Sprawling Gothic Graveyard Filled With Grave Goods Discovered By Chance In Poland

Published August 24, 2023

The cemetery dates from the 4th century C.E. and contains dozens of graves as well as amber beads and silver jewelry.

Holding A Brooch

Wdecki Park KrajobrazowA park archaeologist holds a silver brooch that was discovered at the Gothic cemetery near the Wda River.

While walking along Poland’s Wda River, archaeology video content creator Olaf Popkiewicz spotted a glint of silver. He notified park archeologists, who investigated the site — and uncovered a sprawling Gothic graveyard filled with ornate grave goods.

“The past three weeks have been very intense for the park archeo section,” park representatives said in a Facebook post about the stunning find. “In three weeks, we managed to examine over 250 square meters of cemetery area and discover 50 Gothic graves! [This] constitutes only a fraction of the surface area of the post, because we estimate its area is more than a hectare!”

As Heritage Daily reports, the archaeologists determined that the graveyard dates back to the 4th century, when Goths occupied the region. In addition to the 50 graves, which included both pit graves containing buried remains and cremations buried in urns, they also found two silver necklaces, two silver fibulae (brooches), a silver-beaded necklace, jewelry with a snake motif, pottery, and amber beads.

Silver Necklace

Olaf Popkiewicz/FacebookArchaeologists found a number of ornate grave goods at the site, including this silver necklace.

As Live Science reports, the Goths were a Germanic tribe perhaps best known for their sack of Rome in 410 C.E. Some of them settled across present-day Poland between the first and fourth centuries as they made their way south from their native Scandinavia towards the Roman Empire. The Goths seized territory and briefly flourished across Europe, but fell to the Moors in 711 C.E.

The Gothic graveyard discovered near the Wda River resembles other Gothic sites that have also been uncovered in northern Poland. In 2020, Live Science reports that archaeological excavations in Weklice, a couple of hours north of the Wda River, uncovered hundreds of ornate silver ornaments including bracelets, clasps, and clothing decorations.

These silver ornaments “were made of a very high-quality metal, the fineness of which even exceeded the composition of currently produced jewelry,” said Magdalena Natuniewicz-Sekuła, a researcher at the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw who was not involved in the excavation at the Wda River, per Live Science.

Though the Goths are sometimes described as “barbarians,” Natuniewicz-Sekuła added that the craftsmanship of their jewelry was just as good as similar objects produced by the Roman Empire.

Artifact With Snake Motif

Wdecki Park KrajobrazowyOne of the artifacts found at the Wda River, which appears to depict a curious snake motif.

Though the archaeologists near the Wda River are enthusiastic about their find, they also are running against the clock to research and document the area. They’re determined to work quickly to preserve what they can, and are eager to see what else they find as they continue to investigate.

“Unfortunately, the state of preservation of a large part of the open necropolis makes it necessary for immediate excavation studies to save the position,” park officials explained in their Facebook post. “Therefore, this is probably just the beginning of our adventure with this place.”

Who knows what they’ll find at the Gothic graveyard next? It seems plausible that the archaeologists will find more human remains, jewelry, and, perhaps, more clues about the lives of the Goths, the fearsome Germanic tribe that infamously sacked Rome.

After reading about the Gothic cemetery filled with grave goods that was discovered in Poland, see how a “vampire graveyard” with over 400 skeletons was discovered near a Polish church. Or, see how a Polish archaeologist discovered a forgotten 5,000-year-old cemetery and medieval fortress by looking at satellite images.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.