Mysterious medieval fortifications buried in Poland detected with advanced imaging technology
Archaeologists discovered evidence of unknown medieval fortifications which may indicate the presence of Hussite clashes near a small village in Poland. They found indications of the fort buried in wooded foothills near the village of Bieździadka in south-eastern Poland, the site was examined by archaeologists Joanna Pilszyk and Piotr Szmyd. Based on the report from Science and Scholarship in Poland (PAP), the fortifications were discovered underground using sophisticated laser detection and aerial mapping.
Returning to the fort in Bieździadka, it is said to have sat on top of a plateau with steep sides; the sheer slope and height of over two meters (6.5 feet) naturally protected the stronghold. Moats were believed to surround the site and high fences or palisades are likely to have run along the perimeter. The age of the fort is not known, but researchers say it was probably built during the Middle Ages too.
Piotr Szmyd told PAP, “The area of the settlement is intriguing. Together with the embankments, it occupies an area of only 900 square meters. This small space could accommodate only one small house or defence tower.”
Reconstructed fortification of a type described by archaeologists examining the buried site in Bieździadka, Poland. (Ludek/CC BY SA 3.0)
From the evidence found, researchers presume that the fort was purposefully hidden away from sight, between hills, as its vantage point would not have made it ideal as a watchtower. The fact that the site is in a location far from the main rivers reinforces the archaeologists’ theory.
The site is known to locals and referred to as “Cat Castle” (Koci Zamek). This name indicates that the fort was built by Hussites in the 15th century as they were escaping from Czech lands. Local legend also indicates there may be remains buried there.
The Hussites were followers of Jan Hus, Bohemian priest and religious reformer of the early 1400s. The group formed a major military power which included most of the Czech population. They broke with Rome and collectively fought against monarchs who tried to enforce the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
Jan Zizka leading troops of radical Hussites. From the Jensky kodex, between 1490 and 1510. (Public Domain)
During the Hussite Wars, which spread across Central Europe (modern day Hungary, Poland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine) and the Czech Kingdom between 1419 and 1434, the Hussites became known for their warfare tactics, which included mobile forts, artillery, and their use of early firearms known as hand cannons.
The Hussite Wagenburg. Several of these wheeled wagon forts could be arranged into a rectangle or circle to form a temporary or improvised military camp. (Public Domain)
It is wondered if the evidence found at the site may reveal a camp of these mobile fortifications.
Researchers used airborne laser scanning (ALS) and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) images to examine the site. APA reports that the LiDAR device “emits laser pulses in the direction of the ground from the transmitter suspended under a moving airplane. Echoes that return to the receiver after reflection from the obstacles are then subject to further measurements. The method allows to virtually remove trees and other obstacles, and obtain the terrain elevation data. It is then possible to discover archaeological objects with their own landscape forms such as burial mounds, embankments or relics of settlements.” LiDAR technology was developed in the 1960’s to analyze oceans and ice in the Arctic, but has been employed since in topography, geology and mapping around the world.
In 2017, researchers also used airborne laser scanning technology to identify the location of the 700-year-old abandoned Medieval village of Goschwitz – a site which was missing for 70 years. Goschwitz was founded in the late 13th century by the Duke of Löwenberg, Bolko I the Strict. No one can say for certain why the village was abandoned just 50 years after its founding. An interesting, yet somewhat unlikely, hypothesis suggests the village was destroyed during the Hussite Wars. Excavations are needed before researchers can say with more certainty what was the root cause of the village’s mysterious abandonment.
The Bieździadka site was surveyed and investigated in 2014, but metal detectors did not reveal any historical objects which would fill in the information gaps for researchers.
Whoever built the strangely hidden fortifications, and for what purpose, remains a mystery to the locals and experts for now. Piotr Szmyd concludes that the only way to find out more is to continue the archaeological research at the mysterious medieval site in Poland.
Top Image: Image showing the hypothetical recreation of the newly discovered site. Source: (PAP)
By Liz Leafloor