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The Százhalombatta Archaeological Park

Százhalombatta: Largest Bronze Age Tell in Europe is Home to Countless Archaeological Treasures

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While the plains of Hungary have been settled by many fascinating societies throughout history, the area of Százhalombatta is particularly rich in archaeological finds and monuments. One of the most significant locations is the Bronze Age Tell. The area is not only an active archaeological site, it is also a very valuable training hub for young archaeologists from all over Europe.

The Earliest History of Human Habitation Can Be Dated Back to 3000 BC

This region has been inhabited since the Neolithic period and was densely populated in the Bronze and Iron Ages. The name of the town and the surrounding district means ‘’the one hundred tumuli" in Hungarian. A tumulus is a prehistoric burial mound and they are a feature of the Eurasian Steppes and common in Hungary to Siberia. Százhalombatta is particularly associated with the Urnfield culture from the late Bronze Age and also the later Hallstatt culture.

An example of a pottery urn of the Urnfield culture (Willow/ CC BY 2.5)

An example of a pottery urn of the Urnfield culture (Willow/ CC BY 2.5 )

The district is located on a plateau along the river Danube and it was no doubt selected by the Bronze Age people because, while the land here is fertile and ideal for both agriculture and pastoral farming, it could easily be defended.

The Tell at Százhalombatta

On this plateau set in the Hungarian plains, there developed a unique Danube Valley Civilization . The Bronze Age inhabitants of the district began to build earthworks, probably to protect themselves and their herds. There were initially small-scale works, but over time they were expanded and a large fortification was built that defended the western part of the district. It was well protected to the north and east by the river and by a chasm to the south. The earthworks made the area very secure and it allowed a distinct culture to flourish for many centuries. Based on Bronze Age and later pottery found, it seems that the site was inhabited for approximately 800 years. Over the years, the Bronze Age people deposited more and more material onto the earthworks until it was at a depth of 19 feet (six meters). This artificial mound is known to archaeologists as a Tell, which are very common in the Middle East. The Tell was once home to a large settled population who probably dominated the area for centuries. It is known as Százhalombatta-Földvar and is one of the largest Tells in Europe. The area has provided many important archaeological finds since the first systematic investigation in the early 1960s.

Prehistorical pit-house Archaeological Park of Százhalombatta (Public Domain)

Prehistorical pit-house Archaeological Park of Százhalombatta ( Public Domain )

Among the finds are burnt Bronze Age buildings, stone tools, amber, antler objects, metal work and Bronze Age pottery. To the south of the Tell are a series of Iron Age tumuli, they probably come from the culture that succeed the Bronze Age people. The tumuli are extensive and they cover around seven hectares of the plains and many have been excavated. They have yielded finds from the Hallstatt culture. In total, 120 have been mapped. An aerial survey has identified 103 ring ditches that may have been Iron Age burials in and around the burial mounds.

The Interactive Archaeological Park of Százhalombatta

This park was the first of its kind designed to provide visitors with an interactive experience of the prehistoric monuments in Hungary and was opened in 1998 by the Hungarian Prime Minister. The Archaeological Park contains the Tell and some of the tumuli in the area and offers visitors craft workshops and a chance to experience life in the prehistoric past by using the ancient tools and implements.

There are many reconstructions of Bronze Age buildings and ovens, as well as the reconstruction of an Iron Age burial, based on one that was unearthed from a tumulus in the 1960s.

Matricia Museum, Százhalombatta (Danube Tourism)

Matricia Museum, Százhalombatta ( Danube Tourism )

Százhalombatta is still being investigated by teams of archaeologists who do fieldwork at the site of the Tell and in an effort to foster international cooperation students from all over Europe work in the same trenches. The excavation and research is funded by the European Union.

The Location of Százhalombatta

The Archaeological Park is located near the modern town of Százhalombatta and it is approximately 18 miles (30 kilometers) from Budapest. There is plenty of accommodation near Százhalombatta. Because of the geography of the location it can only be accessed from the town, but public transport is easy to find.

Top image: The Százhalombatta Archaeological Park           Source: Danube Tourism

By Ed Whelan

References

Budden, S. and Sofaer, J. 2009. Non-discursive knowledge and the construction of identity potters, potting and performance at the Bronze Age tell of Százhalombatta, Hungary. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 19(2), pp.203-220

Available at: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/cambridge-archaeological-journal/article/nondiscursive-knowledge-and-the-construction-of-identity-potters-potting-and-performance-at-the-bronze-age-tell-of-szazhalombatta-hungary/A4A90DF9B31E76BDBCB1CDC42559CAC6.

Czajlik, Zoltán. 2008. Aerial archaeology in the research of burial tumuli. Communicationes Archaeologicae Hungariae 28.

Available at: http://www.academia.edu/1364419/Zolt%C3%A1n_Czajlik_Aerial_archaeology_in_the_research_of_burial_tumuli._CommArchHung_28_2008_95-107

Sofaer, J., 2006. Pots, houses and metal: technological relations at the Bronze Age tell at Százhalombatta, Hungary. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 25(2), pp.127-147.

Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-0092.2006.00253.x

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