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    Unveiling the Treasures of the Saxon Palace: A Digital Journey through History

    Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

    Digitalization, Description, and Popularization of 150 Most Interesting Artifacts from Archaeological Excavations at the former Saxon Palace on the website of the Museum of Warsaw is the goal of a project led by archaeologist Ewelina Więcek-Bonowska.

    The Museum of Warsaw houses artifacts from the excavations conducted in 2006 and 2008 on the site of the former Saxon Palace.

    “It is a vast material, totaling over 30,000 pieces, but because they are archaeological artifacts, after analysis, it may turn out that, for example, only one or two vessels can be reconstructed from 5,000 fragments. So, the number will probably decrease, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is truly substantial,”

    explained archaeologist Ewelina Więcek-Bonowska, the project leader of “Saxon Palace – Fragments of the Past in a Digital Narrative.”

    “These artifacts were unearthed during excavations, the first of which was carried out in 2006 by renowned Warsaw field archaeologist Ryszard Cędrowski. They covered the entire area of the former Saxon Palace, including the north and south wings, the connector where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is now located, and a portion of the adjacent area of Brühl Palace. The excavations continued in 2008 in the section closer to Królewska Street. They encompassed not only the area where the Palace was situated but also its surroundings, especially today’s Piłsudski Square, where various buildings related to the Palace stood throughout history. These were so-called preemptive investigations conducted before the planned reconstruction of the Saxon Palace in 2006,”

    she explained.

    During the excavations, numerous objects related to daily life within the Palace and its vicinity were discovered. According to the archaeologist, these artifacts spanned from the period before the Saxon era when there was a small palace belonging to Morsztyn, through the Saxon times, the late 19th century when Fryderyk Chopin’s parents lived in the right wing with their son and daughter, to the times of the Second Polish Republic when various institutions operated within the Palace.

    “These are primarily objects of everyday use, fragments of tableware, clothing, buttons, and items associated with the printing press that was located there. There are also items related to pharmacy because thanks to these excavations and subsequent archival research, it turned out that there was a royal pharmacy on the grounds of the Palace during the Saxon era. It is interesting because usually there was only one pharmacy in the cities with royal privileges, and in Warsaw, it was located in the current Castle Square. It is a unique and fascinating discovery for the history of the city. Therefore, there are also many objects related to pharmacy, such as stoneware jars with the Saxon monogram,”

    the archaeologist explained.

    She mentioned that objects related to vices were also found, such as fragments of pipes, both the well-known Dutch pipes and Turkish hookahs. “There are items associated with the military history of this place, with various events throughout history. These include musket balls, as well as cartridges related to later firearms, fragments of uniforms, and a whole range of items related to the life and decoration of the Palace and the events that took place around it,” she emphasized.

    Referring to the grant entitled “Saxon Palace – Fragments of the Past in a Digital Narrative,” which she leads, she admitted that it was not easy to select the 150 most interesting artifacts from nearly 1,600 objects deemed to have high cognitive and historical value out of the mentioned 30,000 found during the excavations. “The idea of the grant is to include these 150 artifacts that can best illustrate various fields related to the findings, through a broad concept of digitalization and dissemination to the public,” the archaeologist said.

    “Currently, it can be said that these 150 artifacts have already been digitized, and descriptions providing information about the discovery, chronology, and place of excavation have been created for each of them. Fifteen of them will also have extended descriptions, providing a deeper insight into, for example, a bottle of original French Benedictine. This includes information about when this drink, which was originally more of a medicine than a beverage, was invented. All of this will ultimately be posted on the Museum of Warsaw’s website on the Collections portal,”

    she explained.

    “I tried to select these 15 objects in such a way as to illustrate various areas. They are interesting objects related to the medical history of Warsaw, such as bottles of mineral water mainly imported from Germany and the Czech Republic. There is also the mentioned stoneware jar with a monogram, as well as glass bottles of medicines from the 18th century. They also include elements of decoration, especially tiles that adorned the walls. There will also be two longer popular science texts about health in the Saxon era and table culture and associated customs of that period. They will be illustrated with a bathing jug, plates, and cups. An interesting button with a signature will refer to appearance-related matters,”

    she said.

    The idea of the project, as she emphasized, is also to increase knowledge about the history of the Saxon Palace and related matters. “I think the significance of the Saxon Palace was very important. It had great symbolic value as a royal residence, and it was also an architecturally important element of the Saxon axis, which, although only partially realized, gave us the beloved Saxon Park, among other things. The Saxon Palace quickly became a part of Warsaw’s urban fabric. Although we still had separate jurisdictions at that time, this project also initiated certain changes that transformed these separate areas into a cohesive city that we have today,” the archaeologist emphasized.

    “Let’s also remember that if the Saxon Palace and the institutions housed within it during the Second Polish Republic did not have such significance and symbolic dimension, the Germans would not have diligently destroyed it after the fall of the Warsaw Uprising. After all, they did not blow up all the palaces in Warsaw. I believe that today’s debates about the idea of its reconstruction partly stem from the fact that during the communist era, the achievements of the Saxon period were marginalized. My research work was also related to debunking the myth that it was a period of cultural decline, which is not true. I think the significance of the Saxon Palace is very important, and the idea of its reconstruction is absolutely justified,”

    she concluded.

    The finalization of the project “Saxon Palace – Fragments of the Past in a Digital Narrative” is planned for late autumn. Its partners are the Scientific Association of Polish Archaeologists in Warsaw and the Saxon Palace Ltd.

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