The permanent archaeological exhibit Rynek Underground opened in Kraków in September 2010. The subterranean exhibit, located beneath the east side of the Cloth Hall in the Rynek Główny, the main market square in the city’s Old Town, exposes a thousand years of Kraków’s history, displaying ancient foundations and a wide array of artifacts, and utilizing authoritative reconstructions and engaging touch-screen and projection technologies. A branch of the Historical Museum of Kraków, the 6,000-square-meter exhibit, titled "In the Footsteps of Kraków’s European Identity," is a culmination of major renovations in the Rynek that began in 2000 on the market square’s west side. Those renovations were expanded in 2005, when the foundations of the Renaissance-era Cloth Hall were examined in preparation for the building’s renovation, also completed in 2010, and as the archaeological discoveries compounded. Three broad pits were excavated under the Rynek to depths of five meters. On the Cloth Hall’s south side, in the direction of wide, cobbled Grodzka Street–the street that angles off of the grid pattern bordering the Rynek toward the royal castle and cathedral on Wawel Hill and the Vistula River–about 95 percent of the foundations of the Great Scales building have been uncovered. The Great Scales had been instrumental in Kraków’s growth and prosperity, the site where trade goods were weighed and taxed and where precious metals were smelted. Beneath the Cloth Hall’s east arcades, a hundred-meter see-through walkway in Rynek Underground now follows one narrow lane of the Rich Stalls, a market sector where Kraków’s prosperous classes traded. Visitors see down to long rows of brick first-floor and windowless basement walls upon which those stalls were constructed. Up on the Rynek’s paving stones, a low glass pyramid remains illuminated into the night, positioned between the Cloth Hall’s northeast corner and St. Mary’s Church, the largest of Kraków’s landmark cathedrals, with its distinct, unequal pair of fifteenth-century steeples. The pyramid serves as a "window" to the Rynek Underground, positioned above the remains of corner-joined log settlement buildings from the eleventh century, among the early vestiges of Kraków’s history. As excavations were concluded in late 2009, the Rynek Underground project turned to design and installation of the exhibition facilities. In his office in December 2009, I interviewed the president of Kraków, Jacek Majchrowski, about navigating the project through years of development and considerable opposition including concerns about the structural safety of the Cloth Hall and St. Mary’s Church and suspicions that the underground spaces would become commercial developments. A tour of the excavated work site was arranged that afternoon with the lead archaeologist, Cezary Buśko, amid workmen with wheelbarrows, months before the installation of the exhibit began. At his field office, Dr. Buśko showed artifacts now on display in Rynek Underground’s extensive vitrines, including two-sided bone combs (wide-set tines for combing hair on one face, fine tines for delousing on the other) and 600-year-old open-work leather shoes, a fashion still known as "Kraków style." On returning to the city in December 2010, I visited Rynek Underground several times (the southern sector, including the foundations of the Great Scales, had yet to open and remained closed on a visit in October 2012). The entrance is at the Cloth Hall’s northeast corner, as unassuming as the exhibit is informative and impressive. One visit was with Avishai Hadari, a stage director who designed the "theater machine" that tells the legend of King Krak outwitting the dragon in its lair below Wawel Hill, which functions on a timed schedule in the children’s playroom. Hadari’s spectacle uses mechanical puppets, sound, light, and voiceovers by renowned actors including Jerzy Trela–now retired from his legendary career at the National Stary Theatre, just blocks away from Rynek Underground–as the raven, narrating the action from its perch on a naked tree branch. The theater machine is just beyond the ticket counter and foyer, past a mist screen cascading at the entrance to the exhibit. This mist screen is animated by projections that reenact activities at the ancient marketplace. It is but the first of effective curatorial approaches that enliven and enhance the archaeological findings beneath the Rynek, where lucrative trade routes met–south on the Amber Route from Baltic shores to medieval and Renaissance Italy, and west from mining regions near the Black Sea into the Hanseatic League–funding Kraków’s growth as a mercantile and financial hub in Poland and Europe. This article traces those excavations, as the digs, fieldwork, and analysis exposed proofs of and refuted inaccuracies about Kraków’s ancient eras, and as they extended in scale and ambition. The sections that follow on archaeology at the Rynek quote and paraphrase a paper sent by Dr. Buśko,1 which he delivered at a conference in Florence, and from a comprehensive, entertaining overview of the Rynek excavations and their findings written by Dr. Buśko’s colleague on the project, Wojciech Głowa. The article then discusses the Rynek Underground exhibit as visitors experience it, including interactive displays and projections of historical reenactments that help transform this rich, densely layered site into a significant learning opportunity. Mieczysław Bielawski, whose team designed and installed the exhibit, answered e-mail questions and spoke with me on Skype about conception and implementation. Tomasz Kalarus and X. Piotr Guzik, the photographers on the exhibit project, gave permission to show their work. Their photographs, along with slides of artifacts sent by Dr. Buśko, accompanied the presentation of this article as a paper at the annual conference of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America in 2011, and subsequent presentations for the Polish Studies Department at Central Connecticut State University and at the Brooklyn Public Library. I thank them and Dr. Buśko and Mr. Głowa for their generosity, and for their expertise.

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