Category Archives: HUNGARY

Remains of twin fetuses and wealthy mom found in Bronze Age urn

Remains of twin fetuses and wealthy mom found in Bronze Age urn

During the Bronze Age, a pregnant woman carrying twins in what is now Hungary met a tragic end, dying either just before or during childbirth, according to a new study about her burial.

Remains of twin fetuses and wealthy mom found in Bronze Age urn
The remains of the elite woman (left) and twin fetuses (right) were cremated, but some of their bones (above) weren’t completely burned.

The woman and her twins were cremated and buried in an urn with lavish grave goods: a bronze neck ring, a gold hair ring and bone pins or needles, indicating that the woman was an elite individual, the researchers said. Moreover, a chemical analysis of the woman’s teeth and bones revealed that she wasn’t local but had travelled from afar, likely to marry into a new community, the researchers said.

“Although the external appearance of the urn is not so different from all the others, the prestige objects indicate that the woman stood at the apex of the community or as part of an emerging elite,” study lead researcher Claudio Cavazzuti, an assistant professor in the Department of History and Cultures at the University of Bologna in Italy, told Live Science in an email. 

Archaeologists found the woman and twins’ remains in a cemetery dating to the Hungarian Bronze Age (2150 B.C. to 1500 B.C.), which they uncovered during a rescue excavation ahead of the construction of a major supermarket by the Danube River, just a few miles south of Budapest. With 525 burials excavated so far, “the cemetery is one of the largest known in present-day Hungary for this period,” Cavazzuti said. There are likely several thousand more Bronze Age graves in the area that have yet to be excavated, he added.

These burials are from the Vatya culture, which thrived during the Hungarian Early and Middle Bronze Ages, from about 2200 B.C. to 1450 B.C., he said.

The Vatya people had a complex culture, with settlements supporting agricultural farming and livestock, and economy invested in local and long-distance trade (which explains how the Vatya acquired bronze, gold and amber from different parts of Central, Eastern and Northern Europe), and fortifications that controlled parts of the Danube River, Cavazzuti said.

To learn more about those buried in the cemetery, Cavazzuti and his colleagues did an in-depth analysis on 29 burials (26 urn cremations and three were buried). Except for the elite woman (who was buried with the twins), all of the sampled graves contained the remains of just one person, and most of those graves held simple grave goods made of ceramic or bronze.

About 20% of the Vatya burials at the site contained metal grave goods, “but prestige items, such as those of [the elite woman], are rare,” he said. 

The three buried individuals were adults of indeterminate sex. Of the cremated individuals, 20 were adults (11 females, seven males, two undetermined), two were children between the ages of 5 and 10, and four were between the ages of 2 and 5. But the youngest of the deceased were the twins, who were likely between 28 and 32 gestational weeks old. The elite woman was between 25 and 35 years old when she died, according to a skeletal analysis, the researchers found.

A further look at the elite woman’s bones indicated that she was cremated on a large pyre that likely burned for several hours. But when the fire extinguished, “the ashes were collected more carefully than usual (bone weight is 50% higher than average [compared with other cremated burials]) and deposited in an interesting early Vatya urn,” the researchers wrote in the study. Given that she was buried with the twin fetuses, the woman probably died from complications related to childbirth, the researchers said.

The elite woman’s grave goods included a bronze neck ring (1), gold hair ring (2) and bone pins/needles (3)

Where was she from?

The research team did a chemical analysis, which entailed looking at the different versions, or isotopes, or strontium in the deceased’s teeth and bones. Different regions have different ratios of strontium isotopes, which people absorb in the water and food they consume.

These strontium isotopes then end up in people’s bones and teeth, allowing researchers to measure and compare them with strontium isotopes found in the environment.

The vast majority of the individuals the team looked at had local strontium signatures, especially the men and children.

The elite woman, in contrast, was born elsewhere and moved to the region between the ages of 8 and 13, Cavazzuti said. Furthermore, an analysis of her grave goods revealed that the bronze neck ring and a gold ring were “prestige objects” similar to valuable items found in other burials and hoards in Central Europe, he said.

“It is not improbable that the neck-ring and pins/needles were meant to symbolize a link with her native land, whereas the gold hair-ring (a wedding gift?) embodied the new local identity she acquired by joining the [new] community at the highest rank,” the researchers wrote in the study.

Another buried woman, who did not have any grave goods, had a strontium signature from elsewhere, possibly from Lake Balaton in western Hungary or central Slovenia, the researchers noted.

Previous research has already shown that women in Europe — especially high-status ones — married outside their local communities since at least the late Neolithic or the Copper Age (about 3200 B.C. 2300 B.C.), Cavazzuti said. During the Bronze Age, societies across Europe were largely patrilocal, meaning that the men stayed in their hometowns while some women travelled from different communities to marry them. 

Perhaps these marriages were crucial to the emerging elite “in order to institute or reinforce political powers and military alliances, but also to secure routes [and] economic partnerships,” Cavazzuti said.

Hoard of silver and gold coins unearthed in central Hungary

Hoard of silver and gold coins unearthed in central Hungary

An attack by the Ottoman Army in the 16th century may have caused panicked Hungarians to bury a stash of precious silver and gold coins. Today, on a modern-day farm in Hungary, archaeologists have discovered this buried treasure.

In 2019, archaeologists discovered 150 ancient coins in Újlengyel, a Hungarian village that’s about 31 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of Budapest.

Spurred by this discovery and equipped with metal detectors, the archaeologists returned to the site at the end of December 2020 to look for other treasures, according to a Facebook post from the Ferenczy Museum in Hungary.

Hoard of silver and gold coins unearthed in central Hungary
Archaeologists discovered thousands of ancient coins buried on a Hungarian farm.

Balázs Nagy, the museum’s numismatist, or coin expert, led the two-day expedition, with help from volunteers with the Community Archaeological Association.

On a nearby hill, the archaeologists dug through a small shaft and unearthed a vessel that was broken in half, likely due to plowing, according to a statement. The vessel had originally held thousands of ancient coins that were found strewn about the shaft.

The newly discovered coin collection consisted of nearly 7,000 silver coins and four gold coins, according to the post.

The discovery in Újlengyel of hidden coins is a spectacular find, comprising seven thousand silver and four gold medieval coins in Hungary.

At the time the coins were probably buried, around 1520, they would have been worth enough to buy seven horses; and by today’s standards, they would be enough to buy a luxury car, according to the post.

The oldest coin is a silver denarius, or a Roman silver coin of Roman emperor Lucius Verus, who ruled from A.D.161 to A.D. 169. The newest coins in the hoard date to the time of Louis II, who ruled Hungary and Bohemia from 1516 to 1526.

The four gold coins, which were issued during the reign of Matthias I, the king of Hungary from 1458 to 1490, were hidden under a piece of fabric in the lining of the vessel, according to the statement.

Other finds included a rare coin issued by Pope Pius who ruled from 1458 to 1464 and silver coins issued during the reigns of several other 15th and 16th century rulers.

It’s unknown why people buried these coins, but the archaeologists hypothesize that Hungarians may have buried them during an attack from the Ottoman Empire in 1526.

“Treasures of this magnitude related to the Turkish devastation following the battle of Mohács are rare in Hungary,” according to a Facebook post.

(The Ottoman Empire, led by Suleiman the Magnificent, defeated Hungary and its allies in the Battle of Mohács on Aug. 29, 1526; this battle marked the end of the Hungarian monarchy and opened the way for Turkish and Habsburg rule of the region, according to Britannica.)

The museum is planning to continue to explore this site in search of other historical treasures.

Deformed ‘alien’ skulls offer clues about life during the Roman Empire’s collapse

Deformed ‘alien’ skulls offer clues about life during the Roman Empire’s collapse

The multicultural change between local residents and migrant Romans is documented by researchers studying deformed skulls from an old cemetery in Hungary.

Mönzs-Icsei dülő cemetery, founded in 430 AD and abandoned in 470 AD, in the settlement of Mözs near Szekszárd in the Pannonia region of present-day Hungary, was created in the late Roman period at the beginnings of Europe’s Migration Period when the barbarian Huns invaded Central Europe forcing the Romans to abandon their Pannonian provinces and retreat from modern-day Western Hungary.

The site was recently excavated by a new study integrating experimental isotope analysis and biological anthropology, which determine that seeking refuge from the Huns, new foreign groups arrived in Pannonia and integrated with the remaining local Romanized population.

The upper part of the body in Grave 43, during excavation. The girl had an artificially deformed skull; she was buried with a necklace, earrings, a comb, and glass beads.

These migrant waves sparked a period of rapid-onset, and chaotic cultural transitions, and the deformed skeletons recovered from Mözs-Icsei dülő cemetery held important clues about life and death during this turbulent time.

The new paper was published April 29, 2020, in the open-access journal  PLOS ONE  by Dr. Corina Knipper from the Curt-Engelhorn-Center for Archaeometry, Germany, István Koncz, Tivadar Vida from the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary, and colleagues.

The authors first conducted an archaeological survey of the 5th-century cemetery, and then they combined isotope analysis with biological anthropology to interpret the burials.

What the pair of researchers found was a “remarkably diverse” ancient community consisting of two or three generations (96 burials total) of three distinctly different cultural groups.

The first was the founding, or local, group who were buried in brick-lined Roman-style graves, the second group comprised of 12 foreigners who arrived about a decade after the founders, and the third were a later culture, who blended Roman and various foreign traditions.

The brick-lined burial of Grave 54 represents late Antique traditions, which prevailed among the supposed founder generation of the cemetery.

The researchers think that the second group of 12 foreigners most probably established the ritual burial tradition of burying the deceased with elaborate grave goods, and also the practice of “cranial deformation,” which was found in 51 skeletons of adult males, females, and children.

Artificially deformed skull of an adult woman. Permanent binding during childhood caused the elongation of the braincase and the depressions in the bone.

Artificial cranial deformation, or modification, is commonly called head flattening, or head binding. This ancient form of body alteration in which a human child’s skull is deformed with blocks of wood bound to the skull under a constant force, was practiced on every continent of the prehistoric world.

However, Mözs-Icsei dülő cemetery represents one of the largest concentrations of this ancient aesthetic cultural phenomenon in the region; a practice that was generally reserved for societal elites.

Buckle in, it’s time for the science bit: according to researcher Doug Dvoracek from the Centre of Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia , who was not involved in the new study, strontium isotopic ratios are widely used as indicators of provenance, residential origins and migration patterns of ancestral humans, in an archaeological context, where it provides “links to the land where food was grown or grazed.”

A number of deformed skulls used in the study.

The two researchers’ data showed the strontium isotope ratios measured on skeletons at the Mözs-Icsei dülő cemetery were “significantly more variable” than the prehistoric burials and animal remains excavated at other archaeological sites in the same geographic region in the Carpathian Basin.

In conclusion, the scientists say their isotopic analysis indicates most of Mözs’ adult population had lived elsewhere during their childhood and had migrated to Pannonia as teens and adults.

Moreover, carbon and nitrogen isotope data attest to what the scientists say were “remarkable contributions of millet” in the human diet.

Millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses that were grown as cereal crops or grains for human food and fodder.

What ancient cultures who grew millets observed, but didn’t know why they had stronger bones, bigger muscles, tougher warriors and fitter farmers, because not only is millet gluten-free, but it also has high levels of protein, fiber, and antioxidants contents.

In the 5th century, the forested mountain ranges and resource-rich agricultural plains of what is today Hungary made this region a choice destination for fleeing Romans and other asylum seekers and refugees displaced by expanding Germanic armies.

And while archaeological and anthropological research in Hungary will continue, for now, the researchers have established that after the decline of the Roman Empire at least one community briefly emerged in Pannonia comprising local and Roman incomers who not only shared the same geographical space, but they blended and infused their burial rituals and traditions into a new multicultural system of internment.