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A wealth of archaeological discoveries in the centre of Gdańsk
4 August 2016 brought an end to archaeological rescue research preceding the construction of an electrical substation in the area between Górka St. and Ks. Rogaczewski St. in Gdańsk. The work conducted since May has resulted in the uncovering and documentation of the remains of pre-war buildings from the 19th and early 20th century as well as cultural layers dating back to the 15th century, when a so-called sand quarry was in operation. A majority of the mobile artefacts obtained are everyday objects from the interwar period which had remained in the ruined buildings but abundant early-modern and late medieval material has also been uncovered.
Around 40,000 objects were discovered in the area under investigation, including coins, figures, a pipe bearing masonic emblems, drink bottles, ceramics, porcelain, children’s toys and also skeletons of domestic animals and pets. Due to the sandy ground very few metal objects have remained. Most of the finds date back to the period of the Free City of Danzig. After they have been catalogued and conserved, they will all most probably be deposited in the collections of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the University of Gdańsk, where they will be put on display. In addition, the artefacts will allow archaeology students to come into contact with genuine material, which is a much more effective method of acquiring the experience necessary in their future work than viewing artefact photos during traditional lectures.
Research in the area has confirmed archaeologists’ earlier assumptions. The excavations revealed three mains stages of development. From the 15th century it housed a sand quarry i.e. a place from which material for the development of the Main Town was obtained, and from the 17th century the back of the now non-existent Sand Bastion (Ger. Bastion Sandgrube) which formed part of the outer line of Gdańsk fortifications. In the 19th and 20th centuries the area saw the emergence of a number of houses belonging to wealthy residents, as testified by the presence of good quality china and numerous examples of glassware used for beverages which would have been expensive at the time.
A few discoveries came as a surprise to the archaeologists who did not expect to unearth early-modern or even medieval layers from under the sands. Moreover, on the basis of old plans they were quite convinced that they would find remains of gardens, whereas no such traces were found. Another issue was latrines which are found in large numbers during excavations in cities. Here, despite a rather large area, only one 19th-century latrine was discovered towards the end of the research. What was discovered, however, was a great number of pipes, which would point to all the houses in the area being connected to the sewage system in the early 20th century.
“The foundations discovered have been thoroughly documented and dismantled. In the case of rescue research conducted prior to an investment, it rarely happens that a conservation officer issues a decision to preserve and display uncovered immobile monuments as this would invariably require great changes to the development plan or even halting the entire investment. For this reason, the main aim of rescue research is to document and collect the greatest information possible on the basis of the findings, before the area is completely destroyed during its redevelopment”, explains archaeologist Agnieszka Naleźny.
The work was conducted by the ‘ProArcheo’ archaeological research centre in cooperation with the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the University of Gdańsk. Head of the research was Dr Joanna Dąbal from the Medieval and Early-Modern Archaeology Section.