Bezławki Bioarchaeology

Medieval Bioarchaeology in Poland

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About Bezławki

Wersja Polska • English Version

The Bezławki archaeological site is a Medieval site in North-East Poland near the village of Wilkowo. The region is famous for its beautiful lakes and sprawling countryside. The earliest historical mention of Bezlawki is in 1371 CE. This site was in the territory of Old Prussians, a pagan people who resisted conversion into Christianity for many centuries to be finally conquered by the Teutonic Knight Order. Around 1377 a castle and watchtower was built in the village to accommodate the Teutonic Knights. In the years 1404-1404 it also served as residence of the Lithuanian prince Świdrygiełło. The castle was converted to a church in 1513 and is still standing today.

The goal of the Bezławki Bioarchaeology Project is to better understand the history and life ways of the region and its people through an investigation of the mortuary site in the vicinity of the castle. The site is located at the junction of three roads, and some remains are eroding from the site. At the closure of the study, the skeletons will be securely reinterred, and informative signs will be installed to provide tourists with information about the site’s history. This project stems from years of previous archaeological work on the castle and surrounding area. It is an international collaboration between archaeologists and osteologists through the Slavia Foundation, the University of Gdańsk, Poland, and Humboldt State University, CA, USA. We are honored to be welcomed by the local community.

The mortuary at Bezławki is a unique medieval Prussian site with hundreds of burials, including single and multiple burials of adults, and a large number of juveniles and infants. These were a strong people that survived under varying conditions, and the skeletons include a variety of pathologies and trauma experienced by the inhabitants in the 14th century village. Prussian burial sites are rare to find intact, and so a main goal of this project is analyze burial practices and osteological remains to illuminate the unique features of Prussian life and death. The burials have the potential of representing an interesting mix of burial practices, as the individuals interred at the site were early converts to Christianity.

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