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Funde ostkarpatenländischen Typs im Karpatenbecken, By Tibor Kemenczei
Prähistorische Bronzefunde XX, 10, Franz Steiner Verlag 2005. 186 pages; 64 plates, 1 table; ISBN 9783515086424 (€98)

The cryptic title of this PBF volume (Finds of East Carpathian types in the Carpathian Basin) refers to metal objects, of bronze, iron and gold, otherwise known as ‘Thraco-Cimmerian’ but more accurately products of workshops in the eastern half of the Carpathian Basin. Some of these lack precedents in the Carpathian Late Bronze Age and originated in the North Pontic or Caucasian Early Iron Age. Most are found along the middle Tisza in hoards and in cemeteries of the Mezőcsát culture, but they also occur along the middle Danube, elsewhere in the Carpathian Basin and beyond. They have traditionally played an important role in the chronology of eastern and central Europe around the time of the beginning of the Hallstatt culture in central Europe.

Like many PBF volumes, this one has had a long gestation - in this case as a collaboration between PBF and the Hungarian National Museum - and in the Foreword dated November 2004 the author explains that his text was submitted in 1992 and revised with new literature taken into account in 1998 (apparently a little later). The basis is an illustrated catalogue of 174 finds, divided into burials, hoards and other finds, mostly from Hungary with a few from adjacent areas of Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Austria and Slovakia. A bowl from a larger gold hoard and a small group of bronzes are in the British Museum. The second part of the text discusses the components of these finds by type: horse-head sceptres, vessels, swords and daggers, spear- and arrowheads, mace-heads, axes, knives, bracelets, neck-rings, pendants and beads, diadems and belt-plates, dress and hair ornaments, pins, brooches, mirrors, horse-gear and pottery. References in this section go up to 1999.

The first part of the text is in three main sections: previous research, distribution of finds and chronology. Previous research is sub-divided and (pages 2-7) begins with the first publications of relevant finds in the early twentieth century – gold objects of north Pontic or Caucasian origin - and goes up to 1990 (presumably the basis on which the text was originally submitted). The best-known source from this period is probably the 1939 study by Gallus and Horváth, whose title, A pre-Scythian horse-riding people in Hungary, reveals the conventional interpretation of Thraco-Cimmerian horse-gear, though not all scholars have supported migration. The author then (pages 7-18) considers publications during the 1990s by Russian and Ukrainian scholars of pre-Scythian material from the steppes between the Don and the lower Danube, especially horse-gear belonging to the Chernogorovka and Novocherkassk types, and (pages 18-33) of relevant Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age material from central Europe and the Carpathian Basin. This section concludes with a discussion (pages 33-42) that includes a table showing the range of dates, up to 300 years apart, given to various finds of East Carpathian horse-gear between 1992 and 1998 alone. The following section on the distribution of East Carpathian types would have benefited from a map more extensive than the location map of the finds in the catalogue. The section on chronology would also have been easier to follow with a chronological table and since it contains few references after 1990, it is not entirely clear how it relates to the discussions of chronology elsewhere in the volume.

Lack of a summary and uncertainty when different parts of the text were composed make it rather difficult to identify the author’s conclusions. The relative chronology is clear: these East Carpathian types belong to the final phase of the Late Bronze Age in the Carpathian Basin, that is before the appearance of Hallstatt C material (page 54). In absolute terms, most of the finds are dated to the eighth and early seventh centuries, with some perhaps ninth century and the gold objects less easy to date - some of those have been given much earlier dates (page 51). The author recognises that material characteristic of early Hallstatt C is now dated to the eighth century in the north-west Alpine area, but points out that such material does not occur in the south-east Alpine area or the middle Danube and suggests (page 33) that the date of the Urnfield/Hallstatt C transition could have been different in different regions; in particular he believes Hallstatt material appeared in the Danube/Tisza region only during the seventh century. He finds no reason to date the East Carpathian horse-gear before the eighth century. Burials containing this horse-gear mostly belong to the Mezőcsát culture, which pre-dated the appearance of Scythian types in the Carpathian Basin in the late seventh century. Arrowheads are almost entirely absent from East Carpathian finds. Kemenczei does not rule out migration as the cause of the sudden change in material culture in the Carpathian Basin at the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age (page 42).

Another consequence of the gestation of this volume is that before the author wrote his Foreword, but after he had completed his final text, another major study of the same subject appeared, the thesis of Carola Metzner-Nebelsick, now Professor in Munich (Der "Thrako-Kimmerische" Formenkreis aus der Sicht der Urnenfelder- und Hallstattzeit im südöstlichen Pannonien, Vorgeschichtliche Forschungen 23, Verlag Marie Leidorf, 2002; not available for review). She concludes that ‘It is impossible to argue for a short-term migration of eastern ‘Thraco-Cimmerian’ populations to the Carpathian Basin on the basis of the hoards … the widely held postulate of a monolithic ‘Thraco-Cimmerian’ invasive event has yielded to a subtler, much more differentiated picture … integration and indigenous adaptation of eastern forms in central and south-east Europe can be shown to span several generations’ (from the English summary, pages 494-7). Her book appears to be less widely available in British university libraries than Kemenczei’s PBF volume, but anyone whose interest in the Thraco-Cimmerians has been aroused will need to seek it out. Meanwhile, her short article ‘Early Iron Age pastoral nomadism in the Great Hungarian Plain – migration or assimilation? The Thraco-Cimmerian problem revisited’ in Kurgans, Ritual Sites, and Settlements: Eurasian Bronze and Iron Age edited by Jeannine Davis-Kimball, Eileen M. Murphy, Ludmila Koryakova & Leonid T. Yablonsky, British Archaeological Reports S890, 2000, pp 160-84, is also available on the Internet (

Brendan O’Connor

Review Submitted: February 2008

The views expressed in this review are not necessarily those of the Society or the Reviews Editor.

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