Recently found in Matcz, in the municipality of Horodło in the Lublin Voivodeship in Poland, a unique copper axe dating back to the 4th-3rd millennium BCE, has been identified as belonging to the Cucuteni culture (also known as Trypillia Culture), which flourished between 4500 and 3000 BCE in southeastern Europe.

The discovery was made during a metal detectorists’ meeting organized by Paweł Małkowicz in late August 2023, triggering a series of investigations and analyses by archaeology experts.

Prior to the event, Małkowicz obtained the necessary authorizations from the landowners and permission from the Provincial Conservator of Historical Monuments in Lublin. Despite efforts to ensure thoroughness in the search, the unexpected discovery of the copper axe by Krzysztof Gajos, one of the participants in the meeting, surprised everyone present.

The swift location of the discovery using a GPS device and its subsequent notification to the relevant authorities, including the Provincial Conservator’s Delegation for Historical Monuments in Zamość, allowed for proper documentation of the find.

Analysis of the copper axe, conducted by archaeologist Wiesław Koman of the Provincial Conservator’s Delegation for Historical Monuments in Zamość, revealed distinctive characteristics leading to its exclusion from Bronze Age cultures.

The relatively primitive casting technique used in its production, as well as its flat and convex shape, are features indicating a possible dating to the Neolithic period. However, the absence of similar finds in the Polish archaeological inventory led to a broader search, which considered similar finds in Ukrainian territory.

The discovery of an identical copper axe in Szczerbaniwka, in the Kiev region, provided the key to establishing the cultural and chronological connection of the artifact found in Matcz. Accompanying ceramic fragments allowed it to be attributed to the Cucuteni (Trypillia) culture, dating it to the late period of its development, estimated between the 4th and 3rd millennia BCE.

The presence of this relic in eastern Poland is surprising, considering that the territorial scope of the Trypillia culture mainly included areas in present-day Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and western Ukraine.

The Cucuteni or Trypillia culture had the tradition of cyclically setting fire to their homes. These were not accidental fires, as evidenced by the successive layers excavated, and the strangest thing of all is that not only one building was destroyed but those of the entire community, without it being certain whether the village was abandoned or simply rebuilt.

This find suggests the existence of Trypillia settlements in the eastern region of Poland, at least along the upper course of the Bug River. The possible confirmation of this theory is supported by the occasional discovery of similar copper axes in Wożuczyn, in the municipality of Rachanie, Tomaszów County, mentioned by Professor Jan Gurba in 1992.

If confirmed, this would be one of the oldest copper pieces discovered in Poland, constituting a find of great historical and archaeological significance. The axe will soon be handed over to the Museum of Hrubieszów, where it will undergo additional studies to further our knowledge of the Trypillia culture and its presence in Polish territory.


Lubelski Wojewódzki Konserwator Zabytków

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