Leading a group of students across some marshy fields 90 kilometers northeast of Poznan, Poland, school teacher Walenty Szwajcer noticed some fragments of pottery and wooden poles. The water levels had gone down that summer. At first he believed them to be the roofs of sunken houses, but what he discovered 85 years ago today was actually a window into a lost world.
The oak and fir poles were part of a fortified settlement dating from the Iron Age, around 780 B.C. Its builders had lived on the Biskupin peninsula raising sheep, goats, pigs, cattle and tarpan horses. The site was so well-preserved that Biskupin would soon be nicknamed “the Polish Pompeii.” The teacher would received numerous accolades from the Polish government for his extraordinary discovery, which is celebrated in today’s Doodle.
Eminent archaeologist Józef Kostrzewski, who began the excavation of Biskupin in 1933, uncovered streets, more than 100 houses, a breakwater and the palisades that protected the settlement. The sophistication of the settlement’s architecture transformed our understanding of the Iron Age, winning Biskupin a place in scholarly articles and textbooks, even today.
In later excavations, teams of conservationists meticulously recovered more than 5 million artifacts dating from the Paleolithic Age to the Middle Ages. Objects made of bronze, stone, and iron provide crucial insights into the lives of the people who lived there centuries ago. Biskupin remains one of the most important historic sites in Europe, demonstrating the accomplishments of early Lusatian culture.
A museum there welcomes more than 150,000 visitors a year, many of whom first learned of Biskupin in classrooms and an annual festival keeps the history of this ancient settlement alive.