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The chronology and meaning of the Transdanubian encrusted pottery decoration

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Zusammenfassung Vorgestellt wird die Analyse keramischer Funde des bronzezeitlichen Gräberfeldes von Bonyhád (Ungarn), einem Fundplatz der Kultur Inkrustierter Keramik. Hier konnten deutliche Korrelationen zwischen Gefäßdekoration und -größen mit jenen in den Gräbern bestatteten Personen und ihrem Sterbealter erkannt werden. Vor diesem Hintergrund stellte sich den Verfassern die Frage nach der Natur der Gefäßverzierungen: Handelt es sich bei den bemerkenswert vielfältigen und weit verbreiteten Motiven um nur dekorative Elemente, oder waren diese eher Bestandteil eines komplexen Zeichensystem mit jeweils spezifischer Bedeutung? Warum nahm die Verwendung inkrustierter Keramik erheblich zu, als es zu einem deutlichen Wandel der Bestattungsriten kam, genauer als die Bestattungsformen der Urnenfelderzeit durch Körperbestattungen ersetzt wurden? Die Autoren gingen diesen Fragen mittels der Analyse von mehr als zweitausend Motiven, unterteilt in nahezu 500 Typen von mehr als 100 unterschiedlichen Gefäßformen, nach. In Verwendung der Klassifizierung von C. Reich wurde eine umfangreiche Datenbank auf Grundlage der Funde des Gräberfeldes von Bonyhád erarbeitet, das den gesamten Zeitraum dieser bronzezeitlichen Kultur umfasst. Als primäres Gruppierungskriterium für die Datensätze wurde das anhand der anthropologischen Überreste ermittelte morphologische Geschlecht in Verbindung zur Position, Frequenz und Kombination unterschiedlicher Motive auf den Gefäßen verwendet. Die Auswertungen ergaben zwei deutliche voneinander zu unterscheidende Gefäßverzierungen, die sich männlichen oder weiblichen Bestattungen zuweisen lassen.
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Praehistorische Zeitschrift; 2016; 91(2): 353–368
Abhandlung
Tamás Hajdu*, Alexandra György-Toronyi, Ildikó Pap, Wilfried Rosendahl and Géza Szabó*
The chronology and meaning of the
Transdanubian encrusted pottery decoration
DOI 10.1515/pz-2016-0024
Zusammenfassung: Vorgestellt wird die Analyse kera-
mischer Funde des bronzezeitlichen Gräberfeldes von
Bonyhád (Ungarn), einem Fundplatz der Kultur Inkrus-
tierter Keramik. Hier konnten deutliche Korrelationen
zwischen Gefäßdekoration und -größen mit jenen in
den Gräbern bestatteten Personen und ihrem Sterbealter
erkannt werden. Vor diesem Hintergrund stellte sich den
Verfassern die Frage nach der Natur der Gefäßverzierun-
gen: Handelt es sich bei den bemerkenswert vielfältigen
und weit verbreiteten Motiven um nur dekorative Ele-
mente, oder waren diese eher Bestandteil eines komple-
xen Zeichensystem mit jeweils spezifischer Bedeutung?
Warum nahm die Verwendung inkrustierter Keramik
erheblich zu, als es zu einem deutlichen Wandel der
Bestattungsriten kam, genauer als die Bestattungsformen
der Urnenfelderzeit durch Körperbestattungen ersetzt
wurden? Die Autoren gingen diesen Fragen mittels der
Analyse von mehr als zweitausend Motiven, unterteilt in
nahezu 500 Typen von mehr als 100 unterschiedlichen
Gefäßformen, nach. In Verwendung der Klassifizierung
von C. Reich wurde eine umfangreiche Datenbank auf
Grundlage der Funde des Gräberfeldes von Bonyhád erar-
beitet, das den gesamten Zeitraum dieser bronzezeitli-
chen Kultur umfasst. Als primäres Gruppierungskriterium
für die Datensätze wurde das anhand der anthropologi-
schen Überreste ermittelte morphologische Geschlecht
in Verbindung zur Position, Frequenz und Kombination
unterschiedlicher Motive auf den Gefäßen verwendet. Die
Auswertungen ergaben zwei deutliche voneinander zu
unterscheidende Gefäßverzierungen, die sich männlichen
oder weiblichen Bestattungen zuweisen lassen.
Schlüsselworte: Frühe und mittlere Bronzezeit Ungarns;
West-Ungarn; Transdanubische Inkrustierte Keramik;
physische Anthropologie; Inkrustation; Motive
Résumé: Une étude du mobilier céramique provenant de
la nécropole de Bonyhád en Hongrie, datant de l’âge du
Bronze et appartenant à la culture de la Céramique Incrus-
tée a démontré qu’il existe un lien indubitable entre les
motifs décoratifs ainsi que la taille des vases retrouvés
dans les sépultures et la taille et l’âge au moment du décès
des personnes ensevelies. Partant de ceci, les auteurs de
l’article présenté ici se penchent sur la nature de la déco-
ration des vases: les motifs, qui sont remarquablement
complexes et largement répandus, étaient-ils de simples
éléments décoratifs ou faisaient-ils partie d’un système
de signes avec des significations particulières? Pourquoi
la céramique incrustée s’est-elle implantée et répandue
au moment d’un changement notable dans les pratiques
funéraires, à savoir le remplacement des incinérations de
l’époque des Champs d’Urnes par des inhumations? Les
auteurs tentent de répondre à ces questions à travers une
analyse de plus de deux mille motifs groupés en presque
cinq cent types présents sur plus de cent formes de vases.
Ils ont mis en place, sur la base de la classification de
C. Reich, une importante base de données basée sur le
matériel de la nécropole de Bonyhád qui couvre toute la
période de la culture de la Céramique Incrustée. Le critère
principal employé pour regrouper les données est le sexe
biologique tel qu’il a été déterminé par les études ostéolo-
giques et son rapport avec la position, la fréquence et les
combinaisons de motifs figurant sur les vases. Cette étude
*Corresponding authors: Dr.Tamás Hajdu, Department of Biological
Anthropology, Institute of Biology, Faculty of Science, Eötvös
Loránd University, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/c, H-1117 Budapest,
Hungary and Department of Anthropology, Hungarian Natural
History Museum, Ludovika tér 2–6, H-1083 Budapest, Hungary.
E-Mail: hajdut@elte.hu
Alexandra György-Toronyi, Wosinsky Mór County Museum, Szent
István tér 26, H-7100 Szekszárd, Hungary and Department of Pre-
and Early History, Institute of Archaeological Sciences, Faculty of
Humanities, Eötvös Loránd University, Múzeum krt. 4/b,
H-1088 Budapest, Hungary. E-Mail: alexandra.toronyi@gmail.com
Dr.Ildikó Pap, Department of Anthropology, Hungarian Natural
History Museum, Ludovika tér 2–6, H-1083 Budapest, Hungary.
E-Mail: papi@nhmus.hu
Dr.Wilfried Rosendahl, Department Worldcultures and Environ-
ment, Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Zeughaus C5, D-68159 Mannheim,
Germany. E-Mail: wilfried.rosendahl@mannheim.de
*Dr.Géza Szabó, Wosinsky Mór County Museum, Szent István tér
26, H-7100 Szekszárd, Hungary. E-Mail: kaladeaa@gmail.com
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354  Tamás Hajdu et al., Chronology and meaning of the encrusted pottery decoration
a permis d’identifier deux groupes distincts de décoration
sur céramique qui correspondent respectivement à des
sépultures masculines et féminines.
Mots-clés: âge du Bronze Ancien et Moyen en Hongrie;
Hongrie occidentale; Céramique Incrustée transdanu-
bienne; anthropologie physique; incrustations, motifs
Abstract: The analysis of ceramic finds from a cemetery
of the Bronze Age Encrusted Pottery culture at Bonyhád
in Hungary has shown that there is an unambiguous con-
nection between the decoration and size of the vessels
placed in the graves and the size and age at death of the
individuals buried there. With this in mind, the authors
address questions concerning the nature of the decoration
on the vessels: were the remarkably complex and wide-
ly-used motifs merely elements of decoration, or did they
form part of a complex sign system conveying specific
meanings? Why did inlaid wares become extensively used
at a time when there was a marked change in burial rites,
namely when the cremations of the Urnfield period were
being replaced by inhumations? The authors attempt to
answer these questions through the analysis of over two
thousand motifs classified into nearly five hundred types
present on more than a hundred vessel forms. Based on
the classification of C. Reich, they have built up an exten-
sive database on the basis of the finds from the cemetery
at Bonyhád that covers the entire period of the Encrusted
Pottery culture. The primary criterion for grouping the
datasets was the biological sex determined from the
bone fragments and its relationship with the position,
frequency and combination of different motifs on the
vessels. This study has led to the identification of two dis-
tinct groups of vessel decoration that belong to male and
female burials respectively.
Keywords: Hungarian Early and Middle Bronze Age;
western Hungary; Transdanubian Encrusted Pottery;
physical anthropology; encrustation; motifs
Introduction
The archaeological context
The Encrusted Pottery culture was identified by J. Hampel
and F. Rómer as early as 1876 at the first congress of pre-
historic archaeologists in Budapest. Based on known
1Hampel 1876, Table 20; Rómer 1878 II/2, 59–63.
finds and their different decorations, M. Wosinsky has
distinguished between a southern and a northern group
of the Encrusted Pottery culture that occupied significant
parts of Transdanubia (Figure 1).
Based on the finds from twenty-three graves excavated
at Bonyhád, J. Csalog has called attention to basic similar-
ities with regard to the production and decoration tech-
niques observable throughout the whole region, despite
seemingly different types of vessels having been found
within the area of that culture. He concluded that the dif-
ferent vessel types represent local variations of a culture
that occupied a large area. His ideas were in sharp con-
trast to the method that A. Mozsolics used to describe the
Kisapostag culture, which was based on occasional refer-
ences to selected objects and features (in effect the ’rolled-
stick’ decoration) from sites around Kisapostag. However,
these objects were often interpreted without considering
their wider context. From the mid-1960s, G.Bándi did not
use the term ‘Kisapostag culture’, and I.Torma argued for
different archaeological cultures behind the two types of
decoration which were spread throughout a geographically
similar region. It may seem that even in recent works, the
distinction between people of the Encrusted Pottery culture
and the Kisapostag culture is not fully appreciated.
Researchers were not able to provide a satisfactory
explanation concerning the origins and internal periodi-
zation of this culture over the past century and a half. The
embedded, impressed or stamped chalk inlay, from which
the culture takes its name, has mostly been analysed for
its content since the time of M. Wosinsky. The over two-
and-a-half thousand motifs collected so far were simply
seen as various decorations, with no suggestions concern-
ing their possible meanings.
Encrusted ceramics and their decoration were inves-
tigated from different viewpoints over the past years.
C.Reich’s classificatory scheme for motifs and the typology
published by Kiss provide a good starting point for further
studies. Since V. Wartha’s time there have been many
opportunities to analyse the composition of the inlays
with regard to bone ash content, using more modern ana-
lytical techniques. It has established that among the finely
2Wosinsky 1904, 46.
3Csalog 1942, 129.
4Mozsolics 1942, 40.
5Bándi 1964, 65–72; 1965, 11; 1972, 45.
6Torma 1978, 20.
7Honti/Kiss 1996, 24–25; Kiss 2003, 150; 2007, 31.
8Wosinsky 1904, 21–23; Reich 2006, 104.
9Reich 2006, 32; Kiss 2009, 155–156.
10Wosinsky 1904, 20.
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Tamás Hajdu et al., Chronology and meaning of the encrusted pottery decoration  355
ground components, mollusc shells, burnt bones, chalk,
plant fibres, gypsum, kaolin and limestone occur the most
often. The inlays used in prehistoric times were thus pro-
duced using recipes stemming from different chronologi-
cal and geographical backgrounds. Samples from Middle
Bronze Age (MBA) vessels of the Encrusted Pottery culture
usually contained hydroxyapatite– in other words, burnt
bones. As for the origin of the bone material, research
could only prove that it was presumably of mammalian
origin.
On the outskirts of Bonyhád (Co. Tolna, Southern
Transdanubia), 184 graves of the Encrusted Pottery culture
have been recovered. At present, this is the largest known
cemetery of this culture, with people buried from the end
of the Hungarian Early Bronze Age (EBA) to the beginning
of the Hungarian Late Bronze Age (LBA) (2200–1400 BC).
11Roberts et al. 2008, 322–330; Gherdán et al. 2003, 103–108; Sziki
et al. 2002, 478–482; Kreiter/Tóth 2010, 299–319; Parkinson et al.
2010, 64–70.
12Sziki et al. 2002, 478–482; Kreiter/Tóth 2010, 299–319.
13Roberts et al. 2008, 329.
14Csalog 1942, 119; Szabó 2009a, 283–291.
It was continuously used, first as an inhumation cemetery
and later as a cremation cemetery (Figure 2). Thus, the
site provides a unique opportunity for the interpretation
of changes in burial customs and vessel types over time.
Aims of the study
The investigation was primarily aimed at finding out
whether there are connections between the burial rite, the
size and type of the vessels, the internal periodisation of
the culture, and the age at death of the individuals. Sec-
ondly, possible connections between the sex of the indi-
viduals and the inlaid decoration of the vessels found
in the graves were analysed. Are complex and widely
used motifs only decorations, or are they elements of a
sign system with specific meanings? Why did the use of
inlays become general in the context of this culture, and
why did this occur concurrently with the change in burial
customs from inhumation to cremation? Finally, the ques-
tion of whether decorations on the vessels could be inter-
preted as representations of the dead was also investi-
gated.
Fig. 1: The localisation of Bonyhád and the location of the Encrusted Pottery Culture in the Carpathian Basin (based on Kiss 2012, Fig. 50)
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356  Tamás Hajdu et al., Chronology and meaning of the encrusted pottery decoration
Materials and methods
The material investigated
Investigations were carried out on the archaeological and
skeletal material found at the site excavated in the area
of the Biogas Factory at Bonyhád (Bonyhád-Pannonia Zrt.
Biogáz üzem). Grave goods are inventoried and kept in the
collection of the Wosinsky Mór Museum, and the human
remains are now stored in the collection of the Depart-
ment of Anthropology of the Hungarian Natural History
Museum.
Methods used by the anthropological
investigation
Anthropological investigations of the human remains
were carried out in compliance with directives set by
Wells, Chochol, Pap et al., and Ubelaker. Morphological
sex and age at death were interpreted in accordance with
the methods described by Éry et al., Schour and Massler,
and Nemeskéri et al..
Classification of inlaid motifs
Based on finds from Bonyhád, groups dated to the late
Middle Bronze Age– i.e. the so-called Koszider horizon–
were expanded to cover the whole period of the Encrusted
Pottery culture. Decorative motifs were interpreted using
the group classification of Reich. Reich used codes to
describe the decoration of the vessels and investigated
the geographical distribution of individual motifs found
on them, making lists of similarly decorated vessels.
The present analysis, however, makes use of these codes
by describing all vessel types and their various decora-
tions and by correlating these codes with anthropolog-
ical data. We recorded all apparent motifs from every
vessel excavated. In addition to photographs and codes
of motifs, the type and size of every vessel and any infor-
15Inv. No.2008.15.1.1–2008.15.257.1.
16Inv. No.2009.21.1–119, 2010.5.1–9, 2011.51.1–3.
17Wells 1960, 29–37; Chochol 1961, 273–293; Pap et al. 2009, 108–
123; Ubelaker 2009, 1–5.
18Éry et al. 1963, 41–90; Schour/Massler 1941, 1153–1160; Nemeskéri
et al. 1960, 70–95.
19Reich 2006, 104.
20Ibid. 326–328.
21Szabó 2010, 101128.
mation regarding the age and sex of the individuals near
which these vessels were buried was recorded. Data were
primarily grouped according to morphological sex as
determined by the anthropological analysis. The position,
variation and frequency of motifs, as well as their combi-
nations have been analysed in our study, enabling us to
differentiate between general and genderspecific motifs.
Results
Chronology of the inhumations and their
relationships with archaeological finds
The earliest part of the Bonyhád cemetery, consisting of
a group of NW-SE oriented inhumations, was situated in
the north-western corner of the excavated area. These
inhumations were positioned differently from typical
prehistoric crouched burials, as the bodies were placed
not in a recumbent, but in a supine position, and only
their folded legs were laid sideways. Both the finds and
the characteristic position of the skeletons imply that
these were the earliest graves of the cemetery. Although
they were lacking in grave goods, a few spiral arm-rings
made of poor quality bronze strings were found as well as
a small, globular jug with a cylindrical neck and a short
strap handle, the decoration of which is an imitation of
cord decoration without inlays. The relative chronological
position of these artefacts dates them to the third period of
the Hungarian Early Bronze Age (Figure 2).
Radiocarbon dating was carried out at the Klaus-
Tschira-Laboratory for Radiometric Dating, Curt-Engel-
horn-Center of Archaeometry (CEZA) at the Reiss-Engel-
horn-Museen in Mannheim, Germany. Based on the
analysis, Grave BBQ242–from the earliest period of the
cemetery– can be dated to 3657 ± 28 BP (MAMS 19119).
The calibrated ages are 2124–1977 cal BC (1 sigma) and
2134–1948 cal BC (2 sigma). This absolute chronological
date fits well into the process at the beginning of which the
Somogyvár Vinkovci culture partly split, beside the river
Danube, from the group of early people of the Bonyhád
cemetery that oriented inhumation. This process is rec-
ognised in the vessels of the Somogyvár-Vinkovci culture
which were found in the Nagyrév culture tell settlements
layers of the second/third period of the Hungarian Early
Bronze Age.
22Szabó/Hajdu 2011, 85–108.
23Szabó 1992, XXXVIII.9, 11–14, LIV. 2, LV. 12, LXXI. 6, LXXIII. 1–3.
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Tamás Hajdu et al., Chronology and meaning of the encrusted pottery decoration  357
By contrast, the available absolute dates for the Car-
pathian Basin cultures that existed at the same time can
hardly be interpreted because they show a high degree
of discrepancy. Based on an overview by V. Kiss who
attempted to synchronise the Hungarian and Central Euro-
pean Bronze Age periods, the earliest phase (Bonyhád I)
of the cemetery dates to the Reinecke-Bronze A1b period,
and the latest phase to the Reinecke-Bronze B period of
the European Bronze Age.
24Bóna 1992, 9–41; Raczky et al. 1992, 44–45; Kiss 2012, 201–203;
Fischl et al. 2014, 503–524.
25Kiss 2012, 201.
Vessels found in cremations, similar to the small
jug found in inhumation grave BBQ242, were decorated
with inlays (Bonyhád II). These widely used Early Bronze
Age patterns imitating cord decoration were often filled
with inlays in later periods, and their origins have been
assumed – by some earlier Hungarian researchers– to
be in the Burgenland (Austria). In Austria, such finds are
referred to as Litzenkeramik, and are considered to be dis-
tinct from classic Corded Ware. But it has recently been
shown that the spatial and chronological horizon of the
26Bándi 1964, 65–66; 1967, 27.
Fig. 2: The chronological table of the Bonyhád Bronze Age cemetery
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358  Tamás Hajdu et al., Chronology and meaning of the encrusted pottery decoration
Litzenkeramik is entirely different from what had been
assumed in the 1960s.
According to the latest archaeological observa-
tions, the origins of the Encrusted Pottery culture can
be directly related to the Corded Ware culture that had
eastern origins. The people of the Corded Ware culture
buried their dead in a supine position, oriented NE-SW,
with legs folded and laid sideways. Their graves date from
2900 to 2200 BC, according to radiocarbon dates, and can
be found in Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic,
Germany, Poland and throughout north-eastern Europe
up to the river Dniepr. In its early phase, it was a very
coherent culture with great potential for expansion. In
about 2400 BC, the culture split into local groups, one
of which was the Litzenkeramik cultural group with its
local variants. It was around this time that a subgroup
developed, the archaeological legacy of which should
be seen as an antecedent of the cord-wrapped stick-dec-
orated pottery. Research has shown that the Encrusted
Pottery culture and the Litzenkeramik existed simulta-
neously in the area believed to be that of the Encrusted
Pottery culture. This can be demonstrated by the wider
occurrence of more recent Litzenkeramik finds, which
turn up south of the river Dráva and in Transdanubia too,
implying close and long-lasting relations. Finds from the
latest excavations at Bonyhád show that the people who
settled in Transdanubia around the beginning of the third
period of the Hungarian Early Bronze Age started applying
inlays to patterns previously left unfilled, perhaps under
the influence of local traditions. This would later become
a characteristic feature of their pottery production.
Archaeological observations and
interpretation of the cremations
The site of Bonyhád demonstrates how the preference of
the community (originally a population practising inhu-
mations) developed with regard to using inlays partly
made of bone ash from the time cremations appeared in
mortuary practices (Bonyhád II) (Figure 2). During this
period, there were further changes in mortuary practices,
namely a growth in the number of vessels containing food
27Bertemes/Heyd 2011, 185–228.
28Szabó 2009b, 60–62.
29Furholt 2003, 18; Hecht 2007, 240–246.
30Neugebauer-Maresch 1994, 76.
31Bándi 1964, 65–66; 1967, 27.
32Torma 1972, 28; 1978, 24; Kiss 2000, 15–18; 2004, 243–244; Kvassay
et al. 2004, 134–139; Črešnar/Teržan 2014, 675.
and drink in graves and the addition of metal dress acces-
sories. The decoration pattern of these vessels, which imi-
tated cord decoration and is typically observed in inhu-
mations, lived on; this can be documented in some of the
cremations which became dominant in Bonyhád II. In the
third phase of the cemetery (Bonyhád III), transitional
assemblages appear, characterised by old types of forms
and traditional patterns that existed simultaneously with
vessels decorated in new ways, such as wide strips of
inlays. While the thin types of cords were used to prepare
the bed for the inlays, these cords were wrapped around
thicker sticks; this suggests continuity, in terms of an
unchanged method of decoration but a richer repertoire
of the forms.
At first, inlays became more pronounced as the shape
of beakers changed: their cylindrical necks were elon-
gated and their globular bodies were squeezed. Later, this
form increasingly resembled a truncated cone, and the
body became almost entirely covered with decorations.
The joint occurrence of older and newer types of beakers
was observed in both urn graves and scatterred cremation
burials. The growing number of other types of vessels with
a proliferation of decorations constitutes another ten-
dency. The use of different kinds of cord wraps, and the
use of stamps and incisions– which may represent local
traditions– became more frequent. The use of common
motifs within a large cultural area, as well as the consoli-
dation of mortuary practices, point to a unified cultural
community. Most of the graves in the Bonyhád ceme-
tery date from this rather long period spanning several
hundred years (Bonyhád IV).
The finely decorated jugs with their tall, elongated
necks and with wide strips of deep inlays are quite differ-
ent from previous examples. The strap handle, starting
from the elongated neck and ending on the jug’s shoul-
der, does not occur after the early period. Its reoccurrence
in northern Transdanubia is associated with a northern
group of people who were forced to settle in this region
because the Tumulus Grave culture took over their home
in northern Transdanubia. This so-called Koszider period
marks the end of the Middle Bronze Age, and is repre-
sented in the final, fifth phase of the Bonyhád cemetery
(Bonyhád V) (Figure 2). The positions of the latest graves
indicate that the area occupied by the cemetery was
gradually extended, starting the north-west corner, and
moving towards the south-east.
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Results of the osteological analysis
of the human remains
Since there was a close cooperation between archaeolo-
gists and anthropologists from the start of the excava-
tion at Bonyhád, it was possible to prioritize anthropo-
logical assessments during the excavation as well as the
documentation and packaging of human remains. The
methods applied during the excavation of the Bonyhád
cemetery have thus made it possible to reconstruct several
details of mortuary practices.
The character of fracture lines observed on the cre-
mated bone fragments suggests the presence of soft
tissues when bodies were burnt on a pyre. Increased
fragmentation and the often chalk-like consistency of
the burnt fragments indicate that the temperature was
high. Therefore, there had to be explicit intentions when
burning the bodies, i.e. for as long as possible and with
as high a temperature as possible. In many cases, we
could ascertain that bodies found in a single grave were
cremated together, and (with one exception) their remains
were mixed– in each case to a different extent. It seems
that, except in two cases, those who performed the rite
did not care about keeping the anatomical order of the
remains during and after the process (and before col-
lecting them), although this could have been possible as
shown by experimental archaeological methods. It is,
however, also possible that the anatomical order was kept
during cremation, and that the fragments were only mixed
when transported to the site or placed in the grave.
When the pyre burnt down, all the fragments from dif-
ferent parts of the body were collected without selection.
The graves contained mostly fragments from the skulls
(92.7%), the upper limbs (85.3%) and the lower limbs
(95.4%). Fragments of bones from the shoulders (26.6%)
and from the hips (21.1%) were recovered less frequently.
The quantity of bone fragments per grave was over 100 in
45% of cases, and in 20.2% it was between 50 and 100.
The average weight per fragment of bone (weight/NISP)
was 509.6g. According to McKinley’s calculations, when
fragments smaller than 2mm are removed from a sample
following a modern-day cremation (in this way represent-
ing the possible amount of fragments to be collected after
a prehistoric cremation), the amounts may vary between
adult individuals– and also depending on their sex
33Hajdu 2010a, 129–139; 2010b, 1–21; Szabó 2009a, 283–291; 2009b,
24–25, 40–45; 2010, 101–128; Szabó/Hajdu 2011, 85108.
34Szabó 2004a, 441–458.
35McKinley 1993, 283–287.
between 1001.5 and 2422.5g, with an average weight of
1625.9g. The weight of bones for the Bonyhád graves is
much smaller; however, there were also subadult graves
in the cemetery, which keeps the average value at a con-
siderably lower level. If only graves belonging to individu-
als older than 14 years are considered, the average weight
shifts to 609.2g. Considering that the Bonyhád cemetery
was disturbed by ploughing, this value is relatively high,
implying that members of the community tried to collect
the burnt bone fragments as much as possible in order to
place them in the grave after cremation.
Participants in this rite had no intention to keep the
anatomical order of the bones – except in two cases.
In these cases, however, the bodies were cremated in
the graves. Although keeping the anatomical order is a
process which could not have been carried out easily in
cremations, there are known examples from the Bronze
Age in the Carpathian Basin in which the anatomical
order was kept. In a Late Bronze Age cemetery of the Piliny
culture at Salgótarján-Zagyvapálfalva, K. Köhler has doc-
umented a number of cases which showed that the ana-
tomical order was observed during the cremation of the
bodies and during the deposition of the remains in the
urns. Yet, based on examples from the same cemetery it
is also possible to argue that no such order was observed
there, or in other cemeteries. The anatomical order of
the bone fragments may be explained by the systematic
collection of the bones, starting either from the head and
moving on to the legs or vice versa, then by the placement
of the remains in the urns layer by layer, according to their
anatomical position.
Observations, both anthropological and archaeolog-
ical, of the Bonyhád cemetery indicate that, with the two
exceptions mentioned above, cremations took place away
from the graves. This suggests that the burnt bone frag-
ments had to be collected in vessels before being trans-
ported to the graves. In the case of unurned cremations,
the remains were poured into the bottom of the pit– a pro-
cedure that would have mixed them for the third time fol-
lowing cremation and collection– providing substantial
evidence for why their anatomical order could not have
been kept. The vessels were then broken and their sherds
(usually large pieces) were placed along the sides of the
pits, as has also often been observed during excavation
of the graves in Bonyhád.
36We hereby thank K. Köhler for the data.
37Köhler 2010, 77–84.
38Hajdu 2009, 399–412; Köhler/Polgár 2011, 47–58.
39Kiss 2004, 243–244.
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360  Tamás Hajdu et al., Chronology and meaning of the encrusted pottery decoration
One of the two cases where human remains were
recovered in their anatomical order was BBQ84, a grave
of a 14–16 year-old individual who was cremated in situ.
The remains were excavated in four parts. Although the
fragments were mixed in each of these areas, they were
recovered in normal anatomical order, and only a few
pieces seemed to have been moved. This may imply that
body parts were probably dislodged only when the pyre
burnt down and collapsed, and, since this mixing was not
considerable, the position of the body on the pyre was
probably not very high. The 10–13 year-old individual in
grave BBQ85 was also cremated in situ (Figure 3). The body
was laid supine with legs slightly pulled up and laid side-
ways. The body was cremated in this position, and since
its anatomical order was well preserved, it would suggest
that only a small part of the pyre was under the body. It
Fig. 3: The juvenile person was cremated in the grave (BBQ085). The anatomical order is almost exquisitely remained. The posture of the
30–35-year old woman (BBQ242) is completely the same as the one excavated from the grave BBQ85
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Tamás Hajdu et al., Chronology and meaning of the encrusted pottery decoration  361
is even possible that the whole pyre was built over the
body.
With regard to the funerary rites connected with
these two graves, there are only a few parallels from the
Bronze Age of the Carpathian Basin. The only graves
similar to those from Bonyhád were excavated in Szőreg
in Hungary. According to their excavator, F. Móra, grave
no.193 belonged to the Nagyrév culture. Similar but later
graves were found in Pitten in Austria in a cemetery of the
Tumulus culture.
It has been observed during the excavation of the
graves that they sometimes contained vessels of similar
types but of different sizes. In other cases, the quantity of
remains and grave goods was considerably above average,
or the human remains were arranged in separate small
heaps or in different vessels. On the basis of the anthropo-
logical investigation, it is possible to clearly identify mul-
tiple burials, which have also been observed elsewhere
within this cultural context. There were 10 double burials
out of 105 cremations. Two cases included the remains
of a female and a male individual (BBQ74 and 186), and
another included an adult female and an adult of undeter-
mined sex (BBQ27). Another two cases included an adult
man and a child (BBQ2 and 40), and in three further cases
a child and an adult of undetermined sex (BBQ38, 52 and
167). There was also one grave with two children (BBQ42).
40Szabó 2004b, 431.
41Hampel et al. 1981; 1985; Teschler-Nicola 1985, 127272;
Sørensen-Rebay 2005, 153–175; 2008, 59–68.
42Bándi/Nemeskéri 1971, 7–34; Kiss 2004, 253.
In some cases, multiple burials were not possible to deter-
mine, since the few fragments found which did not belong
to the buried individuals could have been mixed with
these remains in situ (BBQ131 and 136). In grave BBQ80,
an adult female and a skull fragment (os temporale, pars
petrosa) of a newborn/unborn child were found. It does
not seem unreasonable to suspect that the woman was
pregnant and died in or shortly after childbirth, and the
newborn was cremated with her. As for the double graves
from Bonyhád, the intention to separate the remains of
cremated individuals within the graves can be seen with
absolute certainty in one case only: in grave BBQ186, the
remains of a male were scattered (BBQ186J7), while the
remains of a female were contained in a vessel (BBQ186J8)
in which there was also a small mug (BBQ186J6). In grave
BBQ38, the remains of an adult and a child were found
(Figure 4). In one of the vessels (BBQ38J11), as well as
among the scattered bone fragments found along the
axis of the grave (BBQ38J36), the remains of an adult and
a child were mixed; however, the other vessel (BBQ38J8)
contained only the remains of the child. The two individ-
uals were possibly cremated on the same pyre, but their
bone fragments were intentionally kept separate and were
mingled only accidentally when dispersed in the grave.
The absence or sparse presence of human remains
when there are vessels is also frequently observed. For
instance, the vessels in grave BBQ21 were found imme-
diately under the topsoil disturbed by ploughing, which
also destroyed a considerable part of the archaeology.
The edge of the grave pit, however, was indicated by large
sherds along its north-western and south-eastern sides.
Within this area, remarkably small vessels, only 4–6cm
high, encircled a bird-shaped rattle in a semi-circular
arrangement. During excavation, charred pieces of wood
and ash were clearly visible in the fill of the grave pit, yet
burnt bone fragments were not found. The small size of
the vessels in the pit lined with characteristically larger
sherds may suggest that the grave once contained the
remains of a fetus or newborn, which were destroyed by
taphonomic processes.
Fig. 4: In the grave BBQ186 the cremated bones of a male were
scattered (J7) while the cremated bones of a female were in an urn
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362  Tamás Hajdu et al., Chronology and meaning of the encrusted pottery decoration
A comprehensive assessment of
archaeological and anthropological
data
Vessel size and age at death
In the Bonyhád cemetery, the graves of children were
more richly furnished with grave goods than the average,
and many of their vessels were either miniatures or had
special forms. The remains of a 13 year-old child were
found in grave BBQ75, with mostly small, 4–8 cm tall
vessels arranged in a pile and almost no ashes around.
The form and decoration of these vessels were identical
to that of larger vessels. Among the nearly 40 clay objects,
there were also small cartwheels, possibly parts of a toy,
and six drinking horns in the shape of bovines (Figure 5).
Vessels with identical colours had also very similar forms
and similarly rich decorations. The small exemplars had
elongated and narrow necks and all of them were found in
the graves of children, as indicated by the anthropological
analysis. This may suggest that the drinking horns func-
tioned as special items used for the nutrition of children,
i.e. like contemporary baby-bottles, or possibly they were
related to customs related to birth and new life.
The objects in children’s graves were characteristically
small (Figure 6a–c). This was also observed when remains
of adults were found in the same grave. For instance, the
remains of a child and of an adult male were found in
grave BBQ40, and their vessels could be clearly separated
on the basis of their size and differing decoration. Fur-
thermore, vessels accompanying children showed differ-
ences according to age at death, since small, horn-shaped
vessels typically occurred in graves of infants.
Patterns of inlay on the vessels and
their relationship to sex
Among the patterns, there were a few motifs represent-
ing parts of the human body or costumes. Examples of
vessels with representations of human figures, body
parts, and costumes are widely known from prehistoric
times; in Hungary, the best known examples are probably
the Copper Age urns from Ózd-Center. From the period
under study, there is a vessel of unknown provenance
with a representation of a mask, which is almost con-
temporary with the mask from Mycenae. This suggests
that such masks were widely used, although it is the
first known occurrence of this custom in the area of the
Encrusted Pottery culture. Representations of hands
(BBQ137J7) and of bronze accessories (torques, pendants
and discs) are also found on many vessels at Bonyhád.
Such decorations repeatedly occur on specific parts of the
43Bánffy et al. 2003, 132–138.
44Dombóvári Helytörténeti Múzeum, inventory no.: 2005.1416.1.
45Petrakos 1981, 44, 34–35; Szabó 2013, 10.
Fig. 5: Grave goods of infants (BBQ075 J24, J27, J29)
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Tamás Hajdu et al., Chronology and meaning of the encrusted pottery decoration  363
Fig. 6: Pottery of various size and ornaments from the graves of adults and children (a: BBQ075J32-BBQ043J24, b: BBQ075J07-BBQ043J03,
c: BBQ075J09-BBQ043J09)
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364  Tamás Hajdu et al., Chronology and meaning of the encrusted pottery decoration
vessels and in specific combinations, which correspond to
the position of the body parts (Figure 7).
The assessment of morphological sex and motif
codes has shown that certain motifs occurred on vessels
found in men’s graves, while others relate to women. This
implies that the urn itself represented the dead, and the
motif of the inlays defined whether the dead were male
or female (Figure 8). According to this assessment, a
motif as simple and as widely used as encrusted vertical
comb lines– found mostly on barrel-shaped-jugs– may
represent women. Vessels recovered in men’s graves
were typically decorated with reticulated lines or less
regular motifs. The differentiation between dress and sex
is natural and logical: the simplest example is the rep-
resentation of women’s breasts and chest (Figure 7). For
example, representations of anchor-shaped pendants
(known from treasure finds) could be identified on a
number of vessels, which helped considerably with recon-
structing the dress.
Control
Unfortunately there are few examples of assemblages
assessed in a similar manner, i.e. studied from both an
anthropological and archaeological point of view and
which could be used for the purpose of a control study.
In 2007, twenty-two graves in a cemetery of the Encrusted
Pottery culture were excavated at the site of Szekszárd-OBI.
The anthropological analysis of the burials has been com-
pleted, but the restoration of the grave goods is not yet fin-
ished. Therefore, instead of an analysis that would involve
46Kiss 2012, 101.
the whole cemetery and every object from the graves, only
the data on morphological sex and decorations of the
vessels could be collected for comparison with the data
from Bonyhád.
Results of the analysis of the material from Szekszárd
selected for control showed that the patterns found on the
pots accompanying a 20–50 year-old woman buried in
grave 111 (OBIQ111/J07, J09, J14, J23, J24, J26) were mostly
the same (17 cases in total) as those found on the pots
excavated at Bonyhád, which were shown to be female
figures there too (Figure 8).
This analysis shows that motifs on the vessels in male
or female graves in Szekszárd were the same as those
that feature in the Bonyhád cemetery. This suggests that
motifs associated with morphological sex were not only
used locally in Bonyhád, but constituted a common sign
system used all over the area of the Encrusted Pottery
culture (Figure 8).
Conclusions
Archaeological and anthropological results have demon-
strated that despite changing funeral rites, the graves at
Bonyhád represent a cemetery used by a community for
more than five hundred years, from the end of the Early
Bronze Age to the end of the Middle Bronze Age. The form
and decoration of the vessels were most susceptible to
changing practices, illustrating a continual development
from the end of the Early Bronze Age to the end of the
Middle Bronze Age (periods RB A1b–RB B of the Euro-
pean Bronze Age). Our results suggest that the Encrusted
Pottery culture is to be interpreted as a cultural com-
munity that remained constant over the period of Early
Fig. 7: Reconstruction of wear based on idols and placing of ornaments of BBQ137J07 urn corresponding parts of body
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Tamás Hajdu et al., Chronology and meaning of the encrusted pottery decoration  365
and Middle Bronze Age. Therefore, the term “Kisapostag
culture” used in Hungarian research is seen as inadequate
as regards the early period of the culture.
Changes in funeral rites as well as in material culture
suggest that there were five clearly separable horizons,
all of which extended over the whole cultural area. Based
on the material of the largest known cemetery, we recom-
mend that these horizons be referred to as the Bonyhád
I–V phases. This also takes into account the incomplete
and contradictory 14C data.
It has been possible to demonstrate for the first time
that the Transdanubian Encrusted Pottery culture motifs
applied on vessels correspond to different areas of the
body; they are not simple decorations but convey specific
meanings for members of the community. This suggests
that they are part of a clearly interpretable and consistent
sign system, with the urns themselves representing the
dead.
It has been possible to gain insights into why the
application of inlays and the proliferation of decorated
motifs appear and become widely used exactly at a time
of transition in burial practices from inhumations to cre-
mations. The inlay motifs on the vessels are basically
symbols whose meaning correlates with the dress of the
dead (in inhumations), showing that the deceased was
a member of the community and representing his or her
position within the community.
47Szabó 2013, 16.
Summary
On the basis of the physical anthropological and archae-
ological analysis of the Bonyhád cemetery assemblages,
it has been possible to demonstrate that the Encrusted
Pottery culture can be interpreted as a cultural community
that remains constant over long periods of time, with five
separate horizons (Bonyhád I–V phases). The analysis of
the anthropological data, as well as the data pertaining to
vessel types and variation in decoration, was instrumen-
tal in identifying general and gender-specific decorative
motifs. This detailed analysis has clarified that the motifs
applied on vessels corresponded with different areas of
the body and were clearly interpretable by the members of
the community as a consistent sign system, while the urns
themselves were representations of the dead. The new evi-
dence determines future research directions inasmuch as
it remains an issue whether the small pieces of burnt bone
often found as a component of the inlays were of human
origin. If this can be ascertained it would suggest that the
inlay motifs not only formally represented the dead, but
stood in for them on the bodies of the vessels placed in
the graves.
Acknowledgements
Our study is dedicated to the memory of Zsuzsanna K.
Zoffmann, for a great teacher and friend. Her scientific
life-work is monumental in the research of prehistoric
population history in Carpathian Basin.
We would like to acknowledge our debt of gratitude to all
our colleagues: to the members of the excavation team at
Bonyhád, and especially to Zsuzsa Zsámboki-Tót, Józsefné
Komiáti and Anita Mármarosi for their assistance in pro-
cessing finds and data, to Apollónia Sági Frankné for illus-
trations, to Magdolna Kovács Gardánfalviné for conserva-
tion and restoration, to László Ferenczi for translation and
to Kendra Sirak for helping with language. Tamás Hajdu
assisted in fundamental research within the framework of
the TÁMOP 4.2.4. A/11112012–0001 National Excellence
Program– Elaborating and operating an inland student
and researcher personal support system. The project was
subsidised by the European Union and co-financed by the
European Social Fund. This research was supported by
grants from the Hungarian National Scientific Research
Foundation (OTKA) project number K-108597.
Figure 8: Motifs only on the female grave goods
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366  Tamás Hajdu et al., Chronology and meaning of the encrusted pottery decoration
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... Szőreg, Grave 193) and the earliest Transdanubian Encrusted Pottery Culture (also called Kisapostag style; e.g. Bonyhád) (Hajdu et al., 2016) (Fig. 2). ...
... The body was cremated in this position, and since its anatomical order was well preserved, it suggests that only a small part of the pyre was under the body. It is even possible that the whole pyre was built over the body (Hajdu et al., 2016). ...
... As cremation proliferates, bronze grave goods decrease significantly in the later phase of Transdanubian Encrusted Pottery (Bz A2b-c), in parallel with the appearance of hoards (Kiss, 2009;Dani et al., 2016, pp. 232-233;Hajdu et al., 2016). According to several observations, metal finds, symbolizing status, are found in only 10-20% of the burials. ...
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Archaeological research is currently redefining how large-scale changes occurred in prehistoric times. In addition to the long-standing theoretical dichotomy between ‘cultural transmission’ and ‘demic diffusion’, many alternative models borrowed from sociology can be used to explain the spread of innovations. The emergence of urnfields in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe is certainly one of these large-scale phenomena; its wide distribution has been traditionally emphasized by the use of the general term Urnenfelderkultur/zeit (starting around 1300 BC). Thanks to new evidence, we are now able to draw a more comprehensive picture, which shows a variety of regional responses to the introduction of the new funerary custom. The earliest ‘urnfields’ can be identified in central Hungary, among the tell communities of the late Nagyrév/Vatya Culture, around 2000 BC. From the nineteenth century BC onwards, the urnfield model is documented among communities in northeastern Serbia, south of the Iron Gates. During the subsequent collapse of the tell system, around 1500 BC, the urnfield model spread into some of the neighbouring regions. The adoption, however, appears more radical in the southern Po plain, as well as in the Sava/Drava/Lower Tisza plains, while in Lower Austria, Transdanubia and in the northern Po plain it seems more gradual and appears to have been subject to processes of syncretism/hybridization with traditional rites. Other areas seem to reject the novelty, at least until the latest phases of the Bronze Age. We argue that a possible explanation for these varied responses relates to the degree of interconnectedness and homophily among communities in the previous phases.
... n understanding the transition from inhumation to cremation of the Kisapostag/Earliest Transdanubian Encrusted Pottery cultures. Two primary cremations that were carried out in the graves were found in situ. The two burials can be interpreted as an experimental phase towards the dominant cremation practice in the region (Cardarelli et al. in prep.;Hajdu et al. 2016;Köhler et al. in press). Burnt remains of an individual aged 14-16 were recovered in anatomical order from grave BBQ84, while the remains of another adolescent aged 10-13 years came to light from grave BBQ85. Both individuals buried in this 'transitional way' were in the transitional age of puberty; however, based purely on these excepti ...
... Both individuals buried in this 'transitional way' were in the transitional age of puberty; however, based purely on these exceptional cases, it cannot be determined whether this age-based selection was a deliberate act. Such in situ cremation processes are very rare, the only similar Bronze Age examples are known from Szőreg (cemetery of the Nagyrév culture) and Pitten (Tumulus Grave culture) in Austria (Hajdu et al. 2016). A total of 130 in situ cremations were documented at the cemetery of Pitten, but the age group Infans II (aged 8-14 years) is underrepresented and 68% of these children (17 individuals) received an inhumation burial (Sørensen and Rebay 2005). ...
... In the cemetery of Bonyhád the opportunity arose to contrast the anthropological identification of human remains with the designs of their grave good vessels. The examinations managed to outline certain groups of gender-specific motifs: the zig-zag or 'pearl necklace'-like designs may depict neck ornaments or pectorals, while vertical bundles of lines might have symbolised skirts on the urns associated with female burials (Hajdu et al. 2016;Kiss 2012, 76-78, Fig. 16, 17;Szabó and Hajdu 2011). For example, double burial No. 19 at Mosonszentmiklós contained the remains of two children aged 3-5 and 5-7 years, accompanied by a vessel of unique shape and decoration depicting swallow-tail and comb-shaped pendants on its exterior (Kiss 2012, Fig. 33;Uzsoki 1963, 18.t. ...
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Rebay-Salisbury, K., and D. Pany-Kucera (eds) 2020. Ages and abilities: the stages of childhood and their social recognition in prehistoric Europe and beyond. Childhood in the Past Monograph 8. Oxford: Archaeopress.
... Fig. 3). Besides inhumations, AMS radiocarbon dating was used for the first time on Bronze Age cremations from Hungary, contributing to the already existing absolute chronological sequence(hajdu et al. 2016;dani et al. 2019;Kiss et al. 2019). ...
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Although there is no textual evidence known from the Bronze Age, written sources describing migrations of later (i.e. Early Medieval) periods effecting the Carpathian Basin were interpreted as instances of cultural and population change which could be comparable with processes that took place during the Bronze Age in the Carpathian Basin. In the past two decades, Eurasian archaeological research received a new impetus to investigate the traces of migrations during prehistory, in collaboration with other disciplines such as isotope geochemistry or archaeogenetics. The current project which commenced in 2015, funded by the ‛Momentum Programme’ of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, was set out to investigate the societal changes that had taken place within the boundaries of modern-day Hungary – contemporaneous with the builders of the great pyramids of Egypt and the Greek heroes of the Mycenaean shaft graves – by analysing the settlements, cemeteries and the artefacts recovered from these archaeological sites. The project, for the first time in Hungarian Bronze Age research, employs a range of multidisciplinary methodologies in order to examine the social changes of the period. The present paper is to provide an overview of a particular aspect of this research: the outcomes of the bioarchaeological enquiries with special regards to the general health, mobility and the lifestyle of studied populations.
... In the first case, a limited but rich dataset of a flat settlement and adjacent cemetery is known from excavations, although their exact temporal relationship cannot be determined using the proposed methodology (Patay 2013;Endrődi and Reményi 2016). Although the absence of Early and Middle Bronze Age tell settlements was observed early-on (Kiss 2012), the continued use of the cemetery in Bonyhád-Biogas factory would suggests that different means of establishing permanent spaces was taking place (Sørensen and Rebay-Salisbury 2008;Hajdu et al. 2016). ...
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The Early and Middle Bronze Age in the Carpathian Basin is often viewed as a long period of transition from a dispersed form of land occupation to one of increasing aggregation, ultimately resulting in the formation of tell settlements and large cemeteries. This developmental trajectory remains a legacy of early 20th century archaeology, where the similarity of material culture recovered from cemeteries and settlements was used to develop a multi-linear scheme of progression of regional chronologies tied to specific archaeological cultures. While typologically conclusive, the recent increase in the availability of radiocarbon determinations suggests that these sequences represent a priori interpretation of social development rather than empirically verified observations. In order to do so, it is necessary to re-evaluate the existing dataset in order to determine whether the formation of tells was a chronologically contemporary development and whether the regional chronological sequences are supported by independent dating.
... The recovery of Middle Bronze Age inhumations furnished with varying grave good richness at Jagodnjak offers a rare opportunity to investigate the genetic profile of a culture that to date has been more often associated with cremation burial rites 1,29,44 . Similar to other Transdanubian Encrusted Pottery burial sites (Supplementary Text S2) and Bronze Age burials in Europe more broadly, here we find grave goods comprising prestige items that indicate increased social differentiation compared to the Neolithic 24,27,28 . ...
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Ancient DNA studies have revealed how human migrations from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age transformed the social and genetic structure of European societies. Present-day Croatia lies at the heart of ancient migration routes through Europe, yet our knowledge about social and genetic processes here remains sparse. To shed light on these questions, we report new whole-genome data for 28 individuals dated to between ~ 4700 BCE–400 CE from two sites in present-day eastern Croatia. In the Middle Neolithic we evidence first cousin mating practices and strong genetic continuity from the Early Neolithic. In the Middle Bronze Age community that we studied, we find multiple closely related males suggesting a patrilocal social organisation. We also find in that community an unexpected genetic ancestry profile distinct from individuals found at contemporaneous sites in the region, due to the addition of hunter-gatherer-related ancestry. These findings support archaeological evidence for contacts with communities further north in the Carpathian Basin. Finally, an individual dated to Roman times exhibits an ancestry profile that is broadly present in the region today, adding an important data point to the substantial shift in ancestry that occurred in the region between the Bronze Age and today.
... Due to the fragmentary nature, and the consequently minor informative potential, of cremated remains, Vatya cemeteries have traditionally been investigated from a purely archaeological perspective (artefact typology, chronology, articulation of grave goods) [20,26], with less attention paid to the human remains, the analysis of which is nonetheless essential for reconstructing funerary behaviours, demography, and social organisation [27]. As a result, while osteology, isotope analyses, and aDNA are dramatically expanding our view of the prehistoric populations that used inhumation, these aspects remain largely unclear for The map is constructed using "Natural Earth. ...
Article
Full-text available
In this study, we present osteological and strontium isotope data of 29 individuals (26 cremations and 3 inhumations) from Szigetszentmikló s-Ü rgehegy, one of the largest Middle Bronze Age cemeteries in Hungary. The site is located in the northern part of the Csepel Island (a few kilometres south of Budapest) and was in use between c. 2150 and 1500 BC, a period that saw the rise, the apogee, and, ultimately, the collapse of the Vatya culture in the plains of Central Hungary. The main aim of our study was to identify variation in mobility patterns among individuals of different sex/age/social status and among individuals treated with different burial rites using strontium isotope analysis. Changes in funerary rituals in Hungary have traditionally been associated with the crises of the tell cultures and the intro-gression of newcomers from the area of the Tumulus Culture in Central Europe around 1500 BC. Our results show only slight discrepancies between inhumations and cremations, as well as differences between adult males and females. The case of the richly furnished grave n. 241 is of particular interest. The urn contains the cremated bones of an adult woman and two 7 to 8-month-old foetuses, as well as remarkably prestigious goods. Using 87 Sr/ 86 Sr analysis of different dental and skeletal remains, which form in different life stages, we were able to reconstruct the potential movements of this high-status woman over almost her entire lifetime, from birth to her final days. Our study confirms the informative potential of strontium isotopes analyses performed on different cremated tissues. From a more general, historical perspective, our results reinforce the idea that exogamic practices were common in Bronze Age Central Europe and that kinship ties among high-rank individuals were probably functional in establishing or strengthening interconnections, alliances, and economic partnerships.
... Due to the fragmentary nature, and the consequently minor informative potential, of cremated remains, Vatya cemeteries have traditionally been investigated from a purely archaeological perspective (artefact typology, chronology, articulation of grave goods) [20,26], with less attention paid to the human remains, the analysis of which is nonetheless essential for reconstructing funerary behaviours, demography, and social organisation [27]. As a result, while osteology, isotope analyses, and aDNA are dramatically expanding our view of the prehistoric populations that used inhumation, these aspects remain largely unclear for The map is constructed using "Natural Earth. ...
Article
Full-text available
In this study, we present osteological and strontium isotope data of 29 individuals (26 cremations and 3 inhumations) from Szigetszentmiklós-Ürgehegy, one of the largest Middle Bronze Age cemeteries in Hungary. The site is located in the northern part of the Csepel Island (a few kilometres south of Budapest) and was in use between c. 2150 and 1500 BC, a period that saw the rise, the apogee, and, ultimately, the collapse of the Vatya culture in the plains of Central Hungary. The main aim of our study was to identify variation in mobility patterns among individuals of different sex/age/social status and among individuals treated with different burial rites using strontium isotope analysis. Changes in funerary rituals in Hungary have traditionally been associated with the crises of the tell cultures and the introgression of newcomers from the area of the Tumulus Culture in Central Europe around 1500 BC. Our results show only slight discrepancies between inhumations and cremations, as well as differences between adult males and females. The case of the richly furnished grave n. 241 is of particular interest. The urn contains the cremated bones of an adult woman and two 7 to 8-month-old foetuses, as well as remarkably prestigious goods. Using ⁸⁷ Sr/ ⁸⁶ Sr analysis of different dental and skeletal remains, which form in different life stages, we were able to reconstruct the potential movements of this high-status woman over almost her entire lifetime, from birth to her final days. Our study confirms the informative potential of strontium isotopes analyses performed on different cremated tissues. From a more general, historical perspective, our results reinforce the idea that exogamic practices were common in Bronze Age Central Europe and that kinship ties among high-rank individuals were probably functional in establishing or strengthening interconnections, alliances, and economic partnerships.
... While surface encrustations are not generally associated with the Otomani-Gyulavarsánd style area to which the MBA component at the Békés 103 cemetery belongs, encrustation as a deliberate decorative technique was already present on the GHP during the early Copper Age (Tiszapolgár Culture, c. 4500-3800 cal BC) [9]. By the time of the MBA phases at Békés 103, pottery-surface encrustation was a relatively common practice in many parts of Europe, including on contemporary Beaker pottery [10,11] and as a defining characteristic of the Transdanubian Encrusted Pottery Culture, c. 2200/2000-1500/1400 BC [11][12][13][14][15][16]. Encrustations on these vessels were typically produced using burnt bone (presumed mammalian) and bonded into incised decorations with an organic binder such as mastic [9,14]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Békés 103, a primarily Middle Bronze Age (c. 1600-1280 calBC) cemetery and settlement on the Great Hungarian Plain, has been investigated by the BAKOTA project since 2011. Ceramics from the site are covered in dense white concretions, and it has been noted during compositional analyses that these vessels exhibit elevated concentrations of several potentially mobile elements in comparison to vessels from regional tell sites. Here, we use a multimethod (optical mineralogy, FT-IR, XRD, XPS, PXRF, SEM-EDS, and LA-ICP-MS) mineralogical and chemical approach to characterize the composition of surface encrustations on ceramics samples from Békés 103. We also chemically map interior paste composition using LA-ICP-MS to identify potential leaching of mobile elements into or out of vessel bodies. We demonstrate that the surface encrustations are primarily composed of calcite but also contain a variety of other mineral and organic constituents indicative of deposition of soil carbonates, phosphates, nitrates, and other inorganic and organic components. We further document the leaching of several mobile elements into ceramic pastes as well as formation of secondary calcite along void, pore, and temper boundaries. The presence of cremated bone and possibly bone ash in close vicinity to many of the studied vessels may also have contributed to the observed patterns of diagenesis. It is likely that similar post-burial processes might affect ceramics from other sites located in low-lying, seasonally inundated contexts.
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