The Bronze Age and The Dawn of The Iron Age
Hill-fort inhabitants and warlike Scythians (c. 1400 – 400 BC)
Centres of metallurgy developed in areas which were rich in metal ore deposits. Combined with the widespread demand for bronze products, this prompted closer trade contacts between individual peoples and this, in turn, led to significant cultural uniformity across Europe. This situation is reflected in the beliefs and practices associated with burial rites. Cremation became increasingly popular. This practice first appeared in the central Danube river-basin and rapidly spread across nearly the whole of central Europe. In Poland it is connected with the development, from about 1400 BC, of the so-called Lusatian Culture, named after the area (Lusatia) where it was first discovered. Around the mid 7th century BC this culture witnessed the introduction of a new metal – iron. This raw material reached Greater Poland from the river-basin territories of the Danube and the Rhine. Initially, the advent of iron had very little economic impact; it was used mostly for making personal decorations rather than producing tools or weapons.

Warriors used a variety of weapons in combat, most of which were still made of bronze at the beginning of the Iron Age. A warrior of this period would have been equipped with a bow and arrows, a spear, a sword worn in a leather or wooden scabbard, a pick and an axe. The warrior shown here holds a bronze sword and has an axe, consisting of a bronze axe-head mounted on a wooden shaft, hanging from his belt. He wears a thick leather breastplate and carries a leather shield for protection. Leather was considered the best available material for making this type of armour as it was very tough and difficult to pierce or cut, as opposed to far less durable shields made of bronze. The examples shown here are replicas of finds from the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The widespread Early Bronze Age tradition of inhumation burials covered with stone or earthen mounds was gradually replaced by the practice of cremation. Cremated remains were placed in urns and buried in extensive, flat cemeteries known as urnfields. These urn burials were furnished with pottery vessels and occasionally with metal goods.

Lusatian Culture populations inhabiting the Greater Poland region built forts, usually choosing naturally defended sites, such as islands, areas of higher ground surrounded by marshes or peninsulas projecting into lakes, rivers or waterlogged meadows. One of the most famous defended settlements dating from this period is that of Biskupin in the Żnin District. This fort was founded in around 737-738 BC. It comprised 100 houses, built end to end along a network of eleven transverse streets , linked by an orbital track running the length of the stronghold’s ramparts. A breakwater was raised beyond these defences, impeding access to the settlement from the lake and protecting the ramparts from wave erosion.

Like their Early Bronze Age counterparts, Lusatian Culture communities also frequently buried valuable hoards [01]. Several dozen deposits of this kind have been found in Greater Poland alone, the majority dating from the end of the Bronze Age. Jewellery and tools were the most common components of these hoards, which also occasionally include weapons and bronze vessels. Some of the richest hoards from this period, on display in this exhibition, are those from Poznań-Starołęka, Rosko, Czarnków District and from Uścikowiec, Oborniki District.

Certain Neolithic traditions still survived among Lusatian Culture communities. One example of this are the stone adzes, found at settlement sites and in graves dating from this period.

In the 19th century a hoard was found in Witaszkowo, Gubin District, which was dubbed The Scythian Gold Hoard. A replica of this hoard can be seen in this exhibition. It includes an akinakes dagger fitting , an upper fitting of the sword’s sheath, a fish-shaped fitting, a quatrefoil appliqué which had probably belonged to a piece of armour or a shield, two necklaces, a whetstone ferrule and part of a pendant.

Artefacts of this period include clay objects which most likely had some magical significance. These include rattles  which were probably used during funerary rituals. The life-giving sun appears to have been worshiped, whilst zoomorphic vessels made of bronze and clay also indicate the possible existence of an animal cult. New techniques for decorating pottery were introduced in the form of painting  and inlaying incised decoration with a white lime paste.

Figural decoration on pottery vessels points to the fact that Lusatian Culture populations used animals for transport purposes. Four-wheeled carts were drawn by a pair of oxen  The major trade routes which crossed Poland during this period ran from east to west. Local agricultural produce, pottery and metalwork were traded in exchange for glass and amber goods, bronze vessels  and probably also raw materials which have not survived in the archaeological record, such as textiles and salt. Centres dealing in long-distance trade were established in the Greater Poland region. Evidence of their existence comes from excavations of a settlement site in Komorowo and at a cemetery site in Gorszewice, Szamotuły District, where numerous artefacts imported from the south were discovered.

Following the Early Bronze Age trend, the most popular types of jewellery during the Lusatian Culture period were bracelets  necklaces, pins and brooches the latter initially making only a sporadic appearance, though in a short space of time they would become the most common form of dress accessory.

Cremation was the prevalent burial practice of this period. Bodies (probably placed in a variety of positions – prone, seated or upright) were burned on wooden pyres. Funeral ceremonies may have been conducted by a shaman, who would have lit the pyre and performed a ritual dance to the accompaniment of rhythms from the clay rattles he held in his hands. Burnt skeletal remains were placed in an urn , which stood by the funeral pyre. The urn and other accessory vessels were then placed in the grave.