just 38-65 centimetres, most likely due to high water table. The presence of groundwater made it difficult to extract the soil needed to build the rampart from just one trench - hence the decision to build another one. An additional revetment in the form of a wooden fence (which formed a single line in the southern section and a double line in the north-eastern section) has also been identified on a high ground which separates both trenches (the so-called pre-rampart). In the eastern part of the rampart (from the direction of the now-vanished ancillary settlement), traces of wooden structures forming part of the wooden gate have been found. The surveys of the inner yard of the hillfort performed so far have failed to yield any traces of residential buildings, with the only findings that have been made being the relatively shallow cultural layers as well as two postholes which may be the traces of buildings that had once abutted the rampart. In the course of the exploration of the site, a large number of moveable artefacts has been obtained, nearly all of them being fragments of clay vessels. Other interesting finds include an axe, a tool reminiscent of an adze, a small, conical arrowhead made of iron, fragments of a limestone spindle whorl as well as pieces of a rotating quern-stone. In addition, a late paleolithic flint core and other flint and ceramic artefacts of the Trzciniec culture have been identified, proving that before the hillfort was erected, the site was also inhabited during the distant prehistoric years as well as in the Bronze Age.

The site serves as an open-air archaeological museum which can be visited for free; there are also additional museums classes, workshops and similar activities available for an extra fee.

Contact information: e-mail: archeologia@mnkd.pl, phone: 81 88 10 277/288 (internal number 55), mobile phone: 517 331 553.

compiled by Ewa Prusicka, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Lublin, 14-10-2014.


  • Gardawski A., Z zagadnień kultury wczesnego średniowiecza południowej Polski, “Rocznik Lubelski” 1966, vol. 9, pp. 9-53
  • Hoczyk S., Sprawozdanie z badań wczesnośredniowiecznego stanowiska IV w Chodliku, pow. Opole Lubelskie, “Sprawozdania Archeologiczne” 1969, vol. 20, pp. 305-312
  • Hoczyk- Siwkowa S., Małopolska północno-wschodnia w VI-X w. Struktury osadnicze. Lublin 1999.
  • Kacprzak A., Zespół osadniczy w Żmijowiskach, woj. lubelskie - badania 2011 r. [in:] Badania archeologiczne w Polsce Środkowowschodniej, zachodniej Białorusi i Ukrainie w roku 2011. Streszczenie referatów XXVIII konferencji sprawozdawczej. (U. Kurzątkowska, A. Zakościelna, J. Libera (eds.)), Lublin 2012, p. 27.
  • Kacprzak A., Grodzisko Żmijowiska - ośrodek archeologi doświadczalnej [in:] Rekonstrukce a prezentace archeologickych objektu 2 (T. Zelenka (ed.)), Destne v Orlickych horach, 2013, pp. 37-48
  • Kacprzak A., Grodzisko Żmijowiska - muzeum i ośrodek archeologii doświadczalnej [in:] Archeologia doświadczalna w Grodzisku Żmijowiska. Eksperymenty 2008-2012 (P. Lis (ed.)), Kazimierz Dolny 2014, pp. 15-20.
  • Kulawczuk M., Lis P., Wczesnośredniowieczny topór z grodziska w Żmijowiskach, pow. opolski, “Archeologia Polski Środkowowschodniej”, 2007, vol. IX, pp. 305-308.
  • Lis P. Badania archeologiczne grodziska w Żmijowiskach, “Powiśle Lubelskie”, no. 1/2003, pp. 9 - 10.
  • Lis P.,Wczesnośredniowieczne grodzisko w Żmijowiskach (gm. Wilków, pow. Opole Lubelskie) w świetle badań archeologicznych, “Archeologia Polski Środkowowschodniej”, 2006, vol. VIII, pp. 85-98
  • Lis P., Sprawozdanie z badań wykopaliskowych w roku 2006 wczesnośredniowiecznego grodziska w Żmijowiskach, pow. opolski, Archeologia Polski Środkowowschodniej, 2007, vol. IX , pp. 107-116.
  • Lis P., Żmijowiska. Na skrzyżowaniu szlaków kulturowych [in:] Hereditas Praeteriti. Additamenta archeologia et historia dedicata Ioanni Gurba Octogesimo Anno Nascendi (H. Taras, A. Zakościelna (ed.)), Lublin 2009, pp. 407-414.
  • Lis P., Program badawczo-edukacyjny ośrodka archeologii doświadczalnej Grodzisko Żmijowiska[in:] Archeologia doświadczalna w Grodzisku Żmijowiska. Eksperymenty 2008-2012 (P. Lis (ed.)), Kazimierz Dolny, pp. 9-14
  • Lis P., Kacprzak A., Grodzisko Żmijowiska - muzeum w krajobrazie [in:] Skanseny archeologiczne i archeologia eksperymentalna (J. Gancarski (ed.)), Krosno 2012, pp. 221-240.
  • Lis P., Kulawczuk M., Wczesnośredniowieczny topór z grodziska w Żmijowiskach, pow. opolski, Archeologia Polski Środkowowschodniej, 2007, vol. IX, pp. 305-308

General information

  • Type: hillfort
  • Chronology: k. IX w. - X w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Żmijowiska
  • Location: Voivodeship lubelskie, district opolski, commune Wilków
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland


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