San Isidro, El Salvador

San Isidro, Salwador
San Isidro, Salwador

project director: Dr. Jan Szymański

research location: San Isidro archaeological site, department of Sonsonate, El Salvador, Central America

site characteristics: The site has been continuously eroded by heavy agricultural machinery. Currently ca. 20 visible remains of monumental architecture are still recognisable. Dating of surface collections of pottery encompasses the Middle (ca. 1000-400 BC) and Late (ca. 400 BC-AD 250) Preclassic periods. San Isidro most likely served as a large regional center at the southeastern frontier of the Pre-Columbian Maya culture. The reconnaissance works have been underway since 2018.

participating institutions: University of Warsaw (Poland), Universidad Francisco Gavidia (El Salvador), Dirección de Arqueología del Ministerio de Cultura (El Salvador)

dating: tentative, ~1000 BC – AD 250

financing: 2018 – “Miniatura” grant provided by the National Center for Sciences (Narodowe Centrum Nauki – NCN), (ID 381403), 2019 – funds from the “Excellence Strategies – Research Academy” program

research description: In 2018 a field survey was carried out, as well as partial photogrammetric documentation of the visible architectural remains. A drone-based topographic map, albeit interim, has been elaborated. The works will continue in 2019.


2018; Szymański J., M. Mendez, M. Toledo, J. Avalos Campos, R. Cabrera, R. Cea; San Isidro: Large Preclassic site at the eastern edge of the Maya Culture, Mexicon 40(40):100-104.

Cerrito 1, the highest mound on site
Cerrito 1, the highest mound on site
digital elevation model of El Trapiche group, San Isidro

Deir al-Surian — monastic church

Project of the University of Warsaw and University of Amsterdam:

„A Cross-section in Time: The Church of the Holy Virgin in Deir al-Surian – an integrated analysis of the building, its paintings and inscriptions.”, financed by NCN (2015/18/M/HS3/00621).

Person conducting excavation: dr Karel Innemée i dr Dobrochna Zielińska
Site: Monastery of the Syrians (Deir al-Surian), Wadi Natrun, Egypt
Type of the site: monastic church
Datowanie: 7th – 21st century

A thorough investigation of the architecture and interior decoration of the church of the Holy Virgin in Deir al-Surian (Egypt) with the aim of reconstructing the most important stages in the development of the building between its construction in the middle of the 7th century and the present. The building has undergone a number of architectural modifications and, partly in connection with this, has been re-decorated up to four times since the 7th century. Two important stages (10th and 13th centuries) can be dated to the period when the monastery was inhabited by a Syriac community. This involves important influences from Syriac culture on the monastic milieu in Egypt, an aspect that will be an important part of the research.

The layer of 18th century undecorated plaster that covers large parts of the interior are removed to uncover the stratification of mural paintings and inscriptions of various kinds that can be expected underneath. Apart from that, evidence of architectural modifications can be expected. The documentation and analysis of this material should lead to a new insight in the development of the building and its decoration, leading to conclusions concerning its use and the changes in the church. The iconography of the paintings is analysed on the basis of texts (mainly wall inscriptions accompanying the paintings, but also liturgical, patristic and other kinds of written sources) and comparison with contemporary paintings elsewhere.

The research is multidisciplinary in its approach (architecture, iconography of the paintings, epigraphy and liturgy) and for this reason specialists with a reputation in their fields have been invited to participate. This has led to establishing a cooperation between University of Amsterdam and University of Warsaw. The Dutch side in this project also collaborates with specialists from universities in the USA (Duke), Belgium (Louvain-la-Neuve) and Germany (Bonn).

Tanais – antique town

Person conducting excavation: Marcin Matera, PhD
Country: Russia, Tanais (Myasnikovski district, Rostov Oblast)
Site name: Tanais
Type of the site: Antique town
Involved institutions: Museum-Reserve “Tanais”, Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw, Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre, University of Warsaw
Description of the research:
Excavations conducted at Tanais by the University of Warsaw began in 1995 and have continued ever since . Since 1999, the Polish mission has explored Trench XXV situated at the western border of Western Tanais. Up until now, circa 1300 square metres have been investigated, which resulted in unearthing Hellenistic architectural remains: a bridge made of wood and stone leading across a defensive ditch protecting the town, a fortification complex consisting of a ditch dug from the side facing the steppe, a stone defensive wall, as well as a carefully fortified gateway to the town . Residential housing was confined inside the town walls (the rooms: ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘E’, and ‘F’) along with an urban street grid (‘a’ and ‘b’).

Currently, research is conducted within the framework of the project “Hellenistic Buildings in Tanais – fortifications and adjacent intramural district. Further research” funded by National Science Center, Poland (2016/21/B/HS3/03423).

Castillo de Huarmey. The Wari Empire Centre on the North Coast of Peru.

Castillo de Huarmey, phot. Miłosz Giersz
Castillo de Huarmey, phot. Miłosz Giersz

Person conducting excavation: Miłosz Giersz, PhD
Country: Peru
Site name: Huramey
Type of the site: settlement, palace, temple, cemetery. Wari Empire (600 – 1050 n.e.).
Involved institutions: IAUW, PUCP, NGS, APPEA

Description of the research:
Twelve centuries ago, in a Peruvian desert on the Pacific coast, on the outskirts of the first empire of pre-Columbian Andes, called Wari by archaeologists, a new centre of power was established, with Castillo de Huarmey as its capital. Centuries before the Inca rose to power, the rulers of the Wari Empire developed a unique culture that created rare works of art and architecture. Castillo de Huarmey became one of the richest necropolis of the Wari Empire elites.

phot. Miłosz Giersz
phot. Miłosz Giersz

The Huarmey Valley, located in the Ancash region about 300 km north of the capital of Peru, Lima, is one of the many river valleys on the desert Pacific coast. In that peaceful oasis, over a millennium ago, the Wari people established a new centre of power. Castillo de Huarmey, located 1 km (0.6 mi) east from the present-day capital of the Huarmey province, covers an area of 45 ha. It is dominated by a monumental palace and the royal necropolis built above it, on the summit of a natural rock hill. Plundered and damaged over decades, only in 2010 were the ruins of the capital of a Wari Empire province finally, and extensively, studied, when a team led by Miłosz Giersz and Patrycja Prządka-Giersz, both from the University of Warsaw, with Krzysztof Makowski and Roberto Pimentel Nita from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (Lima), carried out the first archaeological excavations. There, after years of work, a Polish-Peruvian team of archaeologists directed by dr. Milosz Giersz from the University of Warsaw, Poland, unearthed the first undisturbed royal tomb of pre-Columbian Wari civilization that consisted of remains of 58 noblewomen, 6 human sacrifices, two mutilated guardians and over 1300 artefacts made of gold, silver, bronze, decorated pottery as well as rare wood, bone, and shell and stone materials. This discovery was considered by National Geographic Society and ARCHAEOLOGY. A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America as one of the most important archaeological findings worldwide. Those archaeological excavations brought as many unique data as new research questions that archaeologists are trying to answer by continuing multidisciplinary research at this unique pre-Columbian site.

Project financing:
The 2010 field season of the Castillo de Huarmey Archaeological Project was supported by grants from the National Science Center of the Republic of Poland (2970/B/H03/2009/37) and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Poland (579/N-PERU/2009/0). The 2012-2018 field seasons of the Castillo de Huarmey Archaeological Project were supported by grants from the National Science Center of the Republic of Poland (NCN 2011/03/D/HS3/01609 and NCN 2014/14/M/HS3/00865), the National Geographic Society (EC0637-13, GEFNE85-13, GEFNE116-14 and W335-14) and financial support from Compañia Minera Antamina S.A. Many Project’s initiatives were also supported by the Foundation for Polish Science (grant KWERENDA 2011/195), the National Science Center (grants NCN 2015/18 / E / HS3 / 00106 and NCN 2015/19 / N / HS3 / 00880) and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education (Diamond Grant 2013012043), as well as the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in Lima, Polish-Peruvian Society for Andean Studies, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Peru and the local government of Huarmey.

Lubanowo Lake – ritual place

Lubanowo Lake, phot. Aleksander Kozłowski
Lubanowo Lake, phot. Aleksander Kozłowski

Person conducting excavation: prof. Bartosz Kontny
Country: Poland
Site name: Lubanowo Lake
Type of the site: ritual place
Involved institutions: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences
Description of the research:
Starting from 2014 the team of scholars (Tomasz Nowakiewicz, Bartosz Kontny, Artur Brzóska, Piotr Prejs) and students from IA UW (initially featuring the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences with Aleksandra Rzeszotarska-Nowakiewicz) has carried underwater survey in the Lubanowo Lake (former Herrn-See) in Lubanowo village (ex-Liebenow) in Western Pomerania. During underwater research weapons, tools, and horse harness elements (including chain reins) were found. They are dated mainly to the Roman Period but exceptionally also to the Middle Ages. Some items bear traces of ritual destruction. The parallels to Roman Period weapons may be identified namely in the Przeworsk Culture and to some extent also in Scandinavia. The site should be attributed to sacrificial military deposits. Its extraordinary character lays in the fact that, so far, it is the only site of that type which is still in its ‘lake stage’, i.e. not a marsh or bog. Most probably it was used by local inhabitants, i.e. the peoples of the Lubusz group. As refers to later finds the weapons, tools and pottery from the Early and Late Middle Ages were found; at least part of them may be interpreted as ritual deposits.
B. Kontny, T. Nowakiewicz, A. Rzeszotarska-Nowakiewicz, The Turning Point: preliminary results of underwater research of the former Herrn-See at the vilage of Lubanowo (Western Pomerania, Poland), “Archaeologia Baltica” 23 (2016), 45-57.

Starożytne miejsce ofiarne w jeziorze w Lubanowie na Pomorzu Zachodnim, ed. Tomasz Nowakiewicz, Warszawa: IA UW 2016.

Qumeira 2 – neolithic settlement

Person conducting excavation: Marcin Białowarczuk PhD
Country: Sultanate of Oman
Site name: Qumeira site 2
Type of the site: Settlement
Involved institutions:
Institute od Archaeology University of Warsaw Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw Ministry of Heritage and Culture, sultanate of Oman
Description of the research:
Traces of occupation of the Neolithic pastoralists groups, sesonally settled of highland and mountainous areas of northern Oman.
Omani-Polish Qumayrah Archaeological Project – PCMA University of Warsaw

Szczepanki – bog site of hunter-gatherers

Person conducting excavation: Witold Gumiński PhD
Country: Poland
Site name: Szczepanki site 8, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship
Involved institutions:
Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw
Type of the site: Stone Age peat-bog site of hunter-gatherers
Description of the research:
Paleoenvironment, economy, settlement, burial practices and wooden, bone, amber, stone and flint artefacts, as well as pottery in following periods of the Stone Age – the Late Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Para-Neolithic (Zedmar culture) and the Late Neolithic.

Failaka Island – waterfront archaeology

Person conducting excavation:
Prof. Piotr Bieliński, Agnieszka Pieńkowska PhD, Magdalena Nowakowska MA
Country: Kuwait
Site name: Failaka Island
Involved institutions:
Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology and National Council of Culture, Arts and Letter, State of Kuwait
Type of the site: Waterfront archaeology of Failaka Island
Description of the research:
The Polish – Kuwaiti project: “Waterfront and Underwater Archaeology of Kuwait. Archeorisk on the Coastal Zone around Failaka Island, Kuwait” is the first archaeological research project concerning underwater cultural heritage of Kuwait and Failaka Island. The aim of the project is to detect and describe remaining archaeological sites at the tidal area, as well as to provide documentary evidence and finally organise the proper preservation. During previous seasons many littoral constructions were reported. The result was stunning: 33 stone structures located, and most of them interpreted as fish traps – stone tidal weirs and remains of three harbours with breakwaters were also discovered.
“Waterfront and Underwater Archaeology of Kuwait. Archeorisk on the Coastal Zone around Failaka Island, Kuwait”

Wólka Prusinowska – cemetery

Person conducting excavation: Kamil Niemczak MA, mgr Iwona Lewoc MA
Country: Poland
Site name: Wólka Prusinowska
Type of the site: cemetery
Involved institutions:
Terra Desolata Foundation
Description of the research:
The cemetery in Wólka Prusinowska (Ger. Pruschinowen Wolka) is located on the north-eastern high bank of the Wielki Zyzdrój Lake. It was discovered at the end on the XIX century. During the modern excavations we discovered – among them – bronze bow brooch, disc brooches with wooden insert, bronze tweezers, iron buckle with trapezoidal frame. It is evidence of contacts Olsztyn Group with Avars. Apart from that we found several hundred fragments of pottery. Part of it was decorated.
More info:
Project/sources of financing:
Institute of Archaeology, Consultative Council for Students’ Scientific Movement of  University of Warsaw, Universitatis Varsoviensis Foundation, University of Warsaw Foundation, Terra Desolata Foundation