The eastern Linear Pottery Culture (Alföld Linear Pottery Culture)

Last changed November 2008

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In contrast to the western Linear Pottery Culture there is also an eastern or Alföld Linear Pottery Culture (cf. an introduction: Biró 2003) = eastern LPC. The name is misleading since the western LPC can be found east of the eastern LPC. Since the term “Alföld LPC”, however, also covers only part of the distribution, we will use the name “eastern LPC” in this context.

By means of vessel shapes and decoration and cultic remains, the eastern LPC can be well distinguished from the western LPC. House-building techniques of the eastern LPC which seemed to be characterized by so-called pit-houses for a long time include, however, also long-houses which are frequent in the western LPC.

Already in 1929, F. von Tompa described finds attributed to the Bükk culture and the eastern LPC and separated them from the western LPC (cf. von Tompa 1929 and in summary concerning the history of research e. g. Strobel 1997). After excavations at Szakálhát in the 1930ies, J. Banner was able to distinguish the Szakálhát group within the eastern LPC. I. Bognár-Kutzián summarized the material found up to the middle of the 1960ies without, however, offering a structured chronology. This chronological classification was set by N. Kalicz and J. Makkay in their pathbreaking book about the eastern LPC (Kalicz/Makkay 1977). Research in the following years confirmed the classification proposed by Kalicz and Makkay. M. Strobel created a new analysis of the eastern LPC pottery in 1997, in which he included, for the first time, material found in Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine. New research in course of the construction of the M3 motorway yielded new material and interesting structures, among them also evidence for long-houses.

Investigations of the eastern LPC in Slovakia is closely connected to the names of M. Vizdal, J. Lichardus and S. Šiška, who conducted important excavations and classified the finds in terms of chronology. Especially we have to mention the excavations in Lastovce and Michalovce by M. Vizdal (e. g. Vizdal 1993), the excavation of the settlement of Šarišské Michal’any by S. Šiška (e. g. Šiška 1986 and Šiška 1989) and a study about the Bükk culture by J. Lichardus (Lichardsu 1974).

The state of research concerning the eastern LPC in Romania (termed Ciumeşti culture in older literature) and Ukraine is rather bad. We might mention some few summarizing articles by Gh. Lazarovici, E. Comşa and Potušnjak (Потушняк 1979).

Distribution

The eastern LPC is spread over much smaller an area than the western LPC. Remains can be found in east Hungary, Transylvania and Slovakia. Some locations of the eastern LPC lie in Carpatho-Ukraine. Like almost all cultures, the eastern LPC avoids the swampy regions between the rivers Tisza and Danube.

Similar to the western LPC, the eastern LPC is relatively homogenous in its oldest phase. However, in the course of its development, it splits into several regional groups.

Treatment of the dead

Large-scale cemeteries are rather an exception in the eastern LPC. Rather, we have to deal with single graves or very small burial groups. It is remarkable that in some cases graves occur in the immediate vicinity of houses (e. g. in Füzesabony-Gubakút). Up to today, we know of about 200 burials from the eastern LPC (Oravecz 2003; cf., e. g., the very early cemetery of Mezőkövesd: Kalicz/Koos 2002). The Mezőkövesd cemetery is noteworthy in terms of its early beginning, i. e. in the oldest phase of the eastern LPC. Such early cemeteries are still missing for the oldest phase of the western LPC.

The treatment of the dead is relatively standardized. Mostly, there are oval or rectangular burial pits. The deceased were buried in a crouched position, lying on the left side, oriented southeast-northwest. Sometimes they were covered with ochre. Interestingly enough, this way of treating the dead continues throughout the timespan of the eastern LPC, even then when regional groups can be distinguished using pottery.

The deceased were given some few grave goods, among them often pottery (one to two vessels as a rule, sometimes up to six). More rarely, stone and bone tools were put in the graves, for example necklaces made up of beads consisting of shell, clay, male deer teeth and bone, furthermore bracelets made from spondylus, bone spoons and bone pendants.

Settlements

The settlements of the eastern LPC are located on the fertile loess soil close to rivers. Generally, there are no tells. In the south of the distribution of the Szakálhát culture, however, tell-like settlements can be found (e. g. Tápé-Lebő, Dévaványa-Sártó und Battonya-Gödrösök; cf. e. g. Goldman 1984). This may be due to the stronger influence of the Vinča culture. In the course of time, people settled even in regions less fitting for agriculture and in caves (e. g. in the Bükk culture).

Some of these caves point to probable ritual activites, like Domica Cave where wall paintings were found, and Aggtelek Cave, where a clay plate with a hole in the centre was unearthed; the hole was filled with soot and ashes. In Istállóskő Cave and Büdöspest Cave animal and human bones were found (Lichardus 1974, 53-55). Real enclosures, as they appear in the western LPC, however, could not be found in the eastern LPC.

Long since it has been assumed that house-building in the eastern LPC was restricted to small buildings and so-called pit-houses. The great-scale excavations in the course of the building of the M3 motorway, however, yielded evidence for great long-houses like they are common in the western LPC. These houses stood together in groups (cf. for this the settlement at Füzesabony-Gubakút: Domboróczki 2003). Mostly these long-houses consisted of three units. They were constructed using posts and could be as long as 16 metres. The walls were made of wattle-and-daub. The fact that graves were dug in the immediate vicinity to these houses is remarkable; this custom is quite opposite to the western LPC (cf. treatment of the dead).

Besides these long-houses there are also smaller buildings which may be dug slightly into the soil, and numerous pits.

Hearths were found inside as well as outside houses.

The spectrum of animal bones consists of domestic and wild animals. Domestic species include mostly cattle, sheep, goat, pig and dog. Game is represented by fish, hare, red deer and roe deer as well as aurochs. Fragments of grinding-stones and impressions of cereal grains and chaff prove, indirectly, agriculture. In Moravany, macroscopic remains of cereals could be found, among them Triticum dicoccum (Kozłowski/Nowak/Vizdal 2003, 139).

Finds

The most important find for a chronological classification of the eastern LPC was and still is pottery (cf. for the following Kalicz/Makkay 1977 and Strobel 1997). It is quite homogenous in the oldest phase of the eastern LPC, the so-called Szatmár group (named after important locations in comitatus Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg). Parallels to Hungarian finds occur in Slovakia and Romania. Shapes consist of pedestalled vessels, big-bellied vessels with a short neck and bowls which are mostly grogged organically. These vessels are decorated with finger pinches and, sometimes, with incised bands. Very rarely, vessels are painted with lines accompanied by little triangles, dots or pearls.

In the classical phase of the eastern LPC we find also bowls on low pedestals and bowls with a cornered rim or with a rectangular mouth, furthermore flasks, cups, pots and special shapes, for example tube-like vessels. The decoration is now made up of straight or wavy incised lines which are structured in the course of time by horizontal or vertical lines. Painted motifs comprise lines, triangles et c. This phase is characterized as Kopčany phase in Slovakia. The so-called “Szarvás-Érpart group” which also has to be mentioned in this respect might rather be a special pottery ware than an a real regional group.

The transition to the later phases of the eastern LPC is formed by the Gemer group and the Furugy type which is the predecessor of the Tiszadob group.

In its late developments in Hungary, there are many regional groups in the eastern LPC. In the north, the Tiszadob group appears. Its pottery is characterized by circulating wavy lines, concentric circles, pairs of lines arranged to form V’s, M’s, U’s and Y’s, meandres and spirals which are arranged in fields.

Also in the north we encounter the Bükk culture whose relations to the Tiszadob group are not yet quite clarified. The Bükk culture is famous for its locations in various caves in the Hungarian-Slovakian karst (Aggtelek-Baradla Cave, Miskolc-Kőlyuk Cave, Domica Cave). The pottery found in the Bükk culture is richly ornamented with curved lines which form portal-like shapes and which are combined with triangles (Lichardus 1974).

Further south, the Szakálhát culture is distributed. Here, pottery shapes comprise semi-spherical bowls, partly with necks, cups, flasks, bowls, pots and many special shapes, among them especially many face vessels. The vessels’ decoration is applied often in alternation with red paint and black polish. Motives are spirals, s-shaped hooks, meandres, shaded rectangles, grid and checker motives.

Between the Matra mountain ranges and the southern edge of the Bükk mountains, we find remains from the Szilmeg group which uses painted pottery. However, there are only very few publications.

Finally we have to mention the Raškovce group in Slovakia.

We point out the many figural representations from the eastern LPC, among them anthropomorphic figurines (e. g. from Füzesabony-Gubakút: Domboróczki 1997; from Mezőkövesd-Mocsolyás: Kalicz/Koós 2002; from Mezőkeresztes: Koós 2003). They differ very clearly in shape and decoration from the figurines of the western LPC. Often, their heads are triangular which reminds of the figurines from the Vinča culture. Furthermore there are figurines with a human head and an animal’s body (cf. ibid.).

Face vessels are very common in the Szakálhát group, do, however, occur also in the Tiszadob group, the Bükk culture and very rarely in other groups in the eastern LPC (vgl. Kalicz/Koós 2000; Raczky/Anders 2003). Few anthropomorphic applications and incised representations can also be noted.

Besides there are pearls, spoons, small four-legged altars, spindle-whorls and net weights made from clay.

The spectrum of ground stone tools is made up of adzes, grinding and millstones, chisels, flat hatchets and axes with a drilled hole (Kalicz/Makkay 1977, 56-57). Analyses of the raw material used are rare. There are also tools made from flint (e. g. radiolarite and limnoquarzite and, very rarely, rhyolite, opal, quarzite and mudstone in Moravany: Kozłowski/Nowak/Vizdal 2003, 138) and obsidian, for example blades, also flakes and nodules.

Awls, polishing tools, arrow heads, drills, needles, chisels and hatchets were also made from bone and antler. Especially remarkable are spoons resp. spatulae made from bone (e. g. in Mezőkövesd: Kalicz/Koós 2002, 66 Abb. 16). Shells and spondylus were used for making pearls and bracelets.

Chronological relations

The eastern LPC succeeds the Körös culture in Romania and Hungary. In its oldest phase there are clear continuities, for one in the pottery’s decoration (finger pinches) and also in vessel shapes, and for another in certain stone and bone tools as well as in some figurines.

In Hungary, the eastern LPC is succeeded by the Tisza culture without any hiatus. This transition can be dated to around 4900 BC.

The beginning of the eastern LPC might have occurred at the same time as the beginning of the western LPC. 14C dates from the settlements at Mezőkövesd and Moravany which both belong to the oldest phase of the eastern LPC date around 5457-5385 cal. BC (Mezőkövesd) and 5500-5400 cal. BC (Moravany).

In contrast to the western LPC, there is hardly any discussion whether its origin lies within the regional Mesolithic, since remains of the oldest phase of the eastern LPC can be found in regions where the fully-fledged Neolithic Körös culture was distributed. Parallels to the western LPC are visible in the development which sets out with homogenously decorated pottery and splits into several different regional groups. The canon of motives in the eastern LPC differs strongly from the western LPC and features, besides incised decoration, also painting.

Contacts to the neighboured Vinča culture are obvious especially in the south of the distribution, where tell-like settlements occur. There are also similarities within figural representations, mainly with heads which are often shaped triangular and are interpreted sometimes as masks.

References

K. T. Biró, Introduction: The Beginnings of a Production Economy in Hungary. In: Zs. Visy/M. Nagy/Zs. B. Kiss (eds.), Hungarian Archaeology at the Turn of the Millennium (Budapest 2003) 99-100.

L. Domboróczki, Füzesabony-Gubakút. Újkőkori falu a Kr. E. VI. évezredből. In: P. Raczky/T. Kovács/A. Anders (eds.), Utak a múltba. Az M3-as autópálya régészeti leletmentései (Budapest 1997) 19-27.

L. Domboróczki, Füzesabony-Gubakút: A Neolithic settlement in the Great Hungarian Plain. . In: Zs. Visy/M. Nagy/Zs. B. Kiss (eds.), Hungarian Archaeology at the Turn of the Millennium (Budapest 2003) 103-104.

Gy. Goldman, Battonya-Gödrösök. Eine neolithische Siedlung in Südost-Ungarn (Békéscsaba 1984).

H. Oravecz, Neolithic Burials in the Tisza Region. In: Zs. Visy/M. Nagy/Zs. B. Kiss (eds.), Hungarian Archaeology at the Turn of the Millennium (Budapest 2003) 108-110.

N. Kalicz/J. Koós, Újkőkori arcos edények a Kárpát-medence északkeleti részéből. A Herman Ottó Múz. Évk. 39, 2000, 15-44.

N. Kalicz/J. Koós, Eine Siedlung mit ältestneolithischen Gräbern in Nordostungarn. In: A. Krenn-Leeb/J.-W. Neugebauer/A. Pedrotti (Hrsg.), Aktuelle Fragen des Neolithikums in Mitteleuropa. Preist. Alpina 37/1, 2001 (2002) 45-79.

N. Kalicz/J. Makkay, Die Linienbandkeramik in der Großen Ungarischen Tiefebene. Studia Archaeologica 7 (Budapest 1977).

J. Koós, Further data on Middle Neolithic clay pottery in Eastern Hungary. In: E. Jerem/P. Raczky (Hrsg.), Morgenrot der Kulturen. Frühe Etappen der Menschheitsgeschichte in Mittel- und Südosteuropa. Festschrift für N. Kalicz zum 75. Geburtstag (Budapest 2003) 145-153.

J. K. Kozłowski/M. Nowak/M. Vizdal, A settlement of the Eastern Linear Pottery culture at Moravany (Eastern Slovakia) within the context of the neolithization of the Upper Tisza Basin. In: E. Jerem/P. Raczky (Hrsg.), Morgenrot der Kulturen. Frühe Etappen der Menschheitsgeschichte in Mittel- und Südosteuropa. Festschrift für Nándor Kalicz zum 75. Geburtstag. Archaeolingua 15 (Budapest 2003) 127-143.

J. Lichardus, Studien zur Bükker Kultur. Saarbrücker Beitr. Altkde. 12 (Bonn 1974).

P. Raczky/A. Anders, The internal relations of the Alföld Linear Pottery culture in Hungary and the characteristics of human representations. In: E. Jerem/P. Raczky (Hrsg.), Morgenrot der Kulturen. Frühe Etappen der Menschheitsgeschichte in Mittel- und Südosteuropa. Festschrift für N. Kalicz zum 75. Geburtstag (Budapest 2003) 155-182.

S. Šiška, Grabungen auf der neolithischen und äneolithischen Siedlung in Šarišské Michal’any. Slovenská Arch. 34/2, 1986, 439-454.

S. Šiška, Kultúra s východnou lineárnou keramikou na Slovenskou (Bratislava 1989).

M. Strobel, Ein Beitrag zur Gliederung der östlichen Linienbandkeramik. Versuch einer Merkmalsanalyse. Saarbrücker Stud. Mat. Altkde. 4/5, 1995/1996 (1997) 9-98.

F. von Tompa, Die Bandkeramik in Ungarn. Die Bükker und die Theiß-Kultur. Arch. Hungarica 5-6 (Budapest 1929).

M. Vizdal, Príspevok k osídleniu východoslovenskej nížiny v dobe potiskej kultury. Arch. rozhledy 45/1, 1993, 26-56.

М. Ф. Потушняк, Неолітичние поселенния Дякове I на Закарпатті. Арх. Кіїв 30, 1979, 57-74.

Further references

L. Domboróczki, The radiocarbon data from Neolithic archaeological sites in Heves County (North-Eastern Hungary). Agria 39, 2003, 5–76.

L. Domboróczki, Az újkőkor idősebb szakasza Északkelet-Magyarországon. Az alföldi vonaldíszes kerámia kultúrája Heves megye területén. Agria 39, 2003, ??-??.

P. Fojtík, Bukovohorské keramické “importy” z Olšan u Prostějova, okr. Prostějov. Arch. Rozhledy 58,4, 2006, 781–789.

L. A. Horváth, Neue Funde der Szakálhát-Gruppe von Szentes-Ilonapart. Stud. Arch. 1, 1995, 7-24.

M. Kaczanowska/J. K. Kozłowski, Bükk culture lithic assemblage from Humenné, eastern Slovakia. Štud. Zvesti Arch. Ústavu 34, 2002, 65-90.

N. Kalicz/J. G. Szénászky, Spondylus-Schmuck im Neolithikum des Komitats Békés, Südostungarn. Prähist. Zeitschr. 76,1, 2001, 24-54.

K. Kovács, Tiszaszőlős-Aszópart. Az alföldi vonaldíszes kerámia kultúra egy korai telepe (Előzetes jelenés). Tisicum 12, 2001, 79-90.

J. K. Kozłowski, The Lithic Industry of the Eastern Linear Pottery Culture in Slovakia. Slovenská Arch. 37,2, 1989, 377-410.

J. Makkay, Kontakte zwischen der Körös - Starčevo-Kultur und der Linienbandkeramik. Commun. Arch. Hungariae 1987, 15-24.

Gy. E. Nagy, Az Alföldi Vonaldíszes kerámia kultúrájának kialakulása. Debreceni Déri Múz. Évk. 1995/96 (1998) 53–150.

H. Oravecz, Middle neolithic burials at Tiszaföldvár. Data to the burial customs and social relations of the Alföld Linearband Pottery Culture. Folia Arch. 47, 1998/99, 43-62.

K. H. Simon, Betrachtungen über die Chronologie der Wende des Früh- und Mittelneolithikums im Karpatenbecken. Sargetia 26,1, 1995/96, 127-140.

Zs. K. Zoffmann, A Közép-európai (KVK és DVK) valamint az Alföldi (AVK) Vonaldíszes kerámiák embertani leleteinek metrikus összehasonlítása. Janus Pannonius Múz. Évk. 36, 1992, 85-99.

Zs. K. Zoffmann, Az alföldi Vonaldíszes kerámia Felsővadász-várdomb lelőhelyén feltárt kettős temetkezésének embertani leletei. Herman Ottó Múz. Évk. 39, 2000, 103-116.


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