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MIDDLE BRONZE AGE
The developmental processes that started at the end of the Early Bronze Age continued in the middle period of the Bronze Age, as the Nagyrév culture from the early bronze period was supplanted by the Vatya culture in the central part of Hungary. In the Danube and Tisza regions life continued on layered, so-called tell settlements, formed by long sedentarism. In these tells, cemeteries established in the late period of the Early Bronze Age were still in use. In such cemeteries it is quite usual to find several hundreds or sometimes even more than a thousand graves (around Budapest, e.g. Budatétény). Both the data of settlement histories (tell settlements that indicate long sedentary lifestyle) and the large number of graves in the cemeteries point to a very significant demographic development in this period: a great increase of the population as compared to that of previous times. The basic condition of such a demographic change is the availability of sufficient food for the communities. Based on archaeobotanical and archaeozoological data, it is known that man in the Middle Bronze Age had advanced cultivation skills (grain cultivation was supplemented with gardening), but cattle breeding, milk production and the use of animal force were also developed.
The spectacular increase in the population size of communities led to more complex social organisations. The appearance of fortified settlements in the period was probably connected to this (around Budapest e.g. Soroksár, Solymár), however, according to the most recent study, it was not related to defence from an outside enemy, but signified the formation of social hierarchy. Judging from the moulds found in fortified settlements, the inhabitants of these settlements might have been controlling the production of strategically important metal objects (mostly tools and weapons). They might also have been controlling the trade relations, which were widespread due to the central location of the Vatya culture. The bronze, sometimes gold treasures hidden at the end of the era – the so called koszider period – (e.g. Remete-Felső-Barlang) could also serve to give an indication of the increasing complexity of the social hierarchy since only persons on the top of the hierarchy could accumulate such a significant amount of wealth.
At the same time, burials in the period show less spectacular proof of social differentiation. In the big cemeteries of the Vatya culture burials followed a uniform ritual: the deceased were cremated, the remains put in urns, the urns covered with plates, and a small cup placed in the grave. However the occasional findings of bronze jewellery, bronze weapons and amber beads – proof of the trade with lands far away – in just a few graves of some big cemeteries might indicate existing social differences.
The end of the era, the so-called koszider period, signifies the peak in the development of the Middle Bronze Age: large settlements grew around the fortifications; the trade relations extended across cultures as never before; and the hidden treasures – products of highly developed metal-works – are signs of the elevated social position of their owners.
Bronzezeit in Ungarn. (Herausgeber: Walter Meier-Arendt) Frankfurt am Main 1992
Endrődi Anna – Gyulai Ferenc: Soroksár-Várhegy. A fortified Bronze Age Settlement in the outskirts of Budapest, Plant cultivation of middle Bronz Age fortified Settlements. CommArchHung 1999, 5-34.
Kovács Tibor: A bronzkor Magyarországon. Budapest 1977.
Kovács Tibor: Bronzművesek, harcosok, kincsleletek. In: A bronzkor kincsei Magyarországon. Szerk.: Maráz Borbála. Pécs 1995.
JEWELLERY FROM THE MIDDLE BRONZE AGE (Szigetszentmiklós-Felsőtag)
SPOUTED POT (Budapest – Újpest)
BRONZE BATTLE-AXE (Budapest, I. district, Fő street)
TREASURE FINDIND IN REMETE-FELSŐ BARLANG (Nagykovácsi – Remete-barlang)
POT-SET DEPOT-FOUND FROM RÁKOSPALOTA (Budapest – Rákospalota)
© Budapest History Museum, 2003