The Lažňany-Hunyadihalom culture

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The term Lažňany-Hunyadihalom is comprised of the Hungarian conception of the Hunyadihalom culture, named after the settlement of Hódmezővásárhely – “Hunyadihalom” (Csongrád Megye) which was excavated by Gy. Török and J. Banner; and the Slovakian term Lažňany culture, named after the cemetery of Malé Zalužice – “Lažňany” (okr. Michalovce). Since the finds from both cultures are very similar it is admissible that they can be combined to form a “Lažňany-Hunyadihalom” culture although the name is not common in Hungarian literature. In Serbian publications we also find the term (Hunyadi-)Vajska culture, from the cemetery of Vajska in the Vojvodina. The culture dates to the end of the Hungarian middle Bronze Age (Serbia, Slovakia: early Copper Age; Romania: late Eneolithic). All further chronological statements relate to the Hungarian chronological system.


Like the preceding Bodrogkeresztúr culture, the Lažňany-Hunyadihalom culture can be found in the whole Tisza region (Bognár-Kutzián 1969, 53 fig. 12), i. e. from the Vojvodina in the south to east Slovakia (Šiška 1972, 151 fig. 40) and the Carpatho-Ukraine in the north. In the east, it thins out already in the Banat and the Crişana but reaches Transylvania with some locations. In the west, the regions between the rivers Danube and the Tisza are virtually unsettled, and neither do we find cultural remains in the hilly regions of northern Hungary and Slovakia, which is also true for the Bodrogkeresztúr culture. Key settlements can be found in the region around the mouth of the river Maros and the Tisza between Tokaj and Tiszafüred. Generally spoken, the density of settlements decreases significantly in comparison to the Bodrogkeresztúr culture (Horváth/Virág 2003, 126 f.).

Treatment of the dead

Quite contrary to the preceding Copper Age cultures of the Alföld, the treatment of the dead in the Lažňany-Hunyadihalom culture is hardly known. The number of settlements by far outnumbers the number of burials. All in all we know of only six burial places, namely, in the Košice Basin the cemeteries of Barca and Šebastovce (Šiška 1972; Nevizánsky 1984, 287 ff.), in the east Slovakian lowlands and the Ukraine the cemetery of Malé Zalužice – “Lažňany” and the graves found in Velikije Lazy (ibid.), in Hungary three children’s graves from Tiszalúc – “Sarkad” (Patay 2004) and in the Vojvodina the graves from Vajska (Brukner 1970). L. A. Horváth lately doubted whether these last mentioned graves really do belong to the Lažňany-Hunyadihalom culture (Horváth 2004). However, his arguments do not suffice to attribute the finds to phase IV of the Sălcuţa culture running parallel to the Bodrogkeresztúr culture.

The six cemeteries can be classified into two biritual cemeteries (Velikije Lazy and Malé Zalužice – “Lažňany”), two cremation cemeteries (Barca and Šebastovce) and two cemeteries containing only inhumations which roughly corresponds the regional distribution. The three graves from Tiszalúc, however, were found in a settlement which has to be treated differently. With one (biritual) exception, all graves are single graves. The cremations (about one third of all burials) can be divided into burials where the burnt remains were placed in an urn and burials where the remains were scattered. Concerning inhumations, the Lažňany-Hunyadihalom people buried their dead according to their sex, with women lying on the left side and men on the right side in a crouched position, just like it was done in former times. In Vajska, this was confirmed by anthropological analyses. With small variations, the dead were placed with their head to the east. A large amount of individuals lying on the right side and the lack of children’s graves is known already from the Tiszapolgár/Bodrogkeresztúr cultures. Since the three graves from the settlement of Tiszalúc are children, there might be some sort of connection between the age at death and the place of the burial which might also be true for older cultures (Patay 2004, 174). The burials were arranged in rows on the cemeteries.

The number of grave goods is noticeably smaller than in the Bodrogkeresztúr culture. Especially in cremations almost exclusively pottery was found, besides small stone tools and, rarely, jewellery made from amber. The average number of pottery in the graves clearly declines, even though it still occurs in almost every grave; there are only two graves known that do not contain grave goods. The number of weapons (esp. axes) and tools (esp. knives) in graves also decreases; even animal bones which were commonly placed in graves in the Tiszapolgár/Bodrogkeresztúr culture do not occur so often any more. We notice a decrease in terms of quality as far as jewellery is concerned. Indeed copper bracelets are still used, however, the typical gold pendants disappear altogether, apart from some examples from Vajska. A new item is a silver pendant from Tiszalúc (Patay/Szathmári 2001).

Although the state of our sources is bad and although grave goods decrease in terms of quantity and quality, we are still able to see a social structure between individuals. As before, in the Lažňany-Hunyadihalom culture it is usually men who were buried at special places on a cemetery, equipped with “rich” grave goods (Nevizánsky 1984, 306).

Since there are only about 100 graves, since ca. 90 of them were found in the northern periphery of the regions where Lažňany-Hunyadihalom is distributed and since they are badly preserved (Nevizánsky 1984, 288), it is actually impossible to find and describe rules for the treatment of the dead. We already mentioned that cemeteries decrease drastically especially in the well-researched Alföld; this is already our main conclusion about the treatment of the dead. Furthermore, we have to stress that no Bodrogkeresztúr burials were found on any of the six Lažňany-Hunyadihalom cemeteries. Therefore, there is no continuity which is even more underlined by the excursive increase of cremations. The increasing lack of grave goods is not a sign for cultural change, however, it fits well into the picture of a clearly emerging modification. Traditions reaching back as far as the Neolithic (e. g. animal bones and amulets (animal teeth, pebbles, pigs’ mandibulae) as grave goods) are abandoned.

Although the density of settlements of the succeeding late Copper Age Boleráz group and the proto-Boleráz phase in the Alföld was clearly increasing in the last decades (Kalicz 2004, 183), we are still not able to give clear evidence of the treatment of the dead, even more so since Pilismarót is the only cemetery in all regions where the culture is distributed (ibid., 185).


Although more settlements than cemeteries were excavated (cf. a list at Patay 2004, 174 rem. 3), the way of settling in the Lažňany-Hunyadihalom culture is hardly better known than that of the preceding cultures. The most important excavation was conducted in Tiszalúc – “Sarkad”, however, it was only published in preliminary reports up to now (Patay 2004, 169). Research yielded a settlement the size of about one hectar, fortified with a palisade. The houses had two rooms and were frequently rebuilt. About 120 houses could be attributed to one phase (Patay 1995; Virág/Bondár 2003, 129).

The economy of the culture is hardly known. At least we can state some facts about animal husbandry since zoological analyses were conducted in Tiszalúc. Here, over 90 % of all bones are those of domesticated species, and of these about 88 % are cattle bones. All other animals are represented with smaller percentages. However, we have to mention the appearance of horse and lion as well as shells occuring quite frequently (Patay 1995).

This way of settling, as far as we can generalize for the whole culture, strongly differs from the small open settlements of the Bodrogkeresztúr culture which were interpreted as temporary settlements of stockbreeder societies. Only very rarely Bodrogkeresztúr settlements are occupied again (Horváth 2004, 73).

Find material

The pottery has not yet been classified in terms of typology up to date so we still have to use Šiška’s classification. He divided pottery from Lažňany burials into ten classes (Šiška 1972, 129 ff.). On one hand, the pottery carries on with traditions from the Bodrogkeresztúr culture, which is visible in a large proportion of undecorated vessels and the continuity of single types or features such as “flower pots”, vessels with two handles, beakers with four sides and vessels with hollow pedestals (Patay 2002 and 2004a). On the other hand, we find features in the pottery that distinguishes it from its precursors. We mention vessels with one handle, “Scheibenhenkel” (disc-shaped handles), red slip and black painting but also other typological features such as a slightly thickened rims, vertically perforated lugs and knobs pressed out from the inside (Patay 2004, 171 ff.). The “Scheibenhenkel” were seen as the chronological main criteria of the pottery (in summary: Horváth 2004).

When we regard applied figurines we notice a visible break in comparison to the older middle Copper Age. These applications are known in the Lažňany-Hunyadihalom culture in the shape of applications on lids, but they do not depict animals any longer, but men. All examples (especially from Tiszalúc and Tiszafüred) are fragmented and were found in refuse pits. They are the first certain anthropomorphic representations since the Neolithic. Using analogies from west Anatolia, the Kyklades and the Balkan they are interpreted as an expression of southern influences which were modified in a local way, as a lid decoration (Patay 1989, 42 f.). A vessel with an hour-glass-shaped anthropomorphic representation from Vadas might also be attributed to the Lažňany-Hunyadihalom culture (Rezi Kató 1998). Good parallels can be found on late Tripolje vessels (ibid., 9 fig. 3).

The jewellery in the Lažňany-Hunyadihalom culture is dominated by copper bracelets, otherwise we know only of an amber pearl and the gold pendants from the Traian-Vajska type (Nevizánsky 1984, 290). A single find is a silver pendant from Tiszalúc (Patay/Szathmári 2001). Metal finds decrease in quantity and quality in comparison the the Bodrogkeresztúr culture. There are only small pieces; especially the formerly very typical gold finds vanish almost completely. The only representatives of this kind were found in Vajska, which anticipates the lack of metal finds in the following late Copper Age (Makkay 1996, 42ff.; Horváth 2004, 64). Heavy tools made from copper (axes) represent the only artefacts which might have been used as weapons. Furthermore, small copper tools (especially knives but also awls and chisels) and rare stone tools were found. They occur rarely in graves (Šiška 1972, 143 ff.). If found in settlements, they are usually deposited in refuse pits (Patay 1995, 97). Remarkably, Volhynian flint which was commonly used in the early and early midde Copper Age is now receding in favor of Polish flints, if only in the Lažňany group. Differences are also noticeable in terms of typology. E. g., triangular arrow-heads which were quite common in the Bodrogkeresztúr culture are now missing (Kaczanowska 1980, 55).

Chronological relations

The chronological autonomy of the Lažňany-Hunyadihalom culture was first recognized in the 1960s, by Slovakian researchers. This insight is due to S. Šiška. He dealt frequently with the early Copper Age (according to Slovakian terminology) and combined the Herpály, Tiszapolgár, Bodrogkeresztúr and Lažňany cultures to a so-called Polgár complex comprised of four phases (Šiška 1972). Some researchers stick to this up to today (cf. e. g. Tasić 1995). In Hungary, however, still dominated the belief that “Scheibenhenkel” were a feature of the younger Bodrogkeresztúr culture. This opinion went back to the first summarizing compilation of the Hunyadihalom group (Bognár-Kutzián 1969). Therefore, finds from the Hunyadihalom type were thought to be more or less contemporaneous with the Bodrogkeresztúr culture for a long time. The vertical stratigraphy of both cultures was only accepted after the excavation of three new locations in Tiszavalk – “Tetes”, Tiszafüred – “Majoros” and Tiszalúc – “Sarkad”. In the case of the Tiszalúc stratigraphy, it was also clarified that the Boleráz group dates younger than Lažňany-Hunyadihalom; for some time, these two cultures were thought to be contemporaneous (Patay 2004, 173). Romanian research verifies this (Roman 1995). The sequence Bodrogkeresztúr > Lažňany-Hunyadihalom > Boleráz is not doubted any more in modern research. Meanwhile it has even been improved: a transitional horizon lying between the middle and the late Copper Age was established. It differs from Lažňany-Hunyadihalom as well as from Boleráz and is called proto-Boleráz phase (Kalicz 2001; Horváth 2001).

Unfortunately there is no chronological classification that transcends this sequence in principle. The chronological value of different pottery features, especially of “Scheibenhenkel”, is doubted more and more (Horváth 2004). An intern chronological sequence provided with characteristic types and proved by stratigraphies is lacking for Lažňany-Hunyadihalom as well as for the Bodrogkeresztúr culture although there are different indications that such a sequence exists, e. g. in the cemetery of Šebastovce (Šiška 1972, 129.148 ff.).

In terms of absolute chronology, the culture can be dated in between 3600 and 3400 BC. However, this is true only indirectly using dates from the Bodrogkeresztúr culture and the Boleráz group (Kalicz 2002; ibid. 2004, 195 f.). The dates from Tiszalúc yielded an average of about 3800 BC but the data might have been gained from the Bodrogkeresztúr layers of the settlement (Patay 1995, 98).

Although a thorough chronological classification is still lacking, there have been various attempts to place the culture in a cultural-historical context. Regularly, long-distance inter-regional comparisons are attempted, especially based on the “Scheibenhenkel” and on vessels with a red slip (Raczky 1991), on metal objects (Horváth 2004) or on anthropomorphic representations (Patay 1989). In this vein, relations to the Aegean-Anatolian regions as well as to the Pontic steppe were postulated. In the north, the culture is compared to the Wyciąże-Zlotniki group (Kaczanowska 1986; Kalicz 2001, 404). Lately, research also tends towards finding western influences. E. g., Patay stresses the great similarity of some features with finds from Hissar in Kosovo (Patay 2004a), and the newly discovered vessels with one handle are also derived from a western neighbour, the Balaton-Lasinja culture (Patay 2004, 173 ff.). The long-assumed connection between Furchenstich pottery of the Bodrogkeresztúr and Lažňany-Hunyadihalom cultures and the central European Furchenstich horizon (and with it also Balaton-Lasinja II-III) is refuted today (Horváth 1994 and 2004).

The crucial role in communicating long-distance connections was supposedly played by the neighbouring Sălcuţa IV culture in the south. In research it was combined with Bodrogkeresztúr, Lažňany-Hunyadihalom and proto-Boleráz to form a so-called “Scheibenhenkel” horizon made up of four phases (Kalicz 2001, 405 f.; critically: Horváth 2004). In its younger phase it is contemporary to Lažňany-Hunyadihalom. The most important location in terms of chronological sequences and inter-cultural relations is a stratigraphy found in the cave of Băile Herculane – “Peştera Hoţilor” (Roman 1971 and 1995). In modern Romanian research, Bodrogkeresztúr, Sălcuţa and the finds from Cheile Turzii, Herculane II-III and Pecica - “Şanţul Mare” (i. e. Hunyadihalom) are combined to a BSCHP complex with three phases (Luca/Roman/Diaconescu 2004).

The Sălcuţa culture seems to be not only a procurer of long-distance connections between the Carpathian Basin and the lower Danube (here, especially the Cernavodă I culture); some researchers even derive the whole Hunyadihalom culture directly from Sălcuţa (Brukner 1982; Horváth 2004, 71). The Lažňany-Hunyadihalom culture marks the end of a cultural development of the Bodrogkeresztúr culture reaching back into the Neolithic. It demonstrates the beginning of a continuous development to the Baden culture. Together with Sălcuţa IV and Cernavodă I it achieves great inter-regional uniformity which supposedly smooths the way for the Cernavodă-III-Boleráz horizon (Roman 1995, 19 f.; Horváth/Virág 2003, 127). Moreover, it is the last period where the eastern (Lažňany-Hunyadihalom) and the western (Balaton-Lasinja II-III) parts of the Carpathian Basin undergo separate, but parallel developments (Kalicz 2004, 182) whose main characteristic is a clear influence from various directions. In the west, the expansion of the central European Furchenstich pottery causes the end of the Balaton-Lasinja I culture. At the same time, in the east the Bodrogkeresztúr culture ends due to Balkanic influences (Horváth 1994, 101). Šiška who pointed out many contacts of the Lažňany culture to neighbouring eastern and western regions beyond the Carpathian mountains thinks that the end of the Bodrogkeresztúr culture is the result of a cultural decline which made it possible for foreigners to enter the Tisza region (Šiška 1972, 159). Patay believes that this process is connected to a regionalization into different groups, but at the same time he stresses local traditions and with them, a genetic connection to the Bodrogkeresztúr culture (Patay 2004, 174).

The break between the Bodrogkeresztúr culture and the Lažňany-Hunyadihalom culture is clearly visible. In favor of this speak great changes in the treatment of the dead and the way of settling as well as the changes in the find material. To what extent the assumptions of large-scale networks are all true, we can only answer when the local chronological development of the middle Copper Age is thoroughly researched.


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© 2007-2009 Matthias Thomas
translated by Valeska Becker
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