Dawid Kobiałka, Mikołaj Kostyrko, Kornelia Kajda


KEY WORDS: archaeology of the recent past, prisoner of war camp, memory, heritage, materiality, remote sensing, LiDAR, Tuchola


The starting point for this paper is a growing archaeological interest in the studies of material culture and landscapes from the recent past. It is argued that traditional approach towards archaeology as science that studies the ancient and the very old is too narrow to embrace the whole diversity of the archaeological research in the contemporary times.

Within contemporary archaeological discourse, there are a few terms that try to account for archaeology beyond archaīos. One can just refer to: the archaeology of us, archaeology of the contemporary past, archaeology of the recent past, archaeology in and of the present or archaeology of the contemporary world. Not being synonymous, these term nonetheless share a conviction that it is material culture, no matter how old or new, that is the constitutive element of archaeological practice.

The discussion concerning recent reconfigurations in archaeological theory and fields of interest is used in the article as a background for the practical presentation of the epistemological potential of archaeology oriented on material culture and landscapes from the recent past. As a case study, the authors use the remains of the prisoner of war and internment camp in Tuchola (Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province, Poland). The camp was run between 1914 and 1923: during the First World War, by Germans and then, during the Polish-Soviet War, by the Poles.

First, the paper shortly discusses the history of the camp on the basis of the available historical data. Second, following archaeological interests in the transformations of landscapes related to modern armed conflicts, the authors analyse and document the remains of the camp using LiDAR-derivatives. The article concludes with the thesis that the materiality of twentieth-century landscapes should become the subject of closer archaeological attention. Along these lines, LiDAR technology can be also a useful tool in the context of approaching such landscapes.

* * *

The article was originally published in Polish at Folia Praehistorica Posnaniensia.

Summary and photos are published with the permission of the Authors.


Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part III

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part III


Dąbrówka Stępniewska

Part III
The unity of place, time and action.

The movie is the third part of the “Chopin. Memory and musical landscape” series. It maintains the principle of decorum and the unity of place, time and action. The Pianist was performing Chopin music on historical piano, from the Chopin era, at the place of his birth, his early infancy and later summer stays. The concert lasted approx. 45 min and the whole video material has been recorded within that time.

The sound is playing the main role in this picture. The piano melodies are very reminiscent of the sounds of the surrounding nature. The singing birds blend in the music and the subsequent passages strikingly resemble the rustle of the trees and the babbling brook. The music is spreading around the park through the open windows and from hidden speakers. It reverberates all around and makes one stop, calm down and sink into the sounds.

The first part https://archaeologyofmemory.wordpress… focuses on people and objects, their interrelation and mutual impact, their shared being and intertwined biographies. The issues of embodiment of things and objectification of human beings emerge from the text as well as the power of human perception and emotions. The music and the artist are treated as memory medium, which enables to travel throughout time and space, within the world of music.

The second part https://archaeologyofmemory.wordpress… further explores the concepts of biography of place and biography of landscape, the issues of construction and de-construction of national monuments and national heritage sites. The case of Fryderyk Chopin birthplace in Żelazowa Wola is a great example of creating and sustaining national memory and national monuments using historical and artistic expressions.

* * *  Epilogue * * *

Photo: Chopin concert at Łazienki Royal Park, Warsaw
Chopin Recital at Łazienki Royal Park, Warsaw 2016

The Fryderyk Chopin Monument, facing one of the gates to the Łazienki Royal Park, was designed by Wacław Szymanowski in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Chopin’s birth. It was not erected in the Łazienki Royal Park until 1926 with the plans cancelled by the World War I as well as by controversies surrounding the solid design itself.

During the World War II the Chopin Monument was one of the first in Warsaw to be blown up by the Nazis. Reconstructed in strict conformity to the original, it remains an essential symbol of the capital city of Poland.

For more than fifty years Chopin concerst have been held at the foot of the Chopin Monument. Emminent pianists perform here every Sunday from mid-May until late September at 12 noon and 4 p.m.

The atmosphere in the park is unique, both carefree and raised, like listening to classical concert and enjoying an open air festival at the same time! Perhaps this is the reason why these recitals are hugely popular with Warsaw residents and tourists alike.


Travels, Migration and Memory of Things

Travels, Migration and Memory of Things

“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.”
Ryszard Kapuściński, Travels with Herodotus


Curatorial Text

Travellers. Voyage and Migration in New Art from Central and Eastern Europe.
14.05 – 21.08.2016 at Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland

Artists: Adéla Babanová, Daniel Baker, Olga Chernysheva, Wojciech Gilewicz, Pravdoliub Ivanov, C.T. Jasper & Joanna Malinowska, Irina Korina, Taus Makhacheva, Porter McCray, Alban Muja, Ilona Németh & Jonathan Ravasz, Roman Ondak, Tímea Anita Oravecz, Adrian Paci, Vesna Pavlović, Dushko Petrovich, Janek Simon, Radek Szlaga & Honza Zamojski, Maja Vukoje, Sislej Xhafa

Curator: Magdalena Moskalewicz
Collaboration on the part of Zachęta: Magdalena Komornicka

The exhibition looks at travel in a region where freedom to travel was, until recently, a luxury available only to the very few. The revolution of 1989 and the subsequent opening to the world and globalisation processes allowed citizens of the former Eastern Bloc personal mobility on an unprecedented scale. Participation in international exchanges contributed to the region’s identity today as much as the new political and economic order. For two successive decades, capitalism and globalisation carried us farther, faster, and surer, until we got used to thinking in terms of progress with only one direction — forward! Today, we see how that moment was as pivotal for modern European history as it was exceptional. Europe’s response to foreign refugees shows that our participation in the global exchange was, and is, predominantly one-way. We do not willingly share the privileges that we gained after the fall of the Berlin Wall and as a consequence of our EU accession. We are enthusiastic about going abroad, but far less so about welcoming foreigners.

The works presented in the show tell the stories of holiday trips as well as distant journeys and migrations. They focus on a period from the mid-20th century until today, from the closed borders of the divided Cold War-era Europe to the capitalism-driven acceleration of the 21st century’s first decades. They offer a reflection by contemporary artists hailing from the region — the former Eastern Bloc countries, the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia — often first and second generation migrants, on the last few decades in the history of Central and Eastern Europe.

Twenty-three artists from fifteen countries show how people, goods, and ideas flow between our part of Europe and other regions of the world. They tell us about Cold War-era tourists dreaming about exotic trips at a time when the freedom to travel was synonymous with political freedom. About travellers, who, on distant voyages, discover the forgotten history of abandoned places. About historical and contemporary migrants, their identity formed at an intersection of languages and cultures. But also about the objects these travellers take with them. About pictures that are to remind them of home and which become a source of knowledge about the world for others. About products that in distant countries turn into ambassadors of their culture. About artworks whose circulation beyond their place of origin lays a foundation for building canons. The artists present various means of transportation, such as ships, trains or buses, as well as visas or permits, that facilitate or limit their personal mobility. Discovering the enriching value of travel, they also shed light on the tensions arising inevitably between the poetics of the experience itself and the political situation that condition it.

Most of us know the familiarity of one home and one culture only. A traveller takes advantage of multiple viewpoints. That complex perspective not only allows us to recognize and embrace the value of other places and nations, but also to see ourselves as foreigners. By looking at the experience of voyage and migration in the art of Central and Eastern Europe, The Travellers shed light on the contemporary identity of the region.

The Travellers_full materials (pdf)

Liban. Memory of Stones

Liban. Memory of Stones

“Palimpsest means a parchment that has been partly erased and re-inscribed. It evokes the marks made by human settlement on the land, the passage of time, presence and absence and the web of inter-dependence uniting the natural and the cultural, the material and the immaterial.”

Jade Wildy

Limestone. All kinds of buildings and other constructions have been built using jurassic limestone from local sources for a thousand years. Many quarries were erected in the early Middle Ages in hills that comprised tectonic horsts. A dozen of these quarries were still in use in the 19th and 20th centuries. Nowadays they represent important objects of both geological and cultural heritage. The quarries from the Lesser Poland region are the most well known examples of the post-exploited geological landscape in Poland, where most of building and road stones as well as raw materials for the chalk, cement and chemical industries were excavated.

Liban Quarry. The Liban Quarry  is located in Kraków-Podgórze district near the railway station Kraków-Płaszów. The exploitation of limestone was carried out here since the 14th century. The limestone company ‘Liban and Ehrenpreis’, founded by Bernard Liban and run by the Liban and Ehrenpreis Jewish industrial families from Podgórze, established the quarry here in 1873. By the end of the 19th century a complex of buildings was established within the quarry as well as a railway line was laid. The ‘Liban and Ehrenpreis’ enterprise was the most important company in the construction materials industry in Kraków at that time.

Forced-labor. During the World War II and the time of Kraków’s German Nazi occupation, Liban Quarry was set-up as a forced-labor camp. The Nazis employed here approx. 800 people working 14 hours a day without holidays and Sundays. The prisoners of Konzentrationslager Plaszow – a Nazi German concentration camp,  were kept here from 1942 to 1944 performing forced labour. On average, there were 400 prisoners in the camp. Throughout the period of its operation over approx. 2,000 Poles and Ukrainians were working in very difficult conditions in the quarries and lime kilns. During the liquidation of the forced-labor camp in July 1944, 146 of 170 prisoners escaped. Others were executed on the spot. They were buried at the place of execution.

Konzentrationslager Plaszow. The Konzentrationslager Plaszow was built by the SS in Płaszów, not far away from the Liban Quarry, between the Kamieńskiego and Wielicka Streets, partly on the site of Jewish graveyards. Originally intended as a forced-labour camp KL PLaszow had been populated with prisoners during the liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto on 13–14 March 1943. Thereafter, the camp was expanded and turned into one of many Nazi German concentration camps. The real Jewish tombstones were used to pave the road into the concentration camp so that inmates were compelled to trample over the relics of their ancestors on their way to and from work.

“Schindler’s List”. In 1993, Allan Starski created in Liban Quarry the scenography for Steven Spielberg’s famous “Schindler’s List”, depicting the Konzentrationslager Plaszow. For $ 600,000 at the bottom of the quarry they built 34 huts and 11 watchtowers. Part of the decoration still remains in the quarry, e.g. fragments of fences, wooden poles with the remnants of barbed wire or a part of the path laid with imitation of Jewish tombstones. These traces remain confusingly mixed with the genuine historical artifacts from the WWII.

Mainstay of nature. After the WWII the ‘Liban and Ehrenpreis’ company was nationalized and employed to 110 employees. In 1986, the deposit was considered to be exploited. At the end of its exploitation the Liban Quarry has become an important mainstay of nature in the city center. The bottom of the quarry is covered with water, it has a dense vegetation and is a residence for many species of birds. There is also a very large population of dragonflies and butterflies. The impressive limestone cliffs, ponds, prolific fauna and flora absorb the historical heritage of this place. When one climbs up the Krakus Mound and looks down from the lip of the Liban Quarry,  one can see the power of life rather than death.

Natural-cultural palimpsest. A lot of Kraków’s citizens are coming here for a walk, to do some sport and to entertain, rather then admire and explore the cultural heritage, like the tourists do. But is there something wrong in such behavior, besides leaving behind garbage? Personally I have a mixed feelings and different thoughts while visiting places like this: former cemeteries, sanctuaries, settlements, places of forced labour, mass massacres, mass graves, which have been absorbed by the dynamically changing landscape. Their function and meaning are constantly changing in time and are re-defined by successive generations. A natural-cultural palimpsest of memories, indeed…

Dąbrówka Stępniewska

Reference material:

Memory of contaminated landscapes

Memory of contaminated landscapes

Eine kontaminierte Landschaft ist für mich eine Landschaft, die nach außen hin nichts Auffälliges aufweist, die aber etwas verbirgt. Plakativ gesprochen: Wenn ich beginne zu graben, kommt etwas zum Vorschein. Etwas wurde zugedeckt, das zu einem Teil der Landschaft wurde. Heute kann ich Landschaft kaum mehr unkontaminiert denken. Das ist nicht immer angenehm. Wo ich gehe und stehe, überlege ich oft: Hoffentlich verbirgt diese Landschaft nichts Schlimmes.

Martin Pollack

One day, during the regular cleanup work in the garden, Martin Pollack dug out a fork with an emblem of the Waffen-SS. Perhaps it was that moment he began to wonder what gruesome mysteries conceals a seemingly neutral landscape. Was the forest visible on the horizon seeded artificially to hide the crime scene? After drying a nearby drainage ditch, will the bones appear at the bottom? Such questions are not unreasonable when you live in Central Europe. Graves or monuments do not often appear at the places of mass murders. A lot of them is known by the local community only.

The Author claims about memory: social memory and memory of contaminated landscapes – silent witnesses and unwitting actors in the drama which had been played behind the curtain of a forest, a lake, a glen, a cave… From Slovenia to Latvia, from Austria to Russia Martin Pollack is tracking traces of past crimes and trying to figure out how to live today in areas that are camouflaged cemeteries.

“Contaminated landscapes” is an essay about the places of mass murder, carried out in secret, strictly confidential. Murders, after which traces were exterminated, hidden by planting trees, shrubs, flooding. The Author asks rhetorically several times: Do you know what hides the land where you live and which you cultivate? The place you are planting fruits and vegetables? Do you give the place of mass grave a wide berth or you simply don’t care?

Not only Central Europe can be treated as a great cemetery. We live on the remains of our ancestors and the remains of millions of animals and plants, which provide us energy for life. Many, like the Author, are shocked to discover mass murders and anonymous mass graves, but at the same time we tolerate utilization and killing of all non-human beings. Inconsistency, diplomatically speaking.

Dąbrówka Stępniewska


Vlad Basarab. The Archaeology of Memory


Vlad Basarab is a multi-media, performance and video artist, a recipient of a Fulbright research grant on the impact of the communist period on intellectuals in Romania (2013-2014). He was born in 1977 in Bucharest and moved to Alaska in 1995, where he received a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in Ceramics from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2001. Since 2013, he holds a Masters of Fine Arts Degree in Electronic Media from West Virginia University, Morgantown. Basarab is currently a doctorate candidate at the University of Art in Bucharest. He took part in numerous international exhibitions and projects. The past plays an important part in Basarab’s creative process. The Archaeology of Memory Project has been influenced by the loss of collective culture and memory. The act of remembering becomes the only vehicle for keeping history alive.

The Archaeology of Memory Project is an installation consist of books made out of clay, wooden table and water. The Artist has chosen to reference books as a historic symbols of knowledge and collective memory. The videos are time-lapse recordings of clay books being dissolved over the course of seven days by dripping water. The deconstructive aspect present in the disintegration of clay books, references on a metaphoric level the breaking down of the mind and memory. The geologic-like changes that the clay books undergo reference loss of collective memory. Undoing the book in seven days, also references the creation of the world. Through the erosion of the clay books, the Author compares the process of memory and its disappearance to geological transformations.

From the beginning of history, there has been a connection between words and clay as the first forms of written knowledge were on clay tablets. While the loss of collective memory seems like a natural occurrence that one cannot stop, it is never too late to try to revitalize culture and language. Books have always seemed to make knowledge more tangible, yet in these videos they are crumbling away, dissolving in what appears to be a natural process. There is a sense of nostalgia for knowledge and culture.

Vlad Basarab



Visiting Polin part II: Political Correctness

Karolina Golinowska

The visit to Polin (Museum of the History of Polish Jews) was a moment of experiencing truly ambivalent feelings. On the on hand, I am extremely glad that such an institution was established in the Polish context as well. I consider it as the very beginning of performing critical analysis of history and collective memory. On the other hand, I am not sure whose expectations was the museum going to follow and to fulfill. This rather an awkward question appeared in my head as I was wandering through exhibitionary space presenting the history of people who are in contemporary Poland almost non-existent.

I must admit that Polin’s building is absolutely magnificent and may be considered as one of the best architectural sites of contemporary Poland. The experience of visiting the museum may be perceived as a journey through the splendidness of historical time, as intense immersion in bygone world which presents its glorious past and arouses deep sentiments. However, the more the journey lasts, the more tedious it becomes. Huge exhibitionary spaces it provides concentrates partly on the idea of interactive learning. It offers variety of educational games on electronic devices that are appealing mostly to children. Fortunately, there are parts of exhibition that re-establish the idea of reading in museum that may follow the expectations of adult guests as well. All in all, the inner logic of exhibition is rather unclear as it tries to meet the expectations on too many levels.

1 fot.W.Kryński_POLIN_Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Phot. W. Kryński POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Moreover, I was quite surprised that the museum narrates the history of Polish Jews without investigating further the issue of their absence in contemporaneity, apart from making a rather obvious reference to Holocaust. I also realized that the history it presents unveils itself in globally acknowledged manner. The whole concept of exhibition bares close resemblance to the idea of Jewish Museum in Berlin. Surprisingly, the German nation, which has already taken responsibility for mass extermination of European Jews, established an institution referring to the same historical facts and using identical educational games. Obviously, I don’t mean that there is no historical objectivity but since we are speaking of Polish Jews this particular context may add some relevance to the historical narrative. As for today, the difference between German and Polish context is rather clear: Jewish Museum in Berlin was established some time ago (2001) and there are many Jewish communities spread across Germany.

After visiting Polin I got the impression that the history it presents has been unrealistically internationalized and adjusted to the expectations of global audience. Obviously, there were some references to the locality such as industrial power and historical relevance of Lodz (the city with manufactures owned mostly by Jewish families). However, the inner diversification of Judaism, apart from noting the presence of Hasidic Jews in Poland, was barely mentioned. The museum focused on presenting mostly the visual content, remaining music totally beyond its scope. As there were few historical artifacts, exhibitionary content was based mostly on the reconstruction. As this journey through historical time and the world of reconstruction was finally over, I felt overwhelmed with its political correctness. Hopefully, as I was listening to debate about politics on memory, which took place later on in Polin, I realized that there are more voices that demand further discussion and critical examination of Polish society, history and culture. Hopefully- as only the considerable debate may help the museum to become something more.