New dating of a ringfort dates it 500 years further to the past

Archaeologists conducting excavations at the 14th century ringfort in Rozprza in central Poland, discovered traces of earlier fortifications that can be dated to the end of the 10th century. These new discoveries shift back the site’s dating half a millennium into the past. The researchers state that this may be the case on numerous other sites that were initially studied and dated during archaeological projects conducted in 1960s.

Excavations in Rozprza (by Jerzy Sikora)
Excavations in Rozprza (by Jerzy Sikora)

Dr Jerzy Sikora of the Institute of Archaeology of University of Łódź, who excavated the Rozprza site, believes that this might be the case of many early Piast dynasty sites that were studied in the past due to inaccuracy of the research methods available then. Modern dendrochronological and radiocarbon dating techniques allow for better and more accurate – even precisely to a specific year – dating of structures such as f. ex. ramparts or ringforts.

Wooden structures in front of 14th century rampart (by Jerzy Sikora)
Wooden structures in front of 14th century rampart (by Jerzy Sikora)

In case of the Rozprza ringfort it was previously thought that it was a rather small structure with inner diameter of 18 metres, surrounded by small un-fortified  settlements. Long-term aerial prospection conducted between 2013-2016 and geophysical survey revealed that to South of the outer rampart a borough was located, surrounded by its own additional moat. Small settlements that once were believed to surround the fort turned out to form part of the borough.

Profile wall of the trench cutting into the mound with visible remains of the oldest embankment covered with cubes of turf (by Jerzy Sikora)
Profile wall of the trench cutting into the mound with visible remains of the oldest embankment covered with cubes of turf (by Jerzy Sikora)

The newest discoveries and analysis reveal two periods of the site’s occupation – first dated to the end of 10th century/beginning of 11th and second dated to 14th century. The fort in it’s earlier phase was a small structure surrounded by a dirt rampart covered with cubes of turf. In the later phase it formed a larger settlement with the additional borough, centrally placed motte where supposedly a tower was located. The motte is believed to initially measure 20 metres in diameter.

Late Medieval pottery (by Jerzy Sikora)
Late Medieval pottery (by Jerzy Sikora)

First mention of the site is dated to 11th century. Rozprza was one of the most important ringforts in Central Poland in 12th century and a place where the ducal administration official resided. It held the status of a castellany in 13th century. Dendrochronological dating revealed also that the site was additionally fortified with wooden poles cut down in 1576.

Reconstruction of the 14th century Rozprza ringfort (by Jerzy Sikora)
Reconstruction of the 14th century Rozprza ringfort (by Jerzy Sikora)

(after Nauka w Polsce & Jerzy Sikora)

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