Remains of wooden buildings from the 10th – 13th century city were discovered in 1948 at approximately 2 m below street level. They reached the depth of 5 m. Lack of air, wet foundation and other natural conserving conditions caused the remains of houses, streets and defensive ramparts, as well as a bountiful amount of small tools, fragments of domestic equipment, pieces of clothing and decorations, to survive to modern times in a good state. Over 27 years of archaeological surveys delivered insight into the activities and quality of life of citizens.
The Naturalists' House
(HQ of The Archaeological Museum in Gdańsk)
The oldest Gdańsk was identified to have been located near the meander of the Motława River, at the cross of today’s Grodzicka and Rycerska Streets. The settlement here was established approximately in 980, most probably by Mieszko I. It decidedly overtook other gords as the main political, economic and cultural centre of Pomerania. The duke’s deputy resided here and later, it became the residence of Pomeranian dukes and their courts. The name of the city Gyddanyz was first written down in 997.
Gdańsk was surrounded by waters and marshy Riparian forests. The connection with the sea that the Vistula offered allowed for the building of a port in the 10th century. In the years 1955 – 1961, fragments of a jetty to which boats would dock, were discovered. It was 3 m wide.
Important trade routes crossed in the city’s proximity. This localisation influenced the character of the settlements and the citizen’s activities; from the beginning of the city’s existence fishing, sailing, trading developed, and with them – craftsmanship.
Wooden housing, on average measuring 16m, was built within the earth and timber ramparts. In total, 125 houses had been excavated and researched, all remaining over each other in 17 occupation horizons, dwellings of fishermen and craftsmen. Many found elements of edifices, late-Roman and early-Gothic bases, a capital and floor tiles, indicate the existence of stone buildings.
The population of Gdańsk at the end of the 10th century was approximately 1000 – 1250 people. As the city developed, new districts formed, occupied by craftsmen and merchants. Newer archaeological surveys show remains of settlement in the Długa Street and the Long Market area. This means that the population grew. At the end of the 13th century, along with the borough – later the location of the city – Gdańsk counted approximately 7 000 people. At the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries that number grew to 10 000 while Gdańsk was going through a period of greatness under the rule of Świętopełk the Great (1220 – 1266), one the most outstanding regional rulers of Eastern Pomerania.
The dynamic development of the city suddenly stopped in 1308 in result of the Teutonic Knights’ attack, who then proceeded to take control of the settlement causing the complete destruction of the gord – port – urban complex. Archaeologists found traces of a rampageous fire, which is the testament to those events.