viernes, 28 de febrero de 2014

Nieszawa – a medieval town reconstructed by non-invasive survey (Poland)

Nieszawa was once located on the opposite side of the Vistula river from the town of Toruń and was given municipal rights in 1425. Its appearance is directly connected to the construction of Dybow Castle (from 1424-1428) by the Polish king Władysław Jagiełło. The town benefited from its riverside location and developed so rapidly that within a short space of time it was in competition with Toruń. The growing income from river trade became a source of socio-economic tension between the Polish Kingdom and the Teutonic Order, and discontent grew among the townspeople and merchants of Toruń.
Eventually, the people of Toruń rebelled against Teutonic rule, and in appreciation for their involvement on the Polish side during the Thirteen Years’ War (1454–66), King Casimir IV Jagiellon decreed that he would demolish Nieszawa and relocate it 32 km upstream, where it still exists to this day.
Old Nieszawa – which functioned for only 35 years  – has never been built over; its last surviving structure, the church of St Nicholas, stood until the end of the 18th century. Today, the remains of Nieszawa lie underneath fields on a floodplain terrace in Toruń’s Podgórz district.
Despite historical sources giving the rough whereabouts of the town, its exact location had not been properly ascertained. Archaeologist Lidia Grzeszkiwicz-Kotlewska carried out some work on it at the end of the 20th century when trenches were opened in the area of St Nicholas church and the surrounding cemetery. However, the real breakthrough came as a result of aerial surveys conducted between 2001-2011 by archaeologist Wiesław Stępień, who was able to record a series of cropmarks which revealed part of the urban layout. Based on these results a non-invasive survey project was initiated with a grant from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
Thanks to remote sensing technologies it was possible to establish the central and eastern portions of the town’s buildings and street layout and the results of the 2012 season enabled a digital reconstruction of Nieszawa:

Dybów Castle

A programme of study on the environs of Dybów Castle also involved a series of geophysical and other non-invasive techniques to characterised the underlying archaeology. Two years of magnetometer survey covered almost 32 hectares and is the largest of its type carried out in Poland so far; with resistivity covering 0.5  ha and in 2013, magnetic susceptibility covering over 4 ha.
Results from the aerial reconnaissance work and UAV drones allowed the archaeologists to create high definition orthophotomaps of the whole medieval town. Thermal imaging also returned useful results which may be used in future studies as it is possible to observe thermal signatures of buried structures matched to the geophysical anomalies. Aerial prospection was also continued by Wiesław Stępień.
This data was overlaid on a data terrain model (DTM) created from LiDAR measurements. The entire dataset was then integrated into a GIS system (QGIS opensource software), enabling the production of a multilayered palimpsest. Its analysis also enabled the creation of spatial models and a digital reconstruction of the medieval town. After consultation with specialists in the field of medieval urbanisation, Dr Jerzy Sikora (Institute of Archaeology, University of Łódź) and Dr Michał Starski (Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw) a new reconstruction was created, based on the results of the 2013 research:

Reconstructing the forgotten

The heart of medieval Nieszawa was its main square measuring 140×140 m. Its accompanying buildings included the town hall, market stalls and weighing machine, located in the central and southern areas. On the western side of the town a second space of similar dimensions to that of the main square was devoid of any obvious features but is thought to have been a market place. Similar spaces have also been located in the southern and eastern parts of the town to the south of the church of St. Nicholas.
Previously, archaeological excavation in the area of the church confirmed that the remains of St Nicholas and its accompanying cemetery appeared to lie just outside the main urban area. The location of other religious structures which existed in the lost town, such as the church of St. Hedwig (which was moved to modern Nieszawa at the end of 15th century) are still to be found.
To the south, west and east from the town centre, streets led off from the corners of the main square and created the principal arteries. Off these streets lie relatively compact divisions, and earlier archaeological excavations have identified half-timbered buildings sitting within them. Records show that one of these structures should be the residence of  Stanisław Ciołek (1382-1437), Bishop of Poznań and the Royal Secretary and Vice Chancellor to King Władysław Jagiełło. The northern district, although intensively studied, wasn’t clearly revealed due to dense vegetation cover, but it is included in the spatial model due to there being very clear magnetic anomalies.
The most surprising discovery took place in the western and southern areas of the town, where anomalies showed possible fortifications – probably an earthen bank. Although its outline is not possible to trace over the whole perimeter, it is assumed that the lines ran from the bank of the Vistula on the west and then close to Dybów Castle to the east. It is possible to make out the town gates which formed part of the fortification system, with the western entrance being the most clearly visible. Also well defined is a moat in the north-western corner coming off the Vistula river. This clearly shows that the town was heavily fortified on its west side and could only be accessed through the gate, whilst on the east (on Toruń’s side) it was Dybów Castle that provided Nieszawa with protection.

A lost town reborn

Nieszawa, had been a town with well over a thousand citizens, a vast square, carefully designed districts, regular street layout, market spaces, industrial areas and an impressive embankment-moat fortification system in the in the protective shadow of Dybów Castle.  Sitting on the border between the Kingdom of Poland and the Teutonic state the creation of such a successful urban centre would have taken a huge amount of effort on the part of the Polish Kingdom. It is understandable then, why the townspeople of Toruń wanted to get rid of their commercial competitor, and why, in reward for their loyalty in the war against the Teutonic State, the Polish king decided to relocate Nieszawa.
This new archaeological research has been able to show that the main aim of the Polish king was to create a powerful trading centre on the Vistula River, in order to challenge the Teutonic Order. Today, standing in the field that once was a thriving medieval town, it is possible to hear the distant church bells ringing from Podgórz district and Toruń’s town square. Yet, during the 15th century another town was growing year by year, and rapidly weakening the Teutonic Order’s trade. With a twist of fate the town was lost, but with this research it was digitally restored back to life.

Source: Past Horizons: http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/02/2014/nieszawa-a-medieval-town-reconstructed-by-non-invasive-survey

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