Friday, 29 May 2009

Młochów Ancient History

Vandals in Młochów

View of Młochów village from the direction of the archaeological sites

Not local louts, either, but the real thing. The Vandals of ancient history; the guys who later went round Western Europe, arriving in Rome in 455 AD to have fun in good football supporter style, smashing, burning, stealing and kissing the pretty women without their consent (probably).

A unified and illustrated translation of a number of articles on archaeological finds in Młochów, with historical background based on the work of Stefan Woyda (pronounced Voida) are available in 'Archaeological History of Młochów, Poland'. An extensive range of independent notes have also been added. It is available as a PDF file from Fileden. NB: it is a large document and it may be better to save it to disk first.

Looking along the Cold Water stream. The Vandal settlements will have been on either side of it

The Vandals were melting iron and making weapons, tools or maybe jewellery and household items in the north of Młochów in the 1st and 2nd centuries. This was part of major iron and iron product manufacturing area, with many production sites having been found within a distance of about 15 km/10 miles north of Młochów. So much iron was produced in this area that it was clearly not just for local use. A very rough estimate suggests that it may have produced enough to supply 11th Century Britain with all its needs. Stefan Woyda suggested that this was one of the two centres - the other in Poland's Holy Cross Mountains - created by leaders of the Barbarians in order to produce enough weapons for the whole Barbarian world to defeat the all-powerful Romans.

Looking along the western side of the Cold Water. The tyres are from an old racing track, possibly for go-karting

The Młochów site appears to have been chosen because it was on the dry slopes either side of the Cold Water stream. It started work later than many other sites and is quite small in comparison with others. It is also further south and some distance from other sites, so it seems a reasonable guess that this was an off-shoot of the main centre, perhaps being an independent effort in an separate village.

An overgrown part of one of the streams leading to the Cold Water

In the middle of the 3rd Century, a specialist kiln to produce pottery was built and used in Młochów, making pottery turned on a potter's wheel. This is the only one known to exist in central Poland, with others only existing in the south. Old pots were made by hand and fired on an open fire. Although it probably produced inferior quality to that in the south and eventually collapsed whilst it was baking pots, its discovery in 2004 allowed Stefan Woyda to theorise about the highly spiritual nature of the people that limited acceptance of this new technology.

'Archaeological History of Młochów, Poland' adds lots of ideas about the meaning of the iron and pottery site.

A small pond on the western edge of the iron settlement

It is unclear what sort of lifestyle the Vandals had beyond the iron and pottery production. They are described as herders and farmers, although the balance between the two seems unclear. The existence of the iron and pottery sites give the impression of a reasonable stable and peaceful area, although the level of weapons production must also imply an underlying level of fear or aggression.

In the forest in Młochów. The remains of a recreated dug-out hut is in the centre

Today's countryside in Młochów is a combination of fields and woodland, with little sign that either have existed unchanged for centuries. The use of charcoal for iron production shows that woodland existed in those times. The pattern of modern streams, sometimes now partly existing as road side or field drainage, without any significant channels being carved through the centuries show that there would have been significant marshland, with the iron site possibly being an exceptional area of a clearly flowing stream.

Bronze age people also lived at this site, said to be in about 1000 BC. Sadly nothing more has been found about this.

In the forest in Młochów. This combination of grassland and woods might have been similar to the ancient landscape

A wooden manor house and farm buildings were also found to have been here dating from somewhere between the 16th and 19th Centuries. Stefan Woyda originally thought it may have been destroyed in the Swedish Wars in Poland, but this may have been a rather wild guess as the date isn't even clear. However, there seems to have been some sort of disaster, as cows and horse were buried very close to where the house was.

The Młochów clouds will have been familiar

Although I have called the inhabitants of Młochów 'Vandals', the correct term for the people is the Przeworsk Culture (pronounced Pshevorsk), which is an archaeologically identified group that survived form the 3rd/2nd Century BC to the 4th/5th Century AD through central and southern Poland down to Romania. The Vandals are widely described as being 'identified with' the Przeworsk culture, although, from the internet, Roman descriptions seem to suggest that the Lugians lived in the South of Poland, whilst the Burgundians lived in the centre (eg in Młochów). Lugians are normally identified with the Vandals. Although I trust the internet for its faithful depictions of points of view, I do not trust its historic truth. Neither do I have faith in Roman descriptions of an area where they never lived, must have had only vague knowledge and for which their historians had a free hand in inventing information to fill gaps - historians do the same today of course, but are more likely to be challenged. My own prejudice is to like the idea of living where 'Vandals' once lived - the most famous of the ancient tribes because of the modern survival of the word through the existence of the hordes of vandals that inhabit the modern world.

The buildings may have changed, but winters will have still have been harsh

Not that all Poles with an interest in these tribes would agree with me. The Vandals are considered to be Germanic, whilst Lugians are thought to be Celtic, so Polish internet opinion either separates the two or to argue for significant intermixing. (The likelihood that this view is driven by nationalistic anti-German views does not mean that it is not true. Anyone brought up in England under the shadows of 20th Century history will understand the emotion, although Poles can add centuries more conflict to their bias. English attitudes strongly assert that the English peoples changed too much to be considered Germanic. How cares? Would White Anglo-Saxons Americans, as they used to be called, actually care if they were called White Germanic Americans? My own prejudices lead me to doubt whether it is right to say that the ancient Germanic peoples are the same as modern Germans.)