Poland Early History
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewski

Poland:

Poland is virtually one blood (Slavic), one language (Polish), and one religion (Catholic). In the 17th century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth included Slavs, Lithuanians, other Balts, Germans, Tatars, Armenian merchants, Jewish traders, and even Scots. Unlike the rest of Europe, religious freedoms were respected. While the Inquisition was going on in Europe, Poland remained tolerant.(Brezezinski, Richard, Polish Armies 1569-1696. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd. Men-at-Arms Series, 1991.)

The People of Poland:

From this chart, you can see that the Polish people came from the Pomeranians, Polanians, and Mazovians.

Stask (Silesia) in the valley of Odra was severed from Poland in 1339. It incorporated Bohemia, Austria, and Prussia (in 1790).

The earliest recorded documents in the area of Europe called Poland, date from 965-966. Around this time, Ibrahim-Ibn-Jakub, a Moorish Jew from Tartosa, Spain, accompanied the Khalif of Cordoba on an embassy to central Europe. He visited Prague, or Cracow (at that time in the kingdom of the Czechs).

Arab geographers reported four kings: (1) the king of the Bulgars (2) Bojeslav, King of Faraga. Boiema, and Karako (3) Mieszko, king of the north and (4) Nakon on the border of the west.

Mieszko's land produced an abundance of food, meat, honey, and fish. The king had three thousand armed men. The dowry system was developed, in Poland, so that a man with many daughters used those daughters as a source of wealth. While his sons were a source of great prestige.

King Miesko I, king of the north, was betrothed to Dukravka, daughter of the Czech king. They lived in Poznan. Mieszko renounced his pagan religion and was baptized as a Christian.

Mieszko I was chief of the Polanie (meaning "people of the field"), one of the numerous Slav tribes of the period. He was a warlord. Of all his feats, like those of his grandson, Canute, in Denmark and England, nothing was permanent, except his baptism. The Polanie were attached to the land, which seemed to keep them introverted and cushioned from the outside world.

Polish Territories:

Pomorzania (Pomeranians) or "the people of the fields," lived in the north. They were linked by Viking trade with the whole of Europe.

In the south, the vislanie of the upper Vistula were alternately attacked and evangelized by Christian Moravians.

In the west, there were a series of smaller Slav peoples that warred and traded with the Germans and Saxons.

The Polanie were undisturbed throughout the eighth and ninth centuries. These people were all considered primative, but they had earthworks and places or worship. They also had open cast mining and iron smelting.

This history is why many people feel that Polish emigrants felt comfortable working in steel and coal mines all over the world.

Poland's Prehistory


Biskupin's reconstructed fortress

  • 180,000 B.C.
    Earliest traces of man, in the Ojcow Caves near Cracow

  • 700-550 B.C. Construction of island fortress at Biskupin, in Wielkopolska, near Znin.

    Biskupin is located in north-central Poland, about 60 km north-east of the city of Poznan. Because this settlement was water-logged, the plan of the streets and houses were preserved in much detail. Scholars now believe that it was originally an island. In 500 BC the water level rose and it was buried. In 1933, Walenty Szwajcer and other Polish archaeologists uncovered the remains of a Bronze age fort at Biskupin in Wielkopolska (greater Poland). They first noticed timbers portruding from Lake Biskupin. Walenty asked for the opinion of Profesor Josef Kostrzewski, director of the Great Poland Museum in Poznan and on June 20, 1934, they began to excavate the site. This fortress was build on a peninsula that went into Lake Biskupin. Many small lakes dot this terrain. The terrain was marshy peat, so wooden supports were sunk deep below the surface, to keep the houses and walls upright. Then the ground was covered with wooden pavement. The settlement was about five acres in size and was surrounded by a wooden, box-type fence about 20 feet high by 10 feet wide. On the lake side was a breakwater about 23 feet wide with a 26 foot gateway that allowed main access from the landside (a causeway).

    This structure was built to protect the community from enemy raids and wild animals. Approximately one hundred houses were contained in this village. They were built in longhouse form with thatched roofs.

    The people of Biskupan were both agricultural and industrial. They raised pigs, cattle, sheep, and goats. Pigs were food animals and cattle were kept fot milk and draft animals (oxen) were also used for meat. They hunted deer and wild boar. They grew crops of wheat, barley, millet, and pulses. Pulses are edible seeds of certain leguminous plants, such as peas, millet, poppy seeds, beans, lentils, etc.(The American College Dictionary edited by C. L. Barnhart. New York: Random House, 1962). The inhabitants of Buskupin were the first, on Polish land, to use oxen for ploughing the land. They harvested crops with scythes made of bronze and later of iron.

    Archeaological evidence suggests that they were clothworkers and leatherworkers. Glass and amber beads, from the Baltic Sea, were discovered and items from Hungary and Italy, suggesting trade routes. They also found pottery, stone, metal and wood that helped them date the site to around 700 years before the birth of Christ. Some of the buildings show evidence of metalworking (bronze casting and iron works).

    When citizens of Biskupin died, they were cremated and their bones buried in urns across the lake. This settlement was abandoned at the beginning of the 5th ventury B.C. One thousand yers later it was inhabited by the Polanians (Nanazak, Darious, et al, An Illustrated History of Poland. Czechowicz: Podsiedlik Ranlowski i Spolk, 1998). Sites such as those at Biskupin belonged to the people of the Wingfield culture, as ancient Slavonic people. Biskupin was thought to protect against Pomeranian invasions. The Pomeranians originated in the Baltic area (Robert Ingpen and Phillip Wilkinson, Encyclopedia of Mysterious Places, New York: Viking Studio Books, 1990.).* Similar sites are found (about twenty) at Sobiejuchy, Izdebno, Kruszwica, and Smuszewo. The Irish crannog settlement (c. 500 A.D.) featured an artificial island built in a shallow lake, possibly as a means of defense. Crannogs originated in Scotland around the time of Christ. Similar villages were also found in Lejre, Denmark; during the Iron Age, and Glastonbury Lake in S.W. England. This shows that building on bogs and marshes were common practice.

    Today tourist visit Biskupin (about 200,000 annually). Many houses, the gate tower, and part of the ramparts have been reconstructed. The interiors of the houses have been furnished to illustrate the everyday activities of its former residents. A museum on the site, explains its history (Bahn, Paul G., editor, Lost Cities. New York: Welcome Rain, 1997, 60-61).

  • 500 B.C. Invasion of nomadic Scythians

  • 400 B.C. Presence of Celtic Tribes

  • 1st c. A.D. Emigration of Goths, Gepids, Markomans, Burgundians, etc.

  • 2nd c. A.D. Ptolemy's Geography mentions Kalixia (Kalisz), Poland was colonized by the Goths in 150 A.D. The Goths were a Scandinavian tribe who moved south to the Black Sea. They pillaged Asia Minor, the Balkans, and fought gainst the Roman Empire.

  • 3rd c. A.D. Emigration of Goths and Gepids to the Black Sea Coast.

  • 4th c. A.D. The "East Germani," who lived around the River Vistula (the Goths, Visgoths, and Vandals), came into conflict with the Romans

  • 5th c. A.D. Supremacy of the Huns.

  • 6th c. A.D. Supremacy of the Avars. Expansion of the Slavs begins.

  • 844 Anonymous Bavarian geographers list the Slavonic tribes east of Else.

*****


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