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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 2, 2009
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December 2, 2009   
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Human Bones, Snake Skeletons...
Archeologists from the Maria Curie-Sk這dowska University in the southeastern city of Lublin have discovered the remains of human bones and snake skeletons in graves in Tominy, a village near O瘸r闚, 安i皻okrzyskie province. The finds come from the Middle Neolithic period and date back around 6,000 years, the archeologists say.

The presence of snakes in the graves could have been associated with magic rites, the archeologists say. They are still investigating the finds, examining their age and making photographic and drawing documentation.

The archeologists originally came to the site to examine an Early Neolithic settlement dating back around 7,000 years. In August, they started digging in a new place, which they thought was on the outskirts of the settlement. But they unexpectedly found a burial ground of the Funnelbeaker culture dating back around 5,500-6,000 years to the Middle Neolithic period. They discovered several stone graves typical of that period-small box graves built of lime blocks. In two of the graves, apart from human bones and pottery, the archeologists found exceptionally well preserved skeletons of snakes.

The Funnelbeaker culture was a Neolithic culture that developed from around 3,700 BC to 1,900 BC in what are now Jutland, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Volhynia and Podolia. The Funnelbeaker culture is named after its characteristic pottery-beakers and amphorae with funnel-shaped tops.

Wisent Farms Under Development

Poland's animal husbandry experts plan to build a network of farms to breed wisent, or European bison, the heaviest surviving land animal in Europe.

Such farms are the best way to protect and develop the species, which was until recently threatened with extinction, says Prof. Wanda Olech of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, an adviser to the environment minister and coordinator of the wisent breeding program.

One wisent farm has already been built in the eastern province of Podlasie, Olech says. Similar facilities are planned in the western Lubuskie and Wielkopolska provinces and in southern Poland.

The wisent (Bison bonasus), also known as the European bison, is about 3 m long and 1.8 to 2.2 m tall, and weighs up to 920 kg. It is typically lighter than the related American Bison (Bison bison), and has shorter hair on the neck, head and forequarters, but longer tail and horns.

Poland's wisent population is now so large that their natural habitats in Bia這wie瘸 and Borecka Forests are becoming too small, Olech says. On the other hand, wisent numbers are still not large enough to ensure safety for the species, she adds.

The farms will provide a lot of space and optimum living conditions for the animals, in addition to veterinary care, Olech says.

According to experts, it is necessary to look for new places for the wisent in order to create small herds, distribute the population on a larger area and increase its total size. Herd dispersion may additionally contribute to reducing the risk of disease and the spread of parasites within the population.

Observations conducted by researchers indicate that the wisent do not have enough space in Bia這wie瘸 Forest because they migrate to places outside the forest. At present, the wisent herd on the Polish side of Bia這wie瘸 Forest numbers over 450 individuals. In the middle of the 19th century, there was a record number of wisent living in this forest-1,800. The largest number of wisent were killed during World War I when they were hunted for meat and transported to Germany. Local people also hunted for wisent for the same purpose.

Wisent were reintroduced successfully into the wild, beginning in 1951. At present, the global wisent population exceeds 3,000, but the animal is still on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of endangered species.

Polish Archeologists in Crimea

The defensive walls of the ancient town of Tyritake, a dugout dating back to the times of Khazar rule, and the foundations of an early Christian basilica of the 6th century are among the discoveries made on the Kerch Peninsula in Crimea, Ukraine, by a group of Polish archeologists from the National Museum in Warsaw. The archeologists have been conducting excavations in the area for two years.

Tyritake, an ancient Greek town located in the eastern part in Crimea, was founded by colonists from Ionia in the middle of the 6th century BC. Archeological investigations were first conducted on the site in 1932.

"This year's discoveries allow us to presume that we have managed to locate one of the prewar trenches dug by Polish archeologists," says Alfred Twardecki, head of the project. "Its exploration had been discontinued due to the war while incomplete documentation and topographic changes that took place on the site during World War II made it difficult to locate the place. The latest discovery will greatly speed up our work because it will allow us to combine our discoveries with the prewar excavations. Our goal is to investigate a broad strip of the ancient town from its western to eastern border."

This year, the archeologists started work on three new excavations. They uncovered well-preserved remains of defensive walls dating to the Archaic Period-6th-5th century BC. While working in this part of the excavation site, they also came across well-preserved remains of a stone dwelling older than the walls.

Another interesting find is a dugout dating to the times of Khazar rule. Khazars were nomadic Turkic people who dominated the area between the Caspian and Black Seas from the 6th to 10th century AD.

In their previous excavation season, the archeologists also discovered an early Christian basilica, one of the earliest in the region. This year, Ukrainian officials decided that the building should be reconstructed. In the future, Ukraine's first archeological park will be established on the site of the ancient city.

Compiled by Tadeusz Belerski
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