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The Hillfort

The Hradisko Zobor National Cultural Monument is the Nitra region’s oldest and most extensive monument. It is encircled by a defensive rampart almost 2 kilometers long and at places up to 7 meters high, which encircles the peaks of Pyramída and Zobor hills in the southwestern ridge of the Tríbeč massif. Hradisko Zobor covers an area of approximately 15 hectares. Seen from the air, the enclosed area appears kidney-shaped.

Construction of Hradisko Zobor dates back to the Bronze Age (10th to 8th century BC). The oldest settlement at Hradisko Zobor is linked to people living under the Lusatian culture who built extensive highland fortifications in the final centuries of the late Bronze Age. Hradisko Zobor remained populated until the early Iron Age (Hallstatt period), when the Lusatian hillforts and open settlements were wiped out (one hypothesis suggests this was caused by the arrival of warriors on horses from beyond the Black Sea steppes and the North Caucasus). A question still unanswered is whether Hradisko Zobor was also settled during the time of Great Moravia. There could have been old fortifications used during this period as both a refuge and an observation point.

Hradisko Zobor had strategic significance and was the first fortified fort in the lower Nitra Valley that enjoyed a sweeping view, along with the ability to observe and control a large area. It was part of a chain of fortified settlements established for signaling, defense and communication, which included nearby fortifications such as Žibrica, Veľký Lysec, Veľký Tríbeč and Krnča-Tábor. Hradisko Zobor’s fortification and terrain which made it difficult to reach provided those who were living in the open villages surrounding it on the slopes of Zobor and the valley around Nitra (e.g. communities located in and around today’s St. Svorad Special Hospital, Šindolky and above Nitrianske Hrnčiarovce) with a place of refuge, providing a backdrop to the region’s economy. In addition, Hradisko Zobor also likely had an administrative, commercial and cult function.

The defensive rampart itself consisted of a stone and clay embankment at the bottom of a reinforced wooden structure. Standing on the crest of the rampart was a palisade of wooden stakes. There are recesses visible on the inner side of the rampart for almost its entire length, created by material that was used for its construction having been extracted from it. 

The hillfort’s three entrances consist of partially clasped gates and the original paths that ran into them. The red trail, which is also a road for vehicles, presently goes to the west gate, while the blue trail from the Lyžiarska lúka (Ski Meadow) heads toward the north gate and the slant lift to Nitrianske Hrnčiarovce passes through the east gate. The gates were made of wood, likely double gates that had been heavily fortified and were coupled with a guard tower. The forest that surrounded the hillfort had been cleared for tactical reasons, both to allow a better view and in order to use the wood for fuel and as building material. The wider area has other, less noticeable defensive walls that protected approaches to the hillfort from points where it could most easily be reached.

Wooded dwellings and buildings for preserving and storing food probably stood inside the hillfort. Archaeological excavations that have been carried out so far do not confirm any increased concentration of buildings erected close together. A cistern for capturing rain water was formed in a hollow that was dammed by the defensive rampart at the hillfort’s west gate. Based on a comparison with other hillforts, an assumption can be made that Zobor’s peak, as a natural landmark, had probably been an acropolis for those who lived under the Lusatian culture, reserved for the highest class of a socially differentiated society.
Archeological research and findings from such research have dated the Zobor hillfort to the late Bronze Age. Most of what has been discovered consists of pottery fragments and only a small amount of forged metal items (a bronze pike, two small iron knives and pieces of bronze objects). The earliest known object found is a bronze axe with a sleeve. Archaeological diggings made in 1986-87 over a 14-are examined area uncovered what is most likely the clay floors of two dwellings and a single fireplace. Hradisko Zobor and the immediate neighborhood provided refuge not only to people in ancient times, but also to those who were persecuted during World War II and the Holocaust. Wine growers living around Zobor built modest shelters for these refugees and kept them supplied with food so that they could survive, helping several of them reach the Nitra airfield and past the border.

During the Second World War, the Zobor and Pyramída hills were parachute drops. On September 29, 1944, a squadron of partisans from the National Resistance landed here, though they only remained briefly at the hillfort, acting to support the Slovak National Uprising. They subsequently moved on to the area around Skýcov (see the commemorative plaque at the telecommunication tower at Pyramída’s peak). The most recent permanent residents here were soldiers from the Czechoslovak Peoples’ Army based here in the 1970s, later to become the Czechoslovak Republic Army and then the Slovak Republic Army. These troops were withdrawn from Pyramída at the turn of the millennium. 

Cooperating on the text:
Mgr. Róbert Daňo, PhD, Peter Meňhart, Mgr. Peter Bisták, Mgr. Gašpar Fronc, Hradisko Zobor Civil Association in cooperation with the Nitra Region Monuments Board 
Literature and sources used:
Furmánek, V. Veliačik, L. Vladár, J.: Slovensko v dobe bronzovej (Slovakia in the Bronze Age), Bratislava 1991.
Fusek, G. Zemene, M. (eds.): Dejiny Nitry: Od najstarších čias po súčasnosť (History of Nitra: From antiquity to the present) Nitra 1998.
Nitra: Príspevky k najstarším dejinám mesta (Nitra: Contributions to the city’s earliest history) Nitra 1993.
Veliačik, L. Romsauer, P.: Vývoj a vzťah osídlenia lužických a stredodunajských popolnicových polí na západnom Slovensku (Development and relationship of Lusatian and Central Danube rubbish fields to West Slovakia), 1st Catalogue Nitra 1994.
Web and informational material from the city of Nitra, Štátna ochrana prírody (State Nature Conservancy), CHKO Ponitrie Administration Office and files at the Nitra Regional Monuments Board and at the Hradisko Zobor Civil Association

We thank the following organizations for their help:
Nitra Region Monuments Board, Nitra Region Office of the Environment, CHKO Ponitrie Administration Office, Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Nitra and friends of Hradisko Zobor 
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