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Dieter Quast (ed.

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe:
Thirteen International Studies on Early Medieval Mobility

des Rmisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums
Band 78

Rmisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum
Forschungsinstitut fr Vor- und Frhgeschichte

Dieter Quast (ed.)



With contributions by
Horst Wolfgang Bhme Luis A. Garca Moreno Karen Hilund Nielsen
Antonel Jepure Christina Katsougiannopoulou Michel Kazanski / Patrick Prin
Egge Knol Anna Lambropoulou John Ljungkvist Dieter Quast Matej Ruttkay
Lszl Schilling Tivadar Vida

Verlag des Rmisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums

Mainz 2009

Redaktion: Martin Schnfelder, Dieter Quast,

Xandra Bardet (Groningen)
Satz: Manfred Albert, RGZM; Michael Braun, Datenshop
Umschlaggestaltung: Grafik RGZM, unter Verwendung einer
Zeichnung aus W. Froehnes, Les Mdaillons de lEmpire Romain
(Paris 1878) 259

Bibliografische Information
der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in
der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische
Daten sind im Internet ber abrufbar.

ISBN 978-3-88467-131-3
ISSN 0171-1474

2009 Verlag des Rmisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums

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Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VII
Dieter Quast
Communication, Migration, Mobility and Trade. Explanatory Models for Exchange Processes
from the Roman Iron Age to the Viking Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

John Ljungkvist
Continental Imports to Scandinavia. Patterns and Changes between AD 400 and 800 . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Karen Hilund Nielsen
The Real Thing or Just Wannabes? Scandinavian-Style Brooches in the fifth and sixth Centuries . . . . . 51
Egge Knol
Anglo-Saxon Migration Reflected in Cemeteries in the Northern Netherlands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
Horst Wolfgang Bhme
Migrants Fortunes: the Integration of Germanic Peoples in Late Antique Gaul . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
Michel Kazanski, Patrick Prin
Foreign Objects in the Merovingian Cemeteries of Northern Gaul . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
Luis A. Garca Moreno
Gothic Immigrants in Spain. Researching the History of a Nobility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169
Antonel Jepure
Researching Gothic Immigrants in Spain. An Archaeological Dilemma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
Anna Lambropoulou
The Presence of Slavs in the Western Peloponnese during the 7th and 8th Centuries:
New Archaeological Evidence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197
Christina Katsougiannopoulou
The Slavic Bow Brooches in Greece Revisited. Some Remarks on Ethnicity and Social Status . . . . . . . . 219
Tivadar Vida
Local or Foreign Romans? The Problem of the Late Antique Population
of the 6th-7th Centuries AD in Pannonia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 233

Lszl Schilling
An Avar-Period Germanic Brooch from Tc-Fvenypuszta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 261
Matej Ruttkay
The North of the Carpathian Basin in the 5th and 6th Centuries AD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 273

List of Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 295


We need to interpret the past, not simply present it
John H. Arnold
History. A very short introduction (Oxford 2000)
Moi, tu me connais, je nai rien contre les trangers,
mais ces trangers-l ne sont pas de chez nous.
Agecanonix in: Astrix, Le cadeau de Csar

The transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages was an era of vital importance to the formation of medieval and modern Europe. The migrations of steppe-nomad and Germanic peoples caused changes over
wide parts of Europe. The Western Roman Empire fell apart into Romano-barbarian kingdoms. Personal
motives, economic incentives and wars gave rise to unprecedented mobility of individuals as well as whole
tribes, or, more precisely, large warrior groups with their families. Throughout Europe, people of different
origins where brought together and had to find new ways of coexistence. Although in all cases the foreigners were a minority whether in Gaul, on the Iberian Peninsula, in Pannonia or in Italy it was they
who ruled the new kingdoms. Migration was always followed by the integration and acculturation of the
immigrants or of the indigenous population. The fusion of different cultures into new communities clearly
is not just a phenomenon of the 20th and 21st centuries, but has been going on since prehistory.
During the years 2002-2005, the European Commissions Directorate General X, under the Culture 2000
programme, supported a Europe-wide project named Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe, aimed at
realising a database of the relevant archaeological material for the World Wide Web. As a spin-off of the
project, a scientific network was created, and almost all of the ten teams decided to continue their research
on the topic and to participate in a joint publication. This had three reasons: first, the progress made during
the collection of the material for the database and the discussions during the workshops put all colleagues
in touch with fresh ideas and new results, and second, the structure of the database did not allow the elaboration of many interesting details. But most important is the third point, which concerns the nature and
interpretation of the archaeological evidence. In the various parts of Europe the archaeological sources
differ considerably, and so it soon became clear that there could be no standard method for defining foreigners and their position in society. In each case it was necessary to decide anew how to interpret alien
grave forms and burial customs, foreign burial rites and imported goods. Do the finds really represent foreign immigrants, or do they result from other forms of mobility? In some cases it is impossible to identify
foreign individuals, even when it is certain that the archaeological evidence reflects population change.
The articles in this volume highlight different aspects of mobility and exchange, but all of these depend on
contacts between people and groups of people. Studies of straightforward imports, art styles and history
of colonisation or simply new interpretations of common knowledge offer new insights. Knowledge,
objects and ideas do not move by themselves. They are always carried by people. Any study of diffusion
and interaction is therefore confronted with the question: who travelled, for what reason, and how many
were they?*
It was quite clear from the beginning that archaeologists from different European countries, ranging from
Spain to Slovakia and Greece to Sweden, have quite diverse perspectives and different scientific traditions
* K. Kristiansen, Theorising Diffusion and Population Movements. In: C. Renfrew / P. Bahn (eds.), Archaeology. The key concepts (London 2005) 75-79 esp. 77.


in approaching a theme like Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe. This in itself offered an interesting basis
for debate. It is also why the articles in the publication are arranged according to the authors places of
I want to thank all authors for their participation in this publication, which all of them did additionally to
their daytime jobs. In the same context I wish to thank the following persons for translations into English:
Dr. Annette Frey, Mainz (translation of Kazanski / Prin), Dr. Valeria Kulcsr, Budapest (Schilling and Vida),
Jonathan Roth, Mainz (Bhme), Folkert Tiarks, Mainz (Quast). Much more than a simple thanks goes to
Xandra Bardet, Groningen, for editing the various strains of European English and for her unsparing
constructive criticism. For scans and illustrations I want to thank Michael Ober, Vera Kasshlke, Monika
Weber (all RGZM, Mainz). The publishers work was done by Manfred Albert and Michael Braun. They too
deserve many thanks. And, last but not least, special thanks to Martin Schnfelder for his support.
Dieter Quast
Mainz, November 2008




In memoriam Thomas Vlling 1962-2000

The origin of the Christian population that lived under Avarian rule in Pannonia in the last third of the 6th
century, and represented Late Antique culture, has been a matter of interest in historical and archaeological
research for a long time 1. According to one of the views, this numerous and rich population can be considered to be the successor of the local provincial Roman population, but, up to now, nobody has succeeded in providing convincing proof of such continuity 2. Given this circumstance, an alternative view explains the spectacular flourishing of Late Antique culture by the appearance of a new ethnic group settled
here in the second half of the 6th century, originating from the territory of the Byzantine Empire or from
the territory between the northern Adriatic coast and the southern Alps.
Recently found archaeological material reflects the fact that both native and immigrating, foreign Romanised people in Pannonia lived under Avarian rule. So the question is not only whether there is evidence
for the survival of a native provincial Roman population in Pannonia, but also whether the find material of
the Mediterranean immigrants (individual settlers or resettled groups), that is to say, the foreign Romanised people, can be identified.
I believe that on the basis of the ample material coming from new cemetery excavations today, we can
make an attempt at separating the finds of Balkan-Byzantine or northern Italian and Dalmatian settlers
from the indigenous Late Antique material of the Early Avarian Age. Important questions are: what were
the historical circumstances of this settlement of Mediterranean people, where did they settle, and how
were they assimilated in the Carpathian Basin in the last third of the 6th and the early 7th century? My aim,
in the first place, is not to seek out individual cases, foreign individuals, but to achieve an overview of relations, archaeological phenomena, that cannot be explained purely as is usually done by trade, artisan
or cultural connections, but may reflect the immigration of an ethnic group 3. So my aim has been the
thorough analysis of links with the Western and Eastern Mediterranean among the find material of the
Christian population representing Late Antique culture during the Avarian Age in the Carpathian Basin.

The present volume deals with archaeological possibilities for

identifying foreigners. The archaeology of the Migration
Period and Early Middle Ages of the Carpathian Basin offers
several possibilities for studying the legacy of individuals or ethnic groups as carriers of foreign material culture. From an
archaeological point of view we define the term foreign element as a feature of a different material and spiritual culture
appearing sparsely or in small numbers within a given geographical, ethnic and cultural unit. However, the question is whether foreign elements evidenced in archaeological material actually relate to foreign individuals or a foreign community. At the
same time, the people of ancient times and contemporary
archaeological research may differ in their understanding of
who is considered foreign, and where and why. The native
population of the Carpathian Basin, consisting of Romanised

and Germanic people, must have regarded the Eurasian Avarians, who conquered the region in 568, as foreigners. There was
a time when researchers of the Avarian Age considered that the
defining material culture of the Carpathian Basin was that of
the steppe nomads who immigrated from the East. Strangely
enough, it then was the Germanic and Romanised population
that was considered to be foreign (Blint 1989, 181, Abb. 82).
All this means that while the overemphasised eastern element
was thoroughly investigated (Blint 2007) only little attention
was paid to studying the continuity of the local Romanised and
Germanic traditions.
Controversial questions were recently summarised by Bierbrauer
2004, 210-242.
Brather 2004.

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe


I would like to prove the presence of this double Mediterranean impact with the help of some selected
types of object.


The hypothesis of the continuity of the local provincial Roman population and its coexistence with immigrated Balkanian Byzantine elements 4 is not new in the research 5. Joachim Werner concluded this from his
examination of the archaeological data, and, besides, that of the surviving literary evidence 6. Istvn Bna
also reckoned with Western Mediterranean and Italo-Byzantine influence beside the East Roman-Byzantine
traditions, but in his opinion the latter appeared also with the population settled in Pannonia at the beginning of the Avarian Age 7. In the course of his analysis of the find material indicative of Mediterranean/Byzantine relations in the Early Avarian Age, Csand Blint pointed out the possibility of certain
phenomena having different Balkanian and Italian origins 8. va Garam discussed this question in detail,
without drawing any historical conclusions 9.

Many researchers have accepted the hypothesis suggested in Andrs Alfldis fundamental monograph,
according to which the Roman provincial population of Pannonia continued to exist in the 5th-7th centuries,
and the flourishing of the so-called Keszthely Culture at the beginning of the Early Avarian Age was due
to the strengthening of local romanitas 10. Various attempts have been made to corroborate this view, but
nobody has yet succeeded in presenting a conclusive argumentation, because of the uncertain dating of
the material 11.
At the beginning, the foederati population that immigrated after 380 lived together with the native Romanised population of a lower social position 12. Today the continuity of the provincial Roman population
in Pannonia can be demonstrated at more and more sites up till the end of the 5th century (Tokod 13, Keszthely 14, Gyr 15, Aquincum 16, Cskvr 17, Budapest-Gazdagrt 18). However, the main difficulty is that from
the end of the 5th century up to the beginning of the Avarian Age in the final third of the 6th century, we


An active discussion is going on about the origin, significance

and historical environment of almost all the ethnic and cultural
groups of the Avarian Age. At the same time, the constantly
growing find material makes it possible to draw an increasingly
sophisticated picture. Avarians of Asian origin reorganised the
earlier settlement and ethnic conditions of the Carpathian Basin
and integrated in their empire Eastern European nomads who
arrived together with them, with the people of the region: Germans, Slavs and the Late Antique Christian population. Recently, on this question, see Vida 2008, 31-38.
On the historical possibility of unbroken Romanised traditions,
see Pohl 1988, 232-235.
Werner 1986, 19, 22, note 50.
Bna 1987, 129.
Blint 1993, 222-233; 1995, 273-293.
Garam 2001, 192-199.
The theory of a Late Antique enclave culture was suggested by


T. Vida Local or Foreign Romans?





A. Alfldi, mainly on the basis of the analysis of the female

costume (disc brooches, stylus point, earrings with basketshaped pendant, bracelets with snake-shaped end): Alfldi
Kiss 1965, 81-23; 1968, 93-101. Tth 1994, 240-272. Bierbrauer 2004, 51-72.
Recently on this question, with early references: Christie 1992,
317-339; Mller 2000, 241-245. Kovcs 2000, 121-154.
Vida 2007, 320-323.
Mcsy 1981, 42-45, 191.
Mller 1987, 105-122.
Tomka 2004, 391-392.
Pczy / Zsidi 2003, 63-69.
Salamon / Barkczi 1970, 35-80. Ndorfi 1996, 96-99. On
the Cskvr and Szabadbattyn-type cemeteries, see Salamon /
Barkczi 1974 / 75, 89-111; 1982, 147-178.
Zsidi 1987, 46-72.

cannot find any archaeological evidence of the native Romanised population in former Roman towns, villas
and fortresses 19. In this period of almost 75 years, which more or less coincides with the Langobardian Age
(510/526-568), we do not know of any distinctive burials of the Romanised population in Pannonia. Graves
of Romanised people buried in Langobardian cemeteries have not yet been investigated, because the majority of the material is still unpublished. Istvn Bna observed finds and phenomena relating to a Romanised
population in the material of the cemeteries belonging to the Hegyk Group 20 and in the Szentendre cemetery 21. However, until the Langobardian cemeteries are fully published, we cannot form an opinion on this
matter. Recently, a great amount of pottery with Late Antique features has been found at several Langobardian settlement sites. Judging from this, we can conclude that local Late Antique craft traditions continued to survive, and this may well imply continuity of at least part of the Late Antique Romanised population 22.
Recently, the possibility was suggested of re-dating several finds attributed by Hungarian research to the early
Keszthely Culture of the Early Avarian Age. According to this view, these objects of Late Antique character
may predate the Avarian conquest in 568. According to Volker Bierbrauer, the dating of the complete material found at Keszthely-Fenkpuszta, in the cemetery in front of the southern wall of the fortress and at the
horreum, cannot be done convincingly between 568-630. It was shown, for example, by the finds from
graves 5, 9 and 12 23, that, judging by Mediterranean, eastern Alpine and Dalmatian parallels, it can, in principle, be dated before 568. However, such comparative work has not yet been conducted by Hungarian research, and I suppose that with the help of the current investigations, research in the next few decades will
be able to distinguish the archaeological traces of the local Romanised population more precisely.


Another research trend does not consider satisfactory the archaeological evidence of the continuity of a
Roman provincial population in the second half of the 5th and the first two thirds of the 6th century in Pannonia, and because of this, it suggests immigration of Romanised communities in the second half of the 6th
century. However, the representatives of this trend have tried to determine the time of this influx on the
basis of historical and not archaeological arguments. According to the most widespread view in Hungarian
research, immigration became possible at the beginning of the Early Avarian Age, when Avars, in the course
of their campaigns, settled deportees (prisoners of war) from the Byzantine Empire in the Carpathian Basin.
We should reckon with such resettlements taking place throughout the Balkan campaigns of the Avars.
Istvn Bna connected the extremely rich find material of the Keszthely-Fenkpuszta fortress with groups
representing Late Antique/Early Byzantine culture brought from the Balkans 24. His hypothesis started from
the assumption that a solid chronological basis was provided by objects dated to the time of Avarian rule,
which could be connected to the people, i.e. prisoners, brought by the Avars from the Balkans and north-



Bierbrauer 2003, 210-242; 2004, 51-72. Vida 2007, 323-326.

Bna 1998, 113.
Judging from the anthropological and archaeological material in
the Langobardian cemetery of Szentendre, I. Bna concluded
the presence of a Romanised population (Bna 1976, 81-82). In
the Hegyk Group, finds of Germanic material as well as finds
of the Romanised population were present (Bna 1998, 119120).
Skriba / Sfalvi 2004, 129.



For example, Barkczi 1968, 278-281 pl. 55-56, 59, 61/1-2. V.

Bierbrauer pointed out that the dating of certain finds of the
Keszthely Culture between 568 and ca. 630, as has been suggested by Hungarian research, is possible only in the case of
female and male graves that convincingly contained also finds
dated to the Early Avarian Age. In all other cases, the possibility of the earlier dating must be left open (Bierbrauer 2004,
Bna 1970, 258 note 122; 1971, 294-297.

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe


ern Italy. Simultaneously, in the case of some finds, such as the jewellery, he drew attention to the Italian
influence 25.
In Gbor Kisss opinion, the Late Antique population immigrated to Pannonia at the end of the 6th century,
coming from the territory between the northern Adriatic coast and the southern Alps. As a background to
this migration he suggested the withdrawal of Langobardians to Italy or the Slavic invasion of the Balkans 26.
It is known that Avars carried off local inhabitants during their northern Italian campaigns in 610-611, after
the siege of Forum Iulii. The cultural heritage of this population was thought to be found in the material
of the Keszthely Culture 27.
The theory of immigration preceding the Avarian Age, in the mid 6th century, is represented by both old
and new studies. Earlier, Lszl Barkczi was looking for an explanation from the historical viewpoint,
suggesting that after Gepidians occupied Sirmium in 536, some Romanised groups moved to the vicinity
of Keszthely in search of Langobardian support 28. A new view, based on the archaeological and historical
examination of the spread of Christianity along the Lower Danube and of Byzantine missionary activity, has
revived an old idea according to which immigration of the Late Antique population became possible at the
time of initial Langobardian-Byzantine contacts, which coincided with construction works along the limes
in the period of Justinian, around the 550s 29.
Upon consideration of the research results listed above, I, for my part, am inclined to suggest the survival
of a remnant of the provincial population. In the present study, my starting point is that at the end of the
6th century, at the beginning of the Avarian Age, the Late Antique population in the vicinity of Keszthely
and Pcs (Sopianae) comprised partly the remaining native provincial Roman population 30, and partly a
newly settled provincial Byzantine population. Earlier research had already suggested that the Pannonian
find material of Byzantine character was not homogeneous, and attempted to separate Byzantine and ItaloByzantine influences, but failed to satisfactorily explain the state of affairs from the archaeological and the
historical point of view 31. I expect that analysis of the Alpine, Dalmatian and Balkanian-Byzantine longrange connections in the Late Antique heritage can bring us new information, and an explanation for the
origin and composition of the Antique-culture population of Pannonia in the 6th and 7th centuries. However,
up till now research has failed to identify elements of the Late Antique material culture in the Carpathian
Basin that could help us not only to identify characteristic Western and Eastern Mediterranean features, but
also consequently to demonstrate the presence of Late Antique communities of different origins, coming
from different geographical and cultural environments.

Historical sources only provide some circumstantial evidence regarding the continuity of the Late Roman
population in the 5th-7th centuries. Paulus Diaconus mentions people from Noricum (norici ) and Pannonia
(pannonii) among those moving to Italy together with the Langobardians. This can without doubt refer only
to remnants of the native provincial Romanised population 32. Mentions of some high-ranking Pannonian

Bna 1971, 257-258 note 122.

Kiss 1992, 247.
Blint 1995, 284. Straub 1999, 206.
Barkczi 1971, 187.
Florin Curta suggested that the construction of the Fenkpuszta
fortress might be connected with Byzantine missionary activity:
Kurta 2002, 57-59; Curta 2005, 189-191.


T. Vida Local or Foreign Romans?




Mller 1992, 251-307. Blint 1993, 222-233. Garam 2001,

178-199. On the literature about the Keszthely Culture, recently see Bierbrauer 2004, 51-72.
Italo-Byzantine influence: Bna 1971, 296; Blint 1993, 237,
242; 1995, 276. Garam 2001, 11, 192. Riemer 2002, 383384.
Paulus Diaconus, Historia Langobardorum II. 26.

church officials in the second half of the 6th century imply the existence of Christian communities and even
of an ecclesiastical organisation. Bishop Vigilius of Scarbantia, who took part in the Grado Council 33, or the
Pannonian priest Johannes who took refuge in Istria in 599 34, were, in the second half of the 6th century,
representatives of the local church organisation and could have been leaders of a Christian population of
native provincial Roman origin.
Byzantine written sources in several cases report that Avars deported significant masses from the BalkanianByzantine territories to the Carpathian Basin. According to Theophylactus Simocatta and Johannes Ephesinus, Khagan Baian after the sieges of Sirmium (582) and Singidunum (584) carried off part of the population as prisoners of war to his empire 35. According to Patriarch Nicephoros and Theophanes, and judging
from the evidence of the Chronicon Paschale, Avars in 619 devastated Thracia and areas in the vicinity of
Constantinople, and moved 270,000 people to the Danubian region 36. It is possible that the latter event is
reflected also in the narrative of the Miracula Sancti Demetrii, which, speaking about Kuber the son of the
Bulgarian Khan Kuvrat escaping to Pannonia together with his escort troops, states that in Pannonia he
ruled Bulgars, Slavs and descendants of Byzantine prisoners of war taken more than 60 years before (around
610/618-619) 37. The source calls this latter group the tribe of Christians, over whom Kuber, in accordance
with Avarian custom, was appointed governor by the Khagan. But Kuber revolted against the Avarian
Khagan and became the leader of the rebelling Roman people, fought several battles against the Khagan,
and subsequently settled down with his troops in the territory of Keramesios near Thessalonike.
At the beginning of the Avarian Age, carriers of Romanised culture might reach the Carpathian Basin also
from northern Italy. Paulus Diaconus lets us know that after the siege of the town of Forum Iulii (610-611),
Avars took away prisoners, women and children and settled them in their own country 38.
So the historical sources unambiguously speak of ethnic groups taken as prisoners (prisoner-of-war theory).
However, here we face an apparently serious contradiction between historical and archaeological data. The
extreme wealth of the population buried in the cemetery of Keszthely-Fenkpuszta-Horreum does not
suggest a deprived or prisoner status of the buried individuals 39. The Keszthely fortress was situated at the
junction of important roads, its strategic role is undeniable and it is obvious that it functioned also as a
commercial, cultural and religious centre 40. The activities at the fortress made its inhabitants rich in the first
fifty years of Avarian rule, and possibly even earlier, during Langobardian dominion 41. So we can assume
that indirect written sources relate to a surviving Pannonian Late Antique population and that direct written
sources evidence the presence of a Late Antique population from the territory of the Byzantine Empire and
northern Italy resettled in the western part of the Carpathian Basin.


As we saw above, the written sources suggest that in Pannonia we should, in principle, reckon both with
a native Romanised population and with foreign immigrants. Considering this, archaeological research has
to face a very serious task, which is to identify the find material of the remaining Pannonian Romanised
population and, at the same time, distinguish the legacy of the resettled Balkanian ethnic group with their


Tth 1974, 269-275.

Gregorius Magnus, Epist. IX. 155.
Theophylactus Simocatta 7, 10. Johannes Ephesinus, Hist.
Eccl. VI. 31.
Blint 1993, 228-231; 1995, 286-287, 291.
Miracula Sancti Demetrii 2, 5, 285.



Paulus Diaconus, Historia Langobardorum IV, 37.

Pohl 1988, 92-93, 231-233. Blint 1993, 226. Daim 2003,
Curta 2005, 181-219.
Pohl 1988, 232-33. Vida 2008, 31-38.

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe


Early Byzantine culture. This heritage presumably is only slightly different from that of the indigenous population. This task seems to be impossible, because in both cases we have to deal with basically similar Late
Antique cultural roots and an Early Christian population. That is to say, we have to separate the find material of foreign Romanised people from the local Romanised ones. The use of the term foreign is not
necessarily an exaggeration, if we keep in mind that the Pannonian population of provincial Roman origin
presumably used mainly Latin, given the proximity of Italy. At the same time, the Balkanian Byzantines who
moved here, for example from Thracia and the vicinity of Constantinople in 619, probably were Greekspeaking people 42.
In the Avarian Age, artefacts of a Byzantine character could appear with different ethnic and social groups
in the Carpathian Basin. It is obvious that the elite of the Avarian Empire wished to possess mainly prestige
goods, while the middle classes of different ethnic and cultural origin obtained objects of a different value.
Among the mass of fashion items typical of the era, we have to identify those objects that neither became
goods of high prestige or objects of international fashion (as did many Byzantine buckles, earrings, pendants, necklaces etc.), nor became items of widespread use in the Byzantine peripheral cultures.
So we are looking for objects that, for some special (sacral or profane) reason, were closely connected with
the provincial Byzantine population. Certain images (e.g. pagan or Christian iconography) or symbols could
have been iconic for the religious or cultural identity of an ethnic group. Some items of apparel may also
have been suitable for the representation of ethnic or cultural identity. Practical objects that were in
everyday use would not become international fashion items, precisely because of their simplicity, and therefore, from a cultural point of view, they might be characteristic of a communitys origin.
Using the comparative archaeological method, I shall examine whether we can distinguish images, symbols,
costume traditions or types of object of characteristic Western and Eastern Mediterranean origin in the 6th7th centuries find material that can be connected with the Pannonian Late Antique culture. However, the
spread of a type or a motif may be explained not only by ethnic connections, but also by craft and trade
relations. We must also take into account that Late Antique/Early Byzantine goods for the population of
the Early Avarian Age, living outside the Empire, were produced by Byzantine craftsmen working in the
border region of Byzantium.
So in this study it is not my aim to examine all of the known material associated with the topic, but, with
the help of selected, characteristic types of objects, to prove that the remaining provincial Roman population of Pannonia can be recognised at the turn of the 6th-7th centuries, mainly on the basis of its traditional
Western Mediterranean (northern Italian, Alpine) connections. The legacy of the Balkanian-provincial
Byzantine population settled in this territory and representing an Eastern Mediterranean material and spiritual culture, can then be distinguished from the latter. I am not dealing here with prestige goods that might
reach the Carpathian Basin as diplomatic gifts or through trade or pillage. These objects should be considered representative of the period, and should not relate to organic cultural relations among individuals
or communities. Therefore I take into consideration mainly objects with strong symbolic content in terms
of religion, spiritual culture (Christianity), or, by contrast, objects that had an entirely commonplace, everyday function and for this very reason were significantly connected to a certain community from a cultural
point of view, and thus to its origin.


This is evidenced by a gold pin with the inscription BONOSA

from Keszthely-Fenkpuszta, Horreum cemetery, grave 5. A
Greek inscription is found on a bulla from Balatonfzf, grave
K: ETROC and on a cross from the same place:
; on a brooch from Nagyharsny and a cross from Zvod
(Garam 2001, 265 pl. 14, 1, 289 pl. 38,1292 pl. 41, 3). On


T. Vida Local or Foreign Romans?

the Nagyharsny brooch we read: [] (Garam 2001, 52). According to other ideas, these
sporadic language traces cannot be employed to identify the
language spoken by those who used these objects: Blint 1993,

Fig. 1

Distribution map of earrings with basket pendant, Type Allach (after Bierbrauer 1987; Riemer 2000).


From the last third of the 6th, and throughout the 7th century, the material legacy of Pannonia is connected
in many ways to the western part of the Mediterranean world (northern Italy, Dalmatia, southeastern Alps).
From the late 6th century and during the 7th century in the territories neighbouring on Pannonia in the
region of the Alps and in Italy, the Romanised population no longer observed the custom of burying
without grave-goods 43. Due to these cultural contacts, this Romanised population can be well examined
and traced in the region between the Carpathian Basin and Italy. I shall illustrate the Western Mediterranean contacts with some particular examples.


In the 5th-6th centuries, Romanised Christians were usually buried without grave goods. Women were buried with a reduced

number of ornaments and costume accessories; in the burials of

men we at best find buckles (Bierbrauer 2003, 210-242).

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe


Fig. 2

Distribution map of disc brooches with Christian iconographical motifs (after Daim 2002).

Earrings with basket-shaped pendants

Earrings with basket-shaped pendants are characteristic ornaments of the Late Antique material culture,
which were produced in several regional workshops in the Mediterranean (type Allach; fig. 1). Although
the research calls these earrings Byzantine earrings, their occurrence in the heartland of Byzantium is
sporadic. Perhaps it is due to the state of research, that up till now they have been found mainly in contexts
of the 6th and 7th centuries in Italy, the eastern Alps, and Dalmatia. Examples from the 5th century, which
can be considered the prototypes, are found in the same areas 44. Morphologically, earrings with basketshaped pendants from the Carpathian Basin can be related to northern Italian and eastern Alpine pieces 45,
and their workshops presumably were in the same regions. At Teurnia (Carinthia), grave 31, found in the

Bierbrauer 1987, 148. Ibler 1991, 44-52. Possenti 1994.

Riemer 2000, 45-64. Tomka, 2004, 395 fig. 8.


T. Vida Local or Foreign Romans?


Garam 2001, 15-18.

western part of an Early Christian church excavated extra muros, an openwork earring of the type was
unearthed (Riemer Type 4), that could have been made in an Italian workshop 46. Regional workshops obviously existed in the Byzantine world, and their hinterland must have been determined in part by geographical factors. As regards the production and the use of earrings with basket-shaped pendants, it is plausible to suggest contacts between Pannonia and the Western Mediterranean world of the eastern Alps and
northern Italy. Judging from these examples, earrings of this type can be considered to be indicators of
Italo-Byzantine impact 47.

Disc brooches with Christian motifs

Recently, research has pointed out western Balkanian and Italian formal, technological and iconographic
connections of disc brooches of the Early Avarian Age Keszthely Culture, decorated with Christian iconographic motifs (fig. 2) 48. So far, similar pieces have not been reported from the eastern part of the Mediterranean. Also connections with their Antique iconographic prototypes and contemporary Early Christian
parallels have been revealed 49. As for parallels of the image of a galloping rider (Christ) defeating a serpent,
a new example is known from a medallion found in grave 12 of the Sicilian Basilica Sofiana 50. In the case of
the hollow disc brooches, it was recently suggested that these could have contained secondary relics, pilgrimage souvenirs (wax, soil, plants) 51, brought home by their wearers from pilgrimages to the Mediterranean.

Bird- and animal-shaped brooches

Dove-, peacock- and cock-shaped brooches were part of the 5th- and 6th-century Romanised female
costume in the region of the Alps, northern Italy and Dalmatia. On the basis of recent studies, we can hardly
doubt that these brooches were Christian symbols and related to personal beliefs and the Christian
character of a community (fig. 3) 52. All these suggestions are indirectly supported by the observation that
the distribution area of the bird-shaped brooches in the region of the eastern Alps coincides with that of
Early Christian churches. People wearing these brooches could learn about the Christian doctrine in these
churches, and the dove-, peacock- and cock-shaped brooches directly related to their personal faith. From
the same territory we also know cross-shaped brooches, the Christian symbolism of which is obvious.
In several Pannonian graves of the Early Avarian Age, as in the eastern Alpine region and Italy, moulded
and bird-shaped plate brooches have been found in a position relating to the contemporary costume. The
Christian symbolism of the dove-shaped brooch is directly supported by the silver dove-shaped brooch
decorated with a cross 53, found in grave 16 of the Keszthely-Fenkpuszta-Pusztaszentegyhzi dl ceme-




The Teurnia assemblage is in many ways connected with the

Late Antique finds from the vicinity of Keszthely: Glaser / Gugl
1996, 22 fig. 6; 23.
Riemer 2000, 45-64; Garam 2001, 15-18. Sind die Krbchenohrringe daher im strengen Sinn tatschlich als byzantinische Schmuckform anzusprechen oder ist hier der von Garam
in ihrer Einleitung angefhrte italo-byzantinische Einfluss sprbar? Riemer 2002, 384.
Garam 1993, 99-134; 2001, 51-56. Daim 2002, 113-124.
Glaser 2002, 145-152. Tth 2005, 183-202.




Adamesteanu 1963, 270 fig. 24.

Daim 2002, 113-132. Vida 2002, 184.
The dove is the symbol of crucifixion and of Christ; the peacock
of Paradise; the cock, as the witness of Peters denial, is the symbol of sin and punishment, the Resurrection and vigilance: Bierbrauer 2002, 210-215; 2005, 58-66.
The author sees a connection between the brooch and the continuous Romanised population in the region between Noricum
Mediterraneum and Dalmatia: Straub 2002, 103-111 fig. 1.
Straub 2002, 104, 108 note 7.

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe


Fig. 3

Distribution map of bird-shaped brooches (after Bierbrauer 2002, with additions by the author).

tery. On the basis of its shape, this type of brooch could be dated to the 5th or 6th century in the Mediterranean, but at Keszthely this piece was radiocarbon-dated to the late 6th or early 7th century 54. Another
moulded dove brooch was found in grave 1, unearthed at the northern tower of the Keszthely-Fenkpuszta
fortress 55.
In 6th- and 7th-century burials we often encounter bird- and horse-shaped Roman provincial brooches on
the breast, where they were worn. These brooches, found on the breast with unbroken pins, were
obviously used functionally, for fastening a garment. At the same time, they served as Christian symbols,
like the pieces made in the 5th-7th centuries. In grave 67 of the Cskberny cemetery a Roman, moulded,
dove-shaped bronze brooch was found in the place where it was worn, with an unbroken pin 56. There is


Mller 1979, pl. 7, 7a-b.

Fettich 1965, fig. 175,1.


T. Vida Local or Foreign Romans?

no doubt that dove-shaped brooches of the Roman Period were also used as Christian symbols, for we
observe a similar change of meaning in the Mediterranean 57. A peacock-shaped brooch found in AvarianAge Pannonia, in grave 201 of the Vrpalota cemetery, can be categorised as a typical piece of the southeastern Alps and Balkans 58. These bronze (and rarely silver) brooches, made according to simple techniques, show the prevalence of Christianity among the lower social classes. In the burials of the elite, it is
gold and silver crosses made of foil or sheet metal that reflect the Christian faith of the individuals or the
community 59.
In the Mediterranean, the possibility of a Christian interpretation has been suggested also in the case of
other animal-shaped brooches, including horse-shaped ones. Such pieces are found mainly in Italy, but, for
example, a horse-shaped brooch from the Roman Period was uncovered also in grave 298 of the Cskberny cemetery. In the case of a cluster of horse-shaped brooches from Apulia, the Christian character is
evident from a cross placed on the head of the horse 60, while on other horse brooches we see an engraved
sign of the cross (e.g. Castel Trosino grave 121) 61. So we can assume that animal brooches decorated with
a cross and worn by Romanised women, throughout the Mediterranean express the world of beliefs of the
buried person.
So we can see that the material and spiritual culture of the Romanised people living in the territory of
Pannonia in the 6th-7th centuries was closely connected to the similar culture of the southeastern Alps,
northern Italy and Dalmatia. This connection was so strong that it has been suggested that animal-shaped
brooches and other small brooches of the Keszthely Culture came from Italy 62. At the same time, such a
close relationship can be shown not only in the case of objects of a Christian character, but also through
other objects 63, like for example the swastika brooches 64, earrings with basket-shaped pendants 65, or
earrings 66 and pins 67 with a solid, polyhedral knob. In my opinion, this organic relationship is not linked to
an immigration of a small group at the end of the 6th century, but shows the traditional cultural and geographical identity of the Romanised population of Pannonia that had lived here from the 5th century. The
steadily growing number of finds justifies this suggestion 68.
Today we know that in the Avarian-Age Carpathian Basin, Romanised elements were concentrated not only
in the territory of the Keszthely Culture, but can be found throughout Eastern Pannonia (Cskberny,
Vrpalota, Balatonfzf, Tc/Gorsium, Szekszrd) 69. The leaders of these Romanised groups were the
people who owned gold earrings with basket-shaped pendants and they were the ones who wore the
headdress richly decorated with gold tubes 70. If we also take into account the possibility that certain groups
might have moved in from the western part of the Mediterranean in the course of the 6th century, then
these could really have enriched the remnants of the Late Antique native population by maintaining the
western connections. Traditional spiritual and religious connections of the Pannonian population with the
Western Mediterranean were expressed also in the material culture.




The majority of animal-shaped brooches are products of the

Roman Period, and were fashionable also later: Riemer 2000,
Erdlyi / Nmeth 1969, pl. 15,2.
Zamrdi: LOro 2000, 81 cat. 74; 111 cat. 86.
Byzanz, Cat. Mnchen 2004, 275 no. 419.
Castel Trosino, Cat. 1995, 316-317 fig. 258.
Straub 1999, 201-202.
Bierbrauer 1987, 159 fig. 27. Brozzi 1989, 83 pl. 12.
Ptuj: Vinski 1968, pl. 8, 39-40. Sesto al Rhegina: Brozzi 1989,
83 pl. 12, 4. Keszthely-Fenkpuszta, cemetery at the southern
fortress wall: Mller 1999, 172 fig. 3, 11:1.
Bierbrauer 1987, 147-149 fig. 211. Riemer 2000, 45-64.




Keszthely: Mller 1999, 176 Abb. 7, 84:1. Bierbrauer 1987,

150-152 fig. 22.
Bierbrauer 1987, 161-162. Barkczi 1994, 24-92.
The possibility of the existence of a Romanised population is
also suggested in Garams study of the find material of Byzantine character of the Avarian Age, but the origin of this population is not examined, nor is the possibility of its native origin
referred to (Garam 2001, 178-99).
Bierbrauer 2004, 56-67. Vida 2008, 31-38.
E.g. in Keszthely-Fenkpuszta, grave 8, 472 pieces; in grave 9,
287 pieces; in grave 14, 985 pieces; in grave 17 ten pieces of
small gold tubes that presumably adorned a hair-net (Barkczi

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe



Another group of objects that can be connected to Late Antique culture shows Eastern Mediterranean relations in 6th- and 7th-century Pannonia. These are mostly objects whose geographical distribution concentrates on the territory of the Byzantine Empire. Outside it they are not, or only rarely found. Researchers
allow for strong Byzantine influence on the periphery of the Byzantine Empire, including the Avarian
Empire. However, it proved only partly possible to show convincingly which objects may be considered
original Byzantine ones or indeed local imitations, and what is the cultural, social, ethnic and historical significance of these objects in terms of the material culture of the Avarian Age. Studies dealing with the find
material of Byzantine character from the Avarian Age show a marked change of attitude in the last decades.
Since then the clarification of some methodological questions has become possible 71. We have to distinguish local phenomena from broader, regional ones. The most important question is that of distinguishing
the original Byzantine objects, the local imitations and pieces representing further development 72.
Byzantine influence observed in the material culture of the Avarian-Age population is the result of
contemporary fashions. For the Avarian elite, Byzantine objects played a representative role. Both Avarian
and Byzantine craftsmen produced for the barbarians huge numbers of multi-piece belt sets, earrings with
spherical decorations and bracelets. In the case of several representative objects I would suggest that they
were not made in the territory of the Avarian Empire by Avarian goldsmiths, but reached the elite as diplomatic gifts or simply as booty (pseudo-buckles, the Kunbbony buckle). The belt with pseudo-buckle from
Sirmium shows that Byzantine smiths made objects of similar style for the Avarian and East European barbarian elite (Mala Pereepina, Glodosy, Kelegeja) 73. At the same time, find material uncovered in Avarian
territory, as well as the material from goldsmiths burials of the Avarian Age, shows that local workshops
producing Byzantine-style objects were established from an early date 74.
We have to distinguish from these objects of representative value and their local imitations, a smaller group
of Byzantine finds of the Early Avarian Age comprising original Byzantine objects whose technique and
shape, simplicity and commonplace function (pins, brooches, buckles) would not favour imitation. This
group includes pins with a bird-shaped head, which I shall discuss below, the Yassi Ada-type buckles and
the Byzantine brooches with inverted foot. Within the Empire, these mainly bronze and iron, rarely silver
objects belonged to the provincial Byzantine culture, to the sphere of the common people. Given their
material, technique and small number, they cannot represent a traded commodity; they would have turned
up outside the Empire only together with their wearers. I believe that such simple objects or symbols might
well belong to the first generation of common people or prisoners deported from the Balkans. They did not
hold any prestige value, so in the new Pannonian environment nobody imitated them, which is why the
second generation did not wear them.

Pins with bird-shaped head

In the territory of 6th- and 7th-century Pannonia, several dress pins adorned with a figure of a bird have been
found. These are connected with Eastern Mediterranean traditions. Pins with bird decoration found in grave

Blint 1993; 1995. Garam 2001.

Riemer 2002, 383-386.
Byzantine artisans served the tastes of the barbarian elite to a
high degree, so that, for example, the Sirmium belt, each element of which is characterised by Byzantine technology, shape


T. Vida Local or Foreign Romans?


and decoration, was published as an Avarian belt by I. Popovi

In the case of other high-status objects it has been suggested
that they were actually made in the Avarian Empire, but faithfully copying Byzantine prototypes (Garam 2001, 178-199).

Fig. 4

Distribution map of pins with a bird-shaped head (see find list 1).

79 of the Szekszrd-Bogyiszli t cemetery, in graves 34 and 98 at the southern wall of the KeszthelyFenkpuszta fortress, and in the cemeteries excavated at Lesencetomaj, were encountered on the middle
of the breast, where they were worn. According to Late Antique costume traditions, they served to fasten
the veil or shawl (see find list 1).
Basically, pins with birds can be traced to prototypes of the Roman Period. Some finds (Sisak/Siscia,
Lepenski Vir, Magdalensberg) show that pins topped with bird figures could be found in a Late Roman environment as early as the 4th and 5th centuries 75, but, judging from the finds, this custom did not become
common in the Western Mediterranean territories. This does not mean that they are not found at all at
Early Christian sites, as is evidenced by the finds from Kilpatrick (Ireland) and Whitby (England) 76. A pin with

Hellenistic pins: Kallitha (Bulletin de Correspondance Hellnique 113/2, 1989, 668 fig. 169. I thank A. Bollk for introducing me to the object.). Roman pins: Collection of H. Stathatos, No. 201 (Orlandos 1963, 283, pl. 41, 201); Collection of
F. L. von Gans (Greifenhagen 1975, 93-94 pl. 67, 6.). Although the pins were dated to the fourth century by A. K.


Orlandos and A. Greifenhagen, they still may be connected with

the Late Antique Eastern Mediterranean tradition (Orlandos
1963, 290; Greifenhagen 1975, 93-94; Vlling 1996, 148 Anm.
Swan 1995, 77.

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe


Fig. 5 Pins with a bird-shaped head (4th-7th centuries): 1-2 Szekszrd-Bogyiszli t, grave 79 (Rosner 1999). 3 Keszthely-Fenkpuszta, cemetery at the southern wall, grave 93 (Mller 1999) . 4 Krivina/Iatrus (Gomolka-Fuchs 1982) . 5 Sisak/Siscia (Simoni
1989). 6 Corinth (Davidson 1952). 7-8 Stathatos Collection nos. 242a-b (Orlandos 1963). 9 Keszthely-Fenkpuszta, cemetery at
the southern wall, grave 34 (Mller 1999). 10 Cariin Grad/Iustiniana Prima (Kondi / Popovi 1977). 11 Kilpatrick, Co. Westmeath
(Swan 1995). 12 Whitby, North Yorkshire (Swan 1995). 13 Syria (Byzanz-Mnchen 2004). 14 Stathatos Collection no. 201
(Orlandos 1963). 15 Keszthely-Fenk (Hampel 1905). 16. Sisak/Siscia (Simoni 1989). 17 Magdalensberg (Deimel 1987).
18 Phrygia (Haspels 1951). 19 Corinth (Davidson 1952). 20 Achmm-Panopolis (Forrer 1893).

a dove, exhibited in the Ariadne Galleries, is said to be of Hispanian origin and to date from the Visigothic
Age(?) (6th century) 77. It is surprising that in the 5th-6th centuries pins with bird decoration do not feature
in the western parts of the Mediterranean, Italy 78, the region of the eastern Alps or the Iberian Peninsula.
They instead come from the eastern territories of the Byzantine Empire, the Balkans, Asia Minor, the Near
East and Egypt, but they have also been found in the territory of Azerbaijan and Armenia (figs. 4-6).
The bird figures on the pins in question usually represent doves, rarely cocks. Peacocks only occasionally
appear. The shape of the beaks clearly shows that these are not birds of prey. Morphologically, pins decorated with birds can be traced back to Roman prototypes, and, as with the bird-shaped brooches of the
Roman Period, we have to reckon with a change of meaning, as the dove, a pagan symbol, became a
Christian one.

The head of this delicate silver pin takes the form of a dove, beautifully realised, with folded wings (Treasures 1991, 90 no. 146).


T. Vida Local or Foreign Romans?


Ibler 1991. Riemer 2000.

Fig. 6 Pins with a bird-shaped head (4th-7th centuries): 1-2 Jerusalem (Thusingham 1985). 3-5, 7, 11, 14 Hama (Ploug et al. 1969).
6 Armenia (Krym 2003). 8 Al-Fayyum (Mumienportraits 1998). 9 Boazky/Hattua (Boehmer 1972). 10 Gyenesdis, Dis
(Hampel 1905). 12 Lepenski Vir (Srejovi 1989). 13 Greece (Jacobsthal 1956). 15 Azerbaijan (Krym 2003).

The Mediterranean spread of pins and finger distaffs decorated with a bird figure and sometimes with a
cross, was analysed by Thomas Vlling in connection with a find from Olympia (Greece). On certain pieces
the bird is represented together with a cross (e.g. Prahovo/Aquis), which makes it possible to interpret the
bird as an Early Christian symbol 79. The finger distaff had a symbolical meaning already in the Roman Period.
It used to be the symbol of female virtue, of the lady of the house. It was frequently placed in burials and
depicted on gravestones. In the Early Byzantine period distaffs continued to occur, but its earlier pagan
(Venus) or purely ornamental elements were replaced by Christian symbols. A great number of similar finds
are known from the territory of the Eastern Mediterranean, and are usually associated with Christianity 80.
However, some new studies with a down-to-earth approach have thrown doubt on the Early Christian associations of the distaffs with bird-shaped terminals 81. Any doubts about the connection of the birds on the
finger distaffs with Christian symbolism were clearly dispelled by three recently published pieces from the
Chr. Schmidt Collection. An Eastern Mediterranean piece with a Greek cross on the end demonstrates that


Vlling 1996, 145-154.

According to O. Bozus observations, this object has Christian
symbolism and the type was very widespread in the Balkans
(Bozu 1993, 206-214; Vlling 1996, 145-154; Kazanski 2003,
33; 99 pl. 25; 104, pl. 30 no. 293).


According to G. Knig, finger distaffs with bird-shaped ends

had neither pagan nor Christian significance, but symbolised
the female sphere in the house: Knig 1987, 129-137; Rau
2006, 83.

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe


Fig. 7 Pins with a bird-shaped head, bird-shaped brooches and brooches with inverted foot in positions as worn: 1 Keszthely-Fenkpuszta, cemetery at the southern wall, grave 34 (Mller 1999). 2 Szekszrd-Bogyiszli t, grave 79 (Rosner 1999). 3 KeszthelyFenkpuszta-Pusztaszentegyhzi dl, grave 16 (Straub 2002). 4 Keszthely-Fenkpuszta, cemetery at the southern wall, grave 28
(Mller 1999).

distaffs as tools with a profane function may be decorated with a sacral, that is to say, Christian symbol 82.
On the end of another Eastern Mediterranean distaff, there is a peacock with a cross on its head instead
of its crest 83. In the third case, we see a dove on the top of a cross set on a rectangular ciborium 84. On an
ivory pin from Al-Fayyum, Egypt, dated to the 5th or 6th century, we see the opposite situation: the dove is
placed on an aedicula containing a sphere, a cross decorating its head 85. The association of the dove with
Christ is obvious on a pin of Syrian origin from the Chr. Schmidt Collection. Here also a cross is placed on


Byzanz, Cat. Paderborn

Mnchen 2004, 274 no.
Byzanz, Cat. Paderborn
Mnchen 2004, 274 no.


2001, 348 no. 98.1. Byzanz, Cat.

2001, 348 no. 98.2. Byzanz, Cat.

T. Vida Local or Foreign Romans?



Byzanz, Cat. Paderborn 2001, 348 no. 98.3. Byzanz, Cat.

Mnchen 2004, 274 no. 414.
Mumienportraits 1998, 239 no. 190.

the head of the dove 86. On the basis of the quoted examples, we cannot doubt that the depiction of a
dove or a peacock, also without a cross, in itself could convey a Christian meaning.
The dove with a cross is the symbol of the crucifixion, or of Christ defeating death 87. The peacock is the
bird of Paradise that may, among other meanings, symbolise the afterlife won through the Salvation 88. The
relationship between the cross and the dove is supported by the depiction on a Samian-ware lamp from
Chiavichetta (Emilia Romagna), of a dove sitting on a decorative element in the shape of the letter I
(Iesus), thus expressing the relationship between the dove and Jesus 89.
The growing number of pins with birds in the territory of Pannonia of the Early Avarian Age provides
evidence of the presence of an Eastern Mediterranean population preserving Early Byzantine traditions.
Here we face a special situation: the wearing position of the pins with birds on the breast, under the throat,
can be recorded only in the case of the Pannonian specimens (Keszthely, Lesencetomaj, Szekszrd), because
the pins coming from the Mediterranean were found at settlement sites, or their recovery circumstances
are unknown (fig. 7) 90. The bird figure is a Christian symbol, and thus the pin with a bird, while an item
of costume, at the same time served for the representation of peoples beliefs. Thus the Late Antique
costume tradition originates from the same place, the Mediterranean, as the Christian religion of its wearer.
The pins with a bird-shaped head in Pannonia, small in number, demonstrate the presence of a Romanised
population only in a symbolic way and not numerically. The Romanised people, of course, must have been
much more numerous than we can conclude from the actual finds.

Yassi Ada-type buckles

In the Late Antique period, the belt had an important symbolic meaning in the apparel of both men and
women. Only people of deprived status would appear without a belt buckle. Belt material, size and decoration of the metallic parts of the belt reflected the financial and indeed social status of the owner (fig. 8) 91.
In the Carpathian Basin of the Avarian Age, the majority of the find material thought to show Byzantine
influence is composed of buckles. Original Byzantine buckles made of precious metals or bronze could
reach the Avars through plunder, diplomatic gifts, taxes and trade, and the same was the situation with
other people living on the periphery of the Byzantine Empire. In a number of cases we seem to be dealing
with local production of buckles after original models 92. As a result, certain decorated types became standardised international fashions, so their dispersion reveals nothing about the origin of the individuals
wearing these buckles. The spread of the pieces of the 7th century made of precious metals or bronze was
influenced primarily by the fashions of the time and by trading connections. Pieces made of precious metals
were worn by a fairly small group of a higher social position, while the common people wore the simpler
bronze buckles.
A number of Byzantine buckle types, reflecting the impact of Byzantine culture beyond the Empires borders
and becoming international fashion items, can be found both in the Mediterranean and in European territories bordering the Empire 93. By contrast, the distribution of other types is limited exclusively to the terri86


Byzanz, Cat. Mnchen 2004, 349 no. 770.

In the Western and Eastern Mediterranean world, the dove is
frequently found together with a depiction of the cross (Byzanz,
Cat. Paderborn 2001, 82 no. I.4; 85 no. I.6.); on a bronze lamp,
and on the top of the cross we see a dove (Byzanz, Cat. Paderborn 2001, 211 no. II.6)
Peacocks and doves were frequently depicted together also on
the lunula-shaped earrings (Byzanz, Cat. Paderborn 2001, 318).



Deichmann 1989, fig. 67.

In the cemetery of Mnchen-Aubing, grave 64a, the pin with a
bird was found above the skull, so it could be a hairpin worn
according to the Merovingian German custom: Dannheimer
1998, 90 pl. 6,G1; pl. 126, 64a.
Schulze-Drrlamm 2002, 2-3.
Garam 2001, 88-113.
Schulze-Drrlamm 2002, 176 fig. 62 (types D9 and D12).

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe


Fig. 8

Distribution of the Yassi Ada-type buckles (see find list 2).

tory of the Byzantine Empire; that is to say, they did not become international products and therefore none
of them reached northerly regions like the Carpathian Basin 94. In this light, it is strange that certain Byzantine buckles, besides occurring in the Mediterranean, show a distinct concentration in the Carpathian Basin.
We find several further specimens only along the Lower Danube. In this case it is obvious that we are observing the activity of one or more local workshops emulating the Byzantine example 95.
In the case of some Byzantine buckles of the Early Avarian Age, we see evidence of close Mediterranean
contacts. In the late 6th and early 7th century, these types reached the Carpathian Basin only in small
numbers. Some pieces among them could be part of war booty, but several can be plausibly connected
with the Balkanian settlers 96. This is supported by the definitely poor technological quality of the Sucidava94


Schulze-Drrlamm 2002, 198 fig. 71 (type D22); 191 fig. 67

(type D20).
Garam 2003, 108-113. Type Taschenschnalle D36: SchulzeDrrlamm 2002, 226 fig. 82.


T. Vida Local or Foreign Romans?


Sucidava type: Garam, 2001, 95-97, 312 pl. 61. Budakalsz

grave 1550, a kidney-shaped buckle was found together with a
rectangular open-work plate: Schulze-Drrlamm type B16:
Schulze-Drrlamm 2002, 69 fig. 25; 72-75.

type buckles of the Early Avarian Age, which relate to a workshop operating in a provincial Byzantine environment 97.
In the Carpathian Basin we find some unique types whose presence can be explained neither by local
production, nor by trade connections. They would not be part of war booty. So we must conclude that they
came here as a result of individual mobility. A very simple and well-dated buckle of a rectangular shape
found in the Yassi Ada assemblage is a definitely Eastern Mediterranean phenomenon 98. This is such an
uncharacteristic, simple type of object that it even was omitted from the fundamental monograph on the
decorated Byzantine buckles that made it into international fashion, written by Mechthild Schulze-Drrlamm 99. For us, it is precisely the modest shape, undecorated surface and well-defined geographical dispersion of this buckle that give it its significance. The buckles of Yassi Ada type used to be everyday, simple,
functional elements of provincial Byzantine culture. They were not objects of trade or prestige, and thus
would travel outside the Empire only together with their owners, as part of their costume. In the Carpathian
Basin, the Yassi Ada-type buckles have been found exclusively in the territory of Pannonia: five pieces from
three cemeteries of the Early Avarian Age (find list 2). Mediterranean parallels of this buckle type point in a
southeasterly direction. They have been found in layers dated to the 6th century in several Early Byzantine
Balkanian towns, and they are known from a number of sites in Asia Minor, the Near East and Egypt.
The distribution area of this buckle type is limited, basically, to the territory of the Byzantine Empire. Apart
from the Carpathian Basin, it has turned up north of the Mediterranean only in some individual cases
(Rome?) 100. Because of its simple shape, it is unlikely to have been an object of trade, so it was not through
long-distance trade that it reached such territories (where it might be imitated locally), where other Byzantine objects (and their imitations) can be found in large numbers. Considering all these points, it would be
a well-founded assumption that wearers of buckles of the Yassi Ada type belonged to the lower social
groups and originated from the territory of the Byzantine Empire 101.

Byzantine brooches with inverted foot

In Pannonian cemeteries of the Early Avarian Age, several Early Byzantine brooches with inverted foot were
found. Among them, pieces made both of silver-and-bronze and of solid silver were discovered 102. Similar
brooches can be found in great numbers in the 5th-6th centuries in the fortified towns of the Lower Danube,
in the Balkans and in the Pontic region (fig. 9) 103. In grave 28 of the cemetery of Keszthely-Fenkpuszta,
at the southern fortress wall, a brooch was uncovered at the neck of a buried woman, in a position suggestive of the Late Antique female costume, similar to that of the Balkanian provincial-Byzantine territories 104. The surface of this brooch with inverted foot was decorated with a cross consisting of semicircular
punched motifs. This may refer to the Christian religion of the buried person. In this case, we have a new




Garam 2001, 97.

Womer / Katzev 1982, 277. The Byzantine shipwreck found in
the region of Yassi Ada was dated by bronze coins, the closing
date of which was 625/626 (Fagerilie 1982, 145-154). A find
list of the buckle type was published by Kiss 1996, 207, 311 Liste
Schulze-Drrlamm 2002.
According to Igor Gavritukhin (pers. comm., Moscow, 2007)
this buckle type is not found in Eastern Europe among the
usual Byzantine imported goods, and only a single find is
known from Belorussia.
It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that in certain




cases this may even relate to the mobility of individuals. In

grave 304 of the Budakalsz cemetery, a Yassi Ada-type buckle
was found together with a Late Antique (Byzantine?) orangeyellow ceramic bottle unique in the Carpathian Basin, and a
Late Antique earring with bead pendant.
Garam 2003, 101-103 fig. 5. The brooch from Bogojevo is of
the Roman Period, it is not Late Antique.
Brooches are dated to the second half of the 6th century by the
coins of Iustinus I, Iustinianus I and II. Uenze 1992, 146-154;
Teodor 1997, 69-91; Gavrituchin 2002, 229-250; 2003, 197206.
Mller 1999, 173 fig. 4,28:1.

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe


Fig. 9

Distribution of Byzantine-type brooches with inverted foot (after Uenze 1992; Teodor 1997; Gavrituchin 2002; 2003).

type of object associated with Mediterranean Late Antique costume and the presence of Christianity, which
also originated from the Mediterranean. In the case of the Byzantine brooches with inverted foot, we may
infer mobility of an Eastern Mediterranean person only in cases when in the same burial several archaeological phenomena relate to the Mediterranean region (fig. 10).
However, the Byzantine brooches with inverted foot, especially some silver specimens, also reached groups
of the Early Avarian Age who lacked any Late Antique cultural traditions. They did not wear them in accordance with the Mediterranean custom. In several cases Byzantine brooches with inverted foot were found
at the bodys hand, or in the region of the femur and the pelvis (Budakalsz 105, Budapest 106, Klked A 107,



Budakalsz-Dunapart, graves 420, 1566: Unpublished excavation by A. Psztor A. and T. Vida 1988-1992.
Budapest-Pusztadombi utca 12, grave 9: Nagy 1999, vol. 1: 2829 fig. 11; vol. 2: 147 pl. 139,1.


T. Vida Local or Foreign Romans?


Brooches were found on the right-hand side of the pelvis: Klked-Feketekapu A, graves 491 and 492: Kiss 1996, 132, 503
pl. 89/A 491,7; pl. 89/A 492,3.

Fig. 10 Byzantine-type brooches with inverted foot in Pannonia (6th-7th centuries): 1 Klked-Feketekapu B, grave 85 (Kiss 2001).
2 Keszthely-Fenkpuszta, cemetery at the southern wall, grave 28 (Mller 1999). 3 Klked-Feketekapu A, grave 492 (Kiss 2001).
4 Klked-Feketekapu A, grave 491 (Kiss 1996). 5-6 Budakalsz-Dunapart, grave 1566 and grave 420 (unpublished; excavation by
A. Psztor / T. Vida 1988-1992). 7 Klked-Feketekapu B, grave 438 (Kiss 2001). 8 Budapest-Pusztadombi utca 12, grave 9 (Nagy

Klked B 108). Judging from the position of the brooches observed in womens graves, we may suggest several
functions. At the pelvis, such brooches could be attached to the belt or fasten the dress. They could serve for
the suspension of purses and knife-sheaths, or for the decoration of Germanic-type ornamental pendants. As
amulets they could belong to the contents of a womans purse 109. In grave 85 of the Klked B cemetery, a
silver brooch was attached to the belt-pendant. All these observations show that Germanic women in
Pannonia did not use these brooches of Byzantine type in the Mediterranean fashion, for fastening garments
on the breast. In accordance with their own customs, they fixed the brooches to their belt-pendants.

The Pannonian Late Antique find material shows an intriguing duality, comprising both Western and
Eastern Mediterranean influences. In my opinion, the presence of Western Mediterranean features indi108

Klked-Feketekapu B, graves 85 and 438: Kiss 2001, vol. 1: 35,

140-141; vol. 2: 44 pl. 30, 45; 95 pl. 81/B438,1.


Garam 2003, 102-103.

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe


rectly proves the survival of a native Late Antique Romanised population, which in the 6th and 7th centuries
preserved and maintained its traditional contacts with the Christian population of the southeastern Alps,
northern Italy and Dalmatia. This community played a mediating role between the Western Mediterranean
and the barbarian people of the Carpathian Basin, both materially (in terms of jewellery, shapes of objects,
crafts and technology, etc.) and with regard to spiritual values (Antique traditions, Christianity) 110.
This was supplemented by another process: at the beginning of the Early Avarian Age, new ethnic groups
arriving from the Balkanian provinces of the Byzantine Empire settled in the territory of the native Christian,
Romanised population and the Germans. They brought along Eastern Mediterranean traditions. From the
historical point of view, it is suggested that early Byzantine communities had settled and formed a missionary base at Keszthely-Fenkpuszta as early as the middle of the 6th century, in the Langobardian period.
However, for the time being we lack the archaeological evidence.
Both the sparse literary evidence and the archaeological material reflect this double influence. The first
Fenkpuszta basilica with a square-ended apse had been built according to Western Mediterranean traditions, and it was probably still in use during the construction works of the second basilica. The second,
three-apse church, situated near the Keszthely-Fenkpuszta Horreum, may have been built around the
second half of the 6th century, and despite the proximity of Italy, architecturally followed Constantinople
patterns. Parallels can be found in the Balkanian provinces 111. The material and spiritual heritage of this
community includes bird brooches, disc brooches, and earrings with basket-shaped pendants belonging to
the Western Mediterranean traditions, as well as pins with a bird-shaped head, some special buckle types
and brooches with inverted foot characteristic of the Eastern Mediterranean. This duality can be sporadically
observed in the find material of other Pannonian cemeteries of the Early Avarian Age 112. While disc brooches can be morphologically connected to the Western Mediterranean world, we can at the same time see
on the piece from Nagyharsny a Greek inscription of Christian content. On other objects coming from the
vicinity of Keszthely, Latin inscriptions were found. This reflects the presence of both Latin and Greek traditions 113.
Material, religious and linguistic traditions together show that the remaining provincial Pannonian population of Roman origin at the beginning of the Avarian Age was enriched by an influx of Eastern Mediterranean people of Balkanian-Byzantine origin 114. The wealthy elite of the native community was buried in the
cemetery of Keszthely-Fenkpuszta, Horreum. It is notable that the costume parts of this elite primarily
point to Western Mediterranean connections (disc brooches, earrings with basket-shaped pendant, the
BONOSA pin), which shows the traditional orientation of this social group and demonstrates its native
or western origin. The prisoner-of-war status of the population immigrating from the Balkans placed
them among the lowest levels of society; at any rate they must have been poor, and they were carriers of
the culture of the provincial Byzantine common people. This population is evidenced in the cemeteries of
Keszthely-Fenkpuszta near the southern fortress wall, and other eastern Pannonian cemeteries of the Early
Avarian Age (Szekszrd, Klked, Budakalsz). It can be shown that three-quarters of the original Byzantine


It is a subject of debate for how long West Pannonia, the

region of Balaton, preserved its status inherited from the Roman Period, and for how long Italian control was maintained,
if only in an indirect way. Lszl Barkczi suggested a line along
Sirmium-Pcs-Keszthely-Fenkpuszta-Sopron outlining the part
that was mainly under Italian cultural influence (Barkczi 1971,
Scythia Minor, Moesia, Thrace, Epirus Nova, Dacia Mediterranea. According to Florin Curta, the aisled Keszthely-Fenkpuszta church could have been an episcopal basilica representing a well-organised Christian community with distant relations (Menas flask), which had been established in the vicinity


T. Vida Local or Foreign Romans?


of Keszthely from the mid-6th century onwards (Curta 2005,

184). In my opinion, the historical and archaeological sources
cannot unequivocally prove that the church at Keszthely Fenkpuszta was an episcopal basilica. The rich stone materials are
missing, which one would expect with an episcopal complex.
Vida 2008, 13-46.
See note 42.
Hungarian research puts the early phase of the Keszthely Culture between 568-630 and interprets on a historical basis.
According to this argumentation, the starting point of the
Keszthely Culture is the departure of the Langobardians to Italy
(AD 568): Bierbrauer 2004, 51-72.

objects used in the 6th-7th centuries were in use in the first decades of Avarian rule, and most of the types
were not subsequently imitated in local workshops 115. This find group can be connected to the resettled
Balkanian-Byzantine population. From the range of Byzantine objects we can pick out types that cannot be
interpreted as gifts, traded goods or war booty, but reflect the mobility of individuals or communities.

Find list 1: Pins with bird-shaped head from the Eastern Mediterranean,
dated between the 4th and 7th centuries AD
Krym 2003, 429 tab. 143, 22.
Magdalensberg: Deimel 1987, pl. 50; Vlling 1996,
148 note 19.
Krym 2003, 457 tab. 171, 41.

Gyenesdis (Dis): Hampel 1905/I, 383-384, fig. 1047.
Keszthely-Fenk: Hampel 1905/I, 383-384, fig. 1046.
Keszthely-Fenkpuszta, Cemetery at the south wall,
graves 34 and 93: Mller 1999, 174 fig. 5, 34/1; 177
fig. 98/3.
Lesencetomaj-Piroskereszt: Permi 2005, 31.
Szekszrd-Bogyiszli t, grave 79: Rosner 1999, 172
pl. 6, 79/1.

Augusta: Popilian 1976, 243 note 127.
Kjustendil: Ivanov 1919/20, 105 fig. 76; Popilian 1976,
243 note 123.
Krivina/Iatrus: Gomolka-Fuchs 1982/II, 154 pl. 64 no.
Sadovec: Uenze 1992, pl. 122, 10.

Kilpatrick, Co. Westmeath: Swan 1995, 76 fig. 2, e; 77
fig. 3, e.

Sisak/Siscia: Simoni 1989, 109, 128 pl. 2, 2-3.

Cariin Grad/Iustiniana Prima: Kondi / Popovi 1977,
201 pl. 16, 59.
Lepenski Vir: Srejovi 1989, 198, pl. 1, 7.

Achmm-Panopolis: Forrer 1893, pl. 9, 10; 10,2. Kind
information B. Tobis.
Al-Fayyum: Mumienportraits 1998, 239 no. 190.
Kind information Dvid Bartus.
Mnchen-Aubing, grave 64a: Dannheimer 1998, 90
pl. 6, G1; pl. 126/64a.
Great Britain
Whitby, North Yorkshire: Swan 1995, 78 fig. 4.
Corinth: Davidson 1952, pl. 89 no. 1500; pl. 116 no.
2290; pl. 119 no. 2354-2356.
Greece: Museum of Fine Arts Boston no. 20184;
Jacobsthal 1956, 62 no. 261.


Jerusalem: Thusingham 1985, 423 fig. 71, 32; 424 fig.
72, 3.

Tonovcov Grad: Bitenc / Knific 2001, 41, cat. nr. 114.
Visigothic (?): Treasures 1991, 90 no. 146.
Hama: Ploug et al. 1969, 73 fig. 28, 3-7, 19; fig. 29, 4.
Syria: Byzanz, Cat. Mnchen 2004, 349 no. 770.
Boazky/Hattua: Boehmer 1972, 95 pl. 24, 590; Neve 1991, 91-111. Kind information . Bollk.
Phrygia: Haspels 1951, pl. 4/b,4.
Collection Stathatos no. 242a-b: Orlandos 1963, 290 pl.
46, 242a-b.

Garam 2001, 178-181 tab. 1.

Foreigners in Early Medieval Europe


Find list 2: The Yassi Ada-type buckles

Svisthov/Novae: Dimitrov et al. 1970, 70 pl. 22, g.
Salamine: Chavane 1975, 161 no. 464, pl. 46.
Edfu: Bnazeth 1992, 211; AF 1435.
Delos: Deonna 1938, 296 no. B1163, pl. 88/758.
Samos: Jantzen 2004, pl. 20. 744a-b, 745.
Budakalsz-Dunapart, grave 504 (Unpublished excavation by A. Psztor / T. Vida 1989)
Klked-Feketekapu A graves 66 and 291: Kiss 1996,
34, 84, 477 pl. 63/A291.
Vrpalota-Gimnzium, grave 182: Erdlyi / Nmet 1969,
184-185, pl. 50/10.

Monte Nebo: Saller 1941, 312 fig. 2/4, pl. 137.
Rome: Kiss 1996, 311.
Cariingrad/Iustiniana Prima: Kondi / Popovi 1977,
192 Taf. 9,19,21.)
Jelica: Milinkovi 2001, 89, fig. 15, 3.
Kostolac/Viminacium (Lok. Svetinja): Popovi 1987, 25,
31 ref. 114; fig. 19/4.
Narodni Muzej, Leskovac, no. 958: Kiss 1996, 311.
Anemurium: Russel 1982, type 4, no. 7-8 fig. 6, 7-8.
Antioch: Russel 1982, 142 note 39.
Istanbul-Sarahane: Gill 1986, 264 no. 558 fig. 400.
Pergamon: Gaitzsch 2005, pl. 51, SN12.
Phrygia: Haspels 1951, 95, 151 pl. 4/d, 4.
Sardis: Waldbaum 1983, 121 no. 704 pl. 44.
Yassi Ada: Womer / Katzev 1982, 275-277 fig. 12-5;
12-6 MF 21.

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