Prehistory of Poland (until 966)


Prehistory of Poland (until 966)

The prehistory of Poland, or the history of Poland until 966 AD, covers the period from the appearance of humans on the lands of today's Poland to the establishment of the Polish state. Although it spans at least half a million years, there is only a very limited amount of information accessible. Scientific investigations rely on the methods of archeology throughout the period, and on the not very numerous written ancient and medieval sources, once they become available. The use of written language in Poland came only with the advent of Christianity, after 966.

Stone Age

The Stone Age era in Poland lasted five hundred thousand years and involved three different human species. The Stone Age cultures ranged from early human groups with primitive tools to advanced agricultural societies using sophisticated stone tools, building fortified settlements and developing copper metallurgy. ["U źródeł Polski", p. 8-53]

Bronze and Iron Age

The Bronze and Iron Age cultures in Poland are known mainly from archeological research. Early Bronze Age cultures in Poland begin around 2400/2300 BC. ["U źródeł Polski", p. 55, Sławomir Kadrow] The Iron Age commences ca. 750/700 BC. ["U źródeł Polski", p. 68, Bogusław Gediga] The Iron Age archeological cultures described in the main article no longer existed by the start of the Common Era. The subject of the ethnicity and linguistic affiliation of the groups living in central and eastern Europe at that time is, giving the absence of written records, speculative, and accordingly there is considerable disagreement. In Poland the most famous archeological finding from that period is the Biskupin fortified settlement (gord), representing the Lusatian culture of the early Iron Age. ["U źródeł Polski", p. 54-85]

Antiquity

Peoples belonging to numerous archeological cultures identified with Celtic, Germanic and Baltic tribes lived in various parts of Poland from about 400 BC. Other groups were no doubt also present, as ethnic composition of archeological cultures is often poorly recognized. Short of using written language, many of them developed advanced material culture and social organization. Characteristic of the period was the relatively high geographical mobility of large groups of people, even equivalents of today's nations. ["U źródeł Polski", p. 86-121] Germanic peoples lived in today's Poland for several centuries, while many of their tribes also migrated out in the southern and eastern directions (see Wielbark culture). With the expansion of the Roman Empire came the first written remarks by Roman authors that are relevant to the developments on Polish lands. They provide additional insight when compared with the archeological record. In the end, as the Roman Empire was nearing its collapse and the nomadic peoples invading from the east destroyed, damaged or destabilized the various Germanic cultures and societies, the Germanic people left eastern and central Europe for the safer and wealthier southern and western parts of the continent. ["U źródeł Polski", p. 94-115] The northeast corner of modern Poland's territory was and remained populated by Baltic tribes. ["U źródeł Polski", p. 116-119]

Early Middle Ages

According to the currently predominant opinion, the Slavic tribes were not indigenous to the lands that were to become Poland [This is the so-called allochthonic theory; according to the autochthonic theory the opposite is true] , but their first waves settled the area of the upper Vistula River and elsewhere in southeastern Poland and southern Masovia, coming from the upper and middle regions of the Dnieper River (the West Slavs would have come primarily from the more western early Slavic branch called the "Sclaveni" by Jordanes in "Getica", the eastern branch being the "Antes" ["Though their names are now dispersed amid various clans and places, yet they are chiefly called Sclaveni and Antes"; transl. by Charles Christopher Mierow, Princeton University Press 1908, from the University of Calgary web site ] ), beginning in the second half of the 5th centuryKaczanowski, Kozłowski, p. 337] , some half century after these territories were vacated by Germanic tribesKaczanowski, Kozłowski, p. 327-330 and specifically 346] . This discontinuity (a period during which human settlements on most Polish lands were absent or rare) makes the moment of appearance of the Slavs in Poland at the outset of the Middle Ages distinct and clear.Kaczanowski, Kozłowski, p. 325-352] "U źródeł Polski", p. 122-167]

From there the new population dispersed north and west over the course of the 6th century. They lived from cultivation of crops and were generally farmers, but also engaged in hunting and gathering. Their migration was probably caused by the pursuit of fertile soils and persistent attacks on eastern and central Europe by waves of people and armies from the east, such as the Huns, Avars and Magyars.

A number of such Polish tribes formed small states beginning in the 8th century, some of which coalesced later into larger ones. Among those were the Vistulans ("Wiślanie") in southern Poland with Kraków and Wiślica as their main centers (major building of fortified centers and other developments in their country took place in the 9th century), but later the tribe or tribes referred to as the Polans ("Polanie", lit. "people of the fields") turned out to be of momentous historic importance. The tribal states built many gords – fortified structures with earth and wood walls and embankments – from the 7th century onwards. Some of them were developed and inhabited, others had a very large empty area and may have served primarily as refuges in times of trouble. The Polans settled in the flatlands around Giecz, Poznań and Gniezno that eventually became the foundation and early center of Poland, lending their name to the country. They went through a period of accelerated building of fortified settlements and territorial expansion beginning in the first half of the 10th century, and the Polish state developed from their tribal entity in the second half of that century. [Wyrozumski, p. 47-86]

References

Inline

General
* Various authors, ed. Marek Derwich i Adam Żurek, "U źródeł Polski (do roku 1038)" (Foundations of Poland (until year 1038)), Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, Wrocław 2002, ISBN 83-7023-954-4
* Piotr Kaczanowski, Janusz Krzysztof Kozłowski - "Najdawniejsze dzieje ziem polskich (do VII w.)" (Oldest history of Polish lands (till 7th century)), Fogra, Kraków 1998, ISBN 83-85719-34-2
* Jerzy Wyrozumski - "Dzieje Polski piastowskiej" (VIII w. - 1370) (History of Piast Poland (8th century - 1370)), Fogra, Kraków 1999, ISBN 83-85719-38-5


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