Archaeology news: ‘Exciting’ discovery of medieval axe heads has link to major 1410 battle

The Battle of Grunwald, also known as the First Battle of Tannenberg, was a major conflict fought between the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania against the Prussian Teutonic Order. The battle unfolded on July 15, 1410, in northeastern Poland, near the villages of Grunwald and Stębark in modern-day Masuria. Not only did the battle halt the Teutonic Order’s expansion along the Baltic Sea, but it marked the rise of Poland-Lithuania as a major power in medieval Europe.

Archaeologists at the Battle of Grunwald Museum in Stębark have now presented two medieval axe heads that were most likely used in the conflict.

The well-preserved weapons were uncovered by 70 researchers trawling through nearly 150 acres of land around Grunwald.

According to museum director Dr Szymona Dreja, these are some of the greatest discoveries made in recent years.

He said: “In the seven years of our archaeological research, we have never had such an exciting, important and well-preserved find.”

The axe heads were found in such a good state, they still feature the rivets used to fix them to their handles.

Dr Dreja said: “The context of these discoveries, preliminary dating to the 15th century and the typology of the axes conclusively show they are directly linked to the Battle of Grunwald from July 14, 1410.”

And the archaeologists are hopeful the axe heads are only one of many more discoveries yet to come.

As a result, they have kept the location of their discovery a secret.

We have never had such an exciting, important and well-preserved find

Dr Szymona Dreja, Battle of Grunwald Museum

The archaeologists hope a full-scale excavation later this year will yield more results.

This year so far, researchers have found a sword handle and dozens of arrowheads in the fields around Grunwald.

The medieval battle may have involved up to 66,000 men, although historical estimates vary.

But the battle was a conclusive victory for the Polish-Lithuanian alliance, with the Teutonic Knights suffering devastating losses.

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The Teutonic Order was founded during the Crusades, as means of protecting pilgrims, buildings hospitals and mounting campaign against non-Christian neighbours.

The order was headquartered at Malbork, or Marienburg, in what is today Poland’s Pomerania region.

The order’s Malbork Castle, an impressive 13th-century fortification, is the biggest castle in the world.

In past excavations, archaeologists have discovered more than 1,500 artefacts around Grunwald, of which at least 150 are directly linked to the battle.

The artefacts are mainly arrowheads, armour pieces, weapons, Teutonic coins and horse harnesses.

Among the greatest discovery from the battle were two Teutonic brooches with the gothic inscription Ave Maria.

The archaeologists believe the newly found axe heads will help them better understand where exactly the battle unfolded.

Researchers are yet to find where the thousands of men who fell in battle were buried.

In the 1960s and 1980s, archaeologists have uncovered the remains of about 300 men, whereas up to 10,000 are estimated to have died.

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