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Narodowe Muzeum Morskie w Gdańsku

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Excavations next to the Crane

01.03.2010 |

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Excavations next to the Crane

Anything interesting found by archaeologists on the site of the former Colonial Warehouse in Gdańsk? The plot, next to the Żuraw, is to be the site of CMM Maritime Culture Centre. Researchers from the archaeology and conservation office of Maria Karolina Kocińska of Borkowo are happy with many findings. Fist of all, the stone foundations in wooden boxes indicating there used to be a gate here, dating even from early 15th century. Then, the outer wall, dated at mid-15th century, a huge wooden barrel – more than 3 m tall and nearly 1.5 m in diameter – of still unknown application and a fragment of a water system made of timber. The oldest findings date back to the 1st half of the 15th century. This is how a dyke on the side of the Motława river is dated, most probably protecting the area from being flooded by the river – says archaeologist Joanna Jarzęcka-Stąporek working at the site. Precise dating of some of the artefacts may be problematic. We hope that tree-ring dating will help us to solve the mystery of the outer wall. An examination of the timber from the brick wall formwork will help us to determine if it was built in the early or late 15th century; whether it was put up by the Teutonic Knights, or built from castle demolition material – she adds. The function of the barrel is equally difficult to determine. This is not a typical drain barrel, because it has no holes in the staves. There is a wooden pipe, instead, taking excess water to the river Motława. It is most likely to have been a well – Joanna Jarzęcka explains.

The most colourful exhibit, pleasing the eyes of archaeologists, turns out to be the green, 16-th century tile, which once decorated the stove in one of the tenement houses in Gdańsk. What is interesting – the original ceramic element was excavated, bit by bit, from a latrine and then glued together. It depicts a puzzling genre scene. We do not know who the man is, with his hand raised to hit the woman at his feet. Perhaps it is a family scene, or a biblical one transformed to contemporary fashion – archaeologists ponder.

Researchers have been able to determine how the plot next to the Żuraw was developed. Foundation walls of tenements have been exposed, including those from late 15th century, as well as foundations of the granary adjacent to the Żuraw. The houses are known to have faced street Tokarska. Each parcel had a backyard with a latrine between the houses and the river. Later, the backyards gave way to a second line of houses – facing the quayside. The excavations confirm the prewar division of the land into parcels.

The archaeological research between the streets of Tokarska and Szeroka and The Motława took nearly 5 months to complete. Most of the time was spent on the fill-in layers. About five thousand ceramic pieces have been exposed, fifteen hundred bone fragments, three hundred metal elements and the same number of ones made of glass. About 300 interesting movable artefacts have been identified. The archaeologists went two metres below the sea level, exploring mostly latrines, from which many objects were recovered: wooden and glass vessels, bowls, plates, tin spoons and jugs, clay chamber pots, ornaments, belt finishes, pieces of fabric, boot trees, sail rigging, rolled wooden balls. Among the smaller items, there was a Gdańsk pfennig, a lead pilgrim's plaque depicting Mary and Jesus, a knife holder, a thimble, a razor and a comb.

Chamber work will now continue for 2 weeks – full documentation of the excavation work will be made. The exhibits, after conservation, will become the stock of the Polish Maritime Museum in Gdańsk. When the archaeologists are gone, construction of the Maritime Culture Centre will begin, the contractors to be decided in a tender called by the CMM.

Marta Nicgorska