Avars in Medieval Carpathian Basin and Grave Goods Research Paper

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Grave Goods of the Avars in Medieval Carpathian Basin

The objective of this study is to examine the burial styles and grave goods of the Avars. This includes such as buried livestock and artifacts. As well the variability in the relationship between different several sites from this similar time period, and some specific burial sites of interest will be examined as well as the various traditions relating to positioning of bodies and preparation of the dead along with any possible meanings. Examined as well will be construction of the tombs and any other grave goods of interest. From this data this study will attempt to determine the traditions, individual wealth and the position of that culture and to determine what the traditions were of this culture as well as how they developed and changed over time. The difference in tribes or clans and other influences from that time period will also be taken into account.


Following the Roman Empire having fallen, the Carpathian Basin was under the rule of a barbaric society for a great length of time. During the Migration period which lasted until about 380-896 AD it is reported that Huns, Alans, Bulgarian Turks and Magyars as well as Avars arrived in this area. These peoples came from the East and all tempted to conquer the people settled in this area which included the "Romanized population, Samaritans, Germanic Tribes and Slavs." (Vida, Mersdorf, Schilling, and Klucsar, nd, p. 1) It is reported that during Post-Roman Europe that the Avarian state "organized along steppe-nomadic lines." (Vida, Mersdorf, Schilling, and Klucsar, nd, p. 1) Following the brief rule of the Huns it is reported that the Carpathian Basis witnessed the "formation of competing Germanic tribal kingdoms. On the territory of the province of Pannonia (western Hungary), the Germanic Ostrogoths and Suevi co-existed with the remainder of the Romanised population, the territory between the rivers Danube and Tisza (central Hungary) was inhabited by the Germanic Sciri, and east of the river Tisza (eastern Hungary, northwestern Romania), Germanic Gepidae lived together with the remaining Samaritan population. At the beginning of the 6th century, Germanic Langobardians (or Lombards), arriving from around the river Elbe, settled down in Pannonia, but after the appearance of the nomadic Avars in AD 568 they moved on to Italy." (Vida, Mersdorf, Schilling, and Klucsar, nd, p. 1) The Avars are reported to have been "a people of Inner- and Central-Asian origin, joined by East European nomads, settled down in the Carpathian Basin. The Avar Khaganate was the first entity to unite under one rule the different regions of the Carpathian Basin: Transdanubia (western Hungary), the Great Hungarian Plain (eastern Hungary) and Transylvania (western Romania). The Avars from the eastern steppes conquered the Germanic and Romanised population, and, in the course of campaigns against the Byzantine Empire, carried off to the Carpathian Basin a great number of prisoners of war from the Balkans. From that time on, immigration of Slavic groups is likely to have taken place. So far, about 60,000 graves of the Avar Age have been excavated in the Carpathian Basin, and about a third of these burials can be dated to the Early Avar Age." (Vida, Mersdorf, Schilling, and Klucsar, nd, p. 1)

I. Avar Burials

It is reported in the Early Avar Panninia there are four types of burial assemblages which can be determined based on cultural relations that they point to. (Curta and Kovalev, nd, p. 39) Balint (nd) reports that the archaeological legacy of the Avars is one of the most splendid in the early ages. While Geake (1995) states that the point toward Christianity by the Avars can be determined to be "roughly 600-850 AD." (p.1)

It is reported to be quite rare that when all the elements on one site can be traced to only one culture due to the various origins and cultures that lived in the same area and used the same cemeteries. It is reported that the spiritual culture of the Avars had the influences of the civilizations that surrounded them including Byzantium, Iran, and China. It is reported that in the Carpathian Basic the "colorful mosaic of ethnic and cultural traditions of foreign origin up until the late 6th and 7th century can be traced but acculturation and integration are reported to have occurred later on. The process of "unification" is such that is documented and demonstrated quite well by the "material heritage and burial rite of the late 7th century'. (Vida, Mersdorf, Schilling, and Klucsar, nd, p. 1) Inner Asian Avars are reported to have risen against their Turkish lords and to have moved west in search of refuge and a new place to reside. It is reported that during this journey to the west that they were joined by members of Central Asian and East European Steppe groups and that they were pointed toward the Carpathian Basin by the Emperor of Byzantine. Their envoys were reported to have been "wearing long braids and caftans. The Avars are reported to have agreed to battle for the Byzantine Empire against the barbarians in return for annual payments. The greatest battle waged by the Avars was against the Byzantine Empire and specifically an attack upon Constantinople in 626 although it was reported to be unsuccessful. Studies report that the Avars "had both light and heavy cavalry; their main weapons were the composite recurved bow, spear and straight sword. It was the Avars who introduced iron stirrups in Europe, which proved to be an important innovation in the formation of European cavalries.

II. Early Burials

The appearance of Avars in the Carpathian Basin is marked by shallow sacrificial pits, without human or animal remains but connected with the cult of the dead ('votive-deposit pits of Turkish type'), which contain spears, bridles and stirrups; and by the presence of eastern-type burials with a horse, horse harness, and hand-made vessels with four knobs on the rim. Burials in short tunnels extending from one end of the grave-pit, appearing in the Tisza valley (eastern Hungary), and burials of parts of horses and other animals show East European nomadic traditions." (Vida, Mersdorf, Schilling, and Klucsar, nd, p. 1) The center of the Avar's power is reported to have been "somewhere between the rivers Danube and Tisza, in central Hungary: this is the area where we find burials of the military groups and of an Avar chief (a khagan?) at Kunbabony. In keeping with their social status, graves of the warriors buried with their horse and weapons were given a central place in the cemeteries of the Great Hungarian Plain and Transdanubia…" (Vida, Mersdorf, Schilling, and Klucsar, nd, p. 1)

III. Leading Stratum Burials

It is reported that in the "…leading stratum of Avar society, the Mongoloid anthropological element prevails." (Vida, Mersdorf, Schilling, and Klucsar, nd, p. 1) Archaeological finds include Merovingian female and male costume, weapo9ns and tools, and amulets all reported to be reflective of the spiritual culture of the Avars. Quality goods are found reported to indicate "the existence of a noble stratum and independent Germanic leadership (in cemeteries at Kolked, Zamardi and Budakalasz)." (Vida, Mersdorf, Schilling, and Klucsar, nd, p. 1) It is reported that in the male graves are found "Avar weapons including bows, arrows and oriental swords alongside "Germanic weaponry (spatha (long sword), seax (short sword), pilum (javelin)), frequently in graves containing also horse burials." (Vida, Mersdorf, Schilling, and Klucsar, nd, p. 1)

IV. Female Graves

It is additionally reported "At the beginning, female attire featured belt decorations, pins and belt-terminals decorated with Germanic-type stamped ornament and with incised dentate ornament in Animal Style II. In the women's graves, growing Avar influence can be traced through the spread of Byzantine jewelry, and the appearance of metal decorations of Byzantine type, design and execution on clothing that displays elements of the Merovingian tradition (e.g. women's ornamental belt-pendants ('Ziergehange'), and shoe-strap fittings ('Wadenbindengarnituren'). In some cases, Germanic or Antique pagan amulets and Christian objects, appearing together, reflect the syncretic world of beliefs of the buried person (e.g. amulet capsules decorated with cross motifs)." (Vida, Mersdorf, Schilling, and Klucsar, nd, p. 1) Found as well are Christian motifs including earrings "with basket-shaped pendants, disc brooches…and dress-pins. The early Christian symbols include crosses, bird-shaped brooches and pins decorated with bird figures (one bird-shaped brooch bears an incised cross." (Vida, Mersdorf, Schilling, and Klucsar, nd, p. 1)

The work entitled "The Largest Cemetery from the Avar Period in the Carpathian Basin" reports the discovery of a conferment document which states "Reported in the finds are "folding iron stools with ancient gleam from the Migration Period which are unique pieces and the world." (Bardos, n.d., p. 2) Also reported is a shield of the country with the name of the Aristocracy of the Somogy County, 6 January 1498 BUDA and a veluum with painted shield and trace of hanging seal." (Bardos, n.d., p. 2) Also reported is a Gilded bronze belt mount with precious stone inlay, fashioned in the 2nd German animal style"…

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