Day 8: Biskupin

We reached a new level of friendship with Frederick, our driver, today when he showed us a picture of him, his wife and dog, and his alpaca. Yes, his alpaca. I’ve started to really look forward to to seeing him greet us every morning with a smile and chuckle every morning. He makes our drives in to town that much more enjoyable even if we can’t actually communicate with him.

The reconstruction of the Neolithic long house in situ.

Today he drove the class, Dr. McGahan, Anna B.C., and Merrick 45 minutes out of Bydgoszcz to a Neolithic and Iron Age cultural center/museum near the modern city of Biskopin. Our guide first led us through a recreated Neolithic community which featured an exhibit of day to day life in these types of communities and the development of technologies in Neolithic farming communities.

Inside of the Neolithic long house.

Nearby, on a site which archaeologists have determined once held a house, the museum has reconstructed what historians believe the long, trapezoidal houses may have looked like (above, right). Outside, there were examples of homemade tools which have been created to mimic those found at the site. We also learned about their possible worship of spring water, cropping and animal husbandry systems, and water transportation.

The reconstructed gate of the Biskupin settlement with a partial wall and two reconstructed longhouses.

Next we toured the Biskupin settlement itself which was built on a peninsula surrounded by marshes and a large lake. This settlement was discovered in 1934 and excavation began years later. The city was highly fortified against attackers and water with a fully enclosing, thick wall

A role player demonstrated how the bread cakes were baked and let us taste them.

surrounding the entire settlement.The museum has built a replica of what the front gate might have lookedlike as well as part of the wall (above). The image of the front gate has become a sort of symbol for the museum and was featured on many of their promotional materials.


Inside the complex there is a small square as well as two reconstructions to represent the original 13 long buildings which were there in the Iron Age. Each of the buildings contains a row of identical houses with their doorways facing the South in order to make maximum use of the sun’s light and heat. Since all of the houses are of the same size it is believed that uniformity was valued and that most supplies and natural resources were shared among the tribe although some items such as nets, looms, and animals were family owned. Those personally owned tools, weapons, and ornaments were often buried with their owners. Inside of each house, there is a a lobby and a main room. The lobby could have been used to store animals or for artisans to trade their goods since no trace of money or coins has been discovered. The main area contains a sleeping area where the whole family would have slept, storage space, and a fire pit for cooking and smoking meat. In another room, role players were demonstrating how to make the tortilla-like cakes which the Biskupinian people might have eaten

I got to model some of the clothing from the Iron Age complete with fox fur scarf and fur head covering.

and we got to try a small piece (above). Although no traces of clothing have been found intact at the archaeological site, historians have speculated as to what they might have worn and the role players allowed me to try on one of the outfits (right). The outfit was a simple tunic with an ornate belt, and fox fur scarf. They also gave me another animal fur to put on my head. In another room we learned some about jewelry and bronze making. In the final part of the tour, we looked at Iron Age artisanal work created by role players from the museum including pottery, carvings, tools, jewelry and coins. Several of us purchased a wooden animal carving. I personally bought a fox carving to represent our day there. Of course we had to stop for lody (ice cream) before returning to the bus to go to our next stop.

The canola fields are in full bloom.


The agricultural lands surrounding Biskopin are gorgeous. The rolling hills of canola, beans, and barley create a beautiful landscape to drive through and we stopped to take some pictures in the yellow, blooming canola (right). We traveled a little farther and Merrick dug out some soil to test the pH and compare it to that which we tested in the forest ecosystem. As expected, the soil had a pH closer to neutral in comparison with the acidic forest soil. As an introduction to our plant studies, we talked about plant nutrients and nitrogen-fixing rhizobium. I am looking forward to diving into plants with Anna B.C. tomorrow in the laboratory.


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