It is now the capital of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship.Therefore, the fortress-like Wawel complex which visually dominates the city has often been viewed as seat of power.
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Archeological studies suggest that the earliest settlement dates back to the Middle Paleolithic era, c.
100,000 years BC and owed its rapid development to its location being the crossing of a number of key trading routes.
The history of Wawel is deeply intertwined with the history of the Polish lands and Polish royal dynasties already in the Middle Ages.
The political and dynastic tensions that led to the ascendence of Kraków as the royal seat are complex, but for most of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Wawel was the seat of the national government.
This limestone is strongly karsted and abounds in caves (e.g. This possibly explains why the hill was originally called "wąwel", meaning ravine in Polish.
The Wawel Hill has archaeological remains indicating settlement from the 4th century.
From the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034–1058) Wawel became the leading political and administrative centre for the Polish State.
Later, it became the Free City of Kraków from 1815 to 1846; the Grand Duchy of Cracow from 1846 to 1918; and Kraków Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1999.
From the late 18th century, when Poland lost its independence during the period of foreign partitions, Wawel became a symbol of an enduring nation and was the setting for demonstrations and gatherings of Cracovians protesting against the continuing foreign occupation by the Austrian, Prussian, and the Russian empires.
Thus, the significance of the Wawel hill comes in part from its combination of political and religious significance. Stanisław and stands directly adjacent to the Royal Castle.
From this early period of the Wawel's history originates the popular and enduring Polish myth of the Wawel dragon.