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Irregulre Bestattungen in der Urgeschichte:

Norm, Ritual, Strafe ?

RMISCH-GERMANISCHE KOMMISSION, FRANKFURT A. M.


EURASIEN-ABTEILUNG, BERLIN
des Deutschen Archologischen Instituts

Kolloquien zur Vor- und Frhgeschichte


Band 19

Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH Bonn 2013

RMISCH-GERMANISCHE KOMMISSION DES


DEUTSCHEN ARCHOLOGISCHEN INSTITUTS

Irregulre Bestattungen in der Urgeschichte:


Norm, Ritual, Strafe ?
Akten der Internationalen Tagung in Frankfurt a. M.
vom 3. bis 5. Februar 2012

herausgegeben von
Nils Mller-Scheeel

Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH Bonn 2013

X und 518 Seiten, 239 Abbildungen und 34 Tabellen

Gedruckt mit Untersttzung der

, Dsseldorf

Bibliografische Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek


Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation
in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische
Daten sind im Internet ber <https: // portal.dnb.de> abrufbar

2013 by Rmisch-Germanische Kommission des Deutschen Archologischen Instituts


Frankfurt a. M.
Redaktion: N. Mller-Scheeel und N. Baumann
Satz: Mller-Scheeel, Frankfurt a. M.
Einband: S. Berg, unter Verwendung einer Grafik von J. Schroeter
Druck: ruksaldruck GmbH, Berlin
gedruckt auf alterungsbestndigem Papier
ISBN 978-3-7749-3862-2

Inhalt
Vorwort . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

IX

Nils Mller-Scheeel
Irregulre Bestattungen in der Urgeschichte: einfhrende Vorbemerkungen . . . . . . . . . . .

Theorie und Methode


Ulrich Veit
Sonderbestattungen: Vorberlegungen zu einem integrierten Ansatz ihrer Erforschung . . .

11

Edeltraud Aspck
ber die Variabilitt von Totenpraktiken. Oder: Probleme einer dichotomen Auffassung
von Toten- bzw. Bestattungsbrauchtum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

25

Ctlin Pavel
The Social Construction of Disability in Prehistoric Societies What Funerary
Archaeology Can and Cannot Say . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

39

Janina Duerr
Die verkehrte Jenseitswelt (mundus inversus): Eine Deutung zerbrochener, verbogener
oder vertauschter Grabbeigaben . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

49

Andy Reymann
Schamane oder nicht Schamane? Zur Problematik der Nutzung eines ethnologischen
Terminus bei der Analyse vorgeschichtlicher Bestattungen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

65

Jlius Jakab
Brche an menschlichen Knochen aus urgeschichtlichen Siedlungsgruben der
Sdwestslowakei . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

75

Antje Kohse
Sonderbestattungen in gypten von der prdynastischen Zeit bis zum Mittleren Reich
(ca. 45001750 v. Chr.) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

87

Das 5. Jahrtausend v. Chr. und frher


Reena Perschke
Kopf und Krper der Schdelkult im vorderasiatischen Neolithikum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

95

Christian Meyer, Christian Lohr, Hans-Christoph Strien, Detlef Gronenborn und Kurt W. Alt
Interpretationsanstze zu ,irregulren Bestattungen whrend der
linearbandkeramischen Kultur: Grber en masse und Massengrber . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

111

Joachim Pechtl and Daniela Hofmann


Irregular Burials in the LBK All or None? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

123

Lech Czerniak and Joanna Pyzel


Unusual Funerary Practices in the Brze Kujawski Culture in the Polish Lowland . . . . . . .

139

VI

Inhalt

Nomi Painov und Alena Bistkov


Die Bestattungssitten der Lengyel-Kultur im Lichte ausgewhlter Beispiele
aus der sdwestlichen Slowakei . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

151

Das 4. Jahrtausend v. Chr.


Claudia Sache
Sonderbestattungen in der Badener Kultur . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

169

Amelie Alterauge
Silobestattungen aus unbefestigten Siedlungen der Michelsberger Kultur in Sd- und
Sdwestdeutschland Versuch einer Annherung . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

185

Sara Schiesberg
berlegungen zu Normen und Abweichungen im Bestattungsbrauch der Trichterbecherzeit
unter besonderer Bercksichtigung des Grberfeldes von Ostorf-Tannenwerder . . . . . . . . .

197

Christoph Rinne und Katharina Fuchs


Bestattungen in Siedlungen. Norm und Sonderfall in der Bernburger Kultur . . . . . . . . . . . .

211

Das 2. Jahrtausend v. Chr.


Michal Erne
Uniformitt oder Kreativitt im Totenbrauchtum? Zum Bestattungsritus
der Aunjetitzer Kultur aus Sicht der Phosphatanalyse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

227

Michaela Langov und Albta Danielisov


Bestattungsritus der Aunjetitzer Kultur in Brands an der Elbe (Mittelbhmen):
,Siedlungsbestattungen ein ganz normaler Teil des Bestattungsritus? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

239

Anna Pankowsk, Miroslav Dahel and Jaroslav Peka


Formal Classification of Settlement Burials from Moravia (Czech Republic)
Dating to the Early Bronze Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

251

Pavol Jelnek and Jlius Vavk


Human Remains in Settlement Pits of the Maarovce Culture in Slovakia
(Early Bronze Age) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

265

Vera Hubensack und Carola Metzner-Nebelsick


Mitteldeutsche frhbronzezeitliche Sonderbestattungen in Siedlungsgruben . . . . . . . . . . . .

279

Immo Heske und Silke Grefen-Peters


Rckkehr in die Bestattungsgemeinschaft ,Zerrupfte Bestattungen der Bronze- und
frhen Eisenzeit am Nordharz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

289

Das 1. Jahrtausend v. Chr.


gnes Kirly, Katalin Sebk, Zsuzsanna K. Zoffmann and Gabriella Kovcs
Early Iron Age Mass Graves in the Middle Tisza Region:
Investigation and Interpretation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

307

Inhalt

VII

Monika Griebl und Irmtraud Hellerschmid


Menschenknochen und Menschenniederlegungen in Siedlungsgruben der befestigten
Hhensiedlung von Stillfried an der March, Niedersterreich: Gngige Praxis der
Totenbehandlung in der jngeren Urnenfelderkultur? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

327

Stefan Flindt, Susanne Hummel, Verena Seidenberg, Reinhold Schoon, Gisela Wolf,
Henning Hamann und Thomas Saile
Die Lichtensteinhhle. Ein ,irregulrer Ort mit menschlichen Skelettresten aus der
Urnenfelderzeit Vorbericht ber die Ausgrabungen der Jahre 19932011 . . . . . . . . . . . . .

347

Melanie Augstein
Regulre und irregulre Bestattungen der Hallstattzeit Nordostbayerns . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

365

Lydia Hendel und Elisabeth Noack


Regel- oder Sonderfall? Die eisenzeitlichen Menschenknochen am Hohlen Stein
bei Schwabthal, Lkr. Lichtenfels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

377

Peter Trebsche
Die Regelhaftigkeit der irregulren Bestattungen im sterreichischen Donauraum
whrend der Latnezeit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

387

Nils Mller-Scheeel, Carola Berszin, Gisela Grupe, Annette Schwentke, Anja Staskiewicz
und Joachim Wahl
ltereisenzeitliche Siedlungsbestattungen in Baden-Wrttemberg und Bayern . . . . . . . . . .

409

Christian Meyer, Leif Hansen, Frauke Jacobi, Corina Knipper, Marc Fecher, Christina Roth
und Kurt W. Alt
Irregulre Bestattungen in der Eisenzeit? Bioarchologische Anstze zur Deutung
am Beispiel der menschlichen Skelettfunde vom Glauberg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

425

Felix Fleischer, Michal Landolt und Muriel Roth-Zehner


Die eisenzeitlichen Siedlungsbestattungen des Elsass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

439

Sandra Pichler, Hannele Rissanen, Norbert Spichtig, Kurt W. Alt, Brigitte Rder, Jrg Schibler
und Guido Lassau
Die Regelmigkeit des Irregulren: Menschliche Skelettreste vom sptlatnezeitlichen
Fundplatz Basel-Gasfabrik . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

471

Stefan Burmeister
Moorleichen Sonderbestattung, Strafjustiz, Opfer? Annherungen an eine
kulturgeschichtliche Deutung . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

485

Schlussbetrachtungen
Alexander Gramsch
Wer will schon normal sein? Kommentare zur Interpretation irregulrer Bestattungen . . .

509

Vorwort
Der vorliegende Band ist aus einer Tagung entstanden, die unter dem Titel Irregulre Bestattungen
in der Urgeschichte: Norm, Ritual, Strafe ? vom
3. bis 5. Februar 2012 in Frankfurt a. Main von
der Rmisch-Germanischen Kommission und dem
Institut fr Vor- und Frhgeschichte der GoetheUniversitt Frankfurt a. M. organisiert wurde1. Die
Gerda Henkel-Stiftung hat zu dieser Tagung einen
substantiellen Beitrag gestiftet, ohne den sie in der
Form, wie sie durchgefhrt wurde, nicht htte realisiert werden knnen. Auch zur Herstellung dieses
Bandes hat sie unbrokratisch einen erheblichen
Beitrag geleistet. Fr dieses doppelte finanzielle Engagement danke ich ihr an dieser Stelle ganz
herzlich.
Gegenber dem ursprnglichen Tagungsprogramm2 sind eine Reihe von nderungen zu verzeichnen. Einige Vortragenden sahen sich zeitlich
nicht in der Lage, ihre Ergebnisse zu Papier zu
bringen, bzw. teilweise sind sie in hnlicher Form
inzwischen anderswo verffentlicht3. Dafr wurden
die Autoren einiger whrend der Tagung prsentierten Poster gebeten, diese fr den Tagungsband
auszuarbeiten, da sie m. E. neuartige Aspekte in die
Diskussion einbringen. Der Vortragsvorschlag von
Melanie Augstein konnte ursprnglich aus Zeitgrnden nicht mehr bercksichtigt werden, hat nun aber

in gedruckter Form Eingang in den Band gefunden.


Ebenfalls neu hinzugekommen ist das Resmee von
Alexander Gramsch.
Ich danke Susanne Sievers und Svend Hansen,
die sich spontan bereit erklrt haben, den vorliegenden Band in die Reihe Kolloquien zur Vorund Frhgeschichte aufzunehmen. Susanne Sievers hat die Entstehung des Bandes darber hinaus
mit Rat und Tat begleitet, wofr ich ihr herzlich
danke.
Zum erfolgreichen Zustandekommen dieses Bandes haben ferner in erheblichem Umfang beigetragen Nadine Baumann, der ich fr ihre sorgfltige
Textkorrektur danken mchte, sowie Christoph v.
Rummel, dem ich fr die Korrektur der englischen
Texte und Summaries Dank schulde. Kirstine Ruppel hat dankenswerterweise einen Teil der Grafiken
berarbeitet und Silke Berg den Umschlagentwurf
erstellt. Martin Sorg von ruksaldruck, Berlin, sorgte
fr einen reibungslosen Ablauf bei der Drucklegung
des Buches.
Schlielich ist es mir eine besondere Freude, den
zahlreichen Autorinnen und Autoren fr die angenehme Zusammenarbeit bei der Erstellung dieses
Bandes zu danken.
Frankfurt a. M., Juli 2013

Der Herausgeber

Siehe den Tagungsbericht von Reena Perschke:


<http: // hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de / tagungsberichte / id=4216> (15.06.2013).
2
Siehe dazu <http: // hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.
de / termine / id=16614> und <http: // hsozkult.geschichte.
hu-berlin.de / termine / id=18078> (15.06.2013).
3
So der Vortrag von S. Sievers Menschliche Skelettreste aus dem Oppidum von Manching im Wechselspiel der Interpretationen, der in den Schriften des Kelten Rmer Museums Manching erscheinen wird.
1

gnes Kirly, Katalin Sebk, Zsuzsanna K. Zoffmann and Gabriella Kovcs

Early Iron Age Mass Graves in the Middle Tisza Region:


Investigation and Interpretation*
Zusammenfassung: Zwischen 2009 und 2011 wurden in Pusztataskony-Ledence 1 (Ostungarn) drei sptbronze- / frheisenzeitliche Siedlungsgruben ausgegraben, die groe Mengen menschlicher Knochen in
verschiedenen Stadien der Dekomposition erbrachten. Die Komplexe enthielten sowohl einzelne Knochen,
Schdel wie auch Teil- und komplette Skelette in annhernd anatomischem Verband. Zugehrige Funde
u. a. eine der Kalakaakultur zuzuordnende Keramikscherbe waren selten und fragmentiert. Im ersten
Teil des Beitrags geben die Autoren einen berblick ber die stratigraphischen Beobachtungen und die
Struktur der Befunde. Im zweiten werden die Methoden, Probleme und Mglichkeiten der Interpretation
ausgelotet. Die Ergebnisse der anthropologischen Untersuchung und der mikromorphologischen Analysen,
gestellt in den Kontext gleichzeitiger Massenfunde menschlicher Skelettreste aus Sdosteuropa, erffnet
die Mglichkeit, die Entstehung einer mehrstufigen Bestattungspraxis zu diskutieren.
Summary: Between 2009 and 2011, three Late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age settlement pits, containing large
amounts of human remains in different states of decomposition, were unearthed at the site PusztataskonyLedence 1 (Eastern Hungary). The deposits contained both single bones and clear crania, complete skeletons and body parts in approximate anatomical order. Associated finds with a potsherd of the Kalakaa
culture amongst them were sporadic and fragmented. In the first part of the paper the authors summarize
stratigraphical observations, giving a description of the deposit structure, while in the second part methods,
problems and the possibilities of interpretation are examined. The results of the anthropological survey and
the soil micromorphological analysis, placed in context with contemporaneous mass deposits of human
remains from South-Eastern Europe raise the possibility of an emerging multi-stage funerary practice in
the area.

Description of the finds and


basic observations
The site of Pusztataskony-Ledence 1 is situated on
the left bank of the river Tisza, at the western edge
of the Great Hungarian Plain (fig. 1,13). Preceding
the building of a new water reservoir, large-scale
excavations were carried out here by the Institute
of Archaeological Sciences of the Etvs Lornd
University (Budapest, Hungary) between 2009
and 2011. The site roughly covers one of the areas
small elevations, which in prehistoric times before
the regulation of the river in the 19th century represented the nearest continuously dry spot at the river
bank (fig. 1,34). The building of a channel as part
of the reservoir system enabled us to uncover a 72 m
wide, whole cross-section of the site, where the
finds of eleven archaeological periods were detected. The Late Bronze Age is represented by abundant
remains of a settlement of the Late Tumulus Culture
(from Reinecke B2B2 / C1) and that of the Early
Gva Culture (to Reinecke BD / Ha A1, maybe later)
as well. Amongst these, scarce traces of the Early
Iron Age (Reinecke Ha B2 / C1) were also detected

during the excavation, which, with hindsight, may


be interpreted as marks of a small but probably independent settlement horizon. As the evaluation of
the material has just begun, we do not have a clear
view of the settlement relations of the site yet, but
the few pits related to the Early Iron Age seem to
bear witness to a scanty group of hamlets.
Amongst the settlement objects we found three
distinctive features huge pits, more or less filled
with commingled human remains which are the
subject for the present study. The first feature, object 2-0111 was found in 2009, while the second and
* We would like to thank L. Dowdy for her noteworthy remarks and A. Jczik for his most valuable help in
proofreading the manuscript.
1
Originally, the site was thought to form two separate ones and was numbered accordingly (PusztataskonyLedence 1 and 2). As a result of the excavations the two
sites were united under the name Pusztataskony-Ledence
1, resulting in doublings in the documentation (object
and stratigraphical numbers). Therefore, at every citation, the original site numbers are presented at the head
of the identification numbers.

308

gnes Kirly, Katalin Sebk, Zsuzsanna K. Zoffmann and Gabriella Kovcs

Fig. 1. Pusztataskony-Ledence 1. Location of the site and the position of the deposits. 12 location of the site; 3 natural
surroundings of the site before the regulation of the river Tisza (red patch marks excavation area); 4 elevation map
with the hypothetical hydrological circumstances of the immediate surroundings of the site; 5 distribution of the objects of the Late Bronze / Early Iron Age settlements and the position of the three deposits.

Early Iron Age Mass Graves in the Middle Tisza Region: Investigation and Interpretation

third ones, objects 1-550 and 1-701 were excavated


during the season 2011. The exact spatial relation of
the features to the contemporary settlement objects
is still unclear, but the distribution of the former is
fairly even, suggesting that the deposits were not
separated from the area of the living (fig. 1,5).
All three human deposits are placed as a form of
secondary usage in abandoned clay extraction pits.
The basic structure of the pits is similar, consisting
of a step-like shallow part in one side, surrounded by
one or more deeper niches. The phenomena are similar as well in that after the layers of human remains
had been entered more or less on the bottom of these
pits, the depressions were filled up to ground level.
In all three cases the fill contained archaeological
material similar to that of the later period of the Late
Bronze Age settlement.
Feature 2-011 (fig. 2)
The first and smallest of the three features is positioned at the southern border of the southern settlement patch. The basic pit had a sole deeper niche at
its southern side. The bottom was perfectly cleared
before the human remains were entered (fig. 2,1).
As we learned later, by revealing the structure of
the second feature, the scarce, patchy, ashy layer
observed at the bottom of the deepest part right under the skulls was probably shoveled in as a kind
of opening act of the deposition sequence. Over the
charred layer, disarticulated bones and the skeletal
remains of articulated body parts or segments covered the entire bottom of the pit (fig. 2,24). There
was no detectable order in the arrangement of the
remains, though the skeletal remains of the less
decomposed bodies (a nearly complete skeleton
amongst them, with only one arm missing) were
located in the shallow northern area. The deeper
part was filled with commingled remains which at
the time of the deposition must have been mostly
tissueless. This way, the four other skulls, found at
the deepest zone of the bone layer probably rolled
together, showing an ostensible pattern that at first
glimpse may seem purposeful.
Associated finds were scarce amongst the bones.
A bronze ring or small bracelet, found under a pile
of scattered bones, was interred with the remains.
In the filling of the pit, above the closed bone layer,
there were no human remains, only Late Bronze
Age potsherds (probably settlement material). The
presence of pottery with Gva characteristics is,
however, of no determining chronological value: a
radiocarbon date places the object in the Early Iron
Age2.

309

Feature 1-550 (fig. 34)


The excavation of the second and largest feature
proved to be both a methodological and a logistic
challenge. The deposit contained 25 skulls altogether, six of which belonged to complete and nine
to partial bodies. Beside these, the skeletal remains
of probably far more individuals, in every possible
state of decomposition at the time of the interment,
were piled up in the infill. To unearth this complex
properly, we tried to follow the natural separation of
the phenomena where it was possible and worked
with artificial levels when it was necessary. As in
the case of the other features, a documentation grid
of 0,5 0,5 m was placed on the axis of the main
section and all data was recorded accordingly.
The basic pit was broadly a round one, of approximately 3 3 m, with a bottom split by a shallow raising in the southern part and three niches
of various depths around. The relative height difference between the highest and the lowest points
of the bottom was about 80 cm. At the beginning
of the deposition sequence the northwestern dent
was partly filled with mixed soil, the others cleared
completely (fig. 3,1).
The first act of entering the remains was the
spreading of a thin layer of charcoal and ashes all
over the bottom surface, mostly in the southern area
(fig. 3,2). The ash must have been hot when it was
shoveled in: the attaching surface of a vertebra fragment, lying partly on a small piece of charcoal was
discoloured by heat. This indicates a very short span
for the whole event.
In the second phase the intact and nearly complete bodies were placed in a somewhat ordered
arrangement: four of them to fill the two smaller,
western dents and the others around the western side
of the greater eastern niche. Partial torsos, limbs and
separate skulls were tucked along the sides of the
pit, and larger body segments were piled up in its
southwestern corner (fig. 3,34). Most of the associated finds of the bone layer were found in this level.
These include the fragments of a great conical bowl,
a fake spondylus (limestone) bead, a small bronze
spiral ring on a finger belonging to a partial hand
(fig. 4,3), a bronze bracelet under the right shoulder
of a partial body (fig. 4,4), and five astragali, one of
them pierced through, right under the foot bones of
the complete skeleton of an infant ((fig. 4,5; the sixth
piece was found in the infill). The most significant
find here was a fragment of a Kalakaa vessel from
amongst the scattered bones of the lowermost level
821796 calBC (68,2 %). The human bone sample
no. Poz-41895 was measured by the Poznan Radiocarbon
Laboratory. The raw date, 2640 30 BP, was calibrated
with OxCal 4.1.5.
2

310

gnes Kirly, Katalin Sebk, Zsuzsanna K. Zoffmann and Gabriella Kovcs

Fig. 2. Pusztataskony-Ledence 1. Feature 2-011. 14 Phases of the deposition sequence; 5 overview of the excavated
feature, uppermost bone layer (phase 4). Colour scheme: shades of orange complete skeletons; blue partial skeletons; gray single bones; pink single skulls.

Early Iron Age Mass Graves in the Middle Tisza Region: Investigation and Interpretation

311

Fig. 3. Pusztataskony-Ledence 1. Feature 1-550. 16 Phases of the deposition sequence. Colour scheme for the bones:
shades of yellow / orange complete skeletons; shades of blue partial skeletons; gray single bones; pink single
skulls. Colour scheme for the soil layers: brown ash; black / dark gray mostly charcoal; light brown / yellow
mixed soil and subsoil.

312

gnes Kirly, Katalin Sebk, Zsuzsanna K. Zoffmann and Gabriella Kovcs

Fig. 4. Pusztataskony-Ledence 1. Feature 1-550. 1 Overview of the feature with the completely unearthed bone layer
in the middle and western parts (see phases 36 on fig. 3), that in the eastern depression is mostly untouched; 2 lower
part of the bone layer in the eastern niche, after removing the single bones (referring roughly to phase 3 on fig. 3);
3 bronze spiral ring on the finger bone of a partial hand; 4 bronze bracelet under the right scapula of a partial body,
lying directly on the charcoal layer; 5 six astragali, two of them pierced through, from under the legs of a complete
skeleton; 6 Kalakaa vessel fragment from amongst the bones of segmented cadavers in the lowermost layer.

Early Iron Age Mass Graves in the Middle Tisza Region: Investigation and Interpretation

313

Fig. 5. Pusztataskony-Ledence 1. Feature 1-701. 16 Phases of the deposition sequence; 7 overview of the feature,
uppermost bone layer (phase 6). Colours added for illustrative purposes only.

314

gnes Kirly, Katalin Sebk, Zsuzsanna K. Zoffmann and Gabriella Kovcs

(fig. 4,6)3. This sherd, on the one hand, connects the


feature with the Balkan area to the south. On the
other hand it has chronological value as well, as it
dates the object to the Early Iron Age (Reinecke
Ha B2 / B3C1), i. e. into the same horizon as feature 2-011.
Though the phases of the deposition process cannot be separated perfectly, it seems that the infilling
of the huge amount of tissueless bones took place
mainly as a consecutive action to the deposition of
intact and more or less segmented cadavers. While
the latter were placed seemingly as close to the
edges as possible, the former were simply shoveled
into the empty places left, with the tissueless skulls
thrown between, until the eastern niche was completely filled forming a half meter thick layer of
scattered bones (fig. 3,5). After this, the whole pit
was filled to ground level with mixed brown soil
containing some fragmentary Late Bronze Age
settlement material (fig. 3,6).
Feature 1-701 (fig. 5)
The third feature is situated in the middle of the excavated part of the site, in the northern zone of the
southern settlement patch (fig. 1,5). The deposit differed from the first two as it contained the skeletal
remains of 14 complete corpses only, with practically no scattered bones or bones belonging to segmented bodies.
The basic structure of the pit was similar to that
of feature 1-550, with a shallow step in the southern area of the bottom, surrounded by three smaller
niches (fig. 5,1). The northern one was filled shortly
before the bodies were entered, and, as in the former
case, contained the fragments of a great conical bowl
with inverted rim. A polished stone axe, probably of
Neolithic origin, lay on the bottom as well (fig. 5,2).
This time there was no trace either of fire, ashes or
any other preliminary action in the filling. Six of
the bodies were simply tucked in one after another
to fill the western niche, and the seventh, a small
child, was placed nearby, with its body laying on
the edge of the shallow step and its head hanging
down (fig. 5,35). The other bodies were laid in the
deeper eastern niche or piled up in the lower zones
of the step (fig. 5,56). The significant variance of
depth and thick layers of earth between the bodies
of the eastern niche may indicate a major temporal
gap, but as there was no perceptible deviation in the
texture of the filling of the bone layer and as the
logical interpretation of the observed sequence of
the deposition suggests a short span, one may find
this implication insupportable.
Both associated finds and structural similarities
speak for the contemporaneity of the three objects,
but at this point, having no sets of reliable radiocarbon data at hand, their exact relative chronological

positions cannot be established. As scattered bones,


skeletal remains of partial cadavers and complete
skeletons occur in relatively many objects of the
Late Bronze Age settlements as well (Reinecke
BD / Ha A1 or Ha A2 at the latest), at first the three
deposits were thought to be connected to this period;
but the first radiocarbon data from object 2-011 and
the Kalakaa sherd found in pit 1-550 surely date
at least two of the three deposits to the period Reinecke Ha B2 / B3C1, suggesting a considerable
time gap between them and the more or less similar
Late Bronze Age phenomena of the site.

Results of the preliminary


anthropological survey
A preliminary anthropological analysis of the three
deposits was carried out in 20092010 and in 2012.
Preceding a microanalysis by T. Hajdu, this was
restricted to an estimation concerning the minimal
number of individuals and to the detection of potential traumatic and taphonomic lesions.
The results show that feature 2-011 contained remains of at least 20 individuals. The deposit consisted almost exclusively of single bones and the skeletal remains of segmented bodies articulated chest
bones, upper and lower limbs, the latter occasionally together with pelvic bone of both sexes and
all age ranges. Only one nearly complete skeleton
was identified here: a child lay in a flexed position,
with the bones of its forearm and hand absent, on
the shallow part of the bottom of the pit. In feature
1-550, containing at least 25, more likely approximately 40 individuals, the proportions change: under a huge amount of single bones, crania, and calvaria several complete skeletons were laid some
in contracted positions, while the setting of others
showing no marks of intentionality. Feature 1-701
showed a completely different picture as apart
from some randomly occurring single bones it
was dominated by 14 complete skeletons, which
were deposited over each other in contracted posi3
Vessels with slight differences in decoration were
found in the second mass grave of Hrtkovci-Gomolava
(TASI 1972, 36, fig. 4,1.3; TASI 1972 / 1973, fig. 109,1;
113,41; 114,45) and everywhere in the settlement layer
of the Bosut Culture on the same site (MEDOVI 1978,
plate VIII 1). However, this kind of pottery is one of the
most characteristic finds from the Kalakaa horizon, and
several further analogies could be mentioned here (e. g.
Moorin: FALKENSTEIN 1998, plate 33,4.8; 35,1516;
Titel: ibd. plate 37,1; Farkadin: MEDOVI 1978, plate
XLVII 2; Beka, Kalakaa: POPOVI 1981, plate III 2;
Kredin: ibid. plate IV 8; Vrdnik, Peine: ibid. plate
IX 6).

Early Iron Age Mass Graves in the Middle Tisza Region: Investigation and Interpretation

Feature 2-011

Humerus
Radius
Ulna
Femur
Tibia
Fibula

315

Feature 1-550

Children

Males & females

Children

Males & females

(d + s)

(d + s)

(d + s)

(d + s)

17 + 14
13 + 19
13 + 22
12 + 18
8 + 10
15 + 20

25 + 11
25 + 7
13 + 11
40 + 24
29 + 15
33 + 6

11 + 11
10 + 12
9 + 11
15 + 13
13 + 15
4+6

3+4
1+3
3+3
9+6
5+5
2+1

Tab. 1. Pusztataskony-Ledence 1. Number of long bones in features 2-011 and 1-550. d dextra (right); s sinistra (left).

tion or laid irregularly. In any case, it was not possible to associate either the different partial skeletons
and / or the clean bones within the features4.
Summary of the preliminary results
1. All three pits contained remains of children and
adults as well, of both sexes and all age groups (the
lack of 0-year old newborn range is characteristic at
prehistoric series). There is no recognizable relation
between sex, age at death, state of disintegration
and the position of the bodies (were they deposited
either with or without intentional arrangement). Table 1 summarizes the long bones from pits 2-011
and 1-550. The type distribution shows clearly how
accidental the collecting of the remains must have
been, and therefore, how arguable in these cases a
mere estimation of the interred individuals number
would be.
2. At the time when the remains were interred,
in most of the cases the decay of the corpses was
in progress. Distinct states of disintegration (common presence of whole skeletons, parts of skeletons
in anatomical order, single bones) suggest different
dates of death for particular individuals in the same
pit.
3. Apart from a couple of cases (e. g. a deep cut
mark on one of the skulls from feature 2-011, the
blow probably causing immediate death), there
were no physical injuries on the bones, and marks
of cannibalism (e. g. signs of intentional defleshing,
boiling or human gnawing) were also absent. Would
the pits contain remains of victims of some natural
disaster or a lasting epidemic, by traditional anthropological analysis cannot be determined.
4. Marks of animal (rodent or scavenger) gnawing are also missing, indicating that the corpses
were not kept in the open prior to burial. The lack
of weather marks (e.g. sun bleaching, desiccation
caused by direct sunlight or warping caused by extreme temperatures) affirms this assumption. The
presence of partial skeletons with the bones in anatomical order indicates textile wrapping or clothes.

In conclusion, the different stages of disintegration and the lack of physical injuries are evidence
that the pits contained the remains of individuals
who died at different dates and by distinct causes,
and the cadavers of which were, in the first stage of
the burial process, putrefied for various times and
retained during this process in a closed context elsewhere. After death, every (?) member of the community, regardless of sex, age, or cause of death,
was treated the same way.
The sex and age of individuals shows no correlation either with the state of decomposition of the
remains (single bones, associated body parts, crania
or complete skeletons) or in the case of intact cadavers the way of treatment (either showing signs
of intentionality or not). In all three deposits the
state of the human remains implies that the majority of the corpses were disposed of in the pits when
their decay was already in progress.
Taxonomic analysis
Complex analysis of the human remains shows that
the series of the three pits is characterized by taxonomic heterogeneity, an overall characteristic of
prehistoric series of the Carpathian Basin, caused
mainly by varying interbreeding ratio of taxonomic
variants. The Pusztataskony population is dominated by low and high faced, leptodolichomorph individuals of both short and tall stature. Some of the individuals belong to the curvoocipital brachymorph
taxonomic variant, and the cromagnoid component
is also present. There is no recognizable correlation
between taxonomic variants and the sex of the individuals, and all components are present in every
pit.
4
The anthropological investigation was prepared
according to the methods of ALEKSEIEV / DEBETZ 1964;
RY et al. 1963; JOHNSTON 1961; MARTIN / SALLER
1957; NEMESKRI et al. 1960; SCHOUR / MASSLER 1941;
SJVOLD 1990.

316

gnes Kirly, Katalin Sebk, Zsuzsanna K. Zoffmann and Gabriella Kovcs

PusztataskonyLedence,
features 2-011, 1-550, 1-701
Males & females

Females

Hurbanovo culture

0.282

Vatya culture

0.698

Fzesabony culture

0.290

1.439

Battonya III & Deszk


Csanytelek

0.179
0.980

0.858

Mokrin

0.067

0.103

Szreg-C I

0.138

Szreg-C II

0.151

Szreg-C III

0.434

0.597

Ostojievo I

0.434

Ostojievo II

0.223

0.369

Tumulus culture, Tp

0.196

0.182

Bosut culture, Gomolava II

0.146

0.337

Mezcst culture

0.443

0.648

Maros culture

Tab. 2. Distances (CR2 values) according to the Penrose analysis between the series from Pusztataskony and other
series from the Carpathian Basin. Smaller CR2 values indicate more probable biological proximity or even identity of
the different series. Statistically significant results are underlined.

Taxonomic comparison of the people of the Pusztataskony pits and the territorial predecessors (the
population of the Gva culture) is not possible as
there are only a few skeleton burials known from
the Gva culture, leaving its general taxonomic image unclear. However, by extending the search for
materials to include in the taxonomic comparison, it
is possible to find convincing archaeological analogies far afield, roughly 300 km to the south, in sites
from Voivodina (Northern Serbia) of the Kalakaa
horizon of the Bosut Culture (Bosut IIIa, Reinecke
Ha B2 / B3C1), which are contemporaneous with
the Pusztataskony features. Regrettably, the pit of
Novi Sad-ADECO is nearly completely and another at Novi Sad-Klisa is partly ruined5, and the anthropological material of the first mass grave from
Hrtkovci-Gomolava (Syrmia) was not retained. The
greatest mass grave of the Kalakaa horizon is that
of Hrtkovci-Gomolava II6 (see descriptions below).
The condition of the anthropological material from
the burials of Vajuga-Pesak at the Iron Gates, a site
representing the next horizon of the Bosut culture is
so poor that it did not fit either for craniometric or
for taxonomic analysis7.

quirements of Penrose distance analysis9. That allowed us to perform to eliminate subjectivity a


biostatistical comparison of the Pusztataskony finds
and other cranial series from the Late Bronze Age
and the Early Iron Age of the Carpathian Basin. The
smaller the CR2 value (referring to the generalized
size-shape distance), the more probable is the biological proximity or even identity of the different
series.
The analysis, based on the ten main cranial
measurements covered altogether 15 series (tab. 2).
Similar analyses were carried out before the Pusztataskony material became available10. Present
results did not change the general picture, only
shaded our (anthropologically still limited) knowledge about the biological relations of Bronze and
Iron Age populations of the Carpathian Basin. As
it concerns archaeological problems, both explanation, evaluation or contradiction of the significant
relations determined by Penrose analysis exceed the
limits of the present study. In this sense, the results

Biostatistical analysis

Both the male-female series from the three pits,


combined according to the method of Aleksejev and
Debetz8 and the separate female series meet the re-

9
10

Anthropological investigation: ZOFFMANN in press.


ZOFFMANN 1997.
ZOFFMANN 1998.
ALEKSEJEV / DEBETZ 1964.
PENROSE 1954.
ZOFFMANN 2006a; ZOFFMANN 2009.

Early Iron Age Mass Graves in the Middle Tisza Region: Investigation and Interpretation

317

Fig. 6. Penrose distances between the available Bronze and Early Iron Age series from the Carpathian Basin. CR2
values refer to the generalized size-shape distance. Smaller CR2 values indicate more probable biological proximity or
even identity of the different series (represented by thicker connection lines).

of the already completed preliminary investigations


(unlikely to be changed by the microanalyses of
T. Hajdu) are restricted to the determination that the
individuals buried in the pits of Pusztataskony were
members of an autochthon community descending
from the population of the local Middle Bronze Age
Maros-Perjmos culture. The Early Iron Age community is not only related to the Maros-Perjmos
cemeteries of the Great Hungarian Plain, which by
Penrose results seem to form a closed block (fig. 6),
but to the population of the mass grave of HrtkovciGomolava II, i.e. the Kalakaa horizon of the Bosut
culture of Syrmia as well (though the separate female series does not show this connection).

Problems and possibilities


In the theoretical discussions of Hungarian research,
special prehistoric deposits with human remains
have intractably been linked to cultic, ritual or at
least symbolic human activities or considered to be
proof of prehistoric cannibalism, human sacrifice or
warfare11. Just like in other parts of Europe, most of
the earliest interpretations were put forward without
either proper definitions of related concepts or an
explicit contextual study of the phenomena. In order
to avoid further misunderstandings, contemporary
research has turned towards a better understanding
of conceptual distinctions and the application of
clear nomenclature with exact definitions for anything under study12. Accordingly, a nomenclature

Interpretation of the
Pusztataskony features
At first sight in 2009, the then-unique feature 2-011
at Pusztataskony seemed to contain victims of a
mass slaughter or an epidemic that eradicated the
population of a nearby homestead. One imagined a
group of people (maybe members of a nearby community) finding the cadavers few weeks or months
later and giving final honour to the deceased by interring them in a large pit that was open at the time.
But as the anthropological survey progressed, the
emerging evidence forced our team to seek an alternative explanation. Aware of that, the excavation of
the second and third features in 2011 focused on the
deposition sequence and the possibilities of reconstructing the treatment of the cadavers and revealing
the primary context of the human remains.

A few examples of cultic and sacrificial interpretation from Hungarian research. Neolithic: RACZKY
1974, 201; 205 (foundation deposit); ZALAI-GAL 1984,
2427 (skull cult with hints of cannibalism); BNFFY
1990 / 1991, 192194; 218231 with a list of so-called
construction offerings from the Neolithic of Austria,
(the former) Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Early
Bronze Age: KALICZ-SCHREIBER 1981, 81 f. (sacrifical
pit). Iron Age: PETRES 1972, 371 f. 381 (human remains in settlements with features linked to libation sacrifices). Sometimes the interpretations of the same feature highly differ, e. g. in the case of the Late Neolithic
mass grave of Eszterglyhorvti, where mechanical injuries on the few skull fragments suggest the presence
of violence (ZOFFMANN 2007, 50): J. MAKKAY (2000,
62) describes the feature as remains of a massacre, while
J. P. BARNA (1996, 153; 156) interprets them as human
sacrifice.
12
E. g. MURPHY 2008; RITTERSHOFER 2007.
11

318

gnes Kirly, Katalin Sebk, Zsuzsanna K. Zoffmann and Gabriella Kovcs

concerning deviant burials and mortuary processes


was recently outlined13.
In the last few decades the essentiality of comprehending the actual cultural context in which
special deposits were created became clear. J. D.
Hill pointed out that the main aim of interpreting
such assemblages must be to determine the particular practice that resulted in that particular deposit at
a specific place and time instead of deciding whether it is of ritual origin or not14. Considering human
remains, as E. Weiss-Krejci similarly emphasized,
the archaeologist must explain the differences in
the physical remains of the dead and determine the
causes that are responsible for variability in the
mortuary record. One first step to accomplish such
a goal is to decide whether deposits with human remains represent expressions of funerary behaviour
or result from other processes15.
Evidently, different factors agents being either
taphonomic16 or cultural in nature17 may enter the
process at any stage and, despite having different
origins, can produce similar patterns in the archaeological record and vice versa. Only when the determinative factors and probable stages of the formation process are revealed, can the interpretation of
any phenomenon be started.
Formation processes of the deposits
As the evaluation of the entire Early Iron Age settlement material is still in progress, for the moment one
must work without data on the middle-range context. Therefore, the discussion here is restricted to
the reconstruction and comparison of the individual
formation processes of the three features, covered
by a cross-cultural analysis of the phenomenon.
First of all, the information gained by stratigraphical observations and preliminary anthropological
investigations are summarized.
1. All three features are characterized by great
amounts of human remains clustered in settlement (?) pits. The round pits were used originally
for clay extraction, abandoned later and used for
waste disposal for some time prior to the interment
of the human remains. As there is no sign that the
pits were designed especially for placing the dead,
the location of the cadavers final resting place
must have been chosen haphazardly and was determined probably by practical considerations. As quite
a small proportion of the site is uncovered, further
mass deposits of human remains may be present at
Pusztataskony.
2. The ashy layers observed in both features 2011 and 1-550 indicate the presence of preceding
actions including fire before the deposition of the
human remains. However, this must have taken
place outside the deposition pits as no traces of in
situ firing were observed in or around the features.

At this moment, no direct relationship between the


fire and the human remains can be detected.
3. As the human remains in all three features are
tightly clustered, stratigraphically the bone layer
of each deposition sequence can be regarded as a
closed unit. As there were no signs of later cultural
disturbance, each deposition process must have been
a single, short-term and definitive event. Although
all three features are relatively close to each other
and at least two of them can surely be dated to the
same chronological horizon (Reinecke Ha B2 / B3
or even C1), the determination of the accurate extent of possible time gaps between their formations
requires further investigation.
4. The overall presence of both sexes and all age
ranges, and the fact that the stage of the cadavers
decomposition at the time of interment shows no
correlation with either sex or age, suggest that the
compilation of the deposits was not influenced by
any kind of intentional selection based on biological criteria.
5. As traces of any kind of flesh removal are totally absent, the decay of tissue must have taken
place naturally.
6. The joint occurrence of the remains of individuals who died at different times, and the practically
complete absence of lethal injuries and other kinds
of pre- or perimortem trauma on the bones exclude
massacre from the interpretations. Furthermore, the
unstructured arrangement of the mostly fragmented
accompanying finds in the deposits exclude ritual
killing or human sacrifice as well.
7. At the moment the time span between particular deaths cannot be defined exactly, but based on
the average rhythm of thanatological changes several years or even decades may be assumed. Therefore, as cadavers in different stages of decomposition were deposited jointly, forming a closed unit
in each feature, the position of the human remains
must be secondary. This means that literally none of
the deposits can be considered as a mass grave18.
8. The joint occurrence of cadavers in different stages of decay at the time of their final interment indicates the storage of distinct duration of
the bodies prior to their final interment. Based on
archaeological observations and the results of the
13
14
15
16

1990.
17

2005.

ASPCK 2008; SRBU 2003; WEISS-KREJCI 2011.


HILL 1996, 25.
WEISS-KREJCI 2005, 155.
E. g. DUDAY 1978; DUDAY 2006; DUDAY et al.
GOWLAND / KNSEL

2006;

RAKITA / BUIKSTRA

Recent summary and lists of criteria for defining


mass graves: JESSEE / SKINNER 2005; KNSEL et al. 2007,
130 and references.
18

Early Iron Age Mass Graves in the Middle Tisza Region: Investigation and Interpretation

anthropological analysis very little is to be said on


the particulars of the primary storage place, but
the lack of animal gnawing or weather marks on
the bones indicates a closed context that could have
consisted of several primary inhumation graves
(single or collective) or a roofed, closed storage
building, a house of the dead. These were later, at
some point, at an unknown occasion and for a yet
unknown reason, eliminated, and the corpses each
in its actual state of decomposition redeposited in
one of the pits serving from then on as their final
resting place.

Results of the
soil micromorphological survey
In order to gain information regarding the context
of the preceding storage, a thin section soil micromorphological survey was carried out on altogether
seven samples from pit 1-550. Samples with sequences of the fill layers and of the subsoil (PT-04,
PT-10, PT-13, PT-14) and others containing human
bones from either complete or partial skeletons (PT08, PT-12, PT-15) were examined.
Samples PT-10 and PT-15 contained parts of
the subsoil and the lowermost layer of the fill. In
these samples the two layers could clearly be separated. No indications were found that would suggest that the pit, or at least the part from where the
samples were taken was initially used for anything
else but interment. The presence of iron nodules in
the subsoil is the result of excess water caused by
rainfall and indicates a gradual filling of the pit19.
Stratigraphical observations suggest that the northwestern part of the pit was cleaned shortly before
the interment of human remains. It also could be ascertained that every layer of all samples apart from
a patch of charcoal consists exclusively of mineral
components (quartz, biotite, chlorite, muscovite,
glauconite etc.), i. e. natural soil-like materials.
None of the investigated samples contains botanic
material (pollen, phytoliths or decomposed organic
matter) indicating that the fill layers either with or
without human bone originate from deeper soil horizons, and also that no botanic additions were enclosed with the human remains20.
The soil layer containing human bones could be
clearly separated from the stratum beneath. The different structure of the infill layers suggests that the
bones and some of their previous incorporate medium were brought here together, and laid upon the
lower soil stratum, i. e. the earlier fill layer of the
pit. Biological activity could not be observed in the
layers that incorporated the human remains. The
lack of phytoliths and other plant residues implies
that the human remains were deposited formerly at

319

deeper soil levels as downwards the proportion of


organic elements in the soil profile decreases and
finally runs out. The presence of clay coatings further supports this assumption: it is typical of the
accumulation soil layer (B horizon) as rainwater
washes down the fine clay fraction to deeper soil
levels, where it encrusts the pore walls21. There was
no additional alien matrix to be observed around
the bones, i. e. no differences in structure or composition. As such there is no evidence for more than
one replacement of the remains.
The primary sediment medium was present
around the bones not only as a coating but forming
a layer, meaning that the bones were replaced together with the original incorporating context rather
than picked up and cleaned one by one22. The sediment matrix around the bones suggests that the human remains were formerly placed elsewhere but at
a similar (or in the same) soil level. It could also be
observed that tiny bone fragments were mixed with
the primary sediment medium around the human
bones. Microscopic observations showed that these
were fragments of larger bone pieces, detached due
to the decay process23. This conclusion confirms the
existence of a former burial context that was presumed on the basis of the results of the anthropological survey. Although it cannot be proven via the
micromorphological samples, it is possible that during the first burial phase the placement of particular
persons might have taken place individually, rather
than piling them upon each other as in the excavated
pits. In order to get more information about the location of this prior interment, it would be useful to
take further samples from the potential cemetery
soil layers in the vicinity of the assemblages24.
Concluding the results of the thin section soil
micromorphological survey it has to be reaffirmed
that every individual found at least in feature 1-550
of Pusztataskony must have been formerly buried
somewhere else, most probably in the neighbourhood of the deposits. Thereafter, at a particular date
and for a particular reason of which we remain unaware, the corpses in different states of decomposition were exhumed and buried for the second time
in the cleared clay pits. In the light of the results of
the soil micromorphological survey of the samples
from the feature 1-550 it seems to be at least possible that in the cases of the other two features the
soil between the remains of the bodies is the very

19
20
21
22
23
24

KOVCS 2012, 8.
Ibid. 15.
Ibid. 4.
Ibid. 5.
Ibid. 4.
Ibid. 10.

320

gnes Kirly, Katalin Sebk, Zsuzsanna K. Zoffmann and Gabriella Kovcs

same one in which the cadavers were interred before elsewhere.

Contemporaneous mass deposits with


human remains from the Eastern
Carpathian Basin and beyond
Though many of the observed features have their
parallels in several sites of prehistoric Europe, the
combination in which these appear in the Pusztataskony deposits is virtually unique. In order to
completely understand such an unprecedented find
it would be essential to examine these features both
in their regional and chronological context. Such a
survey would by far exceed the limits of this paper,
therefore, in the present, first discussion we focus
only on the culturally related assemblages.
During a preventive archaeological excavation
in 2006 a Late Bronze Age settlement with six
pits, containing the skeletal remains of partly decomposed human cadavers (four single or double
burials and two mass deposits) was found only
30 km south of Pusztataskony, at the site of Tiszab,
Galamb-dl, Jsz-Nagykun-Szolnok county, Hungary25. The settlement was dated to the Gva culture
by H. Oravecz, but fragments of a horn-handled cup
from one of the mass graves26 may suggest an Early
Iron Age presence as well.
As it was mentioned above, the most accurate
analogies of the Pusztataskony assemblages were
found in sites from the Serbian Bosut IIIa phase or
Kalakaa horizon (Reinecke Ha B2 / B3C1). The
greatest deposits of this period are known from
Hrtkovci-Gomolava II (Syrmia)27. The first pit was
discovered in 1954. By then it was partially destroyed by erosion, but the remaining part still covered an area of 2,42 1,37 m. It contained the skeletons of 32 individuals in four layers, the fragments
of 24 vessels, a few bronze and iron implements and
three fragmented querns or grindstones28. Unfortunately, a detailed publication of the feature has still
not yet been released, and, what is even more regrettable, the human remains from the deposit were
not retained by the excavators29. The second, circular pit of the same site with a maximum diameter
of 2,90 m was excavated in 1971 and contained the
remains of 78 individuals of both sexes and all age
ranges, in different states of disintegration, divided
into three hypothetical layers. The first bone layer
consisted of individual crania, some single bones
and articulated body parts, mixed with fragments of
grindstones and parts of the skeleton of an ox. Complete skeletons were placed along the periphery of
the pit. The separation of the second and third bone
layers was most hypothetical as their distinction
was based on the presumption of the excavators that

the skeletons of the second group were laid with


their heads oriented towards the centre of the pit,
while the individuals of the lowermost layer were
positioned with their heads outwards30. Beside the
human remains, the second assemblage contained a
greater amount of cereal grains in the middle of the
pit, the fragments of nine vessels, bronze fibulae,
pendants, bracelets, buttons, rattles, phalerae, fragments of an iron bracelet and beads made of bone,
clay, crystals or amber. According to the observations of N. Tasi, the ornaments turned up mainly in
the immediate vicinity of adult individuals31.
Both a preliminary anthropological investigation
by Gy. Farkas and a detailed study by Zs. K. Zoffmann confirmed the lack of violent injuries, taphonomic lesions and signs of pathology on the bones32.
N. Tasi supposed that the corpses had originally
been arranged by design, and that the dislocation
of some bones or body parts was a result of later
cultural or natural disturbances of the pits33. He
considered that in spite of the mixture of the osteological material in the tomb, the skeletons were
not simply thrown into the pit, as it seemed when
the tomb was first discovered, but were laid according to a definite pattern. grave goods corroborate the assumption that the collective tomb was not
formed by simply throwing in bodies (of defeated
enemies or victims of a large-scale epidemic) into
the pit, but was formed by burying the dead according to a specific ritual which can be reconstructed
only partly on the basis of the arrangement of the
skeletons and the grave goods in the pit34. In the
light of the evidence from Pusztataskony-Ledence
some kind of reconsideration of this opinion may
be necessary. It is very conceivable that the individual crania and articulated body parts found in the
second assemblage of Gomolava may also be explained by the remains having been (re) deposited at
a time when their natural decay process was already
in progress.
Tasi also related the presence of animal bones,
cereals and grindstones to some kind of ritual involving agricultural sacrifices. As he wrote, their
ORAVECZ 2007, 297.
Personal communication of H. Oravecz.
27
In this context it is noteworthy that the craniometric
analysis suggests some kind of link between the populations of Pusztataskony and Hrtkovci-Gomolava II (tab. 2;
fig. 6).
28
TASI 1972, 32.
29
ZOFFMANN 1997, 249.
30
TASI 1972, 29.
31
Ibid. 30.
32
FARKAS 1972 / 1973; ZOFFMANN 1997.
33
TASI 1972, 29.
34
Ibid.
25
26

Early Iron Age Mass Graves in the Middle Tisza Region: Investigation and Interpretation

occurrence in both cases may be interpreted as associated with a ritual action, which, viewed in connection with the presence of cereals in the tombs,
indicates the agricultural component in the culture
of the people to whom the tomb belonged. The
complex of sacrificial actions and beliefs in afterlife comprises the practice of sacrificing whole, or
parts of, animals. Tomb II contained part of the skeleton of an ox, and in Tomb I bones of a deer and
a dog were found. Their occurrence and the presence of grave goods in both tombs lead to the conclusion that these ritual objects did not come there
by chance, during a hasty burial of dead tribesmen
or of enemies captured or killed in battle, but that
they were placed there as a result of certain ritual
actions35. Though this line of thought may seem
worth considering, it is not sufficiently supported
by scientific data or detailed contextual analysis. In
the deposits of Pusztataskony no features indicating
this kind of ritual behaviour were detected. On the
contrary, several hints suggest that the corpses had
been subjects of earlier primary burials. Bearing
this in mind, it is also conceivable that the sherds of
ceramic vessels, the bone and stone tools, the set of
astragali and the bronze ornaments found together
with the human remains may have served as grave
goods in the previous stage of the burial (i. e. at the
former interment), and were dug out and re-deposited accidentally with the human remains. Concerning the animals found in the features of Gomolava,
one may rather relate their presence to some even
perhaps ritualistic action taking place during the
final deposition of human cadavers.
Two further mass deposits with human remains
from the Kalakaa horizon were found recently in
the vicinity of Novi Sad, Vojvodina36. A pit containing human bones has been unearthed at Novi SadADECO (structure unknown) by D. Aneli, and in
2008 another deposition of complete skeletons and
single bones was found at a large-scale excavation
at Novi Sad-Klisa37. Some features of the find circumstances led D. Aneli to the suggestion that
such collective depositions may be typical for the
end of the Kalakaa horizon38. To prove this hypothesis, however, a systematic chronological and
contextual analysis of all assemblages from this horizon is needed in the future39.
Significant data proving a direct relationship between the Late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age population of the Middle Tisza Region and the contemporaneous groups of South-Eastern Europe has not
yet been published. In this light the finds of Pusztataskony may be considered rather important, as in
their case the above-mentioned two groups do not
only seem to have a common practice of depositing human remains in round pits, but a fragment of
an original, probably imported Kalakaa vessel also
showed up in feature 1-55040.

321

Concluding remarks: funerary behaviour


of the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age
in the Eastern Carpathian Basin
In order to shed some light on this yet unclear situation, it is necessary to survey the funerary practices of the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages in the
eastern part of the Carpathian Basin. As a result of
the large-scale excavations in the last two decades,
more and more human remains are known from
non-funerary, mainly settlement contexts from our
focus period and territory. With the difficulties of
the cultural classification even of some regular
burials, and in absence of a proper relative chronology for that period, a reasonable analysis of the
irregular finds cannot be carried out for the moment. At the present state of research one can only
assert that the number of settlement complexes with
human remains definitely increases41 with a simultaneous decline in the number of normative or traditional burials42.

TASI 1972, 32.


Personal communication of D. Aneli.
37
Archaeological evaluation by D. Aneli; anthropological survey: ZOFFMANN in press.
38
Personal communication of D. Aneli.
39
It is important to note that at the beginning of the
1990s J. Chochorowski linked the features found at the
Bosut culture settlement of Hrtkovci-Gomolava (ZOFFMANN 1997) and at the Late Urnfield settlement of Stillfried in Austria (BREITINGER 1980, 107; EIBNER 1980,
107; EIBNER 1988, 77; SZILVSSY et al. 1988; ZOFFMANN
2001; see also Griebl / Hellerschmid in this volume) to a
hypothetical horizon dominated by violent attacks of the
so-called Cimmerians (CHOCHOROWSKI 1993, 218230).
According to his thesis, the arrival of the steppe-people
terminated the development of the former Late Bronze
Age cultures. A very similar picture was drawn by G.
Ilon as a result of the analysis of some skeletons from a
pit of the Late Urnfield settlement of Gr-Kpolnadomb
in Hungary (ILON 2001, 248 f.; anthropological analysis by Zs. K. Zoffmann: ZOFFMANN 2001, 270; ZOFFMANN 2006b, 156). C. Metzner-Nebelsick argued that
the mass graves in question can also be seen as signs
of internal conflict, since no significantly Cimmerian
or steppe bound artefacts can be associated with them
(METZNER-NEBELSICK 2010, 128 note 28). The presence
of violent action was only proved in the case of the outstanding mass grave of Stillfried (CHOCHOROWSKI 1993,
219221; WILTSCHKE-SCHROTTA 2006, 414).
40
URK / MARTA 2011, 160.
41
Main publication in English: TASI 1972; in Serbian: TASI 1972 / 1973. Anthropological analyses of
the second pit: FARKAS 1972 / 1973; FARKAS / MARCSIK
1976; ZOFFMANN 1997.
42
KIRLY 2012, 119123.
35
36

322

gnes Kirly, Katalin Sebk, Zsuzsanna K. Zoffmann and Gabriella Kovcs

Human remains within Late Bronze and Early


Iron Age settlements usually turn up in different
states of decay, as complete skeletons, skeletal remains of articulated bodies or body parts, single and
fragmented bones and cremated remains. In the case
of the Gva culture the sequence is clearly dominated by complete skeletons (almost 40 %) of both sexes and all age ranges, and the position of the bodies
often shows signs of intentional placing43. None of
the examined bones shows either traces of violence
or taphonomic lesions44, which means that these
people, just like the ones at Pusztataskony, most
likely suffered a natural death, and their bodies were
immediately buried or at least protected against the
weather and kept out of the reach of carrion eaters.
Exactly the same situation was sketched out
for the Early Iron Age of the Balkan area by S. C.
Ailinci and his colleagues45. Considering their results it is likely, that beginning at the latest phase
of the Bronze Age of the Eastern Carpathian Basin
and its southern neighbourhood a radical change
takes place in mortuary treatment, while a sporadic
survival of traditional burial customs is still observable. The new practice involves at least a temporary
putrefaction of the dead in settlement complexes. It
still remains a question however, whether this element is really a part of the funerary cycle or only
a random way of disposing of particular members
of the same, or maybe of a different (hostile) community.
Burial a generally used but often misconceived
term is hard to define. Most of the languages face
the problem that the funerary practice is expressed
by a word that fundamentally describes the act of
putting something usually the corpse into the
ground (Engl. burial; Germ. Bestattung; Fr. enterrement; Hun. temets). Actually, burying is only one
possible way to dispose of the corpse, but the notion
is obviously burdened by our own modern concepts,
making it even harder to understand the mortuary
behaviours of past people.
For most human communities, biological death
caused by natural or violent events is followed by
a transitional phase called funerary cycle. The elements of a particular funerary cycle depend on several choices of the mourning community: e. g. on
the positive or negative valuation of the deceaseds
personality or on the circumstances of his / her
death. The cycle may consist of different methods
of corpse treatment like washing the dead, evisceration, embalming, active or passive excarnation of
the body, cremation or primary burial. The liminal
phase that begins with the biological death ends with
the social death of the deceased and the final deposition of the cadaver, but it is crucial that this action does not necessarily involve the placing of the
corpse in the ground46. Depending on the particular
community, a final resting place may be located in-

dividually or in groups, in- or outside of a cemetery


or a settlement, in archaeologically visible or invisible contexts. Certain groups may also practice tertiary burial or manipulate the human remains taken
from their primary burial context. These are acts of
extra-funerary formation processes (according to
the terminology of E. Weiss-Krejci)47.
Several examples of multistage funerary cycles
that may appear archaeologically as secondary collective burial features are known from both prehistoric and historic times. One of the most famous
examples is the delayed collective burial practice
of some particular prehistoric American tribes, e. g.
the Potomacs48 or the Virginian mound builders49.
Some of these communities buried their dead only
at specified occasions once a year or even several
years. The individuals who had died between two
collective burials were stored somewhere for the
next occasion, usually underground, therefore they
entered the final funerary context with their cadavers in different states of decomposition. Other case
studies, for example from the Middle Ages draw the
attention to the role of temporary storage preceding long-distance transport of the corpse in a society where the system of beliefs is highly focused on
sacred lands and kinship50. However, one must be
constantly aware that none of these distant analogies should be used as a direct model to explain the
deposits of Pusztataskony, not least because these
assemblages cannot be considered as secondary
burials with certainty, as they lack the majority of
indicators51.
The information currently available on the Pusztataskony features represents only a small part of the
data required to determine their place in the funerary
cycle of the Early Iron Age. Perhaps it will never be
possible to reveal the reasons or to reconstruct the
particular and presumably extraordinary social
situation that included the exhumation of primary
burials and the collective, seemingly careless act of
clearing away the more or less decomposed remains.
The presence of similar features with semi-decayed
corpses in individual or collective graves, probably

KIRLY 2011, 115177.


Ibid. 118.
45
AILINCI et al. 2005 / 2006, 9294; AILINCI 2008,
2728; 30 f.
46
WEISS-KREJCI 2011, 7176.
47
Ibid. 76; postfuneral processes: WEISS-KREJCI
2005a, 168170; WEISS-KREJCI 2005b, 48; 53.
48
UBELAKER 1974, 120.
49
DUNHAM et al. 2003, 122125.
50
WEISS-KREJCI 2005a, 168 f.
51
Listed in CARR / KNSEL 1997; DUDAY 1978;
OLSEN / SHIPMAN 1994, 384 f.
43
44

Early Iron Age Mass Graves in the Middle Tisza Region: Investigation and Interpretation

as secondary interment, in sites at great distances


from each other, however, suggests that this kind of
funerary practice may have spread to large areas or
at least reached several places at great distances at
the turn of the Bronze and Iron Ages. Nevertheless,
the detection of the origins and the agents of this
custom if it is really a custom requires further
archaeological and anthropological investigations.

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326

gnes Kirly, Katalin Sebk, Zsuzsanna K. Zoffmann and Gabriella Kovcs

gnes Kirly
Katalin Sebk
Institute of Archaeological Sciences
Etvs Lornd University
Mzeum krt. 4 / b
H1088 Budapest
koldoknezo@gmail.com
sebokkata@gmail.com

Gabriella Kovcs
Matrica Museum
Gesztenys u. 13
H2440 Szzhalombatta
antropologus@yahoo.com
Zsuzsanna K. Zoffmann
Rzsa str. 36.VII.
H1042 Budapest
zoffmann@freemail.hu