Viking Warriors in Poland: Overcoming Identity Crisis
Paper by Leszek Gardeła
Given at the 2019 European Association of Archeologists conference in Bern, in September 2019
Abstract: Since the discovery of a richly furnished Viking Age weapon grave in the cemetery at Ciepłe in Pomerania in the year 1900, there has been an uncritical tendency among many Polish archaeologists to consider male graves with opulent goods and military equipment as belonging to Scandinavian warriors. To this day, numerous scholars are convinced that the people buried with lavishly decorated spurs and horse tack in the cemetery at Lutomiersk in Central Poland also came from Northern Europe or at least that they had strong connections with Scandinavia or Rus. The same conviction pertains to rich weapon graves from places like Luboń and Łubowo in Greater Poland.
This paper will challenge these interpretations, demonstrating how the weak foundations they are built upon have led to serious misconceptions about social identities and cross-cultural interactions in the Viking Age. By re-analysing the most iconic graves from these sites, it will be demonstrated that their contents can provide fascinating insights not into Scandinavian but actually into West Slavic warrior identity. This interpretative shift can have serious implications not just for Polish archaeology but also for the understanding of the much wider Viking world.
Top Image: Wolin, Poland. Photo by Jan M / Wikimedia Commons