Na tropie spektakularnej omyłki. Nowe spojrzenie na toporek z „napisem” z Ostrowa Tumskiego w Poznaniu
Kotowicz, Piotr N.
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During excavations conducted by Witold Hensel and Jan Żak in 1951 in the capitular garden on Ostrów Tumski in Poznań the researchers discovered a small (8,1 cm long) axehead (ryc. 1), whose surface bore a set of cuts forming an „inscription”. This discovery was named as an archaeological sensation. Despite the fact that it was found in a layer dated to the modern period, it was identified,based on some analogies, as belonging to the 10th–11th c. A group of palaeographers was asked to partake in the studies of the artifact to help reveal the mystery behind this „caption”. Even though their opinions varied, it was generaly accepted that – most probably – these marks were latin STLA letters, interpreted as an abbreviation of the word stella („arrow”). Based on all these findings an entire pyramid of further ideas concerning the artefact’s function and symbolic connotations was built. It was emphasized that this is one of the oldest examples of native epigraphy, that it proved the local population to be able to write (and read) as early as in the 11th c. Additionaly, the axe was expected to hold an unspecified role assiociated with magical rites, etc. Nowadays, owing to a much more extensive knowledge on artefacts of this type, a critical typological-chronological analysis of the given specimen leads to quite different conclusions. Analogies invoked by J. Żak (1956) either bear serious disparities in details or are much younger than he suggested. The described axehead is a typical representative of M. Głosek’s (1996) late medieval/modern type IX. This identification is further reinforced by the chronology of this find’s context – the layer in which it was found was dated to the years 1500–1700 based on a large quantity of modern (glazed) pottery, fragments of stove tiles, roof tiles, bricks and iron objects. The small size of Poznań’s axehead is also not suprising. Beside the massive specimens of late medieval and modern axes, miniature forms are known as well (ryc. 2). Their function is not clearly specified in the literature, although they are usually identified as carpentry and fine woodworking tools or children’s toys. To sum up the elaboration so far, it is clear that the artefact from Ostrów Tumski in Poznań represents a typical late medieval, or – taken the chronology of the find’s context – modern form. Both the shape and dimensions are typical for many axeheads from Central Europe at that time. There is no reason whatsoever to continue to claim that this specimen is of early medieval dating and that it bore some special symbolic meaning. The revaluation of its dating allows a different approach to the set of marks, „inscription” if someone wills, found on the blade’s surface. If this set of cuts indeed forms a caption, in the context of widespread practice of labeling such items by their manufacturers and knowing a great handful of heavily ornamented axeheads from the time, the presence of these „letters” is not especially striking. Another thing is whether the newly outlined chronological context allows their proper interpretation, if any. This problem, however, should be left for specialists in the field of palaeography.