Medieval metal faces found in Poland

Archaeologists have discovered 200 metal and ceramic artifacts from the Middle Ages in the village of Poniaty Wielkie, east-central Poland. The artifacts are remarkably varied, ranging from jewelry to devotional objects to spurs, and date from the 11th to the 12th/13th century.

Two pieces are of particular note: a copper alloy fitting in the shape of a surprised face, and a small lead plate shaped like a placid/sleeping/contented face. The lead object may have been a seal. The Home Alone face was likely a garment fitting or belt buckle as it has clear mounting holes on the ears. These types of artifacts have not been found in what is now Poland before. They are stylistically similar to pieces made by the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian borderlands.

The area was known to have been settled in the Middle Ages, but it was never archaeologically excavated until 2019 before construction of new gas reservoirs. Two seasons of digs revealed evidence of the medieval town’s commercial activities — furnaces, wells, slag and partially finished metal goods.

Despite the fact that the settlement was situated within the borders of the then Polish lands, many monuments that have been discovered there so far come from the eastern territories, including in Rus, the discoverers point out.

According to [lead archaeologist Jakub] Affelski, the settlement in Poniaty Wielkie could play several roles: perhaps it was a metallurgical center that produced items for nearby castles in Nasielsk and Pułtusk. This is evidenced by the found fragments of slags and metal semi-finished products. In turn, numerous metal seals indicate that it was used for large-scale trade. It is unclear for researchers why there are so many metal objects left in the settlement, which were highly valued at the time. – There is no indication that its end was brought by the invasion – we found no evidence of armed aggression. It is still a big puzzle for us – he concludes.