Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Gord (Slavic settlement)
Gords were being built during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age by the people of Lusatian culture, and later from 7th to 8th century CE on the territories of modern-day Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic and eastern Germany (Lusatia). 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, either built in rows or in circles, surrounded by one or more rings of walls made of earth and wood, palisade and/or moats. Some gords were ring-shaped with a round, oval or sometimes polygonal fence or wall around a hollow. Other, built on a natural hill or a man-made mound were cone-shaped. Those with a natural defense from one side, such as a river or lake, were usually horseshoe-shaped.
Most gords were built in densely populated areas and located in places which presented particular natural advantages. However, as Slavic tribes united into states, gords were also built in less populated border areas for defense reasons.
Those gords which served as a ruler's residence or lied on trade routes, quickly expanded. A suburbium (Polish: podgrodzie) was formed near or below the gord. Its population served the inhabitants of the gord and could hide within its walls in case of danger. Eventually, the suburbium would have its own fence or wall. In the late Middle Ages, the gord would normally evolve into a castle or citadel (kremlin), and the suburbium – into a town.
Some of the other gords, which did not stand the test of time and were abandoned or destroyed, gradually turned into more or less discernible mounds or rings of earth (known as grodzisko in Polish, horodyshche in Ukrainian, or hradišče in Czech).
Evolution of the word
The Proto-Slavic word *gord means a fenced area; compare it with the words for a garden (also a fenced area) in some modern Slavic languages: Bulgarian gradina, Polish ogród, Czech zahrady. It has developed as a word for "town" or "city" in some Slavic languages: Russian gorod, Kaszubian gard, Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian grad. Czech hrad and Slovene grad have evolved to mean "fortress" or "castle". Polish gród and Ukrainian horod have retained their original meaning of "ancient fortified settlement".
Moreover a great number of cities in Eastern Europe have some reference to their past as gords in their names. Examples include: Novgorod in Russia, Uzhhorod in Ukraine, Hradec Kralove in the Czech Republic, Visegrád in Hungary, and Belgrade in Serbia.
- Reconstruction of a gród of Grzybowo, Poland – images of a typical ancient Slavic settlement with a suburbium, both with an earth-and-wood wall and a moat; by Tomek Birezowski (description in Polish only).
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