Project name: A study of the impact of funerary rites of prehistoric communities on landscape. Tumuli of the mound culture in the Krotoszyn Forest at the Śląsk-Wielkopolska borderland.

Project manager: mgr Mateusz Stróżyk

Funding: Narodowe Centrum Nauki (NCN), a grant for graduates starting their academic career without a doctoral degree.

Project duration: 2014 – 2017

Objectives: The project aims at demonstrating the relationships that occur between the ritual activities of the (mound culture) prehistoric communities and the landscape. The relevant time span covers the period ca mid-2nd millennium BC, i.e. 1550-1300 BC. The project is intended as an attempt at breaking the dramatic stalemate in the research into the mound culture in Polish territories. In central Europe the period in question is related directly with the development and predominance of the mound culture – a taxonomic unit identified over extensive lands spreading from the Rhine valley in the west to the Carpathian Arc in the east, while along the north – south axis covering the European Lowlands up to the Alpine Foothills. Compared with the preceding archaeological cultures covered by the common name of the Early Bronze Central European civilisation, the group of mound cultures is to be seen as a new socio-cultural quality with visible changes in forms and decorative patterns of bronze objects  and less frequently of pottery. Most importantly, however, there is a dramatic transformation of the worldview, reflected in the novel and prevalent mound funerary ritual that occurred all over the oikumene of the mound cultures circle. The barrows also remain the only source available for a closer analysis of the mound culture.

The area assigned for the execution of the scientific objectives of the project is the Krotoszyn Forest. The nearly 150-year-old label of the forest means that the old growth has kept preserved numerous archaeological objects, and specifically the mounds which constitute a practically unchanged element of the cultural landscape of the bronze culture. Such a state of affairs is absolutely unique, since the introduction of mechanization in agrotechnology: steam ploughing (the 19th c.) and combustion tractors (the 20th c.) resulted in the diminishment and destruction of the cultural landscape in many regions of Poland.

Methodology: The methodological basis of the project is the concept of the archaeology of landscape. It is used to describe the areas of archaeological studies, analyse the mutual relations between sites and construct interpretations. Drawing on the information obtained, it interprets the issues concerning the relationships between man and the environment in prehistory. Landscape is treated as a dynamic factor that permanently influences culture and is thereby permanently transformed (cultural landscape). The methodology involves the application of the Geographic Information System (GIS) for carrying out more comprehensive spatial analyses and unification of the data within one standard. The basis for the inference of conclusions shall be the numerical model of the terrain produced by the aerial laser scanning (ALS), thematic maps and results of a series of soil bores. Investigation of the inner structure of the mounds will involve geophysical prospecting in singled out objects and comparing the results with those obtained from earlier excavations.

Results: Throughout the enterprise particular stages of research will be submitted to discussion at scientific congresses at home and abroad.

The project will accomplish a construction of a new systematic and methodological model that will optimally meet academic and conservationist requirements in the investigation of the Bronze Age mounds in wooded areas. It will significantly broaden the information base on the subject of the most relevant and most numerous group of mound culture sources. Completion of the project will answer a number of key questions about the ritual/funeral practices of the mound culture while, importantly, digitally processed spatial data may be in future further analysed along with the development of GIS. In more general terms it can constitute an element of a broader project describing the mound culture in Polish territories and demonstrating its specificity against the overall development of this cultural phenomenon in Central Europe.