History of the Institute

The Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Scien-ces was founded on November 19, 1953 when, by a resolution of the Presidium of the Government of the Polish People's Republic, the Institute of History of Material Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences was established. The Institute began ope-rating on January 1, 1954, assuming the legacy of the former Management of Studies on the Beginnings of the Polish State and the Organizing Committee of the Institute of History of Material Culture. Within the Institute of History of Material Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Polish university centres in Warsaw, Poznań, Krakow, Łódź and Wrocław Departments of the Archaeology of Poland were created with subsidiary Archaeological Stations carrying out excavations in the main stron-gholds of the Piast State.


Archaeological studies in Wrocław, Szczecin and Wolin as well as the Rese-arch Unit in Kołobrzeg, currently belonging to the Wrocław Section of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, were separate re-search institutions functioning within different departments in the 1950s and 1960s.
In January 1954 in Wrocław, the Department of Archaeology of Poland was established; from 1966 onwards, it was known as the Department of Archaeology of Silesia. Directly responsible to it was the Archaeological Station in Opole that ope-rated until 1960. In the years 1954-1962, the Head of the Department and of the Opole station was Professor Dr hab. Włodzimierz Hołubowicz. After his death, the position was assumed by Professor Dr hab. Helena Cehak-Hołubowicz. Apart from the Department of Archaeology of Poland of the Institute of History of Material Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Wrocław, archaeological excavations on Cathedral Island (Ostrów Tumski) were conducted by the Archaeological Station Wrocław-Ostrów Tumski that was subordinate to the Institute of History of Material Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Poznań. These were led by Professor Dr hab. Wojciech Kočka (they also took control of the excavations of the Manage-ment of Studies on the Beginnings of the Polish State), then transformed into the Excavation Expedition of the Department of Archaeology of Greater Poland (1955-1966). In January 1967, the Excavation Expedition of the Department of Archae-ology of Greater Poland was closed and further excavations were conducted by the Department of Archaeology of Silesia of the Institute of History of Material Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

In January 1954, the research centres created in Western Pomerania (the Ar-chaeological Station in Szczecin, the Archaeological Station in Wolin and the Archa-eological Station in Kołobrzeg) began to be controlled by the Department of Archae-ology of Poland in Poznań. As a result of organizational changes in 1955 from the aforementioned institutions, together with the Archaeological Station in Kruszwica, the Department of Archaeology of Pomerania was created, headed by Professor Dr hab. Witold Hensel. The year 1963 brought further changes, the result of which was the combining of the Department of Archaeology of Pomerania and the Department of Archaeology of Greater Poland into the Department of Archaeology of Greater Poland and Pomerania. The Archaeological Station in Kołobrzeg was transformed into the Expedition. The head of the centre became Professor Dr hab. Wojciech Ko-čka.

An important date in the history of our Institute is 1971, when the Department of Archaeology of the Odra River Basin of the Institute of History of Material Cultu-re of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Wrocław was founded, headed by Professor Dr hab. Lech Leciejewicz. The Department included the study of the archaeology of Silesia in Wrocław, archaeological study in Szczecin, archaeological study in Wolin and from 1990 the Research Unit in Kołobrzeg.

In 1992 the Department of Archaeology of the Odra River Basin of the Insti-tute of History of Material Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences was renamed the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Wrocław section.

In 2002, after the retirement of Professor Lech Leciejewicz, Dr Sławomir Moździoch became the Head of the Wrocław Section. The Wrocław Section conti-nued on its former research areas but also began to focus increasingly on Silesian and European issues. In 2006, as a result of the Pomeranian institutions becoming inde-pendent, the Section’s human and material resources were limited to the facility in Wroclaw, which since October 2011, bears the name of the Centre for Late Antique and Early Medieval Studies of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Po-lish Academy of Sciences.

Despite the fact that from the beginning of the Wrocław Centre special atten-tion was paid to the study of the early medieval period, prehistoric issues were not neglected. Among the subjects researched worth mentioning are the socio-economic relations in Silesia in the early Neolithic as well as in the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age. Particularly important for understanding socio-economic transformations in the Odra River Basin in late Antiquity were excavations conducted for many years in north-western Silesia and Lower Lusatia.
The study of the early Middle Ages included analyses of the early feudal system of the Polish state and its tribal heritage, the settlement and economy of Sile-sia, both in the pre-state and in the state periods, the settlement-economic base of Western Pomerania, origins of towns in Silesia and rural culture in the incorporation era. Excavations of early urban centres in Szczecin, Wolin, Wrocław, Opole and Kołobrzeg were also conducted.
The problems of early medieval European culture and the contribution of the Slavs in the process of its creation occupy an important position among the research areas. An excellent summary of the work of many years was a monograph on me-dieval Europe by Professor Lech Leciejewicz, the head of the Wrocław Section enti-tled ‘The new form of the world; the birth of medieval European civilization’, Wro-cław 2000. For his significant achievements in the field of archaeology and history of medieval Europe, he received the Award of the Foundation for Polish Science (‘Po-lish Nobel Prize’) in 2002.

Many years of excavations carried out by employees of the Wrocław Section focused on sites that to this day remain in the archaeology of Poland as specific ‘mi-lestones’. They were thoroughly excavated, with studies and publications of large parts of the research results. Among the major achievements of the last decade’s excavation activities of the institute worth mentioning are the research on a group of sites on Mount Ślęża, the verification of the chronology of early medieval Silesian strongholds in Klenica, Chobienia and Sądowel, the excavations of the Piast stron-ghold in Milicz, the discovery of a pagan temple from the 1030s in a Piast stron-ghold in Wrocław as a result of the reinterpretation of old materials, the attempt of a socio-topographical reconstruction of a typical local Piast power centre based on years of excavations of the stronghold in Bytom Odrzański, the discovery of the re-mains of an 'archaeological' trench, the first in the history of Polish territory, dug on the initiative of Duke Louis I of Brzeg (Ludwik Brzeski) in 1390 in Ryczyn in Sile-sia, the stronghold built in 983-984, the discovery of the embankments of the Opole stronghold moat built in the years 1219-1221 by Duke Kazimierz I, and ramparts of that stronghold from the time of Bolesław Śmiały (the Bold) and Władysław Her-man. The results of these studies have produced significant adjustments to the earlier history of Silesia and the Piast state.
Due to the scale of excavation work, the Wrocław Section has accumulated a significant amount of material and archival documentation.

The ongoing research projects of the centre are the symbolic culture of prehi-storic and early historic communities of Central Europe, cultures of communities of Eurasia in Late Antiquity and in the Middle Ages and the culture of medieval Silesia in a European context.

The centre also carries out research projects of a source nature, by far exce-eding the descriptive and classification actions. It is a part of the Atlas of Polish hi-storical towns’ project and the historical-archaeological Dictionary of a Silesian vil-lage in the Middle Ages. An important focus of the research activities of the centre is the landscape archaeology of medieval Europe as well as the archaeology of non-European cultures.
Most of the research projects are undertaken in collaboration with scientists from Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and Germany, on individual terms or sometimes in the form of contracts, for example, the research programme on the early medieval power centres in Central Europe carried out jointly with the Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague. To continue the research tradition of the centre, the summary of which is the aforementioned work of Lech Leciejewicz, collaboration with scientific institutions in China, the Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Italy was undertaken.
An important activity of the centre is the rescue excavations conducted by the Rescue Excavations Team. This is both a source of financial income for the Institute as well as of significant archaeological discoveries which enrich the source base of the region's history.

The editorial office of 'Przegląd Archeologiczny', dedicated to universal pre-historic and medieval archaeology is based in the centre. Currently, an important role is being played by the development of co-operation between the Institute with mu-seum institutions and schools in many towns of Lower Silesia. This ensures the In-stitute of Archaeology and Ethnology is fulfilling its social role.
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