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    West Pomeranian/ Barrows and skeletal burial discovered on the Hill of Hanged Men in Wolin

    Several barrows and probably the remains of a special construction surrounding one of them, as well as a skeletal burial, were found by the researchers of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of Polish Academy of Sciences (IAE PAN) on Wzgórze Wisielców in Wolin (the Hill of Hanged Men in Wolin). The discoveries on one of the largest early-medieval cemeteries in northern Europe can allow to learn about the customs related to the cult of the dead of Wolinians (citizens of Wolin – editor’s note) at that time.

    “Hangman’s Hill is very important for the archaeology of northern Europe and Poland, especially for Pomerania. This gigantic early-medieval cemetery contains various types of burials – both burial mounds and flat burials: burial mounds and skeletal burials,” Dr Wojciech Filipowiak of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences told PAP.


    He pointed out that it was a “huge reservoir of information” about Wolinians at the time, and perhaps visitors, who were buried here. The rapidly growing city was, until the 12th century, one of the largest commercial centres in Europe at that time.


    As the archaeologist explained, so far, several buried barrows from the early medieval period have been discovered – they are tentatively dated between the 9th and 10th centuries.


    “One of them is very large, several meters in diameter. There was a lot of historic material from the early medieval period. Nearby, on the embankments, we discovered large fragments of burned material, which suggests that there may have been burnt construction here, as well as burial pits,” said Filipowiak.


    He added that this could mean that the barrows were surrounded by some form of structure or that bonfires were burned around them – as a form of worship. He stipulated that these are working hypotheses for now.


    “It’s very interesting – it can tell you a lot about how the people of Wolin honoured their special dead: we’re at a place that is visible from almost every point in town, it’s exposed. It says a lot about both the deceased and the position of those who buried him,” the archaeologist said.


    As he stressed, the person buried in the barrow must have been a significant person, but more information may be provided by additional research – including genetic one, if possible.


    He pointed out that the objects which were discovered in the mounds, i.e., mainly pottery and fragments of burnt bones, were preserved in a very poor condition – the mounds in the cemetery are burials of corpses, so under the mound there were remains collected from a funeral pyre.


    Not far from the largest barrow discovered was also a skeletal burial – probably also from the 10th century.


    “We don’t know anything about it yet, except that it dates from the early medieval period. It was not unusual to find skeletal burials buried in burial grounds”, said Filipowiak.


    As he explained, Wolin is a special place in this case: although skeletal burials are usually associated with early Christianity, they appeared in this town as early as 200 years before its introduction – the reasons are still debated by researchers. It is possible that they were indeed Christians living in a pagan city, or that this form of burial was adopted by Wolin merchants from Western culture.


    Among other discoveries on the hill is an object shaped like a burned boat.


    “Boat burials, usually associated with Scandinavians, could happen in Wolin, but whether it was definitely a boat – we will find out after analyses,” Filipowiak said.


    As the archaeologist added, geophysical surveys are also being carried out, which will make it easier to interpret the discoveries from the excavations, as well as to see the remaining objects on the hill. Archaeologists are also working with archaeobotanists, among others, and radiocarbon studies are planned to determine dating.


    The works carried out on the Hill of Hanged Men by archaeologists from the Wolin workshop at the Centre for Medieval Archaeology of the Baltic Countries of the IAE PAN together with students and volunteers are anticipatory research before the revitalisation of the town park.


    “The investment will cover an area of almost 10 hectares of the City Park, within it we will make, first of all, a 27-meter-high observation tower (…), the visualization indicates that it will be a very pleasant object for the eye,” said the Mayor of Wolin Ewa Grzybowska.


    She added that there will also be a pedestrian and bicycle path with exercise facilities and the amphitheater will be renovated, as well as the statue of Triglav standing on the hill.


    The value of the investment is about 5.5 million PLN, of which 75 percent is EU funding


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