1st April 2023
Cave and Tunnels Detected Under Castle in Poland
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Cave and Tunnels Detected Under Castle in Poland

Unknown caves have been found by archeologists at beneath the Castle of the Kraków-Częstochowa mountain range. Researchers found artifacts from the Middle Ages inside, but it may have been used earlier. Tens of thousands of years ago there were also animal bones.

The Olsztyn castle near Częstochowa was among the largest of this kind in the Kraków-Częstochowa mountain range. Today they are picturesque ruins with a traditional stone and brick tower that is partly intact. But still full of secrets.

For a long time experts have learned of the cave below the key structure. Now, when archaeologists have started to study it, it has turned out that the bottom is just hardened sediment with crevices underneath. And the cave itself is just one of the nets hidden under the castle.

Scientists at work in the Lower Cave.
Scientists at work in the Lower Cave.

Research from previous years confirmed them that the cave was not just a Renaissance garden next to the castle where salt beef, sauerkraut and red pine champignons were stored. Neanderthals used it as a shelter then. The several traces of stone tools that have been discovered this year are confirmation of their presence.

Right next to the main cave studied by us, located within the castle walls – in the vestibule of the well tower – we came across a crevice, which turned out to be another large cave. At the current stage of exploration, we are not yet able to estimate the full size and age of all sediments – says Dr. Mikołaj Urbanowski, archaeologist in charge of the excavations on behalf of the Nature and Man Foundation.

One of the legends says that the Olsztyn Castle and the monastery at Jasna Góra were connected by a tunnel. It was to be used for evacuation in the event of the danger of the Black Madonna image. Is it possible? It is not known yet. Scientists emphasize that they do not know how long the tunnels can now be discovered.

A legend exists of a secret tunnel connecting the ruined castle with the Jasna Góra Monastery.
A legend exists of a secret tunnel connecting the ruined castle with the Jasna Góra Monastery.

Last year, archaeologists discovered a metallurgical furnace elsewhere inside the Lower Castle Cave, which operated in the 15th century. Then they noticed that there was a rock crevice just below it, into which furnace ash and small items fell. Therefore, the researchers decided to check if it was just a small and shallow niche, or something more. We have performed a series of endoscopic boreholes and soundings. In this way, we detected the existence of rock voids with specimens of specific insects at a depth of over seven meters below the bottom – says geologist Dr. Andrzej Tyc from the Institute of Earth Sciences of the University of Silesia.

This year, archaeologists decided to carry out excavations there. It turned out that what researchers had previously believed to be the bottom of the cave were in fact hardened sediments that filled the next huge cracks. A group of cavers led by Krzysztof Mazik set out to help the scientists. Initial results are very promising, pointing to the existence of a branched system of voids and crevices under the floor of a previously known cave. They may lead to new, unknown parts of the Lower Castle Cave – emphasizes Dr. Adrian Marciszak from the Department of Paleozoology at the University of Wrocław.

Scientists have managed to obtain the remains of animals from distant periods of the Ice Age, and perhaps even older ones. One of such animals is the mighty bear (Ursus  deningeri), living in the period 1.8-0.1 million years ago. Its weight could even exceed half a ton, scientists point out.

The new caves and the remains of animals that lived here over 40 thousand years ago are a great discovery. The remains of these bones could weigh one and a half tons! The only remains of the beetle are also a unique discovery – emphasizes Bernadetta Niemczyk, member of the board of the land community in Olsztyn.

Researchers have also dug up human traces. The excavated items come from the Middle Ages. Among them is a perfectly preserved, ornamented stove tile with the image of a horse knight – falconer while hunting with dogs. It is one of the very few late gothic slab tiles depicting the falcon hunting scene. About twenty similar monuments are known from our part of Europe. The specimen from Olsztyn should be dated to the second half of the 15th century or the very beginning of the 16th century – emphasizes Dr. Michał Wojenka from the Institute of Archeology of the Jagiellonian University.

A tile dating back to the Middle Ages discovered during the dig.
A tile dating back to the Middle Ages discovered during the dig.

Researchers speculate that there may be layers below, in which there are traces of human presence from much earlier periods.

There may be much more unknown fissures or tunnels leading to other caves in the area of ​​the castle in Olsztyn. This is confirmed by new results of non-invasive electrofusion tests carried out under the supervision of Dr. hab. Marek Kasprzak from the Institute of Geography and Regional Development of the University of Wrocław near the main gate.

They revealed the existence of one more huge void – probably karst, although the possibility that it is related to the construction of the castle cannot be completely ruled out at this stage – says Dr. Urbanowski. As he adds, the castle hill requires further systematic research and restoration work. We can only guess the gigantic size of the cave system and tunnels under the castle in Olsztyn – he ends.

The commune authorities are pleased with the discoveries of archaeologists and cavers. This is water for our tourist mill, tourists mainly come to the ruins of the castle, such information will contribute to the fact that there are more tourists – says Tomasz Kucharski, mayor of the Olsztyn commune.

The castle in Olsztyn fell into ruin before the Swedish invasion (1655-56). The stronghold hosted all Polish rulers, starting with Władysław Łokietek. It is said that Władysław Jagiełło particularly liked to stay there. From 1964, its remains belong to the Land Community in Olsztyn.

The Castle in Olsztyn is part of the “Eagles’ Nests” tourist route, which includes castles located along the former south-western border of the Kingdom of Poland.