Mediaeval port in Wolin


Province Zachodniopomorskie, administrative district kamieński, commune Wolin, Polska


14 ° 31’ E, 53 ° 50’ N



The Archaeological site in Wolin is situated in S – E part coastal island Wolin, over sandy bank of river Dziwna on one of three shoulders of the Oder (Odra) delta, about 25 km from present coast of the sea. Island is found between Pomorska Bay on north and Gulf of Szczecin on south. From island Uznam separate her river Świna and from land river Dziwna. Wolin situated is in place where waterway – Warta and Oder river basin crosses with land road along the coast Baltic (E – W). Track continental lead from Hamburg to Novgorod – writes about this Adam of Bremen. Track united island Wolin with land in place narrower troughs of river Dziwna, where are found silt isles. In point of passage on bank of island was post-glacial sandy bank surrounded with swamps. This region was flooded in period high state of water in river.

Sea Harbour

History research

In the second half of XIX century one acceded to first archaeological work connected with research legendary emporium Jomsborg†Wineta (well-known from written sources), which in result of works archaeologists and historians one identified as Wolin.



1. From second half VI century to second half VII century: settlement about fishing - agricultural character with building half dugout.

Function Commercial


In the region of former Wolin were localized four ports and harbours– main port was found in region centre of present city (fig.4). Build wharf of main port begun in 880 year lasted to 896-900 year. One localize street passing in port footbridge, which was twice rebuilt in distances 50 of years among 900 and 995 with year. In archaeological material from port we can observe gradual pushing oneself of construction in direction deeper waters, every level of construction was added in result of settlement of construction on wet ground. In 1952 in caisson No 1 being found on bank present troughs of river, one met on pale constructions dated on X – XII in. In 1985 in excavation trench No 3. – 60 of metres from present bank, on depths 6 m one found wooden constructions being with remainders of wharf port - in form oak - logs (halved of trunks) creating constructions of wall of wharf. From land wall strengthened and stiffened were beams fulfilling function pull-offs, which fixed former in ground at help oak – pegs (fig.5). During researches in region of former port, in excavation trench No 8, on 2, 6 metre was found fragment of keel of boat, which used secondarily as fulfilment of side of wharf (fig.6). On base of dendrochronological analysis one fixed, that keel originates from boat built in years 860 – 870. Disassembly of boat and secondary used of keel happened about 966 year.



Waterways played an important role in the trade contacts of the Odra delta, especially the three passes of the Gulf of Szczecin: The Piana, Dziwna, andĠZwina. The numerous coins and silver ornaments hoards found on their banks that come from various distant centres prove the great range of the contacts. The founding of trade settlements (e.g. Menzlin), and crafts, trade city centres (Szczecin, Wolin) developed early in this area. Written documents confirm the existence of regular sail links, especially with Wolin but also with Kamień, Szczecin, Uznam in the 11th century. These waterways criss-crossed the Gulf of Szczecin, which because of shallowness, shifting winds, low banks, and low waves did not favour sailing. Facilities promoting sailing must have existed as Adam of Bremen noted 1074 in his description of Wolin: Ibi est Olla Vulcani, quod incole Graecam ignem vocant. R. Kiersnowski (1951) attempted to locate the Volcano Pot on Chrząszczewska Island, inspiring further research and study. In light of these studies and analysis of the maritime conditions in the Gulf of Szczecin, we are inclined to place the oldest lighthouse on the southern peninsula of Hangman's Hill (Wzgórze Wisielców). Archaeological finds such as large fire site and „pirates" grave with a head on a pole also indirectly support this view. The beacon from the point would have covered the entire so-called Large Gulf. Adam of Bremen, mentions Greeks twice {Graecis et Barbaris) in addition to a "Greek light". The universal view in the literature is, they were old Russ named after their religion, but this does not precluded that they were actually Greeks. Wolin's contacts with Byzantium and with Kiev Russ in the 9th and 10th centuries have been confirmed by archaeological finds of brocades. Knowledge of the construction of a lighthouse from Byzantium where they were known in the 10th century, most probably reached Wolin through Kiev, which had very lively contacts with Byzantium. The signal tower discovered at the fortifications in Witiczew on the Dniepr forty kilometres from Kiev can serve as an example of the intermediary role. It is constructed like a lighthouse with firelight on a tower in a large vessel. We conclude from the above that the “Volcano Pot" that the inhabitants call a “Greek light" is a lighthouse of Greek-Russ origin. This applies especially to the phrase “Greek light" which is not connected to the name of the weapon used effectively from the 7th century A.D. on in the Byzantine fleet. The phrase.Volcano Pot" probably originated with Adam of Bremen who could have known volcanoes from Italy and Sicily(Filipowiak 1985).



On ground of main harbour, in excavation trench No 8, in layer from IX-X age one met on wooden pegs from cut off, during disassembly of thatch of boat, heads and endings (fig.7). In excavation trench No 4, in layer from IX age, one discovered base and bottom part of the winch to haul the vessels ashore and fragments three bound with pegs of planks from part near the steam, and also part of plank and benches (fig.8)( Filipowiak 1994). Elements of ships, former were used secondarily to builds of houses or the streets pavement strewing. Part originated from taken clothes off wrecks, but certain quantity most likely also from replaced party of thatch the ships – overhauls (Filipowiak 1996).



From halves VII of age existed in Wolin settlement handicraft-trade engaged with sea – trade. In IX century evolved into fully developed sea-trade centre of municipal type, basing oneself on trade with cereal, of production craftsman's and to far-reaching exchange (Filipowiak 1985).

Function Commercial


Oldest foot-note on theme Wolin originates from halves IX of age, contained is at so-called Bavarian Geographer, which exchanges names of Slav tribes from this of time, giving also quantity possessed by it castles. According to him one from tribes, which calls Veluzanie, possesses 70 of castles. Learned peaceable are regarding this, that goes here about inhabitants of Wolin. Second source, almost to present Bavarian Geographer is St Ansgar life (second half IX century). Author informs, that Danes on the way back from Birka, of which didn’t imitate to them to plunder and to wear out, attacked on other rich city, lying on opposite south coast of Baltic. From this of period we do not know other cities on Slav sea-coast except Wolin, what permits to accept, that remembered source writes just about it.

Written sources

From age X (966 r) originates note of buyer and traveller Ibrahim ibn Jakub about tribe Veltaba, under which authority are found „ huge town over ocean (Baltic), having of twelve gates. Has it harbour, to of which use halved of trunks". Description this historians bind from Wolin. Present Ibrahim chronicler Widukint knows only Slavs bearing name Vuolini, doubtless inhabitants Wolin. In Thietmar chronicle is mention about legates sent to emperor Henryk II from great cities (civitas magna) Livilni. One should accept, that Livilni this also Wolin. Rich relating source Wolin is chronicle Adam of Bremen, written about year 1074. Chronicler this exactly describes position Wolin- Jumne at outlets of Oder, on borderland of Pomerania and of country Wieleci, and informs, that city possesses convenient communication continental and water with Hamburg, Nowogród, Sambia and Szlezwik (Haithabu). Remembers also about „garnek Wulkana"(The Volcano Pot), which was of something in kind of lighthouse. Rich material to history Wolin-Julin and outlets of Oder in XII in. carry in three lives St. Otton, of which authors are: Monk from Prufeningen, Ebbon and Herbord. Behave they to events, which took place during of mission of bishop Otton, driven in years 1124 and 1128 under protectorate Boleslaw Krzywousty. Information about Wolin contains also chronicle Helmold (Helmoldi Chronica Sclavorum...) written about 1163 – 1167 of year. Author in considerable parts draws messages from chronicle Adam of Bremen. Period of fall of city found one's own image in chronicle Sax Grammar, written about years 1185 and 1190-1195. Author describes among others five Danish incursions, which took place in years 1170 – 1185. From less reliable sources belongs to mention Scandinavian sagas, in of which Wolin steps out under name Jom and Jomsborg. To most interested is Jomsvikingsaga, containing description of expedition Jomswikings on jarl Hakon and battles under Hjorungavaag (years 985-986). From description Jomsborg results, that city possessed harbour closed on Iron Gate.

Selected Written Sources

Author: I. Pomian



Filipowiak W.

1954 Wolin w świetle wykopalisk, (w:) Szczecin i Wolin we wczesnym Średniowieczu, Wrocław, 45-64.

  • Port wczesnoĹ›redniowiecznego Wolina, MateriaĹ‚y Zachodniopomorskie, t. 2, 183-208.
  • Wyspa Wolin w prahistorii i we wczesnym Ĺ›redniowieczu, (w:) Z dziejĂłw ziemi WoliĹ„skiej, Szczecin, 37-137.
  • Die Bedeutung Wollins im Ostseehandel, Acta Visbyensia 7, 121-138.
  • 1985 “Garnek Wulkana”- najstarsza latarnia morska nad BaĹ‚tykiem w XI wieku, (w:) Nummus et historia, 91-102.

  • Die Hafen von Wolin im IX-XIV Jahrhundert, (in:) hrsg. von M. Glaser, Archaologie des Mittelalters und Bauforschung im Hanseraum, Rostock, 261-269.
  • 1994 Shipbuilding at the Mouth of the River Odra (Oder), (w:) Crossroads in Ancient Shipbuilding, ISBA 6, Roskilde 1991, Oxbow Monograph 40, 83-96.

  • Wolin – Die Entwicklung des Seehandelszentrums im VIII-XII Jh., SlAnt 36, 92- 104.
  • 1994 Wolin i ĹĽegluga u ujĹ›cia Odry w Ĺ›wietle chronologii radiowÄ™glowej, (w:) Geochronometria 9, 113-125.

    1995 Wolin – die Entwicklung des Seehandelszentrum im 8.-12. Jh., SIAnt, 36, 93-104.

    1996 "Żywot” statku średniowiecznego, (w:) Słowiańszczyzna w Europie 2, Wrocław, 91-96.

  • Wolin und Szczecin – Hafen und Topographie der mittelalterlichen Stadt, (in:) Maritime Topography and the Mediewal Town 4, Copenhagen, 61-70.
  • Neue Quellen zur Ubergangsform vom Einbaumboot zum Plankenboot an der Oder- mundung, (w:) Minscellanea Archaeologica. Festgabe fur Adriaan von Muller zum 70.Geburtstag. Beitrage zur Denkmalpflege in Berlin. Sonderband, Berlin, Landes-denkmalamt, 34-39.

    Kiersnowski R.

    1951 Kamień i Wolin, Przegląd Zachodni 7, z. 9-10, 178-225.


    Kunkel O., Wilde K. A.

    1942 Jumne /"Vineta"/ Jomsborg / Julin. Wolin. 5 Jahre Ausgrabungen auf dem Boden der wikingerzeitlichen GroBsiedlungen am Dievenowstrom 1934-1939/40, Stettin.

    Leciejewicz L.

    1962 PoczÄ…tki nadmorskich miast na pomorzu Zachodnim, Warszawa-KrakĂłw.


    Pazdur M., Goslar T., Awsiuk R., Pazdur A.

  • Chronologia radiowÄ™glowa poczÄ…tkĂłw osadnictwa w Wolinie i ĹĽeglugi u ujĹ›cia Odry, Geochronometria 9, 127-195.

    WaĹĽny T., Ekstein D.

    1987 Dendrochronologiczne datowanie wczesnośredniowiecznej słowiańskiej osady Wolin, MZ-P, t. 33,147-165.

    WaĹĽny T.

    2001 Badania dendrochronologiczne portu i osady w Wolinie, Instantia est mater doctrinae, Szczecin, 155-156.

    Wilde K.A.

    1953 Die Bedeutung der Grabung Wolin 1934, Hamburg.


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