An Iron Producing Settlement of the Stroked Pottery Culture at the Berezowo Clearing in the Białowieża Forest
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Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2018;LXIX:149–175
The archaeological sites Leśnictwo Podcerkiew 1, 2 and 3 are located in NE Poland, in the southern part of the Białowieża Forest. They are situated within the Białowieża Forest District (departments 544D, 545C, 577B and 578A), in the area of the so-called Berezowo Clearing and its neighborhood (Fig. 1, 2). Archaeological excavations were conducted in 2004–2005 by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw in cooperation with the Mammal Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Białowieża. In total, an area of 68 m2 was explored. Sites 1 and 2 were explored in five designated areas (nos. 1–5) covering the central and northern parts of the clearing and a modern charcoal kiln at its periphery (Fig. 3). Remnants of a large settlement with traces of iron production were discovered there. Most of the surface was covered by a layer of arable soil up to 0.3 m thick, and an underlaying brown and fuscous cultural layer measuring 0.1 to 0.35 m in thickness (Fig. 4:b.c, 5:b–d, 6:c). The excavations unearthed several pits and putative postholes (Fig. 4, 5), as well as remains of three shaft furnaces used for iron smelting (Fig. 6:a.b, 12–14). One of the most interesting features is the large pit 12. In the examined part it measured about 1.75×1.35 m and was about 1.55 m deep. It was probably used as a storage pit (Fig. 5:a–c, 10). Several small potsherds, single flints and a few fragments of daub, slags and bones were found in its fill. The remains of iron smelters found in the northern part of the settlement were shaped as circular or slightly oval pits with cylindrical cross-sections, measured about 0.4–0.5 m in diameter, and were 0.2–0.3 m deep (Fig. 6:a.b, 12–14). The remains of clay lining on the walls of the slag-pits were preserved in two of them (features 65 and 67). Based on the size of their slag-pits (approx. 0.25 and 0.30 m in diameter), these features belong to the category of small furnaces, similar to the type Kunów from the Center of Metallurgy in the Świętokrzyskie Mountains (K. Bielenin 1973, table 9 and p. 73; 1992, p. 75–77). During the excavations, 308 fragments of prehistoric pottery, obtained mainly from the arable and cultural layers, were found at the settlement (Table 1, Fig. 7, 11). Most of the assemblage consists of small and eroded body sherds, usually no more than 5 cm long. Vessels were made of ferruginous clay tempered with crushed stone and usually fired in oxidizing atmosphere. Various types of finish have been observed on the surface of the walls (Table 1): smoothing (44.5% of the sherds), hatching (25.6%), roughening (15.9%) and burnishing (14.0%). In addition to pot fragments, the assemblage also contains fragments of tableware with burnished surfaces. Most of the vessels were not decorated, and ornamentation was found on a few sherds only (Fig, 11:8.11). The remaining artefacts include a fragment of an iron knife from the cultural layer with a preserved length of approx. 8 cm and a partial tang (Fig. 9:1), and an object made of a bovine bone (Fig. 9:3). A fragment of a cylindrical spindle whorl with a diameter of approx. 3 cm was found on the surface of the site (Fig. 9:2). In addition, 19 flint artefacts dating from the end of the Late Paleolithic or Mesolithic period to the Early Iron Age (Fig. 8) were found during the excavations. During the excavations, several hundred fragments of reducing slags, a by-product of iron smelting, as well as slagged parts of furnace shafts were collected. Most of them were found in the fills of the slag-pits of furnaces 65 and 67. Chemical composition was analyzed for 38 samples (Table 2). Based on the contents of iron trioxide and silica, fayalite slags with icicle structure, so called “gromps” (splinters, flakes), and slagged fragments of furnace walls were identified. A botanical analysis was conducted on 46 charcoal samples (Table 3). Taxonomic identification showed the presence of charcoal from seven tree species, with a clear dominance of pine, both among samples taken from furnaces (67%) as well as from other features and the cultural layer (56%). A radiocarbon dating of three charcoal samples taken from the remains of bloomeries 62 (Poz-13154) and 67 (Poz-13156), and the sterile soil near feature 67 (Poz-13157) was conducted (Fig. 15). The dating of the pine charcoal from furnace 67 yielded a result of 1970±30 BP. The actual age of the sample is in the range of 50 BC–90 AD (with a probability of 95.4%) and 1–70 AD (with a probability of 68.2%). The charcoal of an unspecified species from feature 62 provided the date of 2280±35 BP, with bimodal probability distribution, which allows, which allows to include the real age of the sample in the years 410–340 BC or 310–200 BC (with a probability of 95.4%), and 400–350 BC or 290–230 BC (with a probability of 68.2%). The characteristic features of the archaeological material, mainly the different types of finish on the surface of the ceramic vessels, allow for associating the discovered artefacts with a local group of the Hatched Pottery Culture. The occupation of the settlements at the sites Leśnictwo Podcerkiew 1 and 2 can be limited to the 4th/3rd century BC –1st century AD. The few bone fragments found in the cultural layer show that in addition to iron production and hunting (deer bones), the inhabitants of the settlement also engaged in animal husbandry (bones of cattle and sheep/goat). Combining the results of archaeological and paleoecological research shows that the settlement of the local group of the Hatched Pottery Culture in the Białowieża Forest was dispersed. The population employed fire for deforestation of areas used for settlement and farming. Other occupations included hunting and animal husbandry, while bog ore deposits were used to produce iron in small slag-pit bloomeries. In 2005, a preliminary investigation took place in the area located about 200 m west of the Berezowo Clearing (site Leśnictwo Podcerkiew 3), where two designated areas were excavated (nos. 6 and 7, see Fig. 3). A brown cultural layer about 0.2 m thick as well as two putative postholes (Fig. 16) were found under the humus. 27 fragments of vessels dating to the Early Iron Age – Roman Period (Table 1, Fig. 17) and a stone tool (Fig. 18) were collected. The small scope of research does not allow to determine the cultural association of the remnants of the settlement discovered at this site, but it is very likely that it is contemporaneous with the settlement at the Berezowo Clearing.