Warfare and Society: Archaeological and Social Anthropological Perspectives

By Ton Otto; Henrik Thrane et al. | Go to book overview
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24 Funerary Rituals and Warfare
in the Early Bronze Age Nitra Culture
of Slovakia and Moravia

ANDREAS HÅRDE

The dawn of the Bronze Age in south-western Slovakia can be ascribed to the Nitra culture, a cultural group believed to have immigrated into the Nitra and Vah basins through the Moravian Gate from Little Poland and western Ukraine. During the end of the Eneolithic the inhabitants of the river valleys in south-western Slovakia comprised of peoples belonging to the Bell Beaker, Corded Ware and Nagyrev cultures. According to Anton Tocik (1963) and Jozef Bátora (1991), the expansion of these cultural groups was now halted and pushed back by the newcomers who were thought to be more aggressive than their neighbours, thus explaining their quick spread in the area. The Nitra group was characterised by introducing not only a new burial custom but also a new copper industry, thus denominating a cultural sphere that would define the onset of the Bronze Age in the region and in neighbouring areas. The possibility cannot be dismissed that the conception of the Nitra culture is that of a culture intimidating its neighbours through continuous warfare, and in which affiliation to the culture was distinguished through social practice expressed especially in burial customs and the trade of certain prestige goods.

Although different in many aspects, the Nitra culture has to a large extent a similar material culture to the Eneolithic cultures in the area especially the Bell Beaker culture making it highly probable that the people in the Nitra river valley were to a great extent of the same population rather than members of an incursion. From an overall view the Nitra culture appears to be a unified cultural complex but when looking closer it is apparent that there are significant variations in the way this culture was expressed and how it incorporated traditions from neighbouring regions. These fluctuations vary throughout the different phases and geographical regions and can be considered as inherent phenomena deriving from contacts with other tribes in neighbouring geographical regions.

The Nitra culture is highly interesting when it comes to the study of warfare. Although it covers a small geographic area, extensive research has been conducted in recent decades that cast new light on the subject. The major burial sites are well documented and several osteological analyses have been made giving valuable insights in the nature of violence. Točik (1963; 1979) and Bátora (1991) have presented overviews of the culture giving detailed information on settlement structure, burial customs and social organisation. Recently, Bátora (1999a) also presented an outline of warfare in the Early Bronze Age in Slovakia mainly discussing the role of war in

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