Scientists in Poland say they have made a surprising find at a well-excavated archaeological site in the southeast: the oldest stone wall ever discovered in the country. Dating to the Bronze Age, the wall, constructed of thick stone slabs, was found at the site of Zyndram’s Hill in Maszkowice beneath a settlement occupied throughout the first millennium BCE. The early stone wall is much older; based on radiocarbon dating of organic materials discovered with the architectural elements, the researchers estimate it dates to between 1750 BCE and 1690 BCE.
It’s a highly unusual find not only for Poland but for the wider region, the archaeologists said. "In the whole Central Europe there are only a dozen sites dated so early with more or less well-preserved stone fortifications,” Jagiellonian University researcher Marcin S. Przybyła said in a press statement. “At that time, the use of the stone as a building material was typical of the Mediterranean areas. In the temperate zone of Europe until the Middle Ages, fortifications were built with wood and clay."
The archaeological site on Zyndram’s Hill in Maszkowice, with the artificial flattening of the peak clearly visible. Image credit: A. Maślak via PAP
The structure was built on a hilltop that had been flattened in antiquity to create an inhabitable plateau of about 1.2 acres. Clay from the hilltop was used to build a terrace on the eastern and northern slopes of the hill. The interior wall was constructed of large, 1.5-foot-long sandstone blocks held together with clay. It was fortified with a retaining wall forged from huge, 3-foot-long blocks. The wall was almost 460 feet long and nearly nine feet tall, and bordered by a trench about five feet deep. This formidable wall was both structural and defensive, surrounding the eastern and northern sections of the settlement.
A researcher takes measurements near the base of the retaining wall where large stones slid down the slope and tipped over. Image credit: M.S. Przybyła via PAP
The archaeologists suspect its builders were not natives to the region—or at least likely imported the know-how to build such a structure from elsewhere. Przybyła says the size and style of the construction is closer to Bronze Age civilizations in the Mediterranean than to any cultural traditions of Central and Western Europe.
That idea is bolstered by the previous discovery of a foreign artifact at the site—a so-called violin idol. “Such statuettes were produced in large amounts in Mycenaean Greece, and [the] Northern Balkans," Przybyła said.