Aerial Archaeology in Poland

The Development of Archaeological Aerial Photography in Poland – an annotated Bibliography by P.M. Barford (Compilation date: 2000, AARGnews 20, 55-56.)

Following the success of the 1998 aerial archaeology school in Leszno (AARG News 17), it seems that if adequate funding can be secured, aerial photography will find an increasingly more secure place among the field techniques routinely used by Polish archaeologists. It would be wrong however to see the recent events in complete isolation from the previous development of this type of work. The Polish traditions of aerial archaeology seem to have had their beginnings in the Poznan school more than 50 years ago, despite this they developed in slightly different ways from the English. The present bibliography is a preliminary attempt to order the available literature in a way which may make the information a little more available to those whose Polish has become rusty. It is arranged in chronological order. This list is intended as an aid to anyone attempting in the future compilation of a history of aerial archaeology in Europe. A first version of this list was prepared for the Leszno school, and I would like to thank Wlodek Raczkowski for his help in tracking-down some of these refences.

The impetus for the early use of aerial techniques seems to have come in part from western literature reaching Poland in the period after the 1920s. The first Polish archaeological aerial photographs seems to have been those taken at the request of Jozef Kostrzewski of Poznan by an airforce pilot over the Neolithic coastal site at Rzucewo in 1929 (these fuzzy photos were unpublished, and were nearly lost in the War). For most of the period before the War, the technique of aerial photography was used mainly by Polish archaeologists for illustrative purposes, it was used since 1935 for the recording of excavations from a tethered balloon (Biskupin, Klecko) – the technique seems to have been based on the balloons used at Megidddo, Palestine (published in Antiquity in 1932). The second use was for recording major earthwork sites such as the Early Medieval strongholds of Great Poland. 

1. K. Jazdzewski 1938, Lotnictwo na uslugach prehistorii, Z Otchlani Wiekow XIII, (3-4), 33-41[‘aviation au service de la prehistoire].

2. J. Kostrzewski 1938, Osada bagienna w Biskupinie, w pow. zninskim, Przeglad Archeologiczny 5 (2/3), pp. 121-140. p. 121 and pl I-II [early aerial photographs of Biskupin]. See also: J.Kostrzewski 1938, ‘Biskupin: an early iron age village in Western Poland’, Antiquity 12, pp. 311-317.

3. Z. Rajewski 1938, Sprawozdanie z organizacji badan w latach 1936 i 1937, [w:] Rajewski (ed.) Grod Praslowianski w Biskupinie, Poznan pp 1-14 pl. I-IV and XII [excavation report of Biskupin illustrated with aerial shots – the high quality photographs taken at this time were used in many subsequent publications, the technique was used at Biskupin itself up to 1947].

4. W. Hensel 1939, Grod wczesnodziejowy w Klecku w pow. gnieznienskim, Wiadomosci Archeologiczne XVI pp. 265-303, pl 43 and 44. [excavation report illustrated with aerial shots].

5. W. Kocka [in:] J.Kostrzewski (ed.) Gniezno w zaraniu dziejow (od VIII do XIII wieku) w swietle wykopalisk, Poznan. Pl XIII. [Excavation report illustrated with aerial shots]

6. Z. Rajewski 1938, Sprawozdanie z organizacji prac w Biskupinie w pow. zninskim w latach 1938-1939, [w:] III Sprawozdanie z prac wykopaliskowych w grodzie kultury luzyckiej w Biskupinie w pow. zninskim’, Poznan, pp 1-11. [excavation report illustrated with aerial shots].

7. W. Kowalenko 1938, Grody i osadnictwo grodowe wielkopolski wczesnohistorycznej (od VII do XIII wieku), Poznan figs 2, 5, 7, 8, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21-2 and 30. [This pioneering work on the strongholds of early medieval Great Poland is extensively illustrated with oblique aerial views taken from aeroplanes. Unfortunately the slow films used and the consequent shutter speeds and large apertures coupled with the low altitudes have led in some cases to somewhat blurred images. The publication is however an innovative one from several points of view].

8. This pre-War work at Poznan was not followed-up to a great degree by archaeologists in the People’s Republic of Poland. Part of the reason may well be the paranoid Cold War attitudes which made a state secret out of even basic topographic information (was this however the only cause?). There was still some useful work done. Much of this was concentrated on the recording of upstanding earthwork sites (particularly strongholds) and such views – usually commissioned from military sources – occur in textbooks and regional surveys (they are not listed here). Many of these however have the character of ‘decoration’ rather than being included as a source of any specific information (they are however more easily “readable” than the contour-plans favoured instead of hachures by the Polish field archaeologist).

9. Z. Rajewski 1955, O metodzie terenowych badan wczesnosredniowiecznych wiejskich zespolow osadniczych, Wiadomosci Archeologiczne XXVI zes. 3-4 pp 281-7 [mentions the use of aerial photography in the discussion of the techniques of settlement archaeology].

10. M. Kowianska-Piaszykowa 1957, Wyniki badan archeologicznych kurhanu III kultury unietyckiej w Lekach Malych w pow. koscianskim, Fontes Archaeologici Posnaniensis 7, pp. 116-133 [aerial observation failed to detect ploughed-out barrows in this cemetery. Later work has revealed them however].

11. Z. Rajewski 1960, Helikoptery w badaniach archeologicznych, Wiadomosci Archeologiczne 26, ss. 281-7 [the use of military helicopters in archaeological investigations. In 1958 Rajewski secured the co-operation of the Ministry of Defence to carry out photographic missions over the Medieval battlefields at Grunwald and Legnica and many Early Medieval strongholds in Mazovia, Kujawy and Lower Silesia. Similar work was carried out by Poznan museum].

12. Z. Rajewski 1960, Helikoptery w sluzbie archeologii, Z Otchlani Wiekow 26, 23 [helicopters in the service of archaeology].

13. K. Bielenin, 1962, Sprawozdanie z badan nad starozytnym hutnictwem swietokrzyskim w 1960 i 1961 r., Materialy Archeologiczne (Cracow), 4, pp. 353-358 [between 1960 and 1967, aerial observation was used to locate many hundred iron-smelting sites and associated settlements, over 1500 photos were taken ].

14. Z. Rajewski 1962, Zdjecia z helikopterow grodzisk polskich, Wiadomosci Archeologiczne 28, 299 [Aerial photographs of Polish strongholds from… helicopters. The emphasis on helicopters which developed in this period probably resulted in part from the previous use of tethered balloons which could move up and down].

15. W. Szafranski 1963, Pologne, ss. 121-123 [w:] R. Chevallier (red.) 1963 Archeologie Aerienne et techniques complementaires inventaire et sauvetage du patrimonie historique, Paris [Poland shows its work at an international exhibition in Paris].

16. Z. Rajewski 1964, Aereofotograficzna dokumentacja obiektow archeologicznych na wystawie miedzynarodowej w Lizbonie w 1964 r., Wiadomosci Archeologiczne 30, 518 [International exhibition in Lisbon].

17. Z. Rajewski 1964, Fotografowanie obiektow archeologicznych z balonu, Z Otchlani Wiekow 30, 84-86 [photographing archaeological sites from balloons].

18. Z. Rajewski 1965, Aereophotografie prise d’un ballon, Archeologia Polona VIII, 125-130.

19. J. Miszalski 1966, Srodowisko geograficzne grodu wczesnosredniowiecznego w Chodliku w swietle interpretacji zdjec lotniczych’, Fotointerpretacja w Geografii 3 [Aerial photography used to reconstruct geographical envirionment of early Medieval stronghold. These photographs later appeared in several textbooks].

20. J. Ostoja-Zagorski 1969, Mozliwosci wykorzystania fotointerpretacji w badaniach archeologicznych, Fotointerpretacja w Geografii 7, pp. 93-8 [possibilities of using aerial photography in archaeology].

21. J. Matusik, J. Miszalski 1969, Stanowiska archeologiczne w dolinie Utraty pod Bloniem, Fotointerpretacja w Geografii 7, pp 67-74 [aerial photography used for archaeological purposes near Warsaw].

22. H. Andrulewicz 1973, Dokumentacja fotograficzna z lotu ptaka dla miast historycznych w Polsce, Ochrona Zabytkow XXVI, pp. 108-116 [aerial photography used for documentation in historic towns; starting from about 1966 aerial photography has been used for documentation of architectural monuments and their complexes forming integral componennts of the cultural landscapes of Poland]. 

23. Z. Rajewski 1975, Aerofotografia w badaniach terenowych w Polsce, Wiadomosci Archeologiczne 39 (iv), 560-566 [Aerial photography in field survey, documentation, but also location of new sites to understand settlement complexes; Article written earlier, published posthumously].

24. J. Ostoja-Zagorski 1980, Perspektywy wykorzystania fotointerpretacji zdjec lotniczych w prehistorycznych badaniach osadniczych, Sprawozdania Archeologiczne XXXII pp. 291-3 [potential of photointerpretation for studies on prehistoric settlement patterns].

25. I. Modrzewska-Marciniak 1980, Wykorzystanie nowych technik fotografii lotniczej do celow archeologicznych’ Informator techniki wojsk lotniczych Nr 57 (Warszawa) pp. 75-92 [use of new aerial photographic techniques for archaeological purposes].

26. W. Zin 1980, Principles of the Realisation of the Archaeological Field Record of Poland document issued [in Polish] on 15th Feb 1980 by Prof. dr Wiktor Zin, vice-minister of Culture and Arts, and Conservator-General [this is a programme of systematic search for and recording of archaeological sites across the whole country. In this document aerial searching is established as one of the methods of survey to be applied].

27. I. Modrzewska-Marciniak, D. Monna, and J. Przenioslo 1981, Prospezioni archeologico-geografische italo-polache eseguite in Italia nei ultima anni, Le Origini di Venezia (Venice) pp. 99-105.

28. H. Jankuhn 1983, Wprowadzenie do archeologii osadnictwa, Warsaw. [Translation of Jankuhn’s “Einfuhrung in der Siedlungsarchaologie” (1977), aerial archaeology dealt with on pp. 27-8].

29. I. Modrzewska-Marciniak 1983, Wilanow. Wstepne opracowanie wynikow badan z zastosowaniem fotointerpretacji w archeologii, Dokumentacja teledetekcyjna (Prace Uniwersytetu Slaskiego 575, Katowice), pp. 208-11 [analysis of the aerial photographs of site near Warsaw]

30. J. Gassowski 1983, Archeologia z powietrza, pp. 175-215 [w]”Z archeologia za pan brat”, Warszawa. Aerial archaeology gets generous treatment in this – one of the few popularisations of archaeological method in Polish archaeology, though concetrates mostly on spectacular foreign examples, to the detriment of Polish experience, omitted from the bibliography. One useful feature of this book is that it returns to the theme of cropmarks, shadow marks and soilmarks. Aerial archaeology is here treated not just as a means of documenting known upstanding sites but discovering ploughed-out ones. Gassowski suggests the use of helium-filled airships as a quieter option than an aeroplane].

31. L. Duel, 1984, Lot w przeszlosc, Warszawa. Translation of Duel’s ‘Flights into yesterday’ (1969) London.

32. I. Modrzewska-Marciniak 1984, Proba analizy fotografii lotniczych wybranych stanowisk archeologicznych, Archeologia Polski XXIX, pp. 267-289 [attempted analysis of the aerial photographs of selected sites].

33. A. Ciolkosz, J. Miszalski, R.J. Oledzki 1986, ‘Interpretacja zdjec lotniczych’, Warszawa [one of the few civilian textbooks on photointerpretation. The book discusses archaeological photointerpretation on pp. 368-375].

34. J. Mialdun, J. 1987, Analiza przydatnosci zdjec lotniczych w badaniach archeologicznych na przykladzie obiektow Wybicko i Janow Pomorski na Zulawach Wislanych, [w:] Materialy V Sesji Naukowo-Technicznej, Olsztyn, ss. 233-246 [one of a series of articles on the aerial photography of sites in northeastern Poland].

35. A. Kijowski, A. Wyrwa 1989, Fotointerpretacja i weryfikacja archeologiczna zdjec lotniczych ze stanowiska nr 3 w Leknie’ [in:] A. Wyrwa (ed.) Studia i materialy do dziejow Paluk vol. I, pp. 121-135 [a rather long chapter on some rather fuzzy photographs of an architectural complex and the interpretation of some adjacent ‘cropmarks’]

36. J. Ostoja-Zagorski 1989, Interpretacja zdjec lotniczych w archeologicznych badaniach osadniczych, pp. 52-54 [in:] Sinkiewicz M. (ed.) Materialy XIII ogolnopolskiej konferencji fotointerpretacji (Torun 21-23 wrzesnia 1989 r.). Torun [the use of aerial photography for settlement studies].

37. J. Mialdun, W. Skrobot 1990, Archeologiczny aspekt pradoliny górnej Drwecy w swietle zdjec lotniczych, Przeglad Geodezyjny 12, pp. 12-14 [geomorphological work for archaeological purposes].

38. M. Jagodzinski, M. Kasprzyczka 1990, Zarys problematyki badawczej wczesnosredniowiecznej osady rzemiesliczo-handlowej w Janowie Pomorskim (gmina Elblag), Pomerania Antiqua XIV, 9-51 [Aerial photointerpretation was used (pp. 26-36) to reconstruct the palaeotopography and hydrography of this production and trade site, probably Early Medieval Truso].

39. J. Mialdun 1991, Wybrane zagadnienia archeologii lotniczej na Zulawach Wislanych, ss. 177-183 [w:] Archeologia Baltycka. Materialy z Konferencji, Olsztyn 24-25 IV 1988 r., Olsztyn [selected problems of aerial archaeology in the Vistula delta region].

40. H. Andrulewicz 1991, Wnioski z analizy wynikow zdjec lotniczych wykonanych przez ODZ w latach 1966-1990, oraz wnioski dotyczace zadan i potrzeb konserwatorskiego programu dokumentacji lotniczej dla zabytkowych struktur i ukladow przestrzeni historycznych w Polsce (synteza), [in:] Synteza kulturowych wartosci przestrzeni Panstwa Polskiego 4, pp. 50-58 [a synthesis of an extensive internal report in ODZ on the use of aerial photography for the study of historical cultural landscapes].

41.  K. Bielenin 1992, Starozytne gornictwo i hutnictwo zelaza w Gorach Swietokrzyskich, Kielce 1992, 38-40 [between 1960 and 1967, aerial observation was used to locate many hundred iron-smelting sites and associated settlements, over 1500 photos were taken – the methodology is described and relationship to other forms of information-gathering].

42. J. Mialdun, B. Swiatek B. 1993, Zdjecia lotnicze jako zrodlo danych o obiektach archeologicznych na Zulawach Wislanych, ss. 75-88 [w:] Zeszyty Naukowe AR-T Olsztyn nr 23 [one of a series of articles on aerial archaeology in the Vistula delta region].

43. B. Zurawski 1993, Low altitude aerial photography in archaeological fieldwork: the case of Nubia, Archaeologia Polona XXXI, 243-256. [here the Polish balloon experience is amalgamated with Near Eastern techniques. The vehicle for the camera in the windy Nubian desert is a kite].

44.  Z. Jablonski, M. Sinkiewicz. 1993, Klucz fotointerpretacyjny wybranych elementow srodowiska kulturowego srodkowej czesci Polski polnocnej, Torun. [photointerpretation in cultural heritage, focussing on selected elements of the cultural landscape]

45.  J. Mialdun 1995, O mozliwosciach wykorzystania fotointerpretacji w badaniu stanowisk archeologicznych zwiazanych ze srodowiskiem wodnym, ss. 115-140 [w:] Archeologia podwodna jezior nizu polskiego Torun . [the possibilities o archaeological aerial photography of underwater sites in lakes and other bodies of water].

46.  W. Raczkowski. 1995, Aerial archaeology and the study of settlement systems some examples from Middle Pomerania (Poland), Forschungen zur Archaologie im Land Brandenburg 3, pp. 265-270 [the use of aerial photographs in settlement archaeology].

47. W. Raczkowski 1996, Aerial reconnaissance and fieldwalking survey: British and Polish reality, AARGNews 12, 16-17 [contrasts current approaches to SMRs in England and Poland and their use in heritage management].

48. W. Gorgolewski, E. Tomczak 1998, Grodziska Gornego Slaska i Zaglebia Dabrowskiego z lotu ptaka, Katowice [a series of picture-postcard type views of strongholds in southern Poland, not always visible due to thick trees, but a useful collection and documents the state of preservation of some monuments].

49. Z. Kobylinski 1997, Archeologia z lotu ptaka, Archeologia Zywa nr 3 (4), 41–43 [a short popular article setting out the main aims of the aerial work of the state service for the protection of monuments].

50. AARGNews 17: (C. Stoerz, Chairman’s piece, pp. 3-4; P. Barford 1998, Reflections on the Leszno Aerial Archaeology School, pp. 29-30 etc.) [discuss the AARG training school in Poland].

51. W. Stepien, 1998, Karta obserwacji terenu z gory, pp. 53-57 [in:] Zeszyty Generalnego Konserwatora Zabytkow Archeologia zeszyt 1. Warsaw [a projected record card for the documentation of archaeological aerial photographs].

52. W. Raczkowski 1998, Ikara czy Dedala przypadek?: zdjecia lotnicze w archeologii Pomorza, [w:] Acta Archeologica Pomeranica vol. I: XII Konferencja Pomorzoznawcza, pod red. M. Dworaczyk, P. Krajewski, E. Wilgocki, Szczecin: Stowarzyszenie Naukowe Archeologow Polskich, ss. 145-156 [aerial photography in Pomerania, discusses similarities and differences between the type of sites found by aerial survey in this area and other regions of Europe, and the uses of aerial photography].

53. W. Smigielski (ed.) 1998, Nauki przyrodnicze i fotografia lotnicza w archeologii, Poznan [book of collected papers on the natural sciences and aerial photography in archaeology; includes: papers on the significance of aerial photography for geomorphical interpretation of the environs of sites (B. Nowaczyk), in the interpretation of settlement processes (Ostoja-Zagorski), methodology of aerial photography (B. Okupny), Polish work in Nubia (B. Zurawski), use in the protection of the heritage (W. Stepien)].

54. J.Nowakowski, A.Prinke, W.Raczkowski 1999, Latac czy nie latac?: zdjecia lotnicze jako kolejny element standardowej procedury w ochronie stanowisk archeologicznych, [w:] Acta Archaeologica Pomoranica, vol. II: Konserwatorskie badania archeologiczne w Polsce i w Niemczech – stan prawny, problematyka, osiagniecia, pod red. M.Dworaczyk, K.Kowalski, A.Porzezinski, S.Slowinski, E.Wilgocki, Szczecin: Stowarzyszenie Naukowe Archeologow Polskich, ss. 113-152 [potential of aerial photographs in protecting and managing archaeological monuments in Poland with Polish examples]

55. W.Raczkowski 1999, Power of image: some ideas on post-processual aerial archaeology, AARGnews 19, ss. 10-14

56. B. Zurawski, From Jebel Moya to Old Dongola. 80 years of aerial archaeology in Sudan, Forschungen zur Archaologie im Land Brandenburg 3, pp. 305-315.

A survey of this literature reveals several trends which may be worth stressing. In the beginning, the stationary bird’s eye view was used (a) primarily as a means of gaining an overview of excavated sites. In the first part of the post-War period, however aerial photography was used (b) primarily to record the topography of and around known sites and (c) to document complexes of historic architecture (much of this work was done for the conservation services). Towards the middle of the 1960s however we see (d) a shift to the use of aerial photointerpretation for aiding the understanding of the geographical environment of known sites (geomorphology, hydrography, geology of the surrounding areas), the work was frequently done by specialists in photointerpretation. It is only in the 1980s that we see (e) a developing interest in aerial survey as a means of discovering new archaeological sites as both a research and heritage managment tool. Despite this, we see a continuation of previous trends (i.e., (b), (c), (d)).

Although as we have seen the technique was in theory well-known to the Polish archaeologist, a repeated theme which one notes is an apologetic approach of many of these articles, as if the authors are trying to convince other archaeologists of the potential usefulness (and presumably cost-effectiveness) of aerial observation in their research. In part this has been due to the problems of raising adequate funds from institutional sources in Poland for the development of the technique and in part to the dissimilarities between the way cropmark/soilmark sites may appear in the Polish lowlands compared with the ‘classic’ areas of archaeological aerial observation in western Europe.

Institutional funding has in recent years been forthcoming mainly from the Ministry of Culture through the conservation services especially through the Centre for the Documentation of Monuments (ODZ) and the Office of the Conservator-General (GKZ). Recent personnel changes within some of these organizations have again placed the scale of the future funding of aerial photography in Poland under some doubt. So far very little aerial survey seems to have been financed by the Academy of Sciences, Committee of Scientific Investigations, or the universities.

The soils of most regions of Poland seem not to produce the same types of clear cropmarks as in England, Bavaria and other areas beloved by the archaeological aerial observer. In some regions, the most that can be expected are somewhat amorphous discolourations of rather uncertain interpretation (although as reported in a previous issue of AARGNews, the Leszno school recorded some cropmarks of high clarity and definition). The problem seems however not to have a straightforward relationship to soil type and humidity, several other factors seem to be involved, including subsoil site preservation (W. Raczkowski pers. comm.). While experience allows relatively reliable interpretation of the more amorphous ‘blobs’ as archaeological sites, to those with less experience in such matters these photographs remain unconvincing that the technique is applicable to Polish conditions. In particular the former reluctance to finance the inclusion of archaeological aerial observation and photography in the range of techniques to be applied in the Environmental Impact Surveys preceding the construction of the Polish motorways is to be especially regretted. This reluctance seems to stem from a lack of conviction about the cost-effectiveness of this technique. As a result valuable information will probably be lost if ground survey during construction does not locate sites which probably would appear as cropmarks (and if these losses are to be prevented, the developer may experience costly delays in the course of construction).