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(Re)lecture archéologique de la justice en Europe médiévale et moderne

2. La justice et ses "objets"

Artefact assemblages collected on execution sites in Lower Silesia. Differences and similarities

Paweł Duma

Texte intégral

  • 1 Duma & Wojtucki 2015.
  • 2 Hauer 1991; Manser 1992; Urlich-Bochsler 1993; Auler 2001; Busch 2002; Genesis 2014.

1Over the last decade we have identified nine execution sites located in Silesia in south-western Poland. During the course of various archaeological excavations, remains of stone gallows or other traces of their existence, graves of criminals or suicides and hundreds of disarticulated bones, mainly animal, but also human, were found. Animal remains confirm in part knowledge from historical sources. Boundaries of former execution sites often coincided with boundaries of knacker’s yards. There animals brought from the area were skinned, cut up and then buried1. Researchers also encountered numerous artefacts, which often did not conform with ideas formed before the excavations. In addition, the material obtained from Silesia appears slightly different to that discovered in Western Europe2. There are also many differences between excavated sites, which do not always result merely from different chronology of their use.

  • 3 Duma et al. 2014.
  • 4 Wojtucki 2009, 316-317.

2Artefacts found on excavated execution sites can be divided into several distinct groups. Firstly are items related to the construction of gallows, initially timber and then mortar. Gallows were built of stone, rarely of brick. Often they functioned for hundreds of years until they were eventually dismantled. During this period they were repeatedly repaired, improved and rebuilt. Some of them changed their function. For example, in Kamienna Góra3, on one excavated site, the gallows became a scaffold in 18204, when its walls were lowered and covered with a wooden platform.

  • 5 Duma et al. 2012.
  • 6 Duma et al. 2010.

3Material remains of maintenance and destruction mainly consists of numerous elements of construction, on the basis of which we can reconstruct the details of a given building. These include: construction ceramics (tiles, bricks), nails and staples of various kinds for connecting wooden elements, but also other metal objects, for which unambiguous interpretation is difficult. Many metal artefacts also have a double use. This concerns mainly iron staples, which were found at the older gallows in Jelenia Góra5 and the previous year in Złotoryja. Thanks to written sources, we know that staples were not only used to nail a noose to a wooden beam, but also served as an element for closing gallows’ doors. Although some of the masonry gallows survived to the present day in no case has a door survived. Their design is known from descriptions contained in the cost evaluations or reports about the structure’s technical state. Iron nails and other elements from a destroyed door were found only at Wojcieszów6. They were discovered at the entrance to the preserved structure and their context is unequivocal.

  • 7 Grenda et al. 2007.

4An interesting group of artefacts are those we can directly associate with the executions carried out on site. Omitting questionable objects, or those which suggest several interpretations, we have some pertinent finds from specific contexts. Presumably, artefacts obtained from the interior of the older gallows in Jelenia Góra can be associated with executions. Staples found there (completely preserved or damaged), were used to nail the noose on which criminals were hanged. They were deposited in the gallows’ interior amongst the bones of executed individuals. The gallows in question was dismantled in November 1778. In its place fortifications should have been built. However, the conservative townspeople requested the designation of a new execution site, where less than half a year later, in the spring of 1779, a new mortar structure was built, almost an exact copy of the previous one. This is known thanks to archaeological excavations. Within three years, both execution sites were examined. Interestingly, in the interior of the newer gallows many artefacts and animal bones were found, but no similar staples were found amongst them. A large assemblage of staples was discovered the previous year, during the excavation on a monumental gallows in Złotoryja. Staples found amongst the bones in its interior were more massive and there were definitely more of them. In the very centre of the gallows a staple in a set with a chain was discovered – presumably used during executions. This is evidenced by its size and a close analogy. A very similar artefact was discovered a few years earlier in Lubań7. A human cervical vertebra was lodged in its interior clearly indicating the function of the find. In the older gallows in Jelenia Góra no chain was found, but there was one link. It was heavily damaged and broken due to overloading. Perhaps it came from a similar chain. It is intriguing that on other excavated sites no similar staples and chains were found, despite the fact that in most cases layers discovered inside were well-preserved and contained bones of executed individuals. This indirectly indicates that we are dealing with regional differences regarding the use of similar items during executions and the low popularity of this kind of object in other towns studied.

5Another group of objects found are those which can be associated with the personal belongings of executed criminals. During the excavations of the aforementioned burials, it seems that people buried there were deprived of all belongings. Only in one case, that of a double grave in Lubomierz, was a simple shirt fastener made of iron wire found at the neck of one of the men. However, in the interiors of excavated structures and their immediate surroundings numerous dress accessories were found. Amongst them were buttons, buckles and spurs. Small knives, their handles and coins were also found. However, it is uncertain whether they belonged to executed criminals, or had been lost by the executioner, his helpers, or by spectators of the public execution. A particularly large accumulation of such items comes from the gallows in Kamienna Góra (unfortunately in a mixed layer), as well as from gallows in both Jelenia Góra and Złotoryja. Objects found on the latter site were recorded mainly in the layer of scorch, which according to the stratigraphy, was formed shortly before the structure’s demolition. Perhaps the remaining wooden elements of the gallows and other waste found inside, including parts of the attire of hanged individuals, were burned there. It is possible, however, that fragments of textiles with metal accessories were deposited on the site earlier as waste. Many items, primarily fragments of stove tiles, fragments of luxury pottery, dice, and other artefacts presented below, discovered on excavated sites are difficult to associate with events which took place on sites of this kind.

  • 8 Duma 2015.

6On the excavated sites various forms of activity, which left a number of interesting artefacts, were carried out. A large group of finds consists of clay pipes. They occurred in various numbers at the gallows in Lubomierz, Kamienna Góra, Złotoryja, and the new gallows in Jelenia Góra8. The largest amount of clay pipe fragments to date were uncovered during the excavations in Kamienna Góra. These objects were found within numerous test trenches and in the filling of a large feature with a diameter of 3 m mostly furnished with animal bones. They date to the beginning of the 19th c. Similar quantities of pipes were found at the new gallows in Jelenia Góra and Złotoryja. In both cases the context of these artefacts was interesting. Some fragments were found in the demolition layers of both gallows. The dates of these works is known from historical sources, which provides an exact dating of the artefacts. Other pipes were deposited mostly in gallows’ operation layers, discovered directly under the demolition rubble. They were principally made of pipeclay produced in Dutch centres in the late 17th and 18th c. In Jelenia Góra, on the site of the new gallows built in 1799 pipes mainly from the Silesian manufactory in Zborowskie dominate. After the mid-18th c., Prussian authorities ruling Silesia issued a number of regulations which were designed to hamper the import of Dutch pipes. And indeed in this case pipes which we can associate with the Silesian manufactory prevail in the acquired material.

7But why is it that on other sites similar finds are rare or completely absent ? Perhaps it is connected with the presence of a knacker’s yard, which generated more activity on the execution site than instances where execution sites with only gallows operated without additional functions. The very intense activity of the knacker’s yard located in Kamienna Góra produced animal bones extremely frequently. In addition there is also a large amount of clay pipe fragments. Accordingly it is probable that they were, for the most part, lost by the executioner’s assistants, who ran the knacker’s yard and spent long working days there. A less likely hypothesis would associate the finds of pipes with execution spectators, or criminals. Pipes which could have been lost by the spectators occurred in small quantities, mainly in mixed top soil.

  • 9 Wojtucki 2009, 317.

8Another issue concerns items which, when present, do not correspond with our conception of execution sites as places imbued with certain taboos, which supposedly kept passers-by away from the gallows. The artefacts which to a certain degree deny this schema are chiefly large quantities of fragments of ordinary kitchen vessels, glasses, bottles and fragments of stove tiles. As long as fragments of vessels can be associated with presence of spectators during execution, or periodical repairs, the presence of artefacts typical of settlement sites such as stove tiles seems puzzling. We know from historical sources that repeated gallows upkeep works, often of a solemn character, had extensive facilities in the form of stalls where craftsmen and other workers were given drinks. During this activity vessel destruction may have occurred. Other objects, such as fragments of luxury glassware and stoneware or stove tiles might have been deposited on the site even during its operation along with the waste. We have no clear historical evidence that the executioner and his associates carted garbage to the execution site, but we know that the executioner’s responsibility often included emptying the town cesspits and disposal of waste, which might have contained the aforementioned artefacts. Many objects of this type were found in Kamienna Góra and Jelenia Góra at the new gallows. In Jelenia Góra there were fragments of goblets, stoneware and even porcelain. They were found in a layer directly beneath the demolition layer and they were left between 1778 and 1834, when the gallows was demolished. In addition, in the demolition layer a damaged axe was discovered, which was lost during the demolition of the gallows. In Kamienna Góra, artefacts of a similar kind occurred in the aforementioned pit filled with bones and in the operation layer discovered outside the gallows. Since no bones in the pit were articulated, it should be assumed that the pit was formed during the cleaning of the execution site and the collecting of remains from the adjacent square. Judging by the most recent artefacts from the interior of the pit, this event could have taken place at the beginning of the 19th c. Other artefacts on this site were concentrated in the gallows’ interior. Unfortunately, the layers found there were mixed to a great extent. It could be suspected that they suffered destruction when the gallows became a scaffold in 18209.

9Other assemblages of artefacts linked to historical events confirmed by available historical sources were found. Military artefacts associated with the sojourn of troops, or left behind as a result of military actions which took place in the area, indicate that soldiers reached and probably also camped at execution sites. These included lead musket balls found in Kamienna Góra, probably associated with the battle which took place in 1760. In Złotoryja, similar finds occurred and we can also link them to this period. Several similar objects were also recorded in Jelenia Góra. In addition, in Złotoryja and Kamienna Góra buttons, probably detached from Prussian or Austrian military uniform were found. In Jelenia Góra, in a layer inside the gallows, a worn gunflint was also found. All of these objects evince the fact that soldiers did not observe the common taboo that stopping at an execution site had negative consequences. They apparently camped around the gallows for a long time while losing small items. Perhaps artefacts which we link indirectly to gambling should also be associated with these events. In Złotoryja, there were numerous clay balls of different sizes, the interpretation of which is not unequivocal, as well as a small die. Unfortunately, the die was found in a mixed layer and we cannot be sure whether the item was lost during an operation of the gallows.

10There is a small amount of items, clearly associated with various kinds of apotropaic magic, known from historical or ethnographic accounts, which were supposed to take place at gallows. At the foundation of the gallows in Lubomierz a brick with a carved cross was found. No other items which can be interpreted as magical were found or recognized. Nevertheless, we know of a number of similar actions that do not leave traces perceptible in archaeological material.

  • 10 Manser 1992.
  • 11 Some parts of this article were written thanks to funding from the National Science Center as par (...)

11The first noticeable difference when comparing excavated sites for the presence of artefacts is often the lack of certain groups on one site and abundance on another. While excavating the execution site in Lubomierz a very small amount of artefacts was found and animal bones were absent. Perhaps the knacker’s yard was located in a different place and the key to understanding the quantity of items is actually its presence. Indirectly, it would confirm the theory that the execution site, as a place belonging indirectly to executioner, was used by him to dispose of waste collected from the townspeople. In a situation where the knacker’s yard was located in a different place, the deposition was limited. It must be noted, however, that in most cases the archaeological excavations were limited to the area closest to the structure’s remains while the adjacent square within its original boundaries was not studied. Hence, our assessment may be wrong. Also noticeable is a small number of small objects that might have belonged in the past to the criminals. Before execution they were deprived of all belongings. Neither was the presence of religious items recorded, while on Western European sites they are quite frequent10. Interesting differences also emerge when the proportion of artefacts related to the execution itself is traced. These directly indicate the intensity of executions. However, gallows existed where no similar artefacts were recorded, despite the fact that executions were evidenced by human bones. The largest amount of these items was found on site in Złotoryja11 and at the older gallows in Jelenia Góra. On the more recent site in this city, where executions are confirmed by neither bones nor sources, not even one iron staple was found.

Fig. 1. Artefact assemblage from former execution site located in Jelenia Góra (old gallows). a, b. iron staples; c. crossbow iron head; d. iron nail © P. Duma.

Fig. 1. Artefact assemblage from former execution site located in Jelenia Góra (old gallows). a, b. iron staples; c. crossbow iron head; d. iron nail © P. Duma.

Fig. 2. Artefact assemblage found during excavation on the former execution site in Jelenia Góra (new gallows). © P. Duma

Fig. 2. Artefact assemblage found during excavation on the former execution site in Jelenia Góra (new gallows). © P. Duma

Fig. 3. Gallows remains located in Złotoryja during archaeological excavation. © P. Duma.

Fig. 3. Gallows remains located in Złotoryja during archaeological excavation. © P. Duma.

Fig. 4. Probable execution chain found in interior of gallows in Złotoryja (after restoration work) © K. Smoleń.

Fig. 4. Probable execution chain found in interior of gallows in Złotoryja (after restoration work) © K. Smoleń.

Fig. 5. Brick with carved cross found near gallows remains in Luborniez © P. Duma.

Fig. 5. Brick with carved cross found near gallows remains in Luborniez © P. Duma.

Bibliographie

Bibliography

Auler, J. (2001): “Die Gräber der Richtstätte Amtsmandshaven bei Næstved auf Seeland (Dänemark)”, Archäologische Informationen, 24 (2), 271-277.

Busch, R. (2002): “Der Galgenberg bei Salzhausen”, Hammaburg N.F., 13, 127-136.

Duma, P. (2015): Śmierć nieczysta na Śląsku. Studia nad obrządkiem pogrzebowym społeczeństwa przedindustrialnego, Wrocław.

Duma, P. et Wojtucki, D. (2015): “Miejsce straceń i zaplecze rakarskie w śląskim mieście wczesnonowożytnym”, in: Korpalska & Ślusarczyk, éd. 2015, 255-270.

Duma, P., Rutka, H. et Wojtucki, D. (2014): “Badania archeologiczne byłego miejsca straceń w Kamiennej Górze w 2013 r.”, Pomniki Dawnego Prawa, 25, 10-23.

Duma, P., Grenda, K., Rutka, H. et Wojtucki, D. (2010): “Wyniki badań archeologicznych szubienicy w Wojcieszowie w 2009 r.”, Pomniki Dawnego Prawa, 8, 4-21.

Genesis, M. (2014): “Das Gericht” in Alkersleben – archäologischer und historischer Nachweis einer mittelalterlichen Richtstätte in Thüringen unter Hinzuziehung antropologischer Analysen, Beiträge zur Ur- und Frühgeschichte Mitteleuropas 73, Langenweissbach.

Grenda, K., Paternoga, M., Rutka, H. et Wojtucki, D. (2007): “Średniowieczne i nowożytne miejsce straceń w Lubaniu, stan. 59”, Śląskie Sprawozdania Archeologiczne, 48, 337-350.

Hauer, U. (1991): “Der Galgenberg – ein Bestattungsplatz bei Hundisburg, Kr. Haldensleben”, Ausgrabungen und Funde, 36 (4), 169-179.

Korpalska, W. et Ślusarczyk, W., éd. (2015): Czystość i brud. Higiena nowożytna (xviii-xix w.), Bydgoszcz.

Manser, J., éd. (1992): Richtstätte und Wasenplatz in Emmenbrücke (16.-19. Jahrhundert). Archäologische und historische Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Strafrechtspflege und Tierhaltung in Luzern, red. J. Manser, 1-2, Bâle, 2 vol.

Urlich-Bochsler, S. (1993): “Der Galgen von Matten bei Interlanken”, Archäologie der Schweiz, 16 (2), 103-104.

Wojtucki, D. (2009): Publiczne miejsca straceń na Dolnym Śląsku od xv do połowy xix wieku, Katowice, 316-317.

Notes

1 Duma & Wojtucki 2015.

2 Hauer 1991; Manser 1992; Urlich-Bochsler 1993; Auler 2001; Busch 2002; Genesis 2014.

3 Duma et al. 2014.

4 Wojtucki 2009, 316-317.

5 Duma et al. 2012.

6 Duma et al. 2010.

7 Grenda et al. 2007.

8 Duma 2015.

9 Wojtucki 2009, 317.

10 Manser 1992.

11 Some parts of this article were written thanks to funding from the National Science Center as part of the project ‘Historical and archeological recognition of the Rakar’s base in the Silesian early-modern town’ (Grant number: NCN 2013/11/D/HS3/02478).

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Artefact assemblage from former execution site located in Jelenia Góra (old gallows). a, b. iron staples; c. crossbow iron head; d. iron nail © P. Duma.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18331/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 99k
Titre Fig. 2. Artefact assemblage found during excavation on the former execution site in Jelenia Góra (new gallows). © P. Duma
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18331/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 78k
Titre Fig. 3. Gallows remains located in Złotoryja during archaeological excavation. © P. Duma.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18331/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 238k
Titre Fig. 4. Probable execution chain found in interior of gallows in Złotoryja (after restoration work) © K. Smoleń.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18331/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 94k
Titre Fig. 5. Brick with carved cross found near gallows remains in Luborniez © P. Duma.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18331/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 208k

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