After the local government decided to build an observation tower atop a sandy hill on Wolin, an island in the Baltic Sea, a Polish archaeologist was called in to check the site before construction and look for buried artifacts from the spot’s macabre past.
Hangmen’s Hill, a public park, had in earlier times been an execution ground, a cemetery and, some believe, a place for human sacrifices — so who knew what grisly discoveries were in store?
But what the archaeologist, Wojciech Filipowiak, found when he started digging caused more excitement than distaste: charcoaled wood indicating the remains of a 10th-century stronghold that could help solve one of the great riddles of the Viking Age.
Was a fearsome fortress mentioned in ancient texts a literary fantasy or a historical reality?
It has long been known that Nordic warriors established outposts more than a millennium ago on Poland’s Baltic coast, enslaving indigenous Slavic peoples to supply a booming slave trade, as well…
This article was written by Andrew Higgins and originally published on www.nytimes.com