Hundreds of arrowheads and crossbow bolts have been discovered in a forest in Sanok, southeastern Poland. They are silent vestiges of the torrential rain of iron that Casimir the Great’s marksmen wrought upon the Ruthenian forces during the Polish King’s war expedition to the lands of Galicia.
Known as the “Castle”, the stronghold is located on one of the forested peaks of the Słonne Mountains - Biała Góra, part of the Sanok district of Wójtostwo.
Until recently, the place was shrouded in mystery, because the only major archaeological research in the area was carried out half a century ago. And yet, following a spate of illegal treasure hunts in the area, archaeologists decided to investigate.
Head of the research project, Piotr Kotowicz from the Historical Museum in Sanok said: “The results exceeded our wildest expectations. During several seasons, in and around the stronghold, we found over 200 used arrowheads and crossbow bolts.”
The objects come from the mid-14th century, something which Mr Kotowicz considers to be no coincidence. During that period, as a consequence of the death of Bolesław Trojdenowicz, the last prince of Ruthenian Galicia, the area was overrun by the Polish King Casimir the Great’s forces and taken over.
“It seems that the arrowheads and bolts we discovered are evidence of fighting between the Ruthenians and the Poles,” said the archaeologist, adding that “the analysis of the spread of the arrowheads shows that most of them were concentrated in and near the stronghold.”
“We also searched the perimeter for traces of the defenders' response. But we didn't find too many projectiles. This means that the defenders were dominated by the invaders and their response to the attack was weak.”
As old chronicles have it, Casimir the Great’s 20,000-strong army captured several castles in 1340, and Mr Kotowicz feels that the latest findings in Sanok can be linked to the bloody events which took place shortly after and saw Red Ruthenia incorporated into Poland.
Toss a coin
Preliminary analyses show that the main attack was carried out from the south. Thanks to limited excavations, the researchers also determined that the embankment protecting the defenders was heavily burned in places.
While searching for traces of the battle, archaeologists also stumbled upon numerous artefacts from the 9th-10th centuries. Among them is the first Arabic coin from the Middle Ages found in Sanok - a dirham.
Mr Kotowicz posited that these were the remains of an industrial settlement, as evidenced by numerous pieces of slag; iron ore was probably smelted there.
“It is surprising because in such early periods in this area people rarely ventured to areas located so high, over 400 m above sea level,” the scientist reflected.