History of Teutonic Era Castle Unearthed in Poland Goes Deeper

Investigation of a Teutonic era castle in Poland has revealed deeper secrets of its past. The excavators discovered not only weapons from the medieval period, but an earlier tribal fort and artifacts from a prehistoric Iron Age settlement.

In ancient days “Warmia” was a very profitable, therefore important, region in northern Poland. Founded as a religious diocese in Prussia in 1243 AD, by Pope Innocent IV, this huge generator of agricultural resources (and therefore taxes) was defended by the legendary Teutonic Knights .

Now, the site of a Teutonic-era castle has been uncovered in Pluty, in Warmia-Mazury and the archaeologists discovered the fort was built on top of an earlier tribal Prussian settlement dating to between the 11th-13th centuries. Then, using deep penetrating scanning technology, lying beneath these two early medieval buildings the team of researchers discovered a fortified Iron Age settlement dating to the 5th-3rd century BC.

Find What Lies Beneath The Teutonic Castle

This valuable archaeological site was first discovered and entered into the Pluty, Warmia-Mazury, register of monuments almost a century ago. This is according to a report in Science in Poland , who also reported that while not a trace of any of any of the three ancient structures remains to be seen, steep earthen embankments and moats are still discernible, rising from the relatively level surrounding forest. Thus, what lay beneath the topsoil at this rise in the forested Polish landscape had always been a mystery, until now.

Dr. Rafał Solecki from the Institute of Archeology at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University recently turned a team of investigators onto the site. Using ground penetrating radar a set of high resolution images revealed the subterranean topography of the site. Cutting through the dense undergrowth the digital images revealed the three layers of the fortified settlement in Pluty.

Digital Elevation Model showing the settlement in Pluty

Digital Elevation Model showing the settlement in Pluty (based on data from  www.geoportal.gov.pl, credit: Rafał Solecki)

Untangling The Three Occupation Layers

An article about this unique threefold discovery on the Nauka W Polsce website says that as part of the new research project the archaeologists aimed to define the three different periods of operation. Furthermore, they set out to better understand “how” the site functioned during each construction phase.

Dr. Solecki said the two-story construction from the Teutonic period fortress was built upon a foundation of bricks and stones and surrounded with embankments and moats. Furthermore, the archaeologist and project leader said the researchers “discovered characteristic crafted ceramics as well as arrowheads and bolts. Accounting for these later two items, which are both weapons, the researcher said these suggest the castle was “the target of attacks by the local Prussian population”.

View of the relics of the building's foundation found in the fort in Pluty (credit: Daniel Skoczylas / PAP)

View of the relics of the building’s foundation found in the fort in Pluty (credit: Daniel Skoczylas / PAP)

Deeper Foundations

Scanning beneath the Teutonic period archaeological layer the researchers identified a tribal Prussian fort from around from the 11th-13th centuries and the foundations of a third fort from the early Iron Age (5th-3rd century BC).

It is now known that the embankment of the Prussian settlement was enhanced by the later of Teutonic Knights, and also at this time the site was surrounded by a palisade (a temporary defensive wooden wall.) It is thought that the earth embankments surrounding the entire complex were built by the Teutonic Knights.

Building In Defense Of Polish Taxes

Dr. Solecki believes the wooden Teutonic castle, with its one small tower, was located as such to “strengthen the Teutonic rule in this area.” However, he stressed that the fort was not a common military garrison. Because the artifacts discovered at the site were mostly related to administrative religious procedures it is suspected the castle was “related to the collection of tributes from the local population.” (Look, a return to those aforementioned, all-important taxes.) And so crucial was that medieval tax system that Rome defended it with bands of Teutonic Knights.

Examples of vessels dating back to the early Iron Age from the settlement in Pluty (credit: Daniel Skoczylas)

Examples of vessels dating back to the early Iron Age from the settlement in Pluty (credit: Daniel Skoczylas)

Little is known about the early Iron Age settlement, from which only fragments of pottery have yet been recovered. But these vagaries will all soon dissipate as the archaeologists roll out the next phase of their fascinating project. Now, a further series of non-invasive scans looking closer at the three settlements will hopefully identify the nature of further underground structures, which in turn, will add greatly to what is already known about this three-fold site of ancient fortifications.

 Top image: View of the trench crossing one of the outer ramparts of the fort      Source: Daniel Skoczylas / PAP

By Ashley Cowie


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