Wielbark culture: Wikis


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The evolution of the Wielbark culture before the migration to the Black Sea.      A      B     C     D     E      Roman Empire
Vistula delta with localization of the archeological sites of Wielbark and Oksywie cultures; actual and 19th-century-names

Wielbark culture also known as Willenberg culture (German: Wielbark-Willenberg-Kultur, Polish: Kultura wielbarska, Ukrainian: Вельбарська культура (Vel’bars’ka kul’tura)) was a pre-literate culture that archaeologists have identified with the Goths; it appeared during the first half of the 1st century AD. It replaced the Oksywie culture, in the area of modern-day Eastern Pomerania around the lower Vistula river, which was related to the Przeworsk culture.



Wielbark culture was named after a village where a burial place with over 3000 tombs, attributed to the Goths, and Gepids was discovered back in 1873. Unfortunately, many of the cemetery stones were moved, and many graves were damaged by the early German discoverers. The report of the original excavation, lost during World War II was rediscovered only in 2004 and is about to be analysed in a cooperation of Polish scientists from Gdańsk, Warszawa, Kraków and Lublin.[1]


The Willenberg- (Malbork)-Wielbark culture started out covering the same area as the Oxhoeft Oksywie culture, around the present day towns of Gdańsk and Chełmno, until 1945 Danzig and Kulm. Later it reached into the lakelands (Kashubian and Krajenskian lakes) and stretched southwards, into the region around Poznań.

In the first half of the 3rd century AD, the Willenberg/Wielbark culture left settlements by the Baltic Sea, at that time called Mare Suevicum or Mare Germanicum, except for the areas adjacent to the Vistula, and expanded into the area which later (by 1000 AD) became Masovia and Lesser Poland on the eastern side of the Vistula reaching into Ukraine, where they formed the Chernyakhov culture.

In 2000, in Czarnówko near Lauenburg Lębork, Pomerania, a cemetery of Oksywie and Wielbark cultures was found. These reached their height before the emigration of the population to the south west began. A bronze kettle depicts males wearing the Suebian knot hairstyle.[2]


A stone circle in northern Poland.

There was a clear separation between the Przeworsk culture and the Wielbark culture, and there appear to have been no detectable contacts[citation needed].

The people of the Willenberg Wielbark culture used both inhumation and cremation techniques for burying their dead. Whether one or the other was used varies from site to site and is believed to have depended on family traditions[citation needed].

A characteristic of this culture, which it had in common with southern Scandinavia, was the raising of stone covered mounds, stone circles, solitary stelae and variations of cobble cladding.

No weapons or tools are found in Willenberg Wielbark culture graves, unlike the Przeworsk culture for which it was typical to give the dead such gifts. Instead, the artifacts found are mostly ornaments and costumes, although a few graves have shown spurs, these being the only warrior attributes found.

Another feature of the Willenberg Wielbark culture was the use of bronze to make ornaments and accessories. Silver was used seldom and gold rarely. Iron appears to have been used extremely rarely.

The Goths

Oksywie culture and early Wielbark culture = red, later Wielbark = red and pink, displacing Przeworsk = orange, displacing Jastorf = lilac;
Jastorf culture = blue, spread = lighter blue, replaced by Wielbark = lilac;
Przeworsk culture = yellow and orange, replaced by Wielbark = orange

The Wielbark culture is associated with Jordanes' account of the Goths leaving Scandza (Scandinavia) and their settlement in Gothiscandza. According to Jordanes they pushed away the Vandals when settling in the area.[3] Gothiscandza was located at the mouth of the Vistula, and this area was given as the land of the Gutones (Pliny the Elder) or Gothones (Tacitus):

Beyond the Lygians dwell the Gothones, under the rule of a king; and thence held in subjection somewhat stricter than the other German nations, yet not so strict as to extinguish all their liberty. Immediately adjoining are the Rugians and Lemovians upon the coast of the ocean, and of these several nations the characteristics are a round shield, a short sword and kingly government.

The names given by Pliny and Tacitus appear to be identical to *Gutaniz, the reconstructed Proto-Germanic form of Gutans (and Gutar), the Goths' (and the Gotlanders´) name for themselves.

Some have suggested that the three ships of Goths arriving at the Vistula is merely symbolic whereas others have ascribed the ships to the Gepids, the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths. A third interpretation is that the ships only contained the North Germanic clan of Amal's royal family.

     traditional Götaland      the island of Gotland      Wielbark Culture in the early 3rd century      Chernyakhov Culture, in the early 4th century      Roman Empire
Germaniae veteris typus (Old Germany.), Aestui, Venedi and Gythones on the right upper corner of the map Edited by Willem and Joan Blaeu), 1645.

However, archaeologists are wary of ascribing ethnicities to archaeological cultures, and it is considered to be an extremely difficult matter (e.g. Kennewick Man). This is reflected by the names used for the cultures, usually baptised after the towns where remains are found. The latest tendency is to doubt the equation between the Wielbark Culture and the Goths, and it has been established that the Wielbark culture did not appear solely through immigration from Scandinavia. Instead it appears to have evolved from the Oksywie culture and possibly through Scandinavian influence. This theory is based on the fact that the Wielbark culture shared the same geographical extent as the Oksywie culture and even continued to use many of the Oksywie cemeteries. The settlements consisted both of the original inhabitants and of groups of Scandinavians. It is likely that the Goths were the ruling tribe in the area as Jordanes noted that the Goths subjected local inhabitants to their authority:

Soon they moved from here to the abodes of the Ulmerugi, who then dwelt on the shores of Ocean, where they pitched camp, joined battle with them and drove them from their homes. Then they subdued their neighbors, the Vandals, and thus added to their victories. But when the number of the people increased greatly and Filimer, son of Gadaric, reigned as king—about the fifth since Berig—he decided that the army of the Goths with their families should move from that region.[4]

The present view is that the direct settlements of Goths (recorded by Jordanes as well as H. Schedel, see link) at the Mare Germanicum, today Poland, are those characterised by barrow cemeteries by which there are raised stone circles and solitary stelae (Scandinavian burial customs with a concentration in Gotland and Götaland). This type is found between the Vistula and the Kashubian and Krajenskian lakelands reaching into the Koszalin region. These burial grounds appeared in the second half of the 1st century.

The Wielbark culture seems to have been a mixed society composed of both Goths and Gepids from Scandinavia as well as the previous inhabitants (mainly Vandals, Venedi and Rugians[5][6], the Ulmerugi of Jordanes). In the 3rd century, the Wielbark community left their settlements and reached their new homeland, Oium, in the Ukraine, where they would found a new empire.

See also


  1. ^ Das kaiserzeitliche Gräberfeld von Malbork-Wielbark - Seit der Entdeckung der verschollen geglaubten Grabungsberichte des für die kaiserzeitliche Kultur Nordpolens namengebenden Gräberfeldes im Jahr 2004 wird in Kooperation mit Partnern in Gdańsk, Warszawa, Kraków und Lublin dessen kritische Dokumentation und Analyse vorbereitet. Sie erfolgt auf der Basis des inzwischen komplett vorliegenden, von der Fa. Aba GbR technisch aufbereiteten Grabungsplanes und wird gefördert aus Mitteln des Dronning Margrethe og Prins Henriks Fond. [1][2]
  2. ^ M. Macynska, D. Rudnicka, Abstract: A grave with Roman imports from Czarnówko, Lębork district, Pomerania, Poland [3]
  3. ^ Jordanes, Charles Christopher Mierow, ed., Getica 25, http://www.ucalgary.ca/~vandersp/Courses/texts/jordgeti.html#IV 
  4. ^ The Origin And Deeds Of The Goths
  5. ^ The Goths in Greater Poland
  6. ^ Arkeologi och Antik historia: Publications

Coordinates: 54°02′N 19°03′E / 54.033°N 19.05°E / 54.033; 19.05



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