Survival at the Frontier of Holy War: Political Expansion, Crusading, Environmental Exploitation and the Medieval Colonizing Settlement at Biała Góra, North Poland

Zbigniew Sawicki, Aleks Pluskowski, Alexander Brown, Monika Badura, Daniel Makowiecki, Lisa Shillito, Mirosława Zabilska-Kunek, Krish Seetah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries AD, the Lower Vistula valley represented a permeable and shifting frontier between Pomerelia (eastern Pomerania), which had been incorporated into the Polish Christian state by the end of the tenth century, and the territories of western Prussian tribes, who had resisted attempts at Christianization. Pomeranian colonization eventually began to falter in the latter decades of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, most likely as a result of Prussian incursions, which saw the abandonment of sites across the borderland. Subsequently, the Teutonic Order and its allies led a protracted holy war against the Prussian tribes, which resulted in the conquest of the region and its incorporation into a theocratic state by the end of the thirteenth century. This was accompanied by a second wave of colonization, which resulted in the settlement pattern that is still visible in the landscape of north-central Poland today. However, not all colonies were destroyed or abandoned in between the two phases of colonization. The recently excavated site of Biała Góra, situated on the western side of the Forest of Sztum overlooking the River Nogat, represents a unique example of a transitional settlement that included both Pomeranian and Teutonic Order phases. The aim of this paper is to situate the site within its broader landscape context which can be characterized as a militarized frontier, where, from the later twelfth century and throughout much of the thirteenth century, political and economic expansion was combined with the ideology of Christian holy war and missionary activity. This paper considers how the colonists provisioned and sustained themselves in comparison to other sites within the region, and how Biała Góra may be tentatively linked to a documented but otherwise lost outpost in this volatile borderland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-311
JournalEuropean Journal of Archaeology
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

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