Late Bronze Age foundry discovered in central Poland

Remains of a bronze foundry was discovered in Szczepidło, central Poland, dating back 3500 years, to the Late Bronze Age. The site was occupied by people of the Tumulus culture, distinguished among others for the practice of burying the dead beneath burial mounds.

Bronze arrowhead found in situ (by Przemysław Makarowicz)

The Late Bronze Age people of the Tumulus culture were so far known mostly for their characteristic burial practices. Within such mounds researchers have been finding bronze artefacts, attesting to the knowledge of bronze production among this Prehistoric community. But so far no bronze foundry was ever found, which makes the discovery in Szczepidło unique. Archaeologists managed to discover a whole settlement by the Warta river dating 3500 years back. The settlement contained remains of houses and farmyards with dug in cellars and pits for storage of food. The settlement covered about 3 hectares at its peak activity and contained houses built in a planned pattern. Archaeologists estimate that it could have been inhabited by between 50-70 people at the same time.

Excavations at the site (by Przemysław Makarowicz)

Archaeologists managed to recover over 20000 various artefacts, mostly pieces of pottery vessels, flint and bone tools. Among the finds was a feature believed to be a foundry workshop, that allowed to reconstruct the whole bronze production process. The foundry was an open building allowing the smoke and fumes to disperse. Bronze was possibly melted in open hearths. Temperature of about 900-1000 degrees C was obtained by pumping air through bellows, of which clay nozzles were preserved. Within the remains of the structure 150 bronze artefacts were discovered, including arrowheads, rods, pins, various clothing adornments, half-products, lumps of bronze, and also slag, crucibles, foundry spoons and tools. Some of the artefacts wear signs of crafting. The foundry is believed to be first find of the kind in Central Europe.

Bronze arrowhead (by Przemysław Makarowicz)

Most of the found bronze artefacts were defective or cast unsuccessfully, that’s why they were discarded during production, possibly with the intention of melting them again. Archaeologists determined that the bronze, as an alloy produced from tin and lead, that was used in production contained high proportions of tin. The chemical composition of bronze artefacts and their style suggests that bronze metallurgy was probably introduced in the region from the areas of Czech and Silesia.

Tumulus culture vessel (by Przemysław Makarowicz)

(after Nauka w Polsce & Przemysław Makarowicz)

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