Iron Age sacrificial deposits found in Poland

Votive deposits of bronze objects from the Iron Age have been discovered near the city of Chełmno in northern Poland. Dozens of bronze ornaments and numerous human bones were unearthed, the remains of sacrificial rituals that took place at the site about 2,500 years ago when the Lusatian culture inhabited the area. The important Lusatian fortified settlement of Biskupin lies just 60 miles southwest of the find site.

Today the area is farmland, but in the 6th century B.C. it was a lake. Leaving metal objects in bodies of water as offerings was a well-known practice in prehistoric Europe and more than 30% of the prehistoric artifacts found in Poland came from water sites. However this is the first lake site in Poland that contains both metal artifacts and human remains.

The lake eventually dried up into a peat bog whose anaerobic environment preserved the artifacts, bones and rare traces of organic materials like rope and textiles. The bog was drained to convert it into the farmland and agricultural work over the years has disrupted the archaeological material and when members of a metal detecting group who work with heritage authorities to survey potential sites of interests scanned the field on January 8th, they found a number of artifacts on the surface of the ground, churned up in recent plowing.

They alerted archaeologists from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń who excavated the site finding three distinct deposit groupings. Objects recovered include neck torcs, bangle bracelets, beads, spirals, large brooches with round spiral heads that look like novelty swirl lollipops, horse harness fittings and parts of a unique necklace decorated with fish tail pendants. Most of the objects are Lusatian in style, but there are a few pieces typical of the Scythian peoples in what is now Ukraine.

So far more than 100 fragments of human bone have been recovered. Lusatians cremated their dead and buried them in large urn cemeteries and these bones are unburned. That suggests they were deliberately sacrificed.

Researchers claim that human sacrifices may have been made due to population shifts and, by extension, invasions.

Dr. Gackowski explained that this happened due to the influx of nomadic peoples from the Pontic Steppe into the region, including the Scythians.

“These people, probably in order to ward off the violent changes associated with the arrival of new neighbours with a completely different organization, appearance and vision of the world, began to practice a variety of rituals,” he said.

The latest finds will now be sent to the University of Science and Technology in Kraków for examination and conservation.