PROJECT TITLE: Environmental and technological conditions of the selection of wood raw material in Polish strongholds and early urban centres in the Middle Ages – xylological analysis of useful objects - project is financed by the National Science Centre, Poland (within the PRELUDIUM 7 scheme). 


Additional information

  • Period of project realisation: 28.01.2015-27.01.2018
  • Status: in progress
  • Project’s Leader: mgr Katarzyna Cywa (Department of Palaeobotany W. Szafer Institute of Botany Polish Acedemy of Sciences, Krakow)
  • Co-workers (scientific supervisor): dr hab. Dorota Nalepka, prof. PAN (Department of Palaeobotany W. Szafer Institute of Botany Polish Acedemy of Sciences, Krakow)

 The use of wood by medieval craftsmen in Poland, particularly in the context of natural environment resources, is poorly known. The main research object is to determine wood genera used in the Middle Ages for making objects of everyday use as well as to conclude whether the choice of wood raw material for making a given object was deliberate and justified by technological and exploitation wood qualities of different tree species or was it the result of accidental gathering of raw material from the nearest surroundings. Project plan includes xylological studies of over a thousand of wooden objects of everyday use, hitherto not identified, recovered from medieval strongholds and early urban centres in various regions of Poland and the creation of data base of all taxonomical identifications of the antique utility wood from Polish localities. Taxonomic identifications of trees and shrubs will be the basis for quantitative interpretations and for comparison with the results obtained by other sciences. The confrontation of the results of useful wood identification with local pollen sequences covering the Medieval period will be particularly important.

Anatomical-comparative method will be used for the study of wooden objects. Wood cuttings taken from the surface of all objects, including e.g. buckets, bowls, spoons, plugs, pegs, construction elements, spades, torches, spindles, and clubs will be examined under the microscope. The combination of diagnostic features observed in transversal, radial longitudinal and tangential longitudinal sections will allow taxonomic identification of wood. Own investigations will be supplemented by taxonomic determinations of medieval wood from published archaeological papers and unpublished expert’s reports stored in museum’s and institution’s archives. In this way the data base of the medieval utility wood will be created for Poland. The results will be interpreted in the context of palynological diagrams, the knowledge of commercial wood material and wood technology, chronology and stratigraphy, and ethnographic and historical sources.

Studies intended in the frame of this project should indicate wood genera that were used by craftsmen in different regions of Poland. The possible relationship between the genus of wood and the function of objects will allow to conclude about intentional or accidental choice of raw materials for particular purposes. The comparison of the results of xylological analyses with pollen data will allow to find an objective answer to the question if wood exploited by people at the sites examined originated from local forests. On this basis it will be possible to estimate which factor was more important for raw material selection – its availability or technological and exploitation properties. Till now this problem was not discussed more extensively in the studies of wooden objects which concentrated on the identification of raw materials. In this respect the project offers new and broader perspectives for the studies of archaeological utility wood. 


ilustracja grant Cywa2