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COPPER AGE

(End of the 5th millennium – beginning of the 3rd millennium BC)

 

At the end of the 5th millennium BC significant changes took place in the life of Neolithic people. The climate, that suddenly turned cooler and drier, was no longer favourable to the vegetable growing agriculture of the New Stone Age, and according to present data, animal husbandry became more important. All these changes affected the thinking of the late Neolithic man as well. Numerous elements of religion were revived or replaced, and under the new circumstances new cults and new types of objects were produced. The stone tool industry, which had been brought to a high quality in previous periods, continued undiminished, and the constant search for new raw material resulted in another very important change. A mineral was discovered and mined in big quantities, which had already been used sporadically, however its conscious use in such large quantities became a practice only then. The utilisation of copper ore and the production of more effective copper tools started, which soon led to the transformation of society at the time. It must be mentioned that the utilisation of gold, which is usually found together with copper ore in nature, started at this time as well. Gold, due to its physical features, had been used only for making jewellery and medals from the beginning.

There is little known about the settlements of the era due to the lack of large excavations. What has been discovered so far implies that settlements were smaller and had a different structure than in the New Stone Age. The other novelty of the period is that burial grounds separated from the settlements: the graves formed cemeteries near the villages, but never among the dwellings – examples of such cemeteries during the New Stone Age had only existed in Western Europe. The organisation of burials became reflective of the relations that governed people’s everyday lives.

The Copper Age in the Carpathian basin does not indicate a steady, nor particularly a linear development in history. The early stage of the era can be described with the late period of the Lengyel culture, but this cultural period is just as unknown around Budapest as its earlier phases. On the other hand, we know much more about the first civilisation of the middle part of the Copper Age, which is called the Ludanice culture after a site in Upper Hungary. This culture is a direct continuation of the Lengyel culture in many respects, however it shows many new features as well that are normally interpreted as cultural influences from the south. The simple, beamframed houses were relatively lightly structured, and the deceased were placed in the graves sideways, in foetal position, a custom known from the New Stone Age. People possessed significant amount of copper objects, however they did not use gold for reasons still unknown. The most important sites have been found mostly in Buda, where the caves were also used, probably for dwelling. In Pest only scattered burial grounds have been discovered.

In the second half of the Middle Copper Age a completely new culture that differed in every aspect from the previous one appeared in the western part of the Carpathian basin, also around Budapest. This group of people with Central-European roots occupied the lands of the previous cultures, but made very little use of the existing material and intellectual culture. The culture of Furchenstich ceramics, named after its typical pottery, prevailed in the second half of the Middle Copper Age. There is even less data about their villages and especially about their burials than of the Ludanice culture. One thing however is certain: their material culture gradually transformed due to influences coming again from the south, thus became the starting point of the Late Copper Age. An important settlement from this latest phase is known in Dunakeszi-Székes-dűlő.

In the last period of the Copper Age people of the Baden culture settled in the Carpathian basin, also around Budapest. There were several main factors that played a role in the formation of this culture: besides the remains of cultural elements from the Middle Copper Age, there were also the effects of the Pit grave culture from the Pontus region (kurgan people of the Pitgrave culture), and of the early Bronze cultures from the Aegean and Northwestern-Anatolian regions. Their settlements established along the Danube and next to some creeks in Budapest, both in hilly and flat areas, reflect a peaceful way of life. The most significant sites were excavated on Csepel-sziget, in Káposztásmegyer, in Andor, Zugló and Paskál streets in the XI. district, and on Corvin tér. The people of this culture grew barley and wheat products (einkorn, emmer), but they also ate roasted acorns from oak trees native to the region. Besides growing vegetables, they also kept large lifestock, but we have data that show traces of smaller farm animals (sheep, goat) and pig husbandry as well.

In the Late Copper Age the use of copper significantly decreased. The first indicators of transportation and trade in the Carpathian basin were the cart models found near Budapest.

In the cemeteries of the Baden culture, the dead of the community were buried in foetal position or after cremation, together with objects meant for the afterlife. Often a great amount of stone was placed on the graves. Animals that were sacrificed during a ritual ceremony were buried next to or near the deceased. The carved stone column (sztélé) found in Káposztásmegyer, might have marked a burial ground.

At the end of the Baden culture, the short term settlements of the Kosztolac culture coming from the south also appeared around Budapest (Békásmegyer, Csepel-sziget).

 

Literature

Banner János: Die Péceler kultur. Budapest 1956.

Endrődi Anna: A késő rézkori Bádeni kultúra Budapest, Andor utcai telepanyaga a kulturális kapcsolatok tükrében. Budapest Régiségei XXXI (1997) 121-175.

Endrődi, Anna – Gyulai, Ferenc: Hearths and other finds of the Late Copper Age Baden Culture at Budapest-Csepel Island (Gynaecomorphic Vessels, archaeobotanical remains) ArchÉrt 125 (1998/2000) 9-44.

Kalicz Nándor: Die Péceler (Badener) Kultur  und Anatolien. Budapest 1963.

Kalicz, Nándor: Die terminologischen und chronologischen Probleme der Kupfer- und Bronzezeit in Ungarn. In: Il passagio dal neolitico all'eta del bronzo nell' Europa centrale e nella regione Alpina Problemi cronologici e terminologici. Atti del X Simposio Internationale sulla fine del Neolitico e gli inizi dell'etá del Bronzo in Europa. Lazise-Verona 8-12 aprile 1980. Verona 1982, 117-137

Pulszky, Ferenc: Die Kupferzeit in Ungarn. Budapest 1884

M. Virág, Zsuzsanna: Die Hochkupferzeit in der Umgebung von Budapest und in NO-Transdanubien (Das Ludanice-Problem) ActaArchHung 47(1995) 61-94.

 

 

 


COPPER AXES    (Budapest)

 

POT IN THE FORM OF A MILK JUG WITH TWO HANDLES (Budapest – Gellérthegy-Vízmedence)

 

CUP WITH HANDLES (Budapest, XVII. District, Csabai út 50. Grave finding.)

 

CUP WITH GROOVED DECORATION (Budapest, Tabán)

 

DIVIDED BOWL AND CUPS (Budapest)

 

HEADLESS IDOL (Budapest -Káposztásmegyer)


© Budapest History Museum, 2003