Gord (archaeology)

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Reconstructed West Slavic fortified settlement (gord) in Groß Raden, Germany
Section of reconstructed fortifications at Birów near Ogrodzieniec, Poland
Part of reconstructed fortifications at Birów
Grodzisko in Stara Rawa, Poland
File:Gorod PL.PNG
Towns and villages in Poland with names derived from gród (pink circles)
Model of Bródno gord in National Museum of Archaeology in Warsaw

A gord is a medieval Slavonic fortified settlement, also occasionally known as a burgwall or Slavic burgwall after the German term for such sites. The ancient peoples were known for building wooden fortified settlements. The reconstructed Centum-satem isogloss word for such a settlement is g'herdh, gordъ, related to the Germanic *gard and *gart (as in Stuttgart etc.). This Proto-Slavic word (*gordъ) for town or city, later differentiated into grad (Cyrillic: град), gard,[1][2] gorod (Cyrillic: город), etc.[3][4][5]

Similar strongholds were built during the late Bronze and early Iron Ages by the Lusatian culture (ca. 1300 BC – 500 BC), and later in the 7th - 8th centuries BC in modern-day Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and eastern Germany. These settlements were usually founded on strategic sites such as hills, riverbanks, lake islands or peninsulas.

A typical gord was a group of wooden houses, built either in rows or in circles, surrounded by one or more rings of walls made of earth and wood, a palisade and/or moats. Some gords were ring-shaped, with a round, oval or occasionally polygonal fence or wall surrounding a hollow. Others, built on a natural hill or a man-made mound, were cone-shaped. Those with a natural defense on one side, such as a river or lake, were usually horseshoe-shaped.

Most gords were built in densely populated areas, and situated in places which presented particular natural advantages. However, as Slavic tribes combined to form states, gords were also built for defense purposes in less populated border areas.

Those gords that served as a ruler's residences or which lay on trade routes quickly expanded. A suburbium (Polish: podgrodzie) formed near or below the gord; its population serviced the residents of the gord and could shelter within the gord's walls in the event of danger. Eventually the suburbium would have its own fence or wall. In the High Middle Ages, the gord normally evolved into a castle or citadel (kremlin), and the suburbium into a town.

Some other gords did not stand the test of time and were abandoned or destroyed, gradually turning into more or less discernible mounds or rings of earth (known in Russian as gorodische, in Polish as grodzisko, in Ukrainian as horodyshche, in Slovak as hradisko, in Czech as hradiště and in Serbian as gradiška/градишка). Notable archeological sites include Biskupin, Poland and Bilsk, Ukraine (see Gelonus).


The Proto-Slavic word *gordъ means a "fenced area", compare to Ukrainian horodyty, Czech ohradit, Russian ogradit, Croatian/Serbian ograditi and Polish ogradzać, grodzić meaning "to fence off". The word's root is in the Proto-Indo-European language; its cognates are the numerous English words related to an enclosure: "yard", "garth", "girdle" and "court." In some modern Slavic languages, *gordъ has evolved into words for a "garden" (likewise a fenced area, from which Latin hortus, and English horticulture and orchard):

In some Slavic languages, *gord has evolved into a word for "town" or "city":

The Polish word podgrodzie meant settlement near a town (Slavic prefix pod- means "under" or "below", equivalent of Latin sub-) because in fact gród was built at hill's top frequently. It survived to these days in names of several villages (i.e. Podgrodzie, Subcarpathian Voivodeship) and town's districts (i.e. district of Olsztyn). It's also still found in Puttgarden in Wagria and Putgarten on Rügen in Germany.

The names of many Central and Eastern European cities hark back to their past as gords. Some of them are in countries which used to be, but no longer are, inhabited mostly by Slavic-speaking peoples. Examples include:

In addition, there are Graz in Austria and Gartz in Germany.

In Ancient Iran, Gerd had the same meaning. This word changed to Jerd after the Arab invasion. Burugerd or Borujerd is a city in the West of Iran.

Important gords in Europe


On Rügen

Rest of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

in Berlin-Brandenburg

in Saxony-Anhalt

in Schleswig-Holstein




See also


  1. ON. garðr; goth. gards; den. -gaard; island. -gard; cimb. -garthur; aleman. -gardo; welsh. -gardd; holln. -gaerde; span. -gardin; pomern. -gard; slav. -grod, -hrad
  2. A Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. Oxford. 1911; Jane Chance. Tolkien and the invention of myth. . 70
  3. Taylor, Isaac (1898). Names and Their Histories: A Handbook of Historical Geography and Topographical Nomenclature. Original from the University of Michigan: Rivingtons. p. 331.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Taylor, Isaac (1864). Words and Places, Or, Etymological Illustrations of History, Ethnology, and Geography. Original from Oxford University: Macmillan. p. 128.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Anthropologische Gesellschaft in Wien (1880). Mittheilungen der anthropologischen Gesellschaft in Wien. Original from the University of Michigan: F. Berger & Söhne. p. 40.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links