Ancient (probably Celtic) cult sculpture of a bear at the top of Mount Slęża.

The Forgotten Celtic History of Ancient Poland

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The ancient history of Poland is more connected with Goths and other local tribes than with the Celts. However, during many excavations archaeologists have discovered links between the modern territory of Poland and old Celtic tribes.

For example, archaeological excavations show that the Celts arrived and created a settlement in Poland. They probably came via the area of Morawy in the Czech Republic circa 400 BC. The first group arrived to Lower Silesia, south from the city Wroclaw. Another group of Celts created settlements in the area near Crackow (Kraków), and all the area of Lesser Poland Voivodeship.

By studying the discovered sites, Polish researchers started to realize that the culture of the territory of Poland in the late Iron Age was highly influenced by the Celtic culture. Poland has never been a part of the Roman Empire, so the influence of mixed aspects of different pre-Roman tribes, including the Goths, Scythians, etc., created the earliest history of the country in Central Europe.

Expansion of the Celtic peoples beginning with the core La Tène culture area (from 450 BC, orange), developing over the older Hallstatt culture area (green); maximum distribution around 300 BC (brown).

Expansion of the Celtic peoples beginning with the core La Tène culture area (from 450 BC, orange), developing over the older Hallstatt culture area (green); maximum distribution around 300 BC (brown). ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The Peaceful Cultural Domination of the Celts

What's interesting is that there is no proof of conflict between the Celts and the tribes which were conquered by them. It seems that they didn't fight, but accepted each other and united their powers. The Celtic settlements contain elements of autochthonous cultures. They came to Poland perhaps due to economic issues.

Poland has always been a very good place for farming and mining. The land was rich in iron ore, copper ore, salt, gold, etc. Moreover, previous settlements of the Celts were overpopulated. Controlling the land of current Poland was also important due to the value of the Amber Trail, which was one of the most important trade trails of the ancient world.

The first groups were established in Silesia on the left bank of the Oder River. Excavations show that they were there in approximately 400 – 120 BC. The characteristic Celtic burials and other examples for Celtic sites were discovered in and around the village of Glubczyce.

Another site, in Wojkowice, contained a well preserved grave of a woman from the 3rd century BC. Inside the grave, researchers discovered Celtic treasure of iron bracelets, rings, chains, and brooches.

The remains of a Celtic bracelet found in Pakoszówka near Sanok.

The remains of a Celtic bracelet found in Pakoszówka near Sanok. ( Archeolog.pl)

Other important settlements have been discovered near the San River and in the area of the city of Crackow. It is believed that Celts lived in this area between 270 and 170 BC. With time, the tribe changed their location and mixed with the local group of people in Tyniec, where they created a strong society.

In the 1st century BC, the small group traveled to the North. In those times, the Northern part of Poland was dominated with different cultures - including the Goths. In the region called Kujawy, archaeologists have found proof for the existence of a Celtic settlement. The last time when the interaction between Celtic tribes and others is known, and dates to 170 AD when they were noted by the Puchov culture.

The Celtic Influence on Other Cultures

Celts brought advanced agricultural and other skills to Poland. They had already made more complicated inventions, tools, and had other achievements which put their civilization higher than tribes they met in the new land. Celtic farmers knew perfectly what to do with the rich land they could farm. They also used plows with iron shares, fertilized fields, etc. It was something very new for this area. They also brought seeds which were unknown before.

Apart from this, they conveyed advanced manufacturing techniques, including ceramic shops which used the potter's wheel. Celts had the technologies of baking, painting vessels, making glass, and producing impressive jewelry with the use of gold and semi-precious stones.

Classic potter's kick-wheel at Erfurt, Germany.

Classic potter's kick-wheel at Erfurt, Germany. ( Public Domain )        

Before the arrival of the Celts, there were no contacts with Greek cities and Etruria in this area. It is possible that they also influenced the trade between the Baltic and Adriatic seas. They were certainly selling Baltic amber to Southern Europe. In the 1st century BC they started to make gold, silver and other metals coins near Crackow.

Comments

Justan,

One of the largest underground salt mines is the Wieliczka Salt Mines near Krakow, Poland. I don't think the celts knew about these mines, but perhaps there were salt deposits in the area back then?

Really enjoyed this article. Wow, the Celts knew how to get themselves around didn't they!

Thank you for this great article, It's very well written and fascinating!

Very interesting article, however the translation from Polish to English is fair at best which makes the article difficult to read. Someone that understands English as a primary language needs to help this person write an article that is clearly written. Statements like "which put their civilization higher than tribes they met in the new land". Come on, you can do better than that.

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