History & Culture

Wielkopolskie/ Boat from the tenth century recovered from the bottom of the lake Lednica

10th century monoxylon was recovered from the bottom of the lake Lednica. After performing the necessary conservation work, the object will become part the permanent exhibition at the Polish History Museum.

The dugout recovered from the lake is approx. 10 m in length. It was made from a single trunk of a linden. The passage of time, non-durability of material, the aquatic environment and beams from the old Poznań bridge failing on boat caused numerous cracks. Therefore, the object has been extracted in several parts.

"We went down to a depth of 9.5 m, at a distance of about 75 meters from the shoreline in the central part of the lake Lednica. The dugout was lying as if in one piece, surrounded with mud, sediments, evidently among the relics of the bridge" - told PAP Dr. Krzysztof Radka, archaeologist from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, who led the group of divers who extracted the object.

The boat extraction started in early October. However, due to the condition of the object it was an extremely complicated and lengthy process.

"After digging out a piece of the dugout we moved this piece gently onto a specially prepared metal sheet tray. Then we moved the tray up to a depth of approx. 2 m and swam to the shore. The object was not completely pulled out of the water at the time, we put the pieces together at the depth of 2 -2.5 m" - explained the archaeologist.

The object was transported to Toruń. After performing the necessary conservation work, the boat will become an exhibit at the permanent exhibition at the Polish History Museum in Warsaw, as a long-term deposit transferred by the Museum of the First Piasts at Lednica.

Director of the Polish History Museum Robert Kostro emphasised in an interview with PAP that the boat found on the bottom of the lake Lednica is an extremely important find.

"This object is especially valuable for us, because there are very few object of this type, and in addition this boat is associated with a specific place - after all, Lednica is one of the three most important centres of the then Polish State - next to Gniezno and Poznań" - said Kostro.

"We joke that maybe Mieszko with Dobrawa took this boat to the island on the lake Lednica to be baptized. Obviously, we unfortunately do not have this knowledge" - he added.

Kostro emphasised that the boat would also have a symbolic character in the museum. He reminded that historians considered Lednica the likely place of the baptism of Poland in 966.

"The objects found on Lednica are the first evidence of functioning of the Polish State, each object found in this place had to be used in service of the main city of Mieszko I. The dugout also has its metaphorical reference - boat is strongly associated with the Christian symbolism that is one of the foundations of our country" - stressed Kastro.

Dr. Janusz Górecki, Director of the Early Piast Residence at Ostrów Lednicki, a branch of the Museum of the First Piasts at Lednica, said that this type of boats, made from a single tree trunk, had been common since the sixth century, allowing Slavs to travel on distances reaching hundreds of kilometers.

"There were two types of boats - combat boats, used during raids, and utility boats. In the case of combat boats, they were large objects, from 7 to 10, nearly 11 metres in length. Such boats are known also from the lake Lednica. These dugouts could easily carry 10 warriors in full armour, and were really very impressive" - said Górecki.

The first boat was found at the bottom of the lake in 1959. It was a battle boat made of oak with a length of almost 10.5 m. "Many years later that object was exhibited at the Museum of the Polish Army in Poznań. When dating of this boat was made by drilling into the boat bulkhead and collecting a timber sample, it turned out, that the date of felling the big oak trunk was the year 966, which is the date of Polish Baptism. It was a very nice surprise for researchers" - said Górecki.

Underwater research and archaeological work has been conducted by archaeologists from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, on and off, since 1982. During this time, they inventoried further boats, including the nearly 5-meter utility boat with one bulkhead, from the later period - XIV century.

"Any remnants that may still be in the lake are concentrated mainly in the area of the bridges that were built here in the years 963-964 and connected the island to the mainland, and along the shoreline of the island. But the water environment, silting of the lake, makes research difficult and we only find individual items, such as fragments of weapons. We hope that future specialized studies will allow to discover explored further objects, including everyday items" - said Górecki.

Island Ostrów Lednicki - according to many historians - was the place of baptism of Mieszko I. It is the source of one of the largest collections of artefacts from the beginnings of Christianity, including with the oldest reliquary in Poland - a fragment of the cross of Christ. It is possible that the reliquary is associated with the baptism of Mieszko I. The island has the area of approx. 7.5 ha, and historians estimate that in the tenth century it was inhabited by 700 to 2 thousand residents. The depth of the lake surrounding the island reaches 8-12 meters.

Anna Jowsa (PAP)

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