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Stratum plus. 2005-2009. №5

Anna B. Kowalska (Szczecin, Poland)

«The Scandinavian thread» in Szczecin’s Culture in the 8th – 12th Centuries

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Pages: 589-601

The main goal of this article is the first presentation of the characteristic artifacts which are connected with the Scandinavian culture. They are shown on the political background and economic connections of Szczecin during 1st half of the 8th – the beginning of the 12th century. The beginnings of Szczecin can be traced to the tribal period. In the 8th century, on the territory of the contemporary Castle Hill, the oldest settlement was created with buildings originally with sunken floors and later in wattlework construction. The oldest settlement in Szczecin could be considered as an important centre of a larger territorial community, lying on the left shore of the Oder estuary and constituting at that time probably the eastern enclave of the tribe of the Wkrzanie belonging to the Veletian tribal alliance. Apart from the items connected to everyday life, a number of finds confirming the contacts, especially with the countries forming the Baltic economic sphere. In the middle of the 9th century at the latest, the settlement was enclosed by mighty fortifications on the side accessible from the upland. Production activity was concentrated in particular habitations and was usually multi-directional. Some specialized handicraft workshops functioned in the town, especially blacksmiths, who used the sandwich technique of forging. There were also boat builders, who manufactured the strake-built boat, the oldest example of Slavic boatbuilding, discovered so far on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. In Szczecin a glass processing workshop was also active at that time, utilizing imported cullet. All these finds were accompanied by merchants’ utensils, including fragments of a weighing scale made of antler and modeled on imported bronze balances. Items of foreign provenance were also noted – not only jewelry and personal items but also of foreign raw material (phyllite, phosphorous-poor iron), necessary to the everyday production activities, the presence of which illustrates well the character of the long-range commercial relations of medieval Szczecin. In the tribal era, in 920 at the latest, the built-up area included the areas of the former old river courses in the Oder valley. The oldest buildings were then erected in the area of the future Rynek Warzywny. In the years following 920, Szczecin consisted of two main elements – the stronghold, occupying the Castle Hill, and the Oder district (Podzamcze). Both modules of this town had similar economic functions. Around the middle of the 10th century significant changes occurred in the town-planning of Szczecin. Free townsmen settled in the Oder district. Their production activity was decisive for the economic position of the urban centre. Rich finds found in the cultural layers from that period, show a high standard of urban culture. Apart from the products which reflected the conditions of everyday life of the inhabitants, their production activity and the commonly practiced fishing, artefacts which could be considered as a manifestation of the higher strata of the urban culture were also found. These were mainly objects of foreign (also Scandinavian) provenance. The increase of the economic potential of the suburbium and the growing economic and social position of its inhabitants, clearly visible in the excavated materials, initiated the changes, which in the fourth quarter of the 11th century led to the final formation in Szczecin of a system definable as an oligarchic urban republic. It was a time of clearly visible prosperity in the history of the town. The wealth of the finds assemblages found in the strata connected with this chronological phase is noteworthy. The role of Szczecin as a commercial centre is especially clear. The list of products of foreign origin is also long.  The basic group of the town ’s inhabitants, representing the various social layers, was concentrated in the Oder district.

Keywords: The Scandinavian thread, Szczecin’s Culture, Baltic Sea


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