The Stone Age And Early Bronze Age
The exhibition begins with oldest prehistory period in Silesia (500,000 years Before Present). The fossilized bones of long extinct animals, a mammoth and a woolly rhinoceros, once typical of Ice Age (Pleistocene) fauna are displayed. Flint tools associated with the older Stone Age (Middle and Upper Palaeolithic) are in this area of the exhibit. A handaxe from Konradówka is especially noteworthy. Slightly younger artefacts of flint and bone (e.g. of brown bear bone), discovered in a cave in Wojcieszów (12,000 years Before Present) are also on display.
Artefacts from the Middle Stone Age - the Mesolithic (about 11,000 years Before Present) are also included in this collection. These are small flint artefacts, production waste from tool making and tools made of bone and antler. In this part of the exhibition, one can see a model of a Mesolithic hunters' shelter - a light dwelling structure made of animals skins - typical for nomadic foraging communities. The majority of the artefacts in the exhibition come from the Neolithic period (from about 7,500 years Before Present). The Neolithic’s dominant features were the adoption of agriculture and the trend towards sedentary settlement accompanied by the introduction of pottery and changes in the surface treatment of stone tools (grinding and polishing). Stone ard points used for soil tillage are significant indicators of agriculture. In addition, stone axes for cutting down trees are an important part of the exhibit. The clearance of woodland and deforestation started by the early farmers led to many, sometimes dramatic, environmental changes. Growing cereals and other plants as well as animal husbandry have left both direct and indirect traces in the archaeological record. For example, large pottery vessels believed to be food containers and a stone saddle quern designed to grind grain into flour provide evidence for cereal growing. Tools involved in the processing of various raw materials and everyday, household objects are on exhibit here. Nearby, one can see a reconstruction of a bow drill that could have been used by Neolithic communities. There is a collection of numerous flint artefacts and lithic debitage, including well-made stone axes and daggers. A replica of a loom illustrates the skill of weaving. The use of a loom is evidenced by finds of clay spindle whorls and loomweights on Neolithic settlements. In this part of the exhibition, the central position is taken by a model reconstructing the oldest farmers' settlement (the Linear Pottery Culture) complete with wooden dwellings and associated features.Apart from Early Neolithic Silesian pottery, artefacts made of bone, horn and antler as well as the oldest jewellery, tools and weapons made of copper (from more than 6,000 years Before Present) are on display. In this time, copper was processed outside of the territory of Poland so their presence provides evidence of contacts with Southern Europe. A typical inhumation burial of an individual of the Lengyel culture, the Jordanów group, equipped with valuable copper artefacts, vessels and bone tools can be viewed in this section of the exhibition. The exhibition closes with the Early Bronze Age Unetice culture artefacts (around 4,200 years Before Present). Apart from numerous pottery vessels, some of considerable size, there are typical bronze artefacts (jewellery, tools and weapons), and very rare amber, silver and gold artefacts. The hoard from Pilszcz consisting of dozens of bronze items is particularly impressive.
The Bronze Age And Early Iron Age
The first part of this exhibition is devoted to the Przedłużycka culture with its characteristic assortment of richly decorated bronze artefacts. Amongst the jewellery, the long pins, bracelets, armbands, diadems and necklaces made of amber beads deserve special attention. Weapons are represented by spearheads, warhammers, daggers and swords. The artefacts belonging to another Bronze Age culture - the Lusatian culture are displayed in two chronological parts. The first part is that of the Bronze Age. The second relates to the Early Iron Age (the Hallstatt period). In several cabinets, pieces of jewellery, weaponry, tools and everyday items typical for the Lusatian culture are on display. Particular attention should be paid to a hoard from Karmino, pow. milicki, consisting of a number of bronze artefacts (e.g., sickles, axes, armbands, bracelets and chains). The artefacts discovered in Woskowice Małe, pow. namysłowski are extremely rare. These hoards include imported bronze vessels - cistae, situlae and equestrian gear. A rich collection of Hallstatt painted pottery is unique for Silesia and indicates that local potters indirectly copied patterns from Southern Europe. The visitor’s attention is brought to a small cabinet where original Silesian gold jewellery from the Bronze Age is exhibited. The issues of settlements, economy and construction methods of the Lusatian culture are illustrated by a model of the fortified settlement in Biskupin, pow. żniński. Another interesting part of the exhibition presents the beliefs and rites of the Lusatian culture. It starts with the reconstruction of several cremation burials from Słup, pow. średzki. In a few cabinets, vessels with narrative scenes, clay figurines in the shape of birds, rattles, ornitomorphic cups, sun chariots, zoomorphic vessels and horn-shaped clay vessels are displayed. The next period is the Early Iron Age Pomeranian culture. It is characterized by specific burial rites. Cremated remains were placed in pottery vessels known as face urns. Schematic human faces were sculpted on these ritual vessels. They most likely symbolized deceased individuals. Additional motifs were sometimes incised on the clay, representing jewellery, everyday items and, less frequently, weapons. Some urns also had metal necklaces, earrings or clay lids in the shape of hats. The grave goods included brooches, belt buckles, pins, necklaces and toiletry kits.
The Iron Age And Migration Period
This part of the exhibition is devoted to the Celts, the Przeworsk culture, the Luboszycka culture and the Migration period. It is designed to show the cultural diversity in Silesia and to pay more attention to some selected topics such as trade, iron metallurgy and chieftains' tombs. The exhibition begins with the issue of Celtic settlements in Silesia. A Celtic warrior's burial reconstruction is on display. The skeleton is accompanied by numerous grave goods such as weapons and jewellery. The other artefacts associated with the Celtic culture are coins, distinctive necklaces (torcs), brooches, bracelets, amulets and clay vessels thrown on a potters' wheel. The next few cabinets show dynamic developments in the Przeworsk culture. It is discernible in the pottery, jewellery, weaponry and everyday items. An important element in this part of the museum is the reconstruction of a cremation burial with typical grave goods - weapons, vessels, jewellery and food. An unusual inhumation burial from Ługi, pow. górowski can also be viewed in this section. A warrior with his weapons, a horse equipped with riding gear, and pottery and glass vessels were buried together in a single grave. There are two examples of chieftains' tombs. The first concerns an inhumation in a chamber tomb in Opole-Gosławice, dated to the 1st century AD with grave goods made of silver, bronze and glass. The second example of chieftains’ tombs is the burial ground in Wroclaw-Zakrzów dating from the 3rd/4th century AD. In three tombs, two women and one man were interred. During the excavations a vast collection of unique artefacts, many of them imported, were recovered. They were mainly gold and silver jewellery as well as glass, metal, wood and clay vessels. The Iron Age exhibition would not be complete without explaining the processes of iron metallurgy. This complicated and difficult work started with obtaining bog iron ore and proceeded step-by-step until the final iron product was produced. Part of this process involved an iron-smelting furnace and here is a life-size reconstruction of a bowl iron furnace, as used by the Iron Age ironsmith.
The Middle Ages
The focal point of this exhibition is the life-size reconstruction of a wooden, thatched house. It is a typical example of an early town dwelling. Meticulously reconstructed, it contains furniture, clay and wooden vessels, quern-stones, a butter churn, a potter's wheel, a loom and many other items. The exhibition contains a range of everyday tools like ards, sickles, whetstones, firesteels, awls, chisels and knives and more unusual artefacts including jewellery (temple rings, finger rings and necklaces) and other items including clothes, footwear etc. The other part of the exhibition focuses on religious beliefs. Ritual items, which were important to the spiritual life of the pagan inhabitants of early medieval Silesia, are displayed. Related with religion are funerary rites. Before the adoption of Christianity in the 10th century, the dominant burial rite was cremation. Urns, filled with cremated human remains, were placed on top of a barrow or a wooden pole. Christian burials resulted in the interment of the complete uncremated body. As Christianity became established, the custom of providing grave goods with the dead ended. The adoption of Christianity had a profound influence on all aspects of life, not only the spiritual one. It is associated with brick architecture, writing skills, art related to the new religion, pilgrimage and pilgrims' special equipment like water flasks or pilgrims' signs. Much of the space in the exhibition is devoted to the beginnings of Wrocław. Here the locations of the first settlements within the later city, its gradual spatial development and artefacts related to various spheres of Wrocław inhabitants’ lives (crafts, trade, art, religion, plays and games, water supply, heating, transport etc) are all on display. The model of the castle in Bardo and artefacts discovered during the excavations at the castle, in turn, illustrate the everyday life of a garrison of a small mountain fortress in the late Middle Ages (the castle was destroyed in 1428). Weapons, tools, pottery and other objects from these excavations are on exhibit in this part of the museum.