15th c. axes from largest medieval battle found in Poland

Two 15th century battle axes have been discovered at the site of the Battle of Grunwald in northern Poland. The axes are similar but not identical. One has a longer shaft of a closed type, meaning there’s a dedicated compartment for the handle. The other has a shorter open shaft.

Volunteers have come from all over Europe to survey the battlefield site every year for the past seven years. This year 70 volunteer metal detectorists explored the fields and marshes under the supervision of archaeologists. One of them, Aleksander Miedwiedew, discovered the axe heads in marshy ground about 30 inches below the surface. The waterlogged soil helped protect the axes from corrosion, leaving them in exceptional condition, complete with the original rivets that fastened the axes to their wooden handles.

According to Dr. Szymon Dreja, director of the Museum of the Battle of Grunwald, the discovery of the battle axes are an archaeological sensation.

“In seven years of our archaeological research we have never had such an exciting, important and well-preserved find,” he stressed.

The Battle of Grunwald took place on July 15th, 1410, during the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War. Allied Polish and Lithuanian forces squared off against the German Teutonic Knights in massive forces, more than 50,000 fighters all told, making it one of the biggest battles in medieval Europe, if not the biggest. The Polish-Lithuanian side was victorious and delivered so sound a spanking that almost all of the Teutonic leadership either died on the field or was taken as prisoner of war. This was the turning point not just for the war, but for the Teutonic Order itself which never recovered militarily from the defeat and whose economic power over its monastic state was obliterated by reparations after the war.

This year’s archaeological survey of the battlefield also unearthed several dozen other weapon parts, most of them spear heads.

The museum is not revealing the precise location of the find because they believe that other artefacts are still lying in the ground. For this reason, they are planning more archaeological excavations later this year.

The mystery still waiting to be discovered is the location of the mass grave of knights who died in one of the greatest battles of medieval Europe.

One thought on “15th c. axes from largest medieval battle found in Poland

  1. Great to see that volunteers have come from all over Europe to survey the battlefield, as they had come back then to the (earlier) battlefield(s).

    To give an example, ‘St Bees Man’ was the name given to the extremely well preserved bearded medieval body discovered on the grounds of St Bees Priory, Cumbria, in 1981 (videos from his autopsy are available).

    His identity was subsequently established as that of Anthony de Lucy, 3rd Baron Lucy, who died in 1368, probably killed in the ‘Northern Crusades’, in what is now Lithuania (cf. ‘Prussian Crusade’).

    Here, written between 1411 and 1413 in truly ‘medieval’ orthography, a letter concerning tactics of false retreats, employed by the Knights’ enemies:

    „Liber her meister, […] …wann wenne eyn huffe addir eyne schigkunge tzutrauth wirt, so sintd die Iwthe nicht so rischlichen weddir umbe tzubrengen, wann denne eyn ydirman will yagen, unde waenth, das spil das sey gewunnen unde wissen nicht, das is halp mag seyn vorloren. […assuming that the game is won, not knowing that because of that it is lost.] Unde dorumbe so rothe wir euch, so wir getrwlichste kunnen, das ir die euwirn, so ir hogeste kunnet, mit eren schigkungen tzu haeffe haldet unde mit nichte von enandir losset, so lange bys das ir seet, wie sich euwir vinde huffe hindir dem fluchtigen an lesset. Unde dorumbe so bestellet das fleisseclichen mit euwirn gebitigern, das is veste gehalden werde, wann is kumpth wol das tzu angesichte in sotanem gescheffte, do XX addir dreysig yagen, das die machin, das undirwilen vil schigkunge gebrochin werden, do man wenth undirwilen ffromen tzu schaffen unde kumpth tzu grossem schaden.“


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