South Estonia dig casts light on crusader-era wooden fortress

Archaeological dig in progress at Rosma hill, near Põlva.
Archaeological dig in progress at Rosma hill, near Põlva. Source: ERR

The latest archaeological dig in Estonia may shed light on the construction of gateways at hill fortresses dating from the high medieval period, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Thursday night.

A dig taking place at a hill called Rosma Vallimägi, near Põlva, South Estonia, focuses on one such installation, dating from the thirteenth century.

"Very little research has been done on the gates of Estonian ancient fortresses, which is why Rosma Vallimägi offers a unique opportunity for this," University of Tartu archaeology professor Heiki Valk told AK.

"The construction of the gateway is what we are looking for here. There is nothing beyond that, be it gold, silver or anything else, to be found," Valk went on, noting that the fortress, a wooden construction, was likely only in use for a short period of time and was erected as a stop-gap measure during the Livonian Crusade.

Professor Valk added that the year of construction was: "Most likely 1223, and perhaps it was more or less completed and then almost immediately burned down."

A wider view of the Rosma hill near Põlva, site of a 13th century wooden fortress. Source: Leevi Lillemäe

One contemporary source, the Chronicle of Hendrik, mentions the fortress, or at least its summit, Valk added, while excavations so far have revealed burned timberwork and sand.

Even charred wood can be useful in providing evidence, AK reported, while the timberwork seems to have been of a more sophisticated nature than simply logs stacked on top of one another, and had been cut to shape, one member of the archaeological team, Sander Jegorov, told AK.

More finds are likely as further layers get uncovered, though the recent heatwave has caused the team to call a halt to work until August.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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