Monday, July 5, 2010

A day at the Archeopark, Chotěbuz-Podobora. Part I

Fortification: Akropole of 'Old Cieszyn'
Location: Chotěbuz-Podobora, Czech
Built: 8th to 11th century

I am no longer jealous of the French and their authentically authentic castle (see earlier post), as I have been to an authentically authentic fortress that is also in the process of being completed.

The Akropole, or Akropol, or Acropolis, or if you will--Citadel--at Chotěbuz-Podobora is now an Archeopark. It is unique within Czech as it is an outdoor museum and rebuilt on the original site.

The archeological discovery was made in 1978 and reconstruction began only recently. The park will be finished later this year, and there is little available about it in English at this time. (If anyone finds a source, please let me know!) Because of this, I hope to provide a very detailed blog post, in two parts, on the history and culture.

You may visit for more photos or if you read in Czech, but the site is not currently available in other languages.

In the 8th century an important trading route, the Amber Road, ran from the Adriatic Sea to the Baltic Sea (more here). The Acropolis was an important stopping point on the route and the Slavics here conducted a great deal of trade.

In 1155, the site was first mentioned in writing, and was referred to as Old Cieszyn. During the 10th and 11th century, however, people had moved from ‘Old Cieszyn,’ and none lived there by the 12th century. It is believed these people built Castle Hill, the construction of which began in the 10th century. This is likely due to the destruction of the stronghold at ‘Old Cieszyn’.

Going back to the 8th to 4th century B.C., during the late Bronze age and the Halstadt Period, pagan people had a settlement here. An unfortified or minimally enclosed settlement gradually became fortified. But during the 5th century B.C., the early settlement was conquered and burnt down by people who set fire and ran. At an excavation site in the first Předhradí or bailey, they found the burnt bones of the people who hid there during the attack. They also found broken jewelery and the remains of a cow that was pregnant. The fire destroyed the stable and caused the roof to collapse on the cow. This helped preserve her and her fetus, the later of which was kept moist in the uterus.

Then there was nothing on this opportune hill for twelve centuries.

So, to begin our tour, I once again found myself at the bottom of the hill, just in time for a tour group that was heading out. Mind, the tour was in Czech mostly, but it all worked out in the end, particularly when the tour guide took an extra 1/2 hour to go over things again with me and answer questions :)

So, please excuse the poor photo quality, but here we are at the base of the hill:

As far as I could tell, the stairs were the only unauthentic item. Obviously not useful for carts and here is the one place I saw metal nails in use.


Now here we are, at the top of the stairs, looking up at the corner of the Acropolis, or 'Highest City.'

Let me take you back to the map for orientation and explanation. Again, please bear with me through the technical part and please open the map image in a new window for future reference. (Though perhaps not as required at this fortification). This is an overview of the fortress, approximately as it looked around the 11th century, and as it looks now.

So, clockwise from the top: Acropolis. Long House. Palisade. Slavic fort, tower, and entrance gate. Bridge. Little bridge at entrance. 1st and 2nd Předhradí -> Literally 'under castle' (Podgród in Polish and Bailey in English). Next area of development (the 2nd Předhradí is not completed) (This is the area at the bottom- the 2nd Předhradí). Access road. Original ground (to be excavated later). House replicas. If that's unclear, someone yell at me in the comments, or keep reading. :)

The fortress covered an area 400m long by 110 wide.

It is interesting to note that the Olza River once ran past the base of the hill, where the entrance and little bridge now lies. The Olza ran here until the 18th century, when flooding created a new corridor for the river. It now runs 500-700 meters further east, past Castle Hill in Cieszyn. A small stream runs there now, along the road.

Climbing up the access road and hanging a left at the top, we reach the first Předhradí.

This clay kiln, sitting in the first Předhradí, was used to bake bread. The tour guide mentioned that they made bread in it once and it turned out quite nice. :) I will be covering kilns more in my second post.

The next shot is looking almost straight across. Please ignore the metal structure, which may have been for the archeologists.

You can see the pit and the mound of dirt from the excavations. This is where they found the preserved cow I mentioned earlier. At the back of the pit, you see a steep hill. This wraps around to behind where I was standing and is part of the acropolis' defenses. Next we walked back behind that metal framework, and downhill into the trees-

This ditch was dug out and the earth raised around the first Předhradí. If I recall correctly, the difference in height is 8 meters. To my left is the second Předhradí, which is further downhill. We didn't go there on the tour as it's not complete, but wheat, oats, and other grains were grown there.

So, crossing the 1st Předhradí again and heading north, we arrive at the acropolis:

The bridge was made entirely without nails, and you can see the joinery and wood peg (I'm sure it has a technical English word associated with it- I saw this once on TV but forgot!) used during construction.

Nice, no? The fortress is also made without metal nails.

Lastly, an aerial shot of the reconstructed fortress:

This concludes part I of our tour. As soon as I can, I will continue our tour inside the acropolis and tell you more about the people who lived there.

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