Grzegorz Kiarszys


The presented book “Three medieval worlds. Iuxta castrum Sandouel” aims to tell the stories of the remains of medieval strongholds in the cultural landscape of the Góra district (Lower Silesia Region, Poland) and to restore their presence in the social discourse. The research project was financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, coordinated by the National Heritage Board of Poland, with the aid from Archeo Landscapes Europe. The studies focus on the relics of early medieval strongholds and late medieval motte castles located in the Lower Silesia Region, Poland. These features are often considered as mysterious objects of anthropogenic origin. However, their original purpose and cultural value is seldom recognized by the local community.

Relatively low historical awareness in the western Poland results from the historical context of those territories. After the end of World War II, due to decisions made at the conferences in Yalta and Potsdam, the eastern part of the Third Reich was put under Polish administration. The local German population was replaced by Polish settlers from the eastern and central territories. Post-war reality in western Poland caused the meaning of archaeological and historical monuments to be devalued. Polish citizens, resettled to the western territories, perceived the landscape as “alien” or “German”. After the horror of war they were unable to recognize the heritage sites or imagine their abstractive value and identify with it. In their eyes the landscape of “Regained Territories” didn’t have any past or tradition worth to acknowledging and commemorating. Historical and archaeological monuments were not seen as their property.

On the other hand, the communistic ideology was about creating the new social order; it exploited the past for political reasons, developing interest only in specific archaeological sites, for example those related to the early Polish Piast monarchy. Such archaeological sites could later be used in the discourse of propaganda and to justify border shifts after World War II. Along with the disappearance of archaeological earthworks from the Polish topographical maps, they also vanished from the awareness of the local population, losing their cultural value. The consequence of that process had a great impact on the contemporary perception of cultural heritage in western Poland.

Archaeological sites can be valued due to their physical form and state of preservation, as well as their chronology or relationship with historic events that are considered to be important. As soon as such a place is identified and significant, it starts to play a part in contemporary social discourse, receiving a new cultural context. This can be created in relation to different roles such as education, or become an active part of the construction of social identity.

The non-invasive archaeological methods can be useful for popularizing of archaeology and widening the awareness of historical places in local societies. Application of such methods as: aerial photography (both archival and contemporary), Airborne Laser Scanning, magnetometry and historical cartography can be valuable, not only for professional archaeological landscape studies, but also in the process of construction of a narrative about the biography of specific archaeological features.

Archaeology can produce a persuasive and aesthetic background for the contemporary social discourse. Restoring the memory of archaeological heritage sites in the region, with the aid of a properly constructed narrative and visualisation of specific monuments, can revive the imagination of local society and fill in the empty places with stories being told once again.

 

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