Archaeology news: ‘Rare’ medieval treasure trove uncovers intricate face made of metal

The exciting discovery was made in a medieval settlement at Poniaty Wielkie, a village in Poland’s Masovian province. The area has been settled since at least the Middle Ages, with the latest discoveries dated to the 11th/12th to 13th centuries. However, a large-scale archaeological excavation of the area has not been carried out until last year when the Masovian Provincial Conservator of Monuments oversaw the installation of a gas tank.

Archaeologists have since discovered the commercial part of the medieval settlement, dated to the 11th/12th to 13th centuries.

The excavations uncovered many fire pits, furnaces, wells and hearths.

And within them was hidden a surprising number of metallic and ceramic artefacts, including gilded spurs and decorative trinkets.

Jakub Affelski, who led the excavation efforts, said: “Such wealth is rarely seen within the area of open settlements from this period, in this part of Masovia and not only.

“Rather, the more valuable artefacts are found within the settlement’s boundaries.”

Two discoveries, in particular, caught the archaeologists’ attention: two metal trinkets fashioned into the shape of a human face.

The first is a small lead plate with a loosely defined mouth, nose and eyes.

The second is a much more intricate copper ornament with distinct features around the eyes and the mouth that resemble facial hair, as well as lines resembling hair around the top.

Mounting holes on the ornament’s ears suggest it may have been a belt buckle or some other form of fashion accessory.

According to Mr Affelski, the level of detail in the ornament is outstanding.

He has also likened it to artefacts previously uncovered along the Euro-Asiatic borderlands, a region known for its nomadic populations.

The artefacts will be meticulously analysed to shed more light on their origin.

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Another object that has caught the archaeologists’ attention is a so-called encolpion.

These Christian medallions were worn on the chest and typically carried relics or fragments of scripture.

And although the Poniaty Wielkie settlement sat within the borders of medieval Poland, many of its treasures likely originated in the east – the lands of the Rus.

The Rus or Kievan Rus were a loose federation of Slavic nations that thrived between the ninth and 13th centuries in eastern Europe.

Mr Affelski also believes the settlement may have played a critical role as a metallurgic centre crafting items for nearby strongholds in Nasielsk and Pultusk.

There is also ample evidence the settlement played a role in large-scale trading.

What remains a mystery, however, is why so many metallic items have been left behind at Poniaty Wielkie, considering their high value at the time.

Mr Affelski said: “Nothing suggests its end was brought about by a raid – we have not found any evidence suggesting armed aggression. It is still quite a big mystery for us.”

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