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Forest Find: Arrowheads and Crossbow Bolts Point to Overwhelming Victory

Rusty weapons on white background
Historical Museum in Sanok

In 1340, the Polish king Casimir the Great led a 20,000-soldier-strong army into an area of southeastern Poland now known as Sanok, where he won a decisive battle. Thanks to illegal treasure hunters, scientists have now found hundreds of artifacts linked to the skirmish.

Ruthenians vs. Poles

The battle was fought over lands held by an ethnic group of Galicians known as the Ruthenians, ancestors to today’s Slavs. While the battle has been known about for centuries, archaeological proof had never before been discovered. An increase in illegal treasure hunts in the area, though, caught the attention of scientists who embarked upon the first dig at a forested mountain top site known as the “Castle” where they found over 200 arrowheads and crossbow bolts.

“It seems that the arrowheads and bolts we discovered are evidence of the fights between the Ruthenians and the Poles,” said Dr. Piotr Kotowicz from the Historical Museum in Sanok and head of the research project. “The analysis of the spread of the arrowheads shows that most of them were concentrated in and near the stronghold.”

Metal tool in dirt with small shovel
Historical Museum in Sanok

The investigation also revealed that the attack was carried out against the Castle from the south and that areas of the embankment that protected the defending troops was significantly burned. Kotowicz’s research also failed to turn up arms that were used to repel the attack, leading him to believe that the defense wasn’t robust and that the well-armed Poles quickly overcame the Ruthenians.

In addition to the bolts and arrowheads, the excavation also unearthed a dirham, the first Arabic coin found in the region. 

Kotowicz says that all of the finds were unexpected. 

“It is surprising because in such early periods in this area people rarely ventured to areas located so high, over 400 meters above sea level,” he said.