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Medieval sword drawn from Lednica Lake, Poland     Source: Nicolaus Copernicus University

Medieval Sword Found Preserved in Polish Lake is Over 1000 Years Old!

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Polish archaeologists have found a rare medieval sword and other artifacts from the period at the bottom of a lake in Poland. This important artifact has been dated and is over 1000 years old. The weapon was found in a lake that has connections with the Piast dynasty , which was highly influential in the history of Eastern Europe and the Christianization of Poland . The remarkable find was made by experts from the Nicolaus Copernicus University and the Museum of the First Piast. The rare medieval sword was found at the bottom of Lednica Lake. Archaeologists have been investigating the lake since the 1950s. It has been the subject of so much research because of its rich archaeological finds and its importance in Polish history .

The hilt of the rare medieval sword found in the lake with its intact leather scabbard. (Nicolaus Copernicus University)

The hilt of the rare medieval sword found in the lake with its intact leather scabbard. ( Nicolaus Copernicus University )

The First Polish State and The Lednica Lake Area

Lednica Lake and the area that surrounds it were very important in the Early Medieval period for key developments leading to the first recorded Polish state. The lake is near the first capital of the Piast Dynasty, and where the first episcopal seat was established in nearby Poznań.  It is believed that Duke Mieszko I was baptized and became a Christian on an island in the lake.

Archaeologists, using diving gear, explored an area of the lake near the historic island of Ostrów Lednicki, which was the site of an important Slavonic settlement. They focused their investigations on an area where ancient two bridges were found in 2017. The bridges connected Ostrów Lednicki island to the shore and another island. The oldest of the two bridges was dated to the 10 th century using dendrochronological analysis . These bridges were several hundred feet (30 m) long and were remarkable feats of engineering.

Archaeologist diver retrieving the sword from the lake. (Nicolaus Copernicus University)

Archaeologist diver retrieving the sword from the lake. ( Nicolaus Copernicus University )

Discovery of the Rare Medieval Sword, Arrowheads and More

Adjacent to the remains of one of the old bridges the team retrieved over 20 objects from the lake. They found arrowheads, crossbow bolts , two axe heads, and a sickle that date from the 13 th century AD. The axe heads discovered at the site were similar to ones made in Scandinavia in the 10 th century AD. This is also where the rare medieval sword was discovered. Archaeology professor and marine archaeologist specialist Andrzej Pydyn told The First News Daily that “This is probably the richest season in a dozen years. Not only because of the number of objects, but also their value and the context in which they were found.”

The rare medieval sword, the prized find at this site, is encrusted and ornately decorated. The sword is one of several retrieved from the bottom of the lake over the years. Professor Pydyn, told The First News “The most spectacular find of this research season is the eighth sword found in Lednica Lake, the first in 20 years.”

Medieval arrowheads found on the bottom of Lednica Lake (Nicolaus Copernicus University)

Medieval arrowheads found on the bottom of Lednica Lake ( Nicolaus Copernicus University )

Jerusalem Cross Christian Symbol Found on Sword

The ancient sword was in great condition and still in its original leather scabbard. It seems likely that it was preserved in the environment at the bottom of the lake. The weapon was analyzed using x-rays and a Christian symbol, known as a Jerusalem Cross , was identified on the sword.  While crosses were common in Western Europe at this time, they were very rare in Eastern Europe, especially this type of cross. The weapon has been dated to the 10 th century AD an important period in Polish history. The big question is how did get to the bottom of Lednica Lake.

The sword was decorated with a Jerusalem cross visible on the x-ray picture. (Jakub Kaczmarczyk/PAP)

The sword was decorated with a Jerusalem cross visible on the x-ray picture. (Jakub Kaczmarczyk/ PAP)

The sword and other artifacts are remarkable works of craftmanship and probably belonged to a member of the elite. The First News reports that the “The notable 10th-century sword and axe couldn’t belong to a regular warrior and point to people of importance travelling to Ostrów Lednicki.” The finds date back to the times of Duke Mieszko I when the Polish state was being forged by the Piast dynasty.

One of the Polish archaeologists surfacing with just one of the 20 artifacts found on the lake bottom, including the rare medieval sword. (Nicolaus Copernicus University)

One of the Polish archaeologists surfacing with just one of the 20 artifacts found on the lake bottom, including the rare medieval sword. ( Nicolaus Copernicus University )

Duke Mieszko I was a member of the Piast dynasty, the first dynasty in Poland. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica , “Mieszko brought his state into closer association with western Europe, converted it to Christianity (966), and expanded it to include Pomerania.” The sword was possibly worn by someone connected to these historic events and as such the artifact can provide new insights into a crucial period.

The team also used imaging technology to identify wooden structures on the lakeside. The First News reports that “The most valuable seems to be the remains of the shore fortifications, most probably made of solid oak beams.” Analysis has shown that the shore fortifications date back to the same era as the sword. Professor Pydyn told The First News that the latest finds “shed completely new light on what took place in this area.”  It is now clear that the area was especially important even before the reign of Mieszko I. The archaeologists plan another season at the lake next year and more finds are expected.

Top image: Medieval sword drawn from Lednica Lake, Poland     Source: Nicolaus Copernicus University

By Ed Whelan

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