New discoveries at medieval village of Trójca

Recent excavations in southeastern Poland have uncovered a wealth of late medieval finds including arrowheads, pottery, and silver denarii

A wealth of 11th- and 12th-century artefacts has been unearthed during the latest season of excavation at the archaeological site of Trójca, once a medieval village situated in the west of what is now the town of Zawichost, in the Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship of Poland, shedding new light on Trójca’s role as an important trade and craft centre in late medieval Europe.

General view of the archaeological research area at Zawichost-Trójca.
IMAGE: courtesy of Marek Florek / Wojciech Rudziejewski-Rudziewicz

Though little is known about the history of Trójca before it was incorporated into Zawichost in 1954, archaeological findings made here over the last century, along with its location near a ford on the Vistula River, indicate that it may have been a former stronghold.

The first investigations were carried out at the site in 2020–2021, with the aim of uncovering evidence of a medieval settlement, and of a battle fought in 1205 between the Ruthenian army and Polish knights.

Hoard of almost 1,900 silver coins from the 12th century.
IMAGE: courtesy of Marek Florek / Wojciech Rudziejewski-Rudziewicz

Initial metal detecting surveys, followed by excavation work, yielded finds from multiple distinct periods of occupation, including a Late Neolithic polished flint axe, and iron slag left over from metalworking activity during Roman-era occupation.

Last year’s investigation also uncovered two spectacular silver hoards. The first comprised nearly 1,900 12th-century coins, mainly denarii of Bolesław IV the Curly and Władysław II the Exile.

Twenty-six silver coins, coin fragments, and silver ornaments. Though dispersed by field ploughing, they are thought to have been deposited in a container, perhaps a leather or linen bag, as some items were found stuck together.
IMAGE: courtesy of Marek Florek / Wojciech Rudziejewski-Rudziewicz

The other hoard (pictured above) is thought to have been deposited around the 11th century. It comprises 26 silver coins and coin fragments including denarii of Otto II and Adelaide, Arabic dirhem, English coins of King Æthelred I, as well as small pieces of silver ornaments decorated with filigree and granulation.

The latest season of fieldwork was completed this October, and has revealed that the medieval settlement occupied an area of at least 20 hectares.  

Excavating Zawichost-Trójca in October 2022.
IMAGE: courtesy of Marek Florek / Wojciech Rudziejewski-Rudziewicz

A wealth of mostly 11th- and 12th-century artefacts have been unearthed over the course of the investigations, including thousands of pottery vessel fragments, iron keys, whetstones, spindle whorls, silver and glass rings, devotional articles such as crosses, military apparatus (sword pommels, spurs, and stirrups), and an unusual lead disc imitating a cross denarius.

Iron arrowheads commonly used in Ruthenia were also unearthed, along with iron and lead weights used mainly in Baltic and North Sea regions by Scandinavian merchants.

Bow arrowheads dated from between the 11th and 13th centuries.
IMAGE: courtesy of Marek Florek / Wojciech Rudziejewski-Rudziewicz
Eleventh and 12th century temple rings.
IMAGE: courtesy of Marek Florek / Wojciech Rudziejewski-Rudziewicz

The results of this year’s research support evidence that Trójca was established around the mid-10th century, and became an important supralocal trade and craft centre in early medieval Poland, connecting Eastern Europe with Western Europe, and the Baltic coast with the Carpathian Basin.

Settlement activity decreased at Trójca after the 12th century, however, suggesting that the founding of a stronghold at Zawichost, and the shifting of the bed of the Vistula River (which changed the location of the ford) may have led to its marginalisation.

Iron weights coated with bronze from the 11th century.
IMAGE: courtesy of Marek Florek / Wojciech Rudziejewski-Rudziewicz

These investigations have been led by Dr Marek Florek from the Institute of Archaeology of the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin and Dominik K Płaza from the Regional Museum in Sandomierz, with assistance from the Vistula Search Group of the ‘Szansa’ Association and archaeological institution Trzy Epoki Monika Bajka.

Further research is planned for next year.