Huge Roman-era pottery production centre discovered in Poland

An enormous Roman-era pottery production centre was discovered by archaeologists in the village of Wrzępia, southern Poland. According to them, the site consisting of about 130 kilns was one of the largest in Barbaric Europe of the Roman period. It is also the largest archaeological site of this type in Poland.

The remains of two kilns have so far been excavated with the remaining kilns located with a magnetometer spread over 5 hectares.

“Our research shows that only storage vessels with characteristic thickened necks were produced there. These were large vessels up to 50 cm neck diameter and about 70 cm high. The vessels were most likely used for storage - for example of food. There are known discoveries of such vessels dug into the ground, which probably served as pantries,” said archaeologist Jan Bulas.

The vessels were made on a potter's wheel, which became popular in the area at that time, and fired in open kilns. Previous research shows that the kilns were operated between the turn of the 3rd century and the 5th century. At that time, these areas were inhabited by Germanic tribes, probably Vandals.

“The site in Wrzępia is unique for many reasons. It should be emphasised that in the light of current knowledge it is not only the largest production site of this type in Poland, but also one of the largest in the entire barbaric Europe of the Roman period. The only comparable place in terms of the number of kilns is a huge production centre in Medieșu Aurit in Romania, where researchers estimate the number of kilns at more than 200, also based on magnetic surveys,” said Mr Bulas.

“The largest previously known site with pottery kilns of the Przeworsk culture (that archaeologists associate with the Vandals) is located in Zofipol near Kraków, where about 57 kilns have been found during excavations and geophysical research,” he added.

In the territories of today's Poland, large iron production centres were also operating during the same period. The largest of them was located in the Świętokrzyskie Mountains, and other large centres are known from Masovia and Silesia. They were among the largest ancient metallurgical centres in so-called Barbaric Europe.

Both the iron production centres and the discovered ceramic vessel production centres show how strongly developed the barbarian economy was at that time.

The archaeologists want to find out whether the production centre had been used for several centuries, or extremely intensively for a short period. It is also not known how wide demand was for the products manufactured there.

"It seems, however, that it was local, because there are no discoveries of vessels with the characteristic technology known from this region north of the nearby Vistula,” the archaeologist concluded.

The archaeologists plan to return to the site next year. They will also carry out research on other pottery kiln sites in the region, which may have specialised in the production of other types of vessels.