Wednesday, 19 February 2020 PL EN | |

Prahistory of Wielkopolska

Exhibition curator: mgr Alicja Gałęzowska

The first archaeological exhibition open to the public was mounted in Poznan in 1882. It was organized by the Museum at the Friends of Science Society of the Poznań region. Later exhibitions were arranged both by Polish and German institutions, and after the independence in 1918 the role of the organizer was taken over by the Wielkopolskie Museum, from which, following the Second World War, Prehistoric Museum (now: Archaeological Museum) split off as a separate entity.

The present Exhibition is yet another permanent display showing the prehistory of Wielkopolska from the beginnings of human settlement until the close of the Ancient period. Today we know that in its investigation of human prehistory archaeology bases overwhelmingly on the remains of material culture and is unable to reconstruct the life of past societies in all its aspects. Still, the abundance of archaeological artefacts in Wielkopolska allows us to gain a fairly extensive knowledge about the region`s past and to demonstrate its prehistory at the Exhibition. The authors of the programme concentrated their efforts on presenting the cultural framework in which archeological artefacts existed and, consequently, their function.

The present, new Exhibition shows one or more main elements of a particular age, with the remaining constituents of the exhibition arranged around them so as to display the essentials in a compact way. They are, eg, reconstructions of dwellings, graves, various constructions such as kilns and workshops, and figural scenes.

The Older Stone Age, the age of the – hunter-gatherers is displayed by a shelter next to which people`s everyday life is demonstrated, including the two most important activities: hunting and food gathering, together with the production of necessary tools, mainly flint.

In the Younger Stone Age, when agriculture and animal husbandry became the mainstay of subsistence, this major change in economy and its influence on other aspects of life (such as construction of permanent settlements with wooden houses, pottery production, weaving and changes in the burial ritual) are manifested in the erection of sizable graves with earth-work mounds or stone-work constructions (megaliths).

The Bronze Age, which witnessed the introduction of the new metal, also saw the growth in material culture, changes in the system of beliefs manifested in the dominance of crematory burial rites, and finally, at the turn of the Iron Age, the advent of wooden fortified settlements (grody); the one in Biskupin is among the best known.

In the Iron Age, with the emergence of a distinctive burial ritual, new graves appeared in the forms of stone chests to contain cinerary urns, often decorated with images of human faces (face cinerary urns twarzowe), with incinerated bones of the dead inside. At this time the Polish territories saw the expansion of the Celts, who introduced great changes into the cultures of peoples inhabiting Europe. New inventions appeared (potter`s wheel, an improved tool for milling grain – a rotary quern) and the religious beliefs underwent a transformation. The rhythm of changes in Wielkopolska was identical with those in other Polish regions.

The political and cultural expansion of Roman Empire intensified the contacts between Central Europe and the Mediterranean world, and led to economic growth of the communities inhabiting the region. Melting of iron and other metals developed on a great scale, different crafts appeared and evolved, and the material culture became more diversified and sophisticated. The end of the age, or, more precisely, of this particular part of the Iron Age, came together with the fall of the Roman Empire and the wanderings of peoples of the “barbaric” Europe in the 5th century after Christ. This led to depopulation of Central Europe and its conquest by the Slavs – and marked the beginning of a new era in the history of Europe – the Middle Ages.

Tomasz Kasprowicz