The Age of Stone: Just how old are the oldest relics of stone architecture in Poland?
URBAŃCZYK, PRZEMYSŁAW (Institute of Archeology and Ethnology, Warsaw)
Polish Academy of Sciences, Research in Progress, Archeology, Academia, No.3, (19) (2008)
Precise identification of the age of medieval stone buildings enables their construction to be correlated with important historical events. Using state-of-the-art dating methods, Polish researchers have solved the longstanding riddle of when the monumental constructions of medieval Poland were erected.
The year 2007 saw the conclusion of a program funded by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education aimed at clarifying the age of masonry constructions raised during the early period of Polish statehood, i.e. between the 10th and 13th centuries. Of the nearly 200 known buildings with such chronology, our study selected more than 80 constructions considered to represent the pre-Romanesque or Early Romanesque period. They were largely overbuilt, preserved fragmentarily as ruins, or almost as debris.
The existing methods used by art historians to identify the age of such buildings are far from precise, giving dating discrepancies that may exceed 100 years. The Institute of Archeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences, therefore set up an interdisciplinary team to explore radiocarbon analysis of wall mortar samples as a new dating method for stone constructions. 140 mortar samples carefully extracted from the best-preserved fragments of 40 buildings were searched for organic particles, which were subsequently analyzed at the Poznań Radiocarbon Laboratory using the Accelerated Mass Spectrometry (AMS) method. The results obtained fully confirmed our intuitions that such a method would yield new insights into the dating of early Polish stone architecture.