The Department of Archaeology was founded on the 1st September,
1985 as part of the reconstituted Silesian Museum in Katowice. Its program is
historically related to the Pre-historic Department of the Silesian Museum
operating before WWII (since 1928), whose purpose was to collect artefacts
dating back to prehistoric times of the Silesian region and present them in the
context of other Polish regions. For the first ten years the Pre-historic
Department did not employ regular staff. Caring for the collection was entrusted
to the visiting professor Józef Kostrzewski, who expanded it through his own
field, with help from his co-workers and employees at the adjacent
archaeological institution, and through purchases, donations and deposits. It
was not until 1938 that a professional archaeologist, Jan Bartys, Master of
Archaeology, was employed here on a full-time basis. After the German invasion
of Upper Silesia, the archaeological collections were taken over by
Obeschlesisches Landesmuseum in Bytom. They included objects from the Neolithic
settlement in Piotrowice, burial grounds of Łużyce culture in Boronów, Piasek,
Kwaczal as well as from settlements that go back to the Roman times in Rybna
Kolonia, Repeck, and the early medieval strongholds in Lubomia, Syrynia and
Stare Bielsko. Some parts of the collection were lost or destroyed as a result
of the war. The remnants that survived are now stored in the Department of
Archaeology in the Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom.
At the moment the Silesian Museum was reopened, the Archaeology Department did not have any collections, so in 1986 it started seeking museum pieces by carrying out excavations. The Department also received valuable materials from the Provincial Conservator in Katowice, which were transferred by virtue of administrative decisions. Unfortunately, in 1998 the museum had to stop its own excavating activities. To compensate for the latter, the museum has started to supervise archaeological activities on construction sites and coordinate archaeological work preceding the construction of motorways in the Silesian region and assist in field research performed by other institutions in Poland and abroad.
The Department of Archaeology has amassed 35,000 museum pieces from almost 60 sites, mostly from the Province of Silesia and the former Katowice Province. They include sets of objects of historical value from the Neolithic settlement of the Mali culture, dating back 5000 years, and Łużyce culture, up to 3,200 years ago, which was discovered by chance while building a hospital in Racibórz. Slightly younger (from about 2,800 years ago) from the village of Łużyce culture in Pietraszyn, municipality of Krzanowice, a large storage vessel) From the Łużyce burial grounds in Orzech, within the district of Świerklaniec, dating back to between 700-400 B.C., are pieces of earthenware and a little pot ornamented with a narrative scene, bronze and iron tools and accessories, and a necklace made from imported glass beads, from a Łużyce settlement dated 2,500 years ago; from the 9th century stronghold of Kamieniec, located within the municipality of Zbrosławice comes, among other things, a unique flask-shaped vessel from the early Middle Ages. Other items worthy of note are: a Neolithic stone axe found in Katowice, a large storage vessel and a blacksmith’s half-finished product – an iron board with cutting marks, found in a Przeworsk settlement from the 3rd -4th century in Wojkowice Żychcice (previously known as Będzin Żychcice), relics from the knight’s town of Krzykawka from the 13th -14th century, located within the municipality of Bolesław, and 15th century objects found in the Castle of Ryczów, within the municipality of Ogrodzieniec, and 15th - 16th century pieces from a foundry settlement discovered in Hutki, within the municipality of Bolesław.
Soon the researchers of the Department of Archaeology extended the scope of interest by exploring the nature of prehistoric communities as well as anthropogenic transformations of the natural environment and the prehistoric landscape. This activity has been supported by two specialist sections established by the Department: zoological and botanical. Apart from collecting animal and plant specimens, they conduct studies aiming to recreate the socio-economic conditions of people living in ancient times.