“The Night Baron” in exile. He even brought in the Dalai Lama
Photo: Maciej Osiecki/Forum
First, you drive a rickety car that smells of hard-boiled eggs. You drive for two hours and then they take you through a grove to the lake. Finally, a wooden gate with a thatched roof appears, straight out of the comics about Kajek and Kokosz. In addition, it is not authentic, just like the two long log cabins. Depending on the season, there are either mosquitoes or it’s bitterly cold. Most Poles who visited it as part of a school trip have such memories of the prehistoric settlement in Biskupin. However, it’s time to abandon stereotypes. The 90th anniversary of its discovery is a great opportunity for this.
– They’ve done quite well here. Beautiful view of the lake – says Kokosz.
– And long before the Piasts – Kajko replies.
This is a scene from the book “Kajko and Kokosz on the Piast Trail”. You do not know? No wonder, because this is not a typical album with the adventures of Slavic warriors. The heroes of Janusz Christa’s cult comic book became the faces promoting the Piast Trail. Two books were published – one with interesting facts, the other with black and white drawings for coloring. Moreover, the events along the trail feature the great figures of two brave warriors.
“The choice of characters is not accidental. Slavic warriors from the popular comic book are associated with the beginnings of the Polish state, so they fit perfectly into the promotion of the Piast Trail and Greater Poland – the place where Poland began,” informed the Greater Poland Tourist Chamber.
And here we have a discrepancy. Because yes, we know that Janusz Christa visited Biskupin and brought home photographs of wooden buildings, which became his inspiration for the buildings of Mirmiłów.
However, the traces of the settlement discovered in 1933 – the one whose symbol is the characteristic reconstructed gate – were estimated to date back to around 500 BC, i.e. the early Iron Age, and subsequent tests of the preserved wood proved that most of the building material used to build the settlement was cut down in winter at the turn of 738 and 737 BC, i.e. at the turn of the Bronze and Iron Ages. In a word – in 2023 we are much closer to the Piast dynasty than the inhabitants of this settlement.
The Middle Ages in three months
So what does Biskupin have in common with the Piast Trail? The same questions were asked by people who organized this tourist route 11 years ago. Their research yielded alarming results – it turned out that 42 percent of the objects were not thematically consistent with the trail profile. This had to be changed.
– There was an idea to remove Biskupin from the Piast Trail – recalls Henryk P. Dąbrowski, director of the Archaeological Museum in Biskupin. – My excellent predecessor, Wiesław Zajączkowski, a man with a great sense of humor, replied to this news: “What? There is a parking lot here! And it has always been like that!” Of course, he meant archaeological site number 8 located under the parking lot. Then he added that we have Piasts because there are medieval sites here. He heard: “But you don’t have any reconstructions!” So he announced that we would build it. And we built it in three months – says Dąbrowski.
Another reconstruction was added to the reserve – settlements of the first farmers from around 6200-6000 BC with a visualization of an even older camp of gatherers and hunters (referring to the discovery of traces of a camp from about 10,000 years ago on a sand dune near Lake Biskupińskie). And so in Biskupin today you can trace human development over 12,000 years.
But the foundation of Biskupin is still what was discovered here in 1933.
The burden of discovery
Then the pegs sticking out of the water aroused the interest of the boys grazing the goats there. They took them to a meadow belonging to the farmer Antoni Jercha, a local teacher. It was Walenty Szwajcer, who had already read about pile settlements discovered on Lake Constance. When he noticed that the mole pits were full of pottery fragments, he easily connected the dots. He was the one who notified scientists from Poznań and scolded the owner of the meadow who started removing peat from it.
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