The return to a Bronze Age village in Hungary

The return to a Bronze Age village in Hungary
Drone image of two test excavations (2x2m) in the ’Northern Village’. The tell is in the wooded area on the left. Image: Thaddeus Smith

In April 2023, the Körös Consortium Project, led by Paul Duffy of Kiel University’s Institute of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology and colleagues from University of Georgia and the Field Museum in Chicago, converged near the small town of Tarhos in Hungary to drill cores and expose Bronze Age houses at the tell cluster of Békés-Várdomb. The research was part of Duffy’s work on population aggregation and resilience in prehistoric times within the Cluster of Excellence ROOTS.   

Békés-Várdomb is a 3m-high tell, or ’artificial hill’ in an old river branch (ca. 2100-1700 BC). The tell is part of a greater site cluster during the Bronze Age and at its height, would have held more than 500 people and was one of the largest villages in what is today eastern Hungary. Targeted geophysical survey in previous seasons indicates that many burned houses can be found near the center of the site. The team could not undertake geophysical survey at the tell itself because of managed forest cover.

Another goal of the season was to identify the location of an excavation trench from the 1950s on the forested tell. Duffy’s team used data obtained by means of a laser scan of the landscape surface (Lidar data) and micro-topography to point to likely locations of the old excavation trench. They then used power drilling tools from Kiel to identify soil removed during the old excavation and used to refill the trench afterwards. This so-called ‘backdirt’ they contrasted with intact deposits outside the old trench.
The team was composed of German, Hungarian, American, and Canadian participants. Although the goal of the season was to focus on Bronze Age houses, they couldn’t avoid an intrusive human burial dating to the early Medieval period, much to the delight of the student participants! The site was the highest point on the landscape in the Bronze Age and was reused during the Medieval period by different populations to bury their dead.

The test excavations identified Bronze Age deposits in a good state of preservation. In future seasons, the team anticipates cleaning back the profiles of the tell excavation for new scientific analysis and excavating several of the houses of the tell to detail variation in house structure during the Bronze Age. The research helps understand the role that economic complementarity and social inequalities had in dynamics of growth, success, and dispersal of the Bronze Age’s first large population aggregations.

The return to a Bronze Age village in Hungary
Settlement cluster around the tell showing magnetic anomalies (burned houses) overlaid with lidar topography. Image: Paul Duffy

The return to a Bronze Age village in HungaryDrilling cores into the tell to re-locate the old excavation trench. Photo: Paul Duffy

The return to a Bronze Age village in Hungary
Excavating a Medieval burial intrusive into the Bronze Age layers. Photo: Paul Duffy

The return to a Bronze Age village in Hungary
Bronze Age house floor layers exposed on the Southern Island. Photo: Ruby Winter.


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