The article attempts to apply visibility analyses to megalithic tombs of the Funnel Beaker Culture in the Pyrzyce Plain in north-western Poland. The analyses were carried out on 23 megalithic monuments in order to answer the questions whether the sites chosen by the builders of the Funnel Beaker Culture for the construction of their monumental megalithic tombs were optimal in terms of visibility and whether there is evidence that the megalithic cemeteries may have been constructed with the aim of establishing visual contact with each other and between settlements. Visibility analyses were carried out on a hypothetical landscape model that did not include flora such as forests, grasses or other obstacles in the terrain other than relief, in order to simulate an “open” landscape type. The estimation of parameters such as the visibility and discernibility of megalithic tombs proved that the builders of the Funnel Beaker Culture may indeed have chosen terrain-exposed sites for megaliths. However, other sites have been found that seem to be much more optimal in terms of visibility and terrain exposure than the present ones. Visibility analyses of megalithic cemeteries among themselves did not reveal significant “chains” of visual connections, even though they were located in exposed landscape areas. Investigations of the visual connections between megalithic cemeteries and known settlements of the Funnel Beaker Culture suggested possible visual contacts. The results of these analyses might suggest that a visual connection between cemeteries and settlements could be crucial for the megalithic builders, while it could be almost completely irrelevant between cemeteries.
The megalithic monuments of the Funnel Beaker Culture (FBC) in the Pyrzyce Plain (West Pomeranian province, north-western Poland; Figure 1), which are the subject of the present article, are the structures typologically associated with the so-called Kuyavian megalithic tombs (Chmielewski, 1952, pp. 15–21; Dorka, 1939; Holsten & Zahnow, 1919/1920, pp. 125–126; Jankowska, 2005; Kozłowski, 1921, pp. 23–25; Król, 2015; Kruk, 2006, p. 10; Midgley, 1983, 1985; Rybicka, 2006; Rzepecki, 2004, pp. 123–125; Siuchniński, 1972, p. 85; Zych, 2006). In West Pomerania, as well as in Greater Poland and Kuyavia regions, the objects in question resemble the shape of a triangle or trapezoid and are constructions consisting of large boulders, mounds and stone courts. The dimensions vary greatly, but some are more than 100 m long, 15 m wide and 3 m high. In excavated Kuyavian tombs, it was found that the widest part of some tombs contained a central grave, and in different parts of the mound there were occasionally two to five burials, in exceptional cases even up to ten. The megalithic tombs studied in the Kuyavia region indicated in several cases that a tomb contained burials that were not contemporaneous, and that its front part was probably a later extension (Rybicka, 2006, p. 73, with further references).
There are no radiocarbon dates for the megaliths from the study area. Even some 14C dates available for megalithic tombs in Kuyavia do not allow dating their origin and decline there (Rybicka, 2006, p. 70). The necropolises with non-chambered funerary architecture of the culture in question are associated with its classical development – the Wiórek phase (Król, 2015, p. 229). From the group of the few megalithic graves excavated in Western Pomerania, the Karsko tomb is currently considered the earliest dated object (3500/3400 BC). It is dated similarly to the earliest phase of the West Pomeranian variant of the Eastern FBC group, which has elements of cultures from Northern Poland and Greater Poland, the latter manifesting itself in the Wiórek form (Nowak, 2009, pp. 313, 477–478).
There are already many archaeological studies on megalithic tombs; several hundred of these structures are mentioned for the West Pomeranian region alone, especially the Pyrzyce Plain. However, more recent studies on this subject were published several decades or even a century and more ago (Chmielewski, 1952; Dorka, 1939; Kozłowski, 1921; Siuchniński, 1969, 1972; Sprockhoff, 1967; Walter, 1889). Some of these sites have been excavated, but with the exception of one site there are no documentary records. At the beginning of the twentieth century, German archaeologists started researching megaliths in West Pomerania, followed by a break of decades. Subsequently, T. Wiślański conducted excavations of selected megaliths in this region in the 1980s (for a more detailed discussion see Matuszewska & Schiller, 2016). Surface survey reports indicated that some of the tombs had been damaged or devastated by ongoing forestry work. In 2011, the Department of Archaeology at the University of Szczecin began verification research as part of the project “The Verification Programme of Megalithic Graves in the West Pomeranian Region. Research and Conservation Programme,” which was primarily aimed at cataloguing the preserved objects (Matuszewska, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020; Matuszewska & Schiller, 2016, 2018; Matuszewska & Szydłowski, 2012, 2013). More than a dozen megalithic monuments, most of which were previously unknown, were discovered in the Dolice area using aerial laser scanning (Matuszewska, 2019; Matuszewska & Schiller, 2016, 2018). They were subjected to visibility analysis in this study, together with several excavated FBC sites.
The study area, the Pyrzyce Plain, includes five terraces with varying heights from 15 to 52 m a.s.l. and two large lakes, Miedwie (maximum depth 42 m) and Płoń, with similar geological features. Both lakes are located in tunnel valleys, which were preserved from being covered due to the preservative role of the dead ice filling the tunnels under frost pond conditions. The differentiation of the surface of the frost ponds creates a trough-shaped, elongated depression. On both sides, the relief gradually rises to finally merge into undulating ground moraine sheets composed of clay and covered with frost pond sediments (Augustowski, 1977, pp. 247–248; Borówka, 2002, p. 20; 2007, pp. 7–9).
In discussing the funerary sphere, many essential elements must be considered; the precise location of the cemetery as a sacred place and landmark of the inhabited area is perhaps the most important. The same seems to be true for megalithic monuments. Their prominent position in space and their crucial role in the cultural landscape have been noted for several decades in various studies where they are presented in interaction as an integral part of the landscape context (e.g., Amkreutz, 2013; Andersson, 2017; Ard, Pillot, Mens, & Mathé, 2019; Brink, 2016; Brozio, 2010; Carrero-Pazos & Rodríguez Casal, 2019; Cassen et al., 2019; Cicilloni & Cabras, 2019; Gebauer, 2015; Król, 2020; McCormac & Bergh, 2019; Renfrew, 1979; Rodríguez-Rellán & Valcarce, 2019; Schmitt, Bueno-Ramírez, & Bartelheim, 2019; Schülke, 2015, 2016, 2019; Sjögren, 2003, 2010). Some scholars have emphasised that the megalithic tombs were placed in elevated locations and the site was chosen for the construction mainly because of its good visibility and dominance over the region (e.g. Chmielewski, 1952, p. 19; Dąbrowski, 2017, p. 56; Wierzbicki, 2006, p. 92). For them, the factor of visibility is possibly one of the most important aspects of the placement of megalithic funerary objects in the landscape: megaliths were in a sense built “for show” – through a privileged placement in the landscape to be easily visible to all living members of the community.
However, many other recent studies have shown that the rule of exposing megalithic tombs as far as possible in the landscape was not always followed. There are necropolises such as those in Greater Poland that were laid out in flat areas (cf. Gorczyca, Schellner, & Schellner, 2016, p. 136) or, as on the island of Rugia, in valleys (cf. Behrens, 2014, p. 82). In the Łupawa Group area of the FBC (Central Pomerania), megalithic graves were also mainly located in flat areas and only occasionally in higher parts (Wierzbicki, 1992, p. 76; Zych, 2006, p. 121). Several analysed selected cemeteries of the eastern group of the FBC show that most of them (76.3%) were located in small valleys. The preferred parts of the valleys primarily include the edges, then the slopes, and less frequently the high and flood terraces. Outside the valleys, cemeteries were much more often located in hilly terrain. Some cemeteries in the moraine highland zones of the Kuyavian Lake District had a more prominent location (Król, 2015, p. 236). Recent visibility analyses of megaliths in the western Altmark, Germany, have shown that relief hinders their visibility, even among themselves (Diers et al., 2014, p. 196). Similarly, in their analysis of megalithic monuments on the Barbanza Peninsula in Spain, Rodríguez-Rellán and Valcarce (2019, p. 636) emphasised the role of megaliths “not as simple landmarks, but rather as reference points in a social landscape presided by a noticeable degree of mobility.” Thus, the importance of visibility in locating megalithic monuments in the social landscape remains unclear and requires further investigation.
This article presents an in-depth study of the visibility of FBC megaliths in West Pomerania based on an “open” landscape. After discussing the method of visibility analysis, its advantages and disadvantages, the weakest point of which is undoubtedly the assumption of a completely deforested and vegetation-poor study area, as well as the programme used to calculate the data, we proceed in the following sections with the analysis of groups of megalithic tombs at individual sites covering the regions of Karsko, Krępcewo, Dolice and Płoszkowo in the Pyrzyce Plain. After studying various visual parameters such as viewsheds – the total visible area that can be seen from a megalith and the megalith itself from which it can be perceived for the first time – as well as intervisibility – the line of sight between the megalithic tombs and the FBC settlements and cemeteries – we tried to answer the following specific questions. Could visual perception be an essential condition for the selection of a site for the construction of megalithic tombs by the FBC community? Were FBC builders able to construct megaliths in such a way as to create a line of sight between them and FBC settlements and cemeteries? In answering these questions, we have attempted to test the hypothesis of whether the sites where the megaliths stand today were the best possible ones in the immediate vicinity that the Neolithic FBC builders were able to choose in terms of visibility, or whether there might be other, more optimal sites that they did not choose. Such studies have become possible mainly due to the recent expansion of knowledge about the exact location of Neolithic megalithic tombs and the discovery of new objects of this type in West Pomerania. By applying spatial and visibility analysis to the FBC megalithic tombs in the study area, a first attempt is made to define their spatial distribution, but above all to stimulate the interest of researchers in general in elucidating the role these tombs play in Neolithic landscapes.
2 Notes on Methodology
The results of the studies presented in this article are based on the possibilities of visibility analyses, one of the most important methods for the study of spatiality in archaeology. GIS-based visibility studies have become an increasingly popular method for assessing the role of what can be seen from and towards a particular site or archaeological object. The widespread availability of digital means for modelling and quantifying visibility has significantly advanced the development of this field of research in recent decades, offering the possibility for rapid calculation of indicators. The first relevant pioneering work on the spatial and visual structure of the social and cultural landscape was published in the 1980s (Fraser, 1983; Higuchi, 1983), and the importance of vision, understood as visual perception, has been emphasised by cognitive archaeology since the mid-1990s (e.g. Renfrew, 1995). Visibility studies currently have a wide and frequently used range of applications in archaeology, encompassing the study of spatial relationships between archaeological sites (e.g. Bourgeois, 2013; Król, 2020; Lake & Woodman, 2003; Lake, Woodman, & Mithen, 1998; Montufo Martin, Cámara Serrano, Afonso Marrero, & Gonzaález, 2010; Wheatley, 1995), Neolithic circular enclosures (e.g. Kravciv, 2019, pp. 288–292) and megalithic structures (e.g. Chapman, 2000, pp. 150–171; Dąbrowski, 2017, pp. 56–58; Król, 2015, pp. 237–239; 2020; Sjögren, 2010, p. 8). As a potential localisation factor, visibility is an important and lively debated topic in the discussion and interpretation of past landscapes (Fisher, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996; Gillings, 2009, 2017; Lake et al., 1998; Wheatley, 1995). Both the method and its analytical tools have been modified, optimised, extended and their methodological and technical frameworks critically evaluated in recent decades (Brughmans, van Garderen, & Gillings, 2018; Čučković, 2016; Gillings, 2017; Gillings & Wheatley, 2001; Howey & Brouwer Burg, 2017; Llobera, 2003, 2007; Ogburn, 2006; Wheatley & Gillings, 2000, 2002).
2.1 Analytical Procedure
The selection criteria for the analysis of the objects in this study included information on the exact position of the megaliths in the field, their state of preservation, the degree of destruction and the chronological connection with the FBC. A total of 23 megalithic tombs of the FBC in the Pyrzyce Plain were selected, which are not far from each other (Figure 1). These are sites documented either by excavation (megalithic groups of Dolice-Komorowo North, Karsko and Krępcewo) or by Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) (Dolice-Komorowo South, Dolice-Rondo Lucjana and Płoszkowo).
The data from GIS, which was used for the analysis of the megalithic sites, were taken from the database of the Main Office of Land Surveying and Cartography, available at mapy.geoportal.gov.pl. The visibility analysis was carried out using the Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and the Digital Terrain Model (DTM) available on Geoportal. LIDAR Survey data recorded in LAS (LASer File Format) was also used. The data were processed using the Viewshed Analysis plug-in from QGIS Software (Quantum GIS, ver. 2.18), while the terrain profiles were created using the Profile Tool plug-in. The plug-in “Qgis2threejs” was used to create 3D images.
2.2 Limitations of the Visibility Analysis Method
The method of visibility analysis used in the studies presented undoubtedly has many advantages, but some important limitations and disadvantages significantly affect the results. These are contemporary reliefs and moraine hills in the forests, which obstruct the visibility of the megaliths, and landscape changes caused by centuries of agrotechnical practices (for a broader discussion see Banaszek, 2015, pp. 188–190). Most megaliths are degraded and reduced in size, but those with a satisfactory current state of preservation, so that they are still clearly visible in the field, may originally have been much larger and perhaps higher.
While these limitations can be overcome in a sense, there are far more serious ones, such as the forestation of the study area in the present and during the Neolithic. It can be assumed that this part of Europe was more or less forested during the Neolithic and that there were different scenarios of landscapes in which the megaliths were embedded, such as dense forests, different degrees of forest clearance and agriculture. However, it must be emphasised here that the calculations and modelling, as well as the results presented, are based on the assumption of complete deforestation and bare ground (without any form of vegetation) in the study region. This is undeniably the weakest point of the visibility analysis, which has a profound impact on the presented results and cannot be averted at the current stage of the analysis, as the programme used to calculate the data does not inherently offer the possibility of working with vegetation cover (Banaszek, 2015, p. 188; Król, 2020, p. 57). Vegetation cover and human land use in the Pyrzyce Plain during the FBC period and in the Neolithic in general are crucial factors determining the visibility of megaliths in their landscapes. Unfortunately, there are no palaeo-vegetation records of high analytical value for the study area to adequately address this problem. In the first half of the twentieth century, several peat bogs were studied in the area. More recently, the Święte site (excavations prior to the construction of the Stargard bypass; Malkiewicz, 2009) and Lake Rakowe (unpublished research) were studied palynologically. All collected data (with the exception of Lake Rakowe) are characterised by the lack of radiocarbon dating and outdated methodology, which is the main reason why they are unsuitable for use in this study. However, in building a palaeoecological model of landscapes in which interesting megalithic monuments were embedded, we can draw on palaeoenvironmental results for neighbouring areas in northern and north-western Germany, with some reservations (Demnick et al., 2008; Diers et al., 2014; Kirleis, Klooß, Kroll & Müller, 2012; Kramer, Bittmann, & Nösler, 2014). Landscape scenarios resulting from these studies, more specifically from two Neolithic megalithic groups in the North German Plain, have shown considerable differences in human influence on the immediate local environment (recognisable from pollen finds). These differences are particularly evident in the extent to which the local environment near the megalithic graves was dominated by forests (wooded vegetation) (Diers et al., 2014, pp. 196–197). There is a possibility that the forests around the graves were intentionally left intact to create a visual barrier between the sacred space of the cemetery and the domesticated region (deforestation may have occurred only around the settlements). For the Western Altmark, a minimal openness of the forest is assumed in the Neolithic, as only the areas for the construction of graves were cleared. The megaliths were built in forests where there were no visible connections to settlement areas (Diers et al., 2014, p. 196). Palaeoenvironmental studies associated with the megalithic tombs in south-west Ireland suggest the use of pre-existing woodland clearance, confirming the idea that the deliberate felling of trees to make way for the construction of megaliths was unnecessary (Kearney, 2019). Some cases prove that megaliths were occasionally erected where there was previously agricultural land (for Kuyavia, see e.g. Rzepecki, 2004, p. 132) or, on the contrary, in places where there was previously no human activity (e.g. Ostholstein, see Brozio, 2016, pp. 181–183, 187–192; 2019, p. 503). The burials at Sarnowo in the Kuyavia region took place in the area previously used for FBC settlements. A necropolis consisting of Kuyavian graves and a flat cemetery, was established sometime after the FBC settlement. It is likely that there were three types of burial practises in the early FBC communities of this region, expressed in the way the space was used. Each type of burial practise provided for the possibility of establishing cemeteries both on previously unoccupied land and on the site of earlier settlements (Rzepecki, 2004, pp. 130–131).
Over the last thirty years, such a form of economic and spatial behaviour by FBC communities, leading to significant alteration and even destruction of the relatively permanent natural environment, has been widely recognised. As Nowak (2009, p. 425) noted, this view had acquired a universal dimension. In a sense, it was automatically applied to different areas and incorporated into general (Central European) models. Nowak argues that the environmental impact of FBC communities in the first half of the fourth millennium may have been only local and that large-scale deforestation and the emergence of extensive forest areas had not yet occurred during this period. The extent of the environmental impact of the FBC communities varied in the different regions of Poland at this time. In the Polish Great Plain, it can be assumed that clearing and deforestation took place on a small scale in the immediate vicinity of settlements, possibly to some extent based on forestry (Nowak, 2009, pp. 449–450). Moreover, Nowak notes that in the first half of the fourth millennium, especially in the second quarter, forests (oak and hazel forests?) were cleared on a larger scale in some regions in the northern half of the present-day Poland. Nowak cites the coincidence of natural and man-made factors as the reason for this (Nowak, 2009, p. 430).
Even these few examples show that the strategies for placing megalithic tombs in the landscape vary from region to region. The contrasting results of pollen analyses from different sites in Western Pomerania (sometimes not far apart) reflect different patterns in the dynamics of vegetation change for the period in question. The observation that some of the megaliths were simply erected in forests could be of great importance for the visibility analysis, as the selection of dominant sites in the landscape made little difference in this case. As our study is based on an “open,” deforested and plant-free landscape, we consider it a first opportunity to discuss the role of the spatial distribution of megaliths in Western Pomerania, which should be supported mainly by palaeoecological data.
Another problem is the height of the observer, the visual plane, which determines the line of sight. Since there are no anthropological records for the West Pomeranian megaliths that provide information on how tall the people who used them were, a height of 1.6 m was taken as standard in the final analysis, which corresponds to an average person. Similar heights of 1.6 and 1.7 m have been accepted for visibility analyses of megalithic tombs elsewhere (see Chapman, 2000, pp. 127–128; Dąbrowski, 2017, p. 57; Król, 2015, p. 237). However, the authors also tested other height options to include a child or small person of 1.3 m and a 1.8 m tall person. The megalithic double monument was chosen for the test, located on a gentle hill of 54 m a.s.l. in the fields near the village of Karsko (Przelewice municipality). Figure 2a–c shows the visibility ranges in a 5-km radius for the mentioned heights of the observers standing on this hill. The cumulative sight distances presented in Figure 2d show no significant differences between the analysed height values, proving that these three observers have similar sight distances from the same observation point. Although the taller the person, the greater the visibility, the differences are not significant.
The last point is the visibility limit – the furthest distance from which an object can be seen. In the visibility analysis made possible by the software used for the calculations, the maximum visibility potential is a circle with a radius of 5 km. Such a visibility radius is often accepted (e.g. Król, 2015, p. 237). It is recognised in most cases that the horizon is less than 5 km from an average-sized person standing on the ground. Here, the height of the place where they are and the height of the object they want to see are other crucial parameters.
Another analytical tool for determining visibility limits is the middle distance method, i.e. the distance at which the silhouette of the object becomes visible. Higuchi (1983) estimated it to be one hundred times the object size. This method was used in the analysis of the visibility of the Globular Amphora Culture (GAC) tomb at Kierzkowo (Dąbrowski, 2017, pp. 56–57). The authors argue that the length of the mound does not seem to have had a decisive influence on the visibility of the tomb. If it had, the average range for some megaliths would have been over 10 km. Instead, the visibility of the tomb from a distance was much more dependent on its height. However, the height of megalithic tombs is difficult to estimate. In addition, the middle distance method was developed to study natural landscapes rather than cultural objects, which has a significant impact on perception and recognition conditions (Ogburn, 2006, p. 408). To study the visibility of the megalithic tombs, a maximum radius of 5 km was assumed.
3 Visibility Analysis for Individual Location
3.1 Karsko and Krępcewo
The study area for megalithic objects in Karsko (Pyrzyce county) and Krępcewo (Stargard county) extends north of Lake Płoń. The megaliths Karsko and Krępcewo are about 10 km apart.
The site at Karsko (Figure 3a) lies on a local hill at 55 m a.s.l. Earlier surveys revealed two unchambered triangular megalithic tombs of the Kuyavian type with a common long side. Sketches show that additional structures of large boulders were erected in the front part of these structures. Visibility analysis shows that all the mounds facing it can be seen from the double tomb, while the opposite mounds are not in view. Depression areas are not visible (e.g. the regions around Lake Płoń; Figure 3b). From the south, where Lake Płoń is located at an altitude of 16 m a.s.l., the possibility of seeing the object in Karsko (54 m a.s.l.) is limited. In comparison, it is impossible to see it from the eastern and north-eastern regions due to a hill that extends to 37 m a.s.l., while the optimal visibility from the north-east and south-west is from the heights at 58 m a.s.l. (Figure 3c).
The megalithic tomb of Krępcewo (Figure 4a) is located on an elevated point of the plateau (43 m a.s.l.), a natural, elongated, poorly contoured relief ridge between the Ina and Mała Ina rivers (Wiślański, 1977). This almost triangular object had a well-preserved court consisting of large boulders. From the tomb, one can see the areas within a radius of about 2 km in all directions, except for the south-western one (Figure 4b), where a prominence about 0.5 km away (46 m a.s.l.) restricts the view. The megalith is already visible from about 2 km away on all sides, except in the south-west (Figure 4c), where it is hidden behind the above-mentioned prominence.
Visibility analyses show that the locations of the megaliths in Karsko and Krępcewo are not optimal for visibility. Looking for a site or sites that offer a much better view of the surroundings and at the same time are more visible from larger areas and distances than the megalithic tombs in question, the authors found one on a hill (58 m a.s.l.) in the village of Pomietów (Figure 5a), about 0.5 km south-west of the tomb in Karsko. There are no other points in the region with such optimal conditions (Figure 5b–e). If the Karsko megalith had been erected there (Figure 6a), the view from the tomb (Figure 6b) and towards it (Figure 6c) would have increased significantly, even up to several kilometres in each direction. The difference can best be seen when juxtaposing the viewsheds (Figure 6d and e).
In Dolice (Stargard county), three groups of megalithic tombs of the Kuyavian type were investigated. They are all located about 2.5–3.5 km east of the village centre (Figure 7a). Five megalithic monuments (1–5) are located some distance north of the village and are distributed around the Rondo Lucjana. Three (6–8) are located about 0.6 km north of Komorowo (Komorowo North) and eight (9–16) about 800 m south of Komorowo (Komorowo South).
3.2.1 Dolice-Rondo Lucjana
The study area, technically referred to as Dolice-Rondo Lucjana, after a name used by villagers for local crossroads, is located in the forest north-east of Dolice. The megalithic tombs of the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana group occupy about 1 km2 and enclose a local depression (Figure 7b). The method ALS made it possible to select several megalithic objects for the present study, but only two of them were previously known and described (Figure 7c; Matuszewska & Schiller, 2016). These tombs resemble elongated triangles varying in length (22–90 m) and orientation (W–E, NW–SE or NE–SW). The megaliths numbered 2, 3 and 5 are located at an altitude of about 60 m a.s.l., 4 – at 64 m a.s.l. and 1 – at 65 m a.s.l. The discussed megalithic complex is surrounded by hills; the highest of them measure 67 m a.s.l. in the west and 70 m a.s.l. in the north, effectively blocking the view of the tombs.
The view from tomb 1 (Figure 8a) is restricted by gentle hills surrounding the local depressions, but all the other megaliths of the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana group can be seen. The view from megalith 2 (Figure 8b) is similar, except that the view does not reach the westernmost areas, but the other objects of this group are visible. Similarly, all the other megaliths are perfectly visible from tomb 3 (Figure 8c), with visibility comparable to that described above. An identical situation exists for tombs 4 and 5 (Figure 8d and e). The superimposition of the visibility areas of all the analysed objects (Figure 8f) shows that they overlap to a large extent. Some regions that are not visible from one of the megaliths can be complemented by the other view. Only the viewing area of tomb 1 (marked in red) extends in a south-westerly direction in some areas. This is because it is at the highest point of all the objects examined so far, right at the edge of the depression already mentioned.
As mentioned above, tomb 1 is the highest situated, westernmost and most south-facing object. From the south, it can be seen from a distance of 5 km, albeit with difficulty, as it is at the edge of the capabilities of the human eye. From the west, it is only visible from 3 km, from the east – 2 km and from the north – only 1 km (Figure 9a).
Tomb 2 (Figure 9b) can be seen from the south-westernmost region of an embankment (up to 57 m a.s.l.) extending along the valley of the Mała Ina River between Pomietów and Dolice. This barrier is more than 4 km away from the discussed structure, so that the limit of visibility reaches the capabilities of the human eye. The discussed megalith is still visible from a distance of 1.5 km to the east and from less than a kilometre to the west.
The visibility of tomb 3 (Figure 9c) is comparable to that of tomb 2. Perhaps it is somewhat more limited from the south-west and a little better from the north-west.
There are only a couple of relatively small areas where tomb 4 (Figure 9d) is visible. One in the south offers the possibility of seeing this tomb from up to 5 km away, but this is already at the limit of the physical capacity of the human eye.
Among the few regions from which tomb 5 can be seen for the first time (Figure 9e), there is a small piece of land to the south, almost 5 km away, which is already at the limit of the physiological capacity of the human eye. The remaining dense area of visibility is less than 1 km. The chance of seeing megalith 5 from a distance is slightly greater when looking from the hills in an easterly or south-easterly direction.
In summary, the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana megalithic group (Figure 9f) is best seen from the north-west, from the hills between Dolice and Pomietów, as there is a better view from there. However, the chance of seeing this group from there is at the limit of human vision (the distance between the said hills and the megaliths is almost 5 km). Moreover, tombs 4 and 5 cannot be seen from these hills. All megaliths are clearly visible from a distance limited to a circle of 1 km around their centre.
Less than 0.4 km north of tomb 5 is the highest point of the valley rim, where the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana megalithic group stands (Figure 10a; tomb 1 lies directly on the valley rim). This point is at an altitude of 75 m a.s.l., while the highest located tomb (tomb 1) is at 65 m a.s.l., 10 m lower. Had a megalithic structure hypothetically stood there, the view and visibility would have been many times better than at the other monuments discussed (Figure 10b–e).
3.2.2 Dolice-Komorowo North
The Dolice-Komorowo North megalithic group (tombs 6–8) is located in the wooded area north of Komorowo and east of Dolice (Figure 11a). The objects are located on the southern slope of a plateau, formerly known as Küchenort, at an altitude of 49 m a.s.l. (Figure 11b). This site was mentioned by E. Sprockhoff (1967, p. 94), who wrote about a heavily damaged megalithic tomb (Hünenbett). An object was excavated in 1901 (excavations by A. Stubenrauch; Archives of the Department of Archaeology of the National Museum in Szczecin, file no. 1219). It was an elongated, triangular, northeast-southwest aligned megalith with the dimensions 45 m × 8 m and an approximately 10 m long stone pavement in the NE part. As can be seen from a sketch of the tomb (Archives of the Department of Archaeology of the National Museum in Szczecin, file no. 1131), there could be a burial chamber between 6 and 9 m in the tomb part. Wiślański carried out his research there and examined a trapezoidal tomb measuring 53 m × 7 m, oriented east-west, with a transverse wall separating the upper part (without stones) from the rest, which was lined with stones (Midgley, 1985, pp. 134, 249–250; Wiślański, 1984, p. 22; Figures 11c).
The overall view of tomb 6 extends over a wide strip of land along the valley of the Mała Ina River (Figure 12a). The plateaus to the north-west remain invisible to this megalith, as do the extensive depressions to the south-west. Since tombs 7 and 8 are not far from each other, they are characterised by almost identical viewsheds (Figure 12b and c).
The cumulative views of all megaliths of the Komorowo North group (Figure 12d) show hardly any noticeable differences between them (only a narrow wedge-shaped area in the middle makes the difference).
Tomb 6 is not visible from either the hills to the north-east or the depressions to the south-west (Figure 13a). A similar degree of visibility is characteristic of tombs 7 and 8 (Figure 13b and c), as shown by the composite views of both tombs (Figure 13d). Minor differences are observed in the shapes of the narrow land wedges.
Similar to the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana megalithic structures, a search was made for a potential site with better visibility than the tombs near the Dolice-Komorowo North group. Such a site was found about 200 m away from this group on a 3 m higher level (Figure 14a). The viewsheds created for this point are shown in Figure 14b (from the site) and Figure 14c (towards the site). This theoretical point offers a slightly better view than all megaliths of the Dolice-Komorowo North group. Nevertheless, there is no significant difference in visibility between it and the megalithic group (Figure 14d and e).
3.2.3 Dolice-Komorowo South
The megalithic site with the eight tombs is located south of Komorowo and east of Dolice in a wooded area (Figure 15a). Almost all of them stand on a hill near the valley of the Mała Ina River. Tomb 17 is an exception (Figure 15b). It was included in this group and not in Komorowo-North because it is closer (about 0.8 km away) to the megaliths of Komorowo-South than to Komorowo-North; the latter form a compact group on the slope of the Küchenort hill, while megalithic feature 17 is further away and has no relationship to it. Other reasons for the inclusion of megalith 17 in the Komorowo-South group are water-related. It is not located on the Mała Ina River itself, but about 120 m from a short, unnamed tributary. It is 1.2 km to the mouth of the tributary and about 0.9 km to the rest of the megalithic group.
The megaliths of the Dolice-Komorowo South group were discovered using the method ALS (Matuszewska & Schiller, 2016; Figure 15c). They are triangular objects between 30 and 70 m and an orientation of northwest-southeast or west-east (one megalith). It was not possible to estimate the length of the four structures (tombs 9–12). Tomb 9 was partially destroyed by the erosional activity of the Mała Ina River; the escarpment containing the tomb was washed away, while megaliths 10–12 were significantly damaged by recent forestry work.
Tomb 9 is located at an altitude of 42 m a.s.l. The heights to the south-west (more than 50 m a.s.l.) and to the north-east limit the view considerably. At the same time, the north-western and south-eastern areas along the valley of the Mała Ina River are relatively visible (Figure 16a).
Although tomb 10 is five metres higher (47 m a.s.l.) than megalith 9, the visual obstructions are similar, and the view offered is slightly greater than that of tomb 9 (Figure 16b).
The view from tomb 11 (48 m a.s.l.) is similar to that of tomb 9 (Figure 16c). Minor differences may be due to the fact that other funerary objects in this group are located further and further south-east along the valley.
Tomb 12 is located at 45 m a.s.l. The main visible area extends from north-west to south-east along the valley of the Mała Ina River (Figure 16d).
The visibility area of tomb 15 (44 m a.s.l.) extends across the whole valley and reaches up to 4 km to the north-west and about 3 km to the south-east (Figure 17b).
Tomb 16 lies about 300 m from the other megaliths of the Dolice-Komorowo South group, with a view almost the same as theirs. Although grave 16 is closer to tomb 17, it cannot see the latter because of a plateau to the north-east that obstructs the view (Figure 17c).
Tomb 17 and the other objects in the group are at a similar altitude (44 m a.s.l.). Nevertheless, it is the only tomb of the discussed group where the valley of the Mała Ina River does not determine the view, but its tributaries do (Figure 17d). An interesting analytical material emerged from the juxtaposition of all the viewsheds representing individual tombs (Figure 17e). For megalithic structures 9–15, the region visible from them was found to extend mainly to the north-west and south-east. The area to the north-west of them is not accessible for observation, but it is accessible from tomb 17, which gives the view that observations from other sites cannot.
Let us now concentrate on examining the visibility potential for each megalithic tomb of the Komorowo South group that can be seen for the first time from a distance.
For tomb 9, the main visibility areas from which it can be seen belong to the valley of the Mała Ina River, which forms a relatively uniform structure with few gaps (Figure 18a).
The central region where tomb 10 is visible extends along a northwest-southeast line with an estimated range of 5 km (Figure 18b).
The area confined to the valley of the Mała Ina River (Figure 18c) and the highest parts of hills distant 5 km from the megalith are those from which tomb 11 can be seen. The conditions to see tomb 12 are identical to those of tomb 11 (it is visible from about 4.5 km away) (Figure 18d).
Tombs 13–15 can be seen from the valley of the Mała Ina River (Figures 18e and 19a and b).
Tomb 16 (the most southerly in the Dolice-Komorowo South megalithic group) is already visible from more distant areas than the other tombs (Figure 19c), including the remaining monuments of both Komorowo groups, with the exception of tomb 17, from which the observation is not possible because an intervening terrain ledge obstructs the view.
The area where tomb 17 (Figure 19d) becomes visible is different from the others. Since it is not located in the valley of the Mała Ina River, but in a tributary, it is impossible to see this structure from the valley of the mentioned river. The summed viewsheds (Figure 19e) show that the fields from which the structures of the Dolice-Komorowo South megalithic group can be seen are generally located in a belt from north-west to sout-heast. None of the megaliths can be observed from the south-west because there is a depression between Dolice and Pomietów. A similar pattern applies to the hills in the north-east (the heights behind the Mogielica River), where no megalithic structures can be seen.
There is a point in the nearest area of the Dolice-Komorowo South group, which offers much better visibility conditions and is more visible from the surrounding area than the graves of the discussed group (the river valley does not blur them; Figure 20b–e). This point is located on a hilltop between tomb 17 and the other monuments of this group (9–16; Figure 20a). The hill is at 55 m a.s.l., while the megaliths discussed are at a lower altitude, mostly below 45 m a.s.l.
The literature and archival records (Department of Archaeological Archives of the National Museum in Szczecin, file no. 1125; Chmielewski, 1952, p. 42, no. 11; Dorka, 1939, p. 132; Holsten & Zahnow, 1919/1920, pp. 120–121, 126; Kossinna, 1910, p. 88; Kozłowski, 1921, p. 42, no. 15; Matuszewska & Schiller, 2018; Siuchniński, 1969, p. 110; Walter, 1889, p. 14, no. 92) suggested four megalithic structures near the village of Brzezina (Stargard county). However, opinions differed about their location and characteristics. There was talk of four rectangular structures not far from each other with different sizes and a west-east alignment or of four features of the Kuyavian type whose size and alignment are unknown. The application of the method ALS and surface investigations enabled the rediscovery of these four megalithic tombs (Figure 21a) (cf. Matuszewska & Schiller, 2018).
The megalithic group is located on a small plateau (about 55 m a.s.l.) extending towards Brzezina. From the northern side, the plateau is surrounded by the river valley of the Mała Ina, oriented from north-west to south-east, which distinguishes it from another, slightly lower plateau at Sądów and Sądówko (Figure 21b).
Four megalithic structures of the Kuyavian type were identified (Figure 21c). The largest structure (elongated) would be up to 190 m long, but further investigation is needed to clarify the size issue. All the graves are located very close to each other. From the front part of tomb 1 to the front of tomb 4 is about 160 m. Tomb 1 is blurred and barely visible.
The view from each of the megaliths of the Płoszkowo group is similar, as they are located at a short distance from each other. It extends to the hills in the south-west (towards Brzezina). The areas north of the valley of the Mała Ina River are also visible, but not the valley itself, except for its north-western part (Figure 22a–e).
The view of the megaliths of Płoszkowo is limited from the south, south-west and west, but available from some points (Figure 22f): In the south, the tombs can be seen from the plateaus about 3 km away; in the south-west, they start to appear at a distance of 1.2 km; from the west, the view is obscured except for some “islands of visibility” at a distance of over 4.8 km. For most of the region to the west, however, there is no visibility. There, a continuous observation area begins at about 1.2 km.
The river valley of the Mała Ina characterises the area north-west of the discussed structures. Due to this ground condition, it is impossible to see the tombs until one climbs the hill that begins in front of the visibility zone, about 5 km away from them. After 0.5 km, the visibility disappears and for another 1.5 km one descends into the valley, from where they cannot see the tombs. The megaliths become visible again on leaving the valley. In a westerly direction, the visibility area begins 4.5 km from the megalithic group. An excellent visibility zone is to the north-west and west of the tombs, starting at 5 km from the Płoszkowo group. The tombs of the Komorowo South group are located right there. From this side, the viewer can see the Płoszkowo megalithic group all the way to the point where they enter the valley of the Mała Ina River, 2.0 km from the group. On the other side of the valley, the megaliths are now visible all the time. Towards the north-east, the excellent and uninterrupted viewing area starts at 2.5 km, but about 1.1 km from the tombs there is a gap – the Mała Ina river valley. Once someone on their way to the tombs has crossed the valley, they can see them permanently. To the east, the monuments are visible from a distance of 4.0 km until they reach the valley of the Mała Ina River, an obstacle. The river valley runs in a south-easterly direction, so the tombs can be seen as soon as one climbs the upland about 1.7 km away from them.
No site was found near the megalithic tombs of Płoszkowo that would have provided a better view to and from the tombs.
4 Intervisibility Between the Cemeteries
Another aspect is the visibility between cemeteries and between individual tombs. For Karsko and Krępcewo, as well as the megalithic groups Dolice-Rondo Lucjana and Płoszkowo, the distances are too large to investigate. For this reason, the visibility between the cemeteries near Dolice (Dolice-Rondo Lucjana, Dolice-Komorowo North, Dolice-Komorowo South, Płoszkowo) was studied.
In the megalithic group of Dolice-Rondo Lucjana, tomb 1 is the only structure that can be seen from the Dolice-Komorowo South group (but only from tombs 10 and 16). In contrast, none can be observed from the Dolice-Komorowo North group (Figure 23a).
The Dolice-Komorowo North and Komorowo South groups are intervisible (with the exception of megalith 9 of the latter, which lies on the edge of the valley of the Mała Ina River; tomb 6 of the Dolice-Komorowo North group cannot be seen from there). However, the objects of Dolice-Komorowo North are not visible from any of the megaliths of the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana (due to an elevation that obscures them) and Płoszkowo groups (Figure 23b).
The megaliths of the Dolice-Komorowo South complex are visible to the Dolice-Komorowo North and Płoszkowo groups, but not to the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana group, except for tomb 1 (Figure 23c).
There is no visual link between the Płoszkowo and Komorowo North groups. However, a visual connection was found between the Płoszkowo and all the megalithic structures of Komorowo South, except for tomb 17 (Figure 23d).
The cumulative viewsheds of intervisibility available for all megalithic tombs in the Dolice region (Figure 23e) show that the only place visible from other cemeteries (for the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana group from tomb 1) and from which other tombs can be seen is the Dolice-Komorowo South group (located in the centre). However, it is worth noting that there is no “chain” of visibility (only the groups closest to each other can be mutually seen). The reason for this is that the structures of the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana group are not visible to the Dolice-Komorowo North group.
5 Intervisibility Between Cemeteries and Settlements of the Funnel Beaker Culture
The final point to be discussed is the intervisibility between megalithic tombs and FBC settlements. Attempting to look for patterns of settlement location in relation to cemeteries is fraught with many difficulties (Król, 2015, p. 250). In order to correctly identify these patterns, information about the character of the settlements and the chronology of the settlement and burial sites is required. Our study area does not offer much scope to explore this aspect. Several FBC sites are known from the immediate vicinity of the megalithic tombs (data from research programme referred to as the Polish Archaeological Record – Polish: AZP). All of them are discoveries of surface survey. The potential visibility between the megalithic tombs and the above- mentioned sites was analysed with a caveat that the results presented are not definitive.
In the vicinity of the Karsko tomb, five FBC settlement sites were detected. Nevertheless, a line of sight between the tomb and only two of these sites is possible (Figure 24a), as they are located at a distance of about 2 and 3 km, respectively. If this megalith had been erected at the assumed optimal location for visibility, the settlement at Dolice, about 3 km away, would also fulfil the visibility criterion.
No information on FBC settlements is available for the immediate vicinity of the Krępcewo megalith.
Four FBC settlements are reported within 5 km of the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana megalithic group. The possibility of the sites seeing each other applies only to two, which lie to the south of the megalithic group, and tomb 1, which lies at the highest point of all (Figure 24b).
Seven FBC settlements are within the visibility range of the Dolice-Komorowo North megalithic group. Similar is the case for this area with regard to the point selected as optimal for visibility to and from this area (Figure 24c).
At a distance of 5 km from the Dolice-Komorowo South megalithic group there are seven FBC settlements. All but one (the one furthest to the west) of the others have the potential for mutual visibility (Figure 24d).
Several sites interpreted as FBC settlements are known in the vicinity of the megalithic monuments of Płoszkowo. Three of them, located in the north-west and north, provide visual contact with the tombs (Figure 24e).
The analysis of the visibility of all the structures from the Dolice area (Dolice-Rondo Lucjana, Dolice-Komorowo North, Dolice-Komorowo South and Płoszkowo) and the sites interpreted as FBC settlements (Figure 24f) has shown that, except for one (located furthest to the west in a terrain depression), the remaining sites meet the visibility criterion.
The analysis of visibility in this article has been based on a hypothetical landscape without vegetation. The visibility and discernibility of the megalithic tombs discussed is relatively variable and is often limited by natural factors such as elevations and river valleys, but also wooded or deforested areas. These parameters are similar when the groups of tombs are close to each other, and they vary when a particular tomb is somewhat distant from the others. Even a small distance (a few hundred metres) between tombs can make a big difference in visibility and discernibility. In the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana group, for example, structure 1, located on the south-western edge and slightly higher than the other megaliths, offers the best visibility. Tomb 1 is also the most visible from the outside, including the river valley of the Mała Ina, where there is another megalithic group. Something similar can be observed at tomb 17 of the Dolice-Komorowo South group. It is located at some distance from the others and is characterised by better visibility. Since the megaliths of Dolice-Rondo Lucjana are somewhat separated, the individual graves are differently visible and the visibility of the structures is comparable (except for tomb 1). In contrast, the Dolice-Komorowo South and Dolice-Komorowo North groups have similar visibility to and from the respective megalithic objects, as they are relatively close to each other. An exception is tomb 17, which lies at some distance. The Płoszkowo group is a corresponding case. The visibility and discernibility of the megalithic structure in Krępcewo is not very good (about 2 km). In contrast, the visibility of the monument in Karsko is better, but it is mainly limited to the hillsides and is more dispersed. It is from these sites that the discussed structure is most visible. Among the megalithic groups discussed, the location of the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana tombs is an interesting case. They are located near a local depression and surrounded by hills. The objects can see each other, but they are hardly visible from the outside. They cannot be seen from the neighbouring cemeteries (apart from tomb 1, which is higher up and can be seen from several megaliths in the Komorowo South group). The question arises why the other tombs were not also built somewhat higher? The structures of the Dolice-Komorowo group are also located on the slope of the plateau and not on its summit. The observations made about the GAC tomb at Kierzkowo are worth mentioning here. As the tomb was located several metres lower than the top of the hill, the visibility of the object, especially in the western direction, was clearly limited. Dąbrowski (2017, p. 58) has observed that this may have helped to protect the tomb from strong winds and reduce aeolian erosion processes. However, it is difficult to accept this argument as convincing in view of all the sources analysed. A considerable part of the structures were located on hilltops and must have been exposed to such processes. The discernibility of the graves of the Płoszkowo group is also rather limited and varies depending on the direction. Although they are discernible from a greater distance, there are only a few such sites and they are not very extensive. When one approaches them, a significant visual obstacle appears: the valley of the Mała Ina River. The analysis of the visibility of cemeteries even close to each other (e.g. 2 km) revealed that they were often not visible due to obstacles such as elevations or river valleys between them. Even sites that were close to each other were not within sight of each other (a “chain of visibility” could not be established between them). This situation is best illustrated at the Dolice-Rondo Lucjana site, where the megalithic tombs are not visible from the neighbouring cemeteries (with the exception of tomb 1, which is only visible from the Dolice-Komorowo South group). It is difficult to draw firm and far-reaching conclusions here regarding the visibility between settlements and cemeteries. As mentioned above, the evidence is very limited and incomplete. However, analyses suggest that FBC settlements can be found within the visibility range of megalithic tombs and vice versa. Only some of the Karsko and Dolice-Rondo Lucjana group graves are visible, while all (or almost all) can be seen from the cemeteries of the Dolice-Komorowo North, Dolice-Komorowo South and Płoszkowo megalithic complexes. It is also interesting to note that there were locations near the investigated megalithic objects (with the exception of Płoszkowo) that were optimal for visibility (probably also to the nearest settlements). The Dolice-Komorowo South cluster is an excellent illustration of this. Between tomb 17 and the other of this group there is an elevation up to 10 m higher, which offers better visibility conditions. So the question arises why the builders of the megalithic structures did not use higher sites than the existing tombs for the construction of these monuments, because the area would have definitely had its potential.
Finally, it is worth looking at the results of studies carried out on similar structures in other regions. The visibility analyses for the passage graves at Falbygden showed that they were located in areas with limited visibility. Points with better visibility were often close to each other. It also appears that it was not the maximum or optimum visibility between tombs that determined the close location of individual objects. In some cases, the visibility areas seem to be mutually exclusive, or visibility was limited to several megalithic structures even though only a short distance separated them. All tombs had the same degree of visibility, regardless of their size and monumentality. Therefore, it is rather unlikely that the tombs occupied a central and strategic position in the landscape (Sjögren, 2010, p. 8). The visibility of the tomb at Kierzkowo has been estimated at thirty per cent of its potential area. Its visibility area almost completely covers the catchment area of Lake Kierzkowskie and the Foluska stream from the lake to its mouth. Dąbrowski (2017, pp. 57–58) argues that these factors could indicate the importance of the region for the builders of this megalithic structure. The analyses for the cemeteries of the Kuyavian type yielded opposite results for the tomb of Kierzkowo. Many graves of this type were built in such a way that they were in visual proximity to each other (Król, 2015, p. 237).
We are aware that our suggestions in this article risk over-interpretation, mainly due to the insufficient amount of data (primarily palaeoenvironmental data), namely the degree of deforestation and the lack of a precise chronology. Despite the limitations and caveats highlighted, we believe that it is worthwhile to explore and test possible configurations that indicate the presence or absence of overall patterns in the establishment of megalithic cemeteries and tombs as an essential part of the interactions between people inhabiting a given area. Visibility analyses of selected sites in the Pyrzyce Plain have shown that visibility and discernibility (between cemeteries and between cemeteries and probable settlements) were not the decisive parameters in determining the location for the establishment of the planned megalithic tombs. Indeed, most of them are located in places with excellent terrain exposure, but “visually” this is not always optimal. It is also important to remember that almost all megalithic structures of the Pyrzyce Plain are located on the moraine plateau (Matuszewska, 2019, p. 376). Therefore, the location of the tombs in this environment could simply be explained by the fact that the builders of the tombs would have had easy access to stone material.
Ultimately, we consider the presented results as a seed for a discussion on the spatial role of megalithic tombs in the Pyrzyce Plain. Our studies should certainly be complemented by pollen analyses (besides possible changes in forest cover, they would have helped to describe regional settlement patterns), the production of a detailed geomorphological map, the evaluation of the raw material structure of the material used for the construction of the tombs, the search for settlement sites and surface investigations. As part of interdisciplinary microregional projects, they can make an important contribution to different narratives about the past.
Conflict of interest: The authors state no conflict of interest.
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