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Poland's Teutonic castles are still full of mysteries

Teutonic knights built castles in Chełmno Land between the 2nd half of the 13th century and the second half of the 14th century. They served the political, military, economic and propaganda purposes, and now are characteristic points in the landscape. We still do not know everything about their functions and architectural solutions. An extensive research project focusing on the Teutonic castles has just started.

Poland's Teutonic castles are still full of mysteries
Castle in Papowo Biskupie - fragments of point clouds from terrestrial laser scanning showing the walls of the castle
 in Papowo Biskupie. A, B - colouring based on the intensity of the reflection of the laser beam, C - actual colouring
 of point clouds based on digital photography [Credit: S. Tyszkowski]
New research into Teutonic fortresses is carried out since June by Dr. Marcin Wiewióra of the Department of Archaeology of Architecture at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and his team. The project is financed with a grant from the National Programme for the Development of Humanities. Within three years, researchers will carry out interdisciplinary work within five castles that have not yet been subject to such advanced analyses.

"We have just started the first non-invasive studies, conducted by researchers from the University of Warsaw, in the castles and castle grounds in Starogród and Unisław" - Dr. Wiewióra told PAP.

"We focus on the castles that can give us answers to key questions" - he said. According to the archaeologist, and it is still not known, for example, exactly when the Teutonic knights began building castles, and whether their construction was preceded - as suggested by some of sources - by earlier defensive settlement (Prussian, Slavic). Or rather, which in turn the results of archaeological research already carried out in some of them indicate, were the castles built in places that had not been inhabited before? Some of the castles are preserved in poor condition, or not visible on the ground at all. Researchers want to know their original appearance.

Poland's Teutonic castles are still full of mysteries
The first imaging of the results of non-invasive surveys of the high castle and the castle grounds in Unisław. Visible magnetic
 anomalies indicate the elements of the old castle located underground [Credit: K. Misiewicz, Malkowski W.]
"The results so far are very intriguing. During the geophysical surveys within the castle in Unisław our equipment registered possible preserved remains of the walls, which are not visible on the ground" - said Dr. Wiewióra. Similar finds accompanied the work in Starogród.

Researchers used a drone to map the area of the castles in Bierzgłowo, Starogród and Unisław. During the summer and late autumn they will carry out non-invasive research in previously not surveyed castles in Lipieniek, Bierzgłowo and alleged second ward of the castle in Papowo Biskupie.

"For years, attempts have been made of a holistic view of the problems of Teutonic castles, but the state of knowledge is insufficient. This applies particularly to the chronology of the subsequent stages of construction, topography and spatial system of the castles, the functions of each building element" - noted the researcher.

Poland's Teutonic castles are still full of mysteries
Interpretive map of the most important separate magnetic anomalies in the Starogród castle grounds 
[Credit: W. Małkowski, K. Misiewicz]
He added that the method of erecting castles - despite identification attempts made by several experts - requires correction and verification.

Project completion is scheduled for 2019,, followed by a publication.

More information about the project can be found on the website

Author: Szymon Zdziebłowski | Source: PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland [August 04, 2016]

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