barbarzynskie tsunami glowny

New Wave

Dawn of the Slavs

Scanty references in the written sources, and somewhat more plentiful archaeological finds locate the homeland of the Slavs convincingly on the upper and the middle reaches of the Dnieper River. At the end of the fifth and in the first half of the sixth century Slavs started to expand, spreading first to the lower and the middle Danube on the one hand, and the upper and the middle Vistula drainage on the other. Their second wave came in the sixth and the seventh century, taking in the Balkans and reaching southern and northern Germany. The artefacts they left behind are mostly very simple pottery (Dziedzice [55]) and a rather small number of metal objects (Machnów Stary [57]). When on the move to occupy new territories, mastering the manufacture of art objects and developing sophisticated crafts (Kopaniewo, Drawsko [58] or building larger settlements and power centres, is definitely not a priority. This the Slavs would go on to achieve only during later centuries.

Eastern and Central European Slavs in the 7th century in the light of archaeological evidence; after M. Parczewski

Słowiańszczyzna wschodnio– i środkowoeuropejska w VII w. w świetle źródeł archeologicznych; według M. Parczewskiego


a – Prague culture, b – Sukov culture, c – Penkovka culture, d – Kolochin culture, e – Bantserovshchina–Tushemlya culture (unclear ethnic attribution), f – syncretic variants of early Slavonic culture in Romania, g – the northern border of the Byzantine Empire, h – early Byzantine centres of great importance

Also recorded in Poland, although their assemblage datable to the seventh century is very modest, and most of them have a later dating (Dąbrowa [56]), are objects attributed to the Avars, a nomad people from the Asian heartland who posed a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire and were crushed only by Charlemagne (742-814) and the Bulgars.

With the coming of the Slavs a new age begins. One that is quite different. The Slavs would greatly alter the face of Europe, but our Exhibition ends with the coming of “the dawn of a Slav tomorrow”, to cite an apt expression used by a prominent Polish historian and writer Paweł Jasienica.

Slavic warrior (Ein Wende) according to early 18th c. fanciful ideas; drawing by Gottlieb Samuel Pristaff; collection of the State Archive in Szczecin (sign. 1023)

Wojownik słowiański (Ein Wende) wedle fantazyjnych wyobrażeń z 1. poł. XVIII w.; rysunek Gottlieba Samuela Pristaffa; zbiory Archiwum Państwowego w Szczecinie (sygn. 1023)

Early Slav pottery (Prague type) from the settlement in Krakow Nowa Huta Mogiła; collection of the Archaeological Museum in Krakow


Wczesnosłowiańska ceramika (typ praski) z osady w Krakowie Nowej Hucie Mogile; zbiory Muzeum Archeologicznego w Krakowie



Hoard of bronze objects and pottery vessel found together in the early Slav settlement at Krakow Nowa Huta Mogiła, after E. Dąbrowska and from collection of the Archaeological Museum in Krakow


Skarb przedmiotów brązowych i naczynie gliniane odkryte razem na osadzie wczesnosłowiańskiej w Krakowie Nowej Hucie Mogile; według E. Dąbrowskiej oraz ze zbiorów Muzeum Archeologicznego w Krakowie

First descriptions of the Slavs

The first reference which definitely relates to Slavs and locates their seats (Cassiodorus/Jordanes) and customs (Prokopios) dates from the middle of the sixth century.

[…] beginning at the source of the Vistula, the populous race of the Venethi dwell, occupying a great expanse of land. Though their names are chiefly called Sclaveni and Antes. The abode of the Sclaveni extends […] to the Danaster [Dniestr], and northward as far as the Vistula. They have swamps and forests for their cities. The Antes […] spread from the Danaster to the Danaper

The Gothic History of Jordanes, Ch. Ch. Mierow (ed.), Princeton 1915, § 34–35, p. 59–60

For these nations, the Slavs and the Antai, are not ruled by one man but have lived of old under a democracy […]. They life in pitiful hovels that they prop up far apart from one another, and, as a rule, every man is constantly changing his abode. When they enter battle, the majority of them go against their enemy on foot carrying little shields and javelins in their hands, but they never wear breastplates. […] Both peoples have the same language, which is utterly barbarous. […] They live a hard and unrefined life, just like the Massagetai, and, like them they are at all times covered in filth; however, they are not malicious or evildoers […]

Prokopios, The Wars of Justinian, H. B. Dewing, A. Kaldellis (ed.), Indianapolis/Cambridge 2014, VII.14.22–30, p. 408–409

Slavs on the Baltic Sea?

In the 590s the armies of the Byzantine emperor Maurice (590–602) captured three Slavs who claimed that their homeland was on the Western Ocean. Quite often it is assumed that this is the first description of Slavs living on the Baltic Sea.

On the following day three men, Sclavenes by race […] were captured by the emperor’s bodyguards. […] They replied that they […] lived at the boundary of the western ocean […]  their country was ignorant of iron and thereby provided them with a peaceful and troublefree life; they made music on lyres because they did not know how to sound forth on trumpets. […] And so, as a result of their words, the emperor marvelled at their tribe and judged that those same barbarians who had encountered him were worthy of hospitality; in amazement at the size of their bodies and the nobility of their limbs, he sent these men under escort to Heracleia.

The History of Theophylact Simocatta, M and M. Whitby (ed.), Oxford 1988, VI.2., pp. 160–161

Exhibition organised by:

mns uw

Project co-organised by:

  • Państwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne w Warszawie-logo
  • Muzeum Lubelskie-logo
  • Muzeum Warmii i Mazur-logo
  • Muzeum w Lęborku-logo
  • Muzeum Archeologiczne w Poznaniu-logo
  • Muzeum Zamojskie w Zamościu-logo
  • Muzeum Regionalne im. Janusza Petera w Tomaszowie Lubelskim-logo
  • Muzeum Okręgowe w Rzeszowie-logo
  • Muzeum Archeologiczne w Krakowie-logo
  • Muzeum Miejskie Wrocławia-logo
  • Muzeum Okręgowe Ziemi Kaliskiej w Kaliszu-logo
  • Narodowe Centrum Nauki-logo