Archaeology

1,000-year-old Polish Boleslaw Sword Reveals Glorious Knighthood Era

A 1,000-year-old “Boleslaw sword” (i.e., from the glorious reign of Boleslaw the Brave; lived 967-1025 AD) dated to the beginning of the 11th century and believed to have belonged to a knight working for Poland’s first ever king, has been found at a “secret and hidden” location in Lower Silesia. In the Middle Ages, Lower Silesia was part of Piast-ruled Poland. The recently discovered Boleslaw sword, which is long (1 meter; 3.2 feet) and elegant, is thought to have belonged to a knight in Boleslaw the Brave’s service.

The Rare Boleslaw Sword Discovery and Forensic Evidence

Three local history enthusiasts searching the area in Lewin Kłodzki, Poland, which borders the Czech Republic , on Monday accidentally stumbled upon the sword that was buried about 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) underground in soft soil.

Acting as responsible custodians, the three “historians” quickly camouflaged the site by covering the find in earth and immediately notified archaeologists in Wałbrzych, reports The First News . The three finders were also smart because they left a telltale soil pile at the location making it easy to identify when they returned. The information was not shared with anyone, in order to protect the find and what else might lie near it.

The three local historians standing above the 1000-year-old Boleslaw sword they found and turned in to the authorities. (Joanna Klimek-Szymanowicz Wójt Gminy Lewin Kłodzki / Polish Press Agency)

The three local historians standing above the 1000-year-old Boleslaw sword they found and turned in to the authorities. (Joanna Klimek-Szymanowicz Wójt Gminy Lewin Kłodzki / Polish Press Agency ) 

The Polish sword , though in pieces, was in good condition, despite the fact that it was lying in soil which led to some corrosion from oxygenation. The shaft lay separate from the other pieces, with the blade cracked at the bottom. Archaeologists speculate that there was a later settlement built in the area dating back to the 17th century AD. The area has been completely free of habitation and use since the end of the Second World War (1945).

Historians say the rare Boleslaw sword is one of the most valuable discoveries from the region in a long time and described as a “ sensation.”

“Such a sword is priceless,” said archaeologist Marek Kowalski of the Lower Silesian Office for the Protection of Historical Monuments. “It had the value of one or even several villages. So it undoubtedly belonged to some knight. Such things were not simply abandoned. Identical swords have been excavated at Ostrów Lednicki, where one of the most important castles of the Piast state was,” Kowalski said to Notes From Poland , referring to the first historical ruling dynasty of Poland, which ruled this region until the 14th century.

The Boleslaw era sword in situ at the find site. (Joanna Klimek-Szymanowicz Wójt Gminy Lewin Kłodzki / PAP)

This Boleslaw Sword Was Found Where Many Piast Battles Took Place

The Piasts and the Czech Bohemians fought a lot of battles in the area where the knight’s Boleslaw sword was found, which led to the conclusion that Boleslaw the Brave could have been the top leader or ruler of Poland at the time the sword fell to the ground and vanished under the leaves and soil of a “forgotten forest.”

What has confused historians and archaeologists is that there were no major castles or fortifications found or known of in this exact part of the Boleslaw ruled territories.

The sword strongly resembles others from the region dating to the early Middle Ages.

Kowalski added that swords were very much the biggest symbol of power for rulers and knights throughout this bloody period of history.

Bolesław the Brave buys the corpse of Saint Adalbert of Prague from the Prussians as depicted on the Gniezno Doors from Poland’s Gniezno Cathedral from circa 1170 AD, about 145 years after countless Boleslaw swords ruled Poland. (Mathiasrex, Maciej Szczepańczyk / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Bolesław the Brave buys the corpse of Saint Adalbert of Prague from the Prussians as depicted on the Gniezno Doors from Poland’s Gniezno Cathedral from circa 1170 AD, about 145 years after countless Boleslaw swords ruled Poland. (Mathiasrex, Maciej Szczepańczyk / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Boleslaw the Brave: Master Warrior

Boleslaw the Brave was the Duke of Poland from 992-1025 AD and crowned himself as the first King of Poland in 1025, at the culmination of his reign. He had a major impact on Poland’s history, with one of his earliest acts being to separate Poland from the power of the Holy Roman Empire. He was recognized as a great politician, strategist, and statesman, and one of the most warlike monarchs in the country’s history.

His kingdom had a huge territorial base, which he kept expanding through conquest and resolution of conflict through effective statecraft. Among these conflicts he fought against the encroaching Czech Bohemians from Moravia and the Germans to the west. He also was able to resolve conflict with the Ruthenians.

Dr. Lach Marek of the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Wroclaw is now in possession of the sword. He opined that the same type of weaponry has been found on the island of Ostrow Lednicki, which was one of the most important fortifications of the early Piast kingdom. A similar sword, from the 11th century, embellished with a Christian cross, was found at the bottom of a nearby lake in 2020.

As there were no other objects found next to the sword, archaeologists have ruled out that it was a burial gift or funerary items according to the The First News article.

It is still unclear when the sword fell to the ground or was buried intentionally. Due to significant corrosion, CT scans will be carried out on the sword to determine if there are any inscriptions that could perhaps reveal the owner of the sword.

Top image: Left, King Boleslaw, Right; the sword from the Boleshaw era found in Poland.  Source: Left; CC BY-SA 3.0 / Right; Joanna Klimek-Szymanowicz Wójt Gminy Lewin Kłodzki / The First News

By Sahir Pandey


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