Iron Age horse harness discovered near Toruń

Over 150 decorative bronze fragments of a horse harness, dating back to the 6th century BC, were discovered in Cierpice, near Toruń in central Poland.

The found objects were wrapped in burdock leaves and placed in a leather sack. The discovery is over 2.5 thousand years old, and is the first find of its kind in East-Central Europe.

The discovery was made by Mr Arkadiusz Kurij, a member of a historic exploration club, WELES from Mała Niszawka. During one of the club outings, Mr Kurij’s metal detector emitted “an interesting and deep signal” and when the club members realised that they might have found a valuable artefact, they covered and protected the site, and notified the conservation authorities. By law, any historical artefacts found in the ground in Poland belong to the state, and founders are obligated to report their discoveries to conservation authorities.

The objects found in Cierpice were recovered from the ground by officers of the Regional Heritage Board (WUOZ) in Toruń.

During the excavation, a total of 156 bronze objects, which formed a significant part of a horse headstall, were recovered.

“The preserved artefacts indicate that the horse headstall was very ornamental, because besides the main fragments, we found numerous tube and ring-like pieces made of sheet metal and wire,” explains Professor Jacek Gackowski from the Institute of Archaeology of Nicolaus Copernicus University (UMK) in Toruń.

According to Prof. Gackowski, the style of the found artefacts indicates, without a doubt, that nomadic people, perhaps Scythians, infiltrated the far North regions, which were inhabited by the peoples of the Lusatian Culture. This is most likely to have occurred in the early Iron Era (6th century BC).

To find out more about the discovery, a special interdisciplinary research team, including prehistorians, archaeometallurgy experts, art restorers and biologists will be set up. The preserved organic material will help to estimate the exact time when the objects were hidden in the ground.

The discovered treasure will find its home in one of the local museums, however, not before detailed research and conservation procedures are completed, which might take up to nine months.

The Regional Heritage Board has authorised the Department of Prehistory of the Institute of Archaeology at UMK to coordinate research and develop publications about this unique discovery.