Archaeologists have been studying tombs in Kujawy for over 100 years. Until now, however, the houses of the people who built them were a mystery. Now archaeologists have discovered the settlements where builders lived 5.5 thousand years ago. – We have already discovered over 150 settlements from the period when these monumental structures were created – says the research project leader.
Megalithic tombs are sometimes called “Polish pyramids”. Research on these structures in Kujawy began in the second half of the nineteenth century. Until now, however, it was not known where and how the people who built them lived. Research to unravel this mystery began a decade ago, now scientists have summarized the project. – It was a planned search operation that took place in Kujawy, near the megalithic tombs. We examined a total of 160 square kilometers of the area around the tombs. We have managed to discover over 150 settlements from the period when these monumental structures were created – says the research project leader Dr. Piotr Papiernik from the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum in Łódź.
“The settlements were small, up to 10 families lived in each of them”
As he says, archaeologists used a wide range of methods that made it possible to find not only individual houses, but also larger settlement networks. The choice fell on various types of non-invasive methods: classic surface surveys, which involve crossing the fields in search of monuments on their surface, but also geophysical and geochemical surveys. Aerial photos were also taken with the help of a drone. At the same time, soil science, as well as geological and geomorphological studies were carried out.
– All this allowed us to indicate with complete certainty the places where people lived at the time when the megalithic tombs were erected. The villages were small – up to 10 families lived in each of them, they occupied an area of 1-1.5 hectares – says Dr. Papiernik.
He adds that the buildings had an average area of 25-35 square meters – one family lived in each of them. The archaeologist specifies that there were more settlements in the vicinity of one grouping of Kujawy tombs.
– This means that these tombs were the focal point of a settlement microregion. This is understandable considering that the construction of such a tomb was a considerable construction effort – he adds. According to him, this indicates that the inhabitants of several villages were building one large tomb.
Archaeologists have conducted limited excavations. During the research, it was discovered, inter alia, many bones belonging mainly to cows and much less pigs and sheep or goats. This means that cattle were mainly eaten, scientists believe. Experts also examined pollen of plants in the vicinity of the then villages – multi-meter cores were collected from old lakes. Based on their analysis, they made a surprising finding. It turned out that the degree of deforestation around them was not as high as assumed. As Papiernik says, it follows that the expansion towards the natural environment was not that extensive and perhaps the focus was on livestock rather than agriculture.
There are still quite a few puzzles
Dr. Papiernik emphasizes that there are still many puzzles about the then megalithic community. It is not known, for example, where in Kujawy 5.5 thousand years ago ordinary people were buried.
– The elite was buried in monumental tombs, but we do not know mass cemeteries in this area. And somewhere, these tens of thousands of people, from many generations, must have been buried. Our next goal is their location – he says.
Megalithic tombs of the Kuyavian type (the term comes from Kujawy, where the most similar structures have been discovered so far) are considered to be one of the largest sepulchral structures erected in prehistory in Poland. Kuyavian tombs were erected in the 4th millennium BC. They were built in the shape of an elongated triangle and surrounded with large stone blocks. Their base was 6 to 15 meters wide, and up to 150 meters long. The structures were 3 meters high. As a rule, single elite burials were located under the embankments.
The research conducted so far has been financed from various sources, mainly from the program of the Ministry of Culture, National Heritage and Sport, which runs the National Heritage Institute, and the museum’s own funds, as well as from the support of the Professor Konrad Jźdzewski.
The research was carried out in Kujawy
Main photo source: Shutterstock