With over 500 artefacts excavated, archaeologists have dubbed the discovery of an over millennium-old cemetery of the once dreaded warrior tribe of Yotvingans, the greatest revelation in the northeastern Polish region of Suwałki.
Yotvingian swords, arrowheads, stirrups and fibulae were appropriated by the Regional Museum of the Suwalki Region making it the custodian of the largest Yotvingian artefacts exhibition in the world.
“The most valuable exhibits such as jewellery, arms, tools and every-day items that we’ve extracted so far come from a very small area of nearly 100 cubic meters,” said Jerzy Siemaszko, an archaeologist of the Suwałki Regional Museum, adding that “we’ve excavated over 500 artifacts, which is a huge collection.”
The head of the museum Jerzy Brzozowski said that the discovery was “truly priceless because it is the most valuable find in exhibitory and scientific terms, and also the most valuable early-Medieval cemetery of the Yotvingian culture ever discovered.”
The find is of such a significance that the archaeologists refused to specify its location, for fear it might fall prey to treasure hunters. The archaeologists confessed that tomb raiders were the first to discover the necropolis, causing significant damage to the majority of the site in the process.
The scope of the discovery is best explained by Mr Brzozowski who said that “in fact, we are talking about a couple of thousands of artifacts here that include fragments of earthenware, human bones and scraps of metal found at the cemetery.”
Archaeologists are planning to organise a large exhibition in 2020 to showcase the wealth of newly discovered artifacts.
The Baltic people of Yotvingians arrived in the Suwałki Region in mid-first millennium AC, archaeologists presume. They were hunters and fierce warriors that the neighbouring tribes of Prussians and Lithuanians had to reckon with. Yotvingians nurtured the custom of burning the bodies of their deceased tribesmen along with items treated as burial offerings.
The Yotvingian language (sometimes called Sudovian) was a Western Baltic language, nearest to Old Prussian but with small variations. They were referred to in regional historical records as late as the 19th century.
The tribe was eradicated by the Teutonic Knights by 1283, however, a census by the clergy of the Belarus Grodno area in 1860 revealed as many as 30,929 inhabitants identify as Yatviags.