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The Warsaw Voice » Other » October 28, 2009
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In brief
October 28, 2009   
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16th-Century Shipwreck Found
An archeological expedition headed by Waldemar Ossowski from the Marine Archeology Department of the Central Maritime Museum in the northern city of Gdańsk has found an almost complete wreck of a boat that was used to transport bulk cargo. The boat, dated to the 16th century, has been uncovered in the old Vistula river bed in Czersk, 25 kilometers south of Warsaw. It lies at the bottom of a pond dug in the old river bed near Lake Czerskie.

Thirty meters long and 7 meters wide, the boat was one of the largest vessels used on the Vistula River until the end of the 18th century, experts say.

Punts were the most popular means of transportation on the river from the 15th century onward and could carry up to 100 tons of grain.

The wreck is tilted to the port side and fractured in the middle section. The best preserved parts are the flat bottom without a keel and the remnants of the sides. Inside the hull, the archeologists have found the remains of ceramic vessels, nails and a horseshoe.

Dendrochronological dating studies based on the measurements of annual tree rings indicate that wood used to build the punt was cut in the latter half of the 15th century. Further research will make it possible to more precisely estimate the boat's age. Another chronology marker for the Czersk wreck are clasps used to seal the boat. Relying on available typology, the clasps can be classified as produced some time between the end of the 15th century and the first half of the 16th century, the archeologists say.

The bottom is made of seven-centimeter thick oaken staves 34-48 cm in width, butted together and sealed with moss and plaited animal hair. The sealing is pressed into the joints along the bottom with strips of wood and metal clasps.

The wreck shows signs of numerous repairs and so the researchers believe that the boat, originally built in the latter half of the 15th century, might have been still in use at the beginning of the 16th century.

Castle from a Millennium Ago
Archeologists have found the remains of a castle and a settlement from the times of the Piast Dynasty in the village of Susk Nowy near Ostrołęka in northeastern Poland.

"This is the earliest settlement of its kind in this region of Poland," said Jarosław O¶ciłowski from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, who manages the research. The excavations are being carried out by archeologists from the institute and the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw.

The archeologists believe the castle dates back to the 10th-12th centuries. It stood near a village with a marketplace, an inn and craftsmen's workshops. The castle was around 90 meters in diameter and was surrounded by 4-meter-tall embankments. Sections of the embankment have also been uncovered, along with a relatively wide moat that encircled the castle. The archeologists have found numerous broken clay vessels, a bone spoon, a whetstone, and a knife.

Although no known historical records mention a settlement in this location, the traditional name of the place, Okop, Polish for "trench," speaks for itself, the archeologists say. The castle was most likely destroyed at the beginning of the 13th century alongside many others in the area as a result of Prussian, Yotvingian and Lithuanian invasions. Human settlement then relocated to the sparsely populated southern Mazovia between today's Sochaczew, Warsaw and Czersk. Northeastern Mazovia was colonized again starting in the late 14th century.

Protecting Whitefish
Wildlife experts at the Słowiński National Park, aided by researchers from the city of Olsztyn, have set out to protect the common whitefish population in Lake Łebsko in northern Poland.

The researchers aim to foster both natural and artificial reproduction of the fish in a bid to preserve the natural biodiversity of the lake.

"We have been working on a new model of restocking the lake with the species," said Anna Wi¶niewska, Ph.D., from the Faculty of Environmental Protection and Fishery of the Warmia-Mazuria University in Olsztyn. "The idea is to develop and launch educational programs to make the public more aware of whitefish conservation."

The common whitefish of Lake Łebsko is an endemic species with a unique gene pool that is only found in the lake. Many years of observation have shown that the population keeps shrinking and that is why experts say the species needs immediate conservation action.

The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, adopted in Bern in 1979 and ratified by Poland in 1996, lists whitefish (Coregonus) as a protected animal species.

New Finds in Byzantine Basilica
During their 10th archeological exploration season in Marea, a city 45 km southwest of Alexandria, Egypt, Polish archeologists have found an unexplored baptistery and hundreds of bronze coins.

The Polish expedition, headed by Prof. Hanna Szymańska and Krzysztof Babraj, Ph.D., has been organized by the Mediterranean Archeology Center of the University of Warsaw and the Archeological Museum in Cracow.

The baptistery is sized 4.5 by 2.5 meters and is 1.5 meters high. The structure, made of large stone blocks, was adjacent to a well with hollows cut in the walls by people who cleaned the well inside. The water used during baptism ceremonies came from a lake or underground springs.

The baptistery is the second place of this kind found in the Marea basilica.

The archeologists have also uncovered two massive structures that most likely used to separate a small space sheltering the entrance to either a church or a side shrine. Pieces of a marble basin for holy water were scattered there.

The archeologists from Cracow have also unearthed the foundations of a pulpit that was accessed directly from the shrine. Two passages, paved with a mosaic, led from the pulpit to the south and north. The ancient builders had used bits of amphorae as a stabilizing layer.

In the northwestern corner of the basilica, the archeologists have found a cellar consisting of two chambers that were in part carved out from solid rock. When it was unearthed, the cellar contained 100 or so small water vessels and oil lamps and a deposit of several hundred bronze coins. The cellar used to be aired through two ventilation ducts.

Medieval Chapel Unearthed
In another project, Poznań archeologists have discovered the foundations of a chapel that was built in their city by Dobrawa (D±brówka), the wife of Poland's first historical ruler Mieszko I. Dated to the 10th century, the building was the earliest Christian chapel in Poland, the archeologists say. It adjoined Mieszko I's stone residence.

According to Prof. Hanna Kócka-Krenz, who heads the archeological team, the chapel had an unusual shape for that period. "The presence of parallel foundations indicates that the chapel was built on a square or rectangular plan with an apse-rather than in the form of a rotunda, as was usually the case in those times," Kócka-Krenz says. "We are at the stage of uncovering the chapel's apse. The only question is whether it was the main and only apse or whether we have to do with a more complex design."

Compiled by Tadeusz Belerski

Helping Hedgehogs
Sick and injured hedgehogs will undergo treatment at a new facility under construction at Kopna Góra in the Knyszyn Forest near Supra¶l, Podlasie province. Experts say the hedgehog therapy center is needed because a growing number of hedgehogs, a protected species, are killed and injured by cars. Financial support for the new facility comes from the "Our Hedgehogs" Polish Association for Hedgehog Protection that was recently registered in Białystok.

The location follows an agreement with the Regional Forest Authority in Białystok. The local arboretum, managed by the forest district office in Supra¶l, will become home to hedgehog rehabilitation trails and educational paths for visitors to watch hedgehogs, while a small building nearby will host educational activities for children and youth, in addition to exhibitions and seminars.

The first hedgehogs will be brought to the center before they start winter hibernation. In the spring, they will be released in selected sites in the Knyszyn Forest.
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