On the southern bank of the Vistula River in Krakow lies one of the city’s most ancient mysteries. Anyone could mistake it for a large hill, but it’s not—at least not a naturally-made one. Known as Krakus Mound, or Krak Mound, this 52-foot pile of earth has overlooked the city for centuries. It’s Krakow’s much-smaller answer to the pyramids of Egypt, although historians have a far greater understanding of the pyramids. Who built Krakus Mound? When was it built? Why was it built? Archaeological digs in and around the mound have uncovered conflicting answers to these questions. Theories range from the mound being the burial place of Krakow’s legendary founder, to an ancient Celtic monument. The Legend King Krak King Krak, the legendary founder of Krakow The oldest legends behind Krakus Mound state that it is the burial place of King Krak, Krakow’s legendary founder. According to accounts by Poland’s earliest historians, Krak was crowned king by his people after fighting the ancient Gauls in central Europe sometime after the fall of Rome. Most famously, King Krak is tied to the legendary slaying of Krakow’s infamous Wawel Dragon, who terrorized the people. Some versions of the story give Krak’s sons credit for killing the beast, while others claim Krak did it himself (There are still other versions of this story that claim Krak was a mere boy when he slew the dragon and then became king). When King Krak died, the legends say Krakow’s inhabitants constructed a mound overlooking the city and buried him in it. Tradition holds this became Krakus Mound. Digging up the Mound For centuries, Poles wondered if King Krak was truly buried in Krakus Mound. In the 1930s, an archeological expedition decided to find out. Excavators from the Polish Academy of Learning dug into the mound in 1934 hoping to find evidence of King Krak’s grave and figure out when it was constructed. At the base of the mound, excavators uncovered pottery from the Lusatian people, who inhabited modern-day Poland from roughly 1500 BC to 500 BC. This pottery, and other flintstone tools found at the site, would mean the mound was more than 2,000 years old. Krakus Mound Excavation Excavators dug into Krakus Mound in the 1930s to determine its age and purpose. However, historians haven’t accepted this date, citing the possibility that the ancient pottery was already inside the earth when it was used to build the mound. Of course, there’s no way to prove or disapprove that. Near the top of the mound, a child’s skeleton was discovered, along with traces of a large hearth. The hearth has led historians to believe that the mound could have been used as a cremation burial, which was a common practice by pagans in that part of Europe between the 8th and 10th centuries. This fact challenges the idea of the mound being a tomb. Further down in the mound, root fragments of a giant oak tree were found. Experts estimated the tree was 300 years old when it was cut down. They theorized it could have been a “sacred” oak used in worship by Poland’s pagans and was chopped when Poland converted to Christianity during the second half of the 10th century. However, the roots were never officially dated, so this is speculation. At the lowest levels of the mound, traces of wooden fences were found, as well as evidence of a large post. The purpose of the fences and posts is unknown, although experts have proposed they were included to stabilize the mound. A large amount of stones was also found deep inside. Although excavators uncovered no evidence of a grave holding King Krak, an Avarian belt-fixture was found dating to the 8th century, as were coins depicting Czech prince Boleslaus II from the 10th century. The Avars were a tribe of Central-Asian, Turkic-speaking nomads who moved through Poland in the 7th and 8th centuries in their campaigns against the Franks. These items have led many historians to date the mound to between the 8th and 10th centuries. At the end of the day, the excavations failed to yield any certain answers. Historians generally believe the mound was used as a Slavic cremation burial or ceremonial lookout during the early middle ages, but the variety of conflicting archeological finds casts its origins into doubt.