The Neolithic-Copper Age Transition on the Great Hungarian Plain: Recent Excavations at the Tiszapolgar Culture Settlement of Veszto-Bikeri

Article excerpt

The causes of the various social changes that occurred during the Neolithic-Copper Age transition in central-eastern Europe have been debated since Childe (1929: 214) outlined a series of invasions from the east into the region at the end of the Neolithic. One of the best areas to study this transition is the Great Hungarian Plain, where nucleated Neolithic tells (c. 5500-4500 cal BC) were replaced by small, dispersed Early Copper Age sites (ECA, c. 4500-3900 cal BC; see Bognar-Kutzian 1963; 1972; Kalicz & Raczky 1987; Parkinson 1999; Sherratt 1983; 1984). Despite a long, rich, tradition of archaeological research in the region, our understanding of these socioeconomic changes remains impeded by a lack of systematically excavated ECA Tiszapolgar sites.

The Koros Regional Archaeological Project ( was initiated to study ECA settlement organization and collect information on land-use and subsistence. In 2000, Hungarian and American archaeologists tested a Tiszapolgar settlement at Veszto-Bikeri (Veszto 20), located south of the tell at Veszto-Magor (Hegedus & Makkay 1987) on a rise overlooking a palaeochannel of the Koros River (FIGURE 1). The site was identified during the Magyarorszag Regeszeti Topografiaja (Archaeological Topography of Hungary) program (Ecsedy et al. 1982) and unlike most Tiszapolgar settlements where cultural deposits were disturbed by ploughing, the surface materials at Veszto-Bikeri retained their spatial integrity suggesting that sub-surface features remained intact.


Test excavations in 2000 confirmed this, and three small wattle-and-daub structures were exposed in three 2x2-m test units. In 2001, larger block excavations continued to expose two of these structures, which had been burned and levelled in antiquity. The structures were marked by a layer of daub fragments in a clay matrix overlying a thin cultural deposit of burnt daub flecks, ECA ceramics, burnt bone, lithic artefacts and charcoal flecks. Flat-lying sherds and a burned, crushed vessel (FIGURE 2) were found between these levels. No postholes or foundation trenches were associated with the structures. All datable material associated with the structures belonged to the Tiszapolgar Culture except an intrusive Hungarian Conquest Period burial, dated to the 10th century AD.


One structure--ill Block 2--contained several dozen small burned tanged and hollow-base arrow points made of bone and antler, and some bone debitage (FIGURE 3). Bone/antler points have not been recovered at ECA cemeteries in Hungary (Bognar-Kutzian 1963; 1972), and they do not have parallels in Neolithic and Copper Age assemblages from surrounding areas.


Another structure--in Block 3--contained fewer complete vessels and fiat-lying sherds. …