The Orientation of Rondels of the Neolithic Lengyel Culture in Central Europe
Pasztor, Emilia, Barna, Judit P., Roslund, Curt, Antiquity
With minor differences, the late Neolithic earthworks called rondels (Petrasch 1990:418-9; Trnka 2005), are contemporary and share a common plan: circular with entrance causeways (Trnka 1991). They appear in several archaeological cultures of the early fifth millennium BC, cultures which developed from the Linearbandkeramik (LBK) culture (Kalicz 198384: 281-2; Neugebauer & Maresch 1995). The highest uniformity in the architectural design of these earthworks is shown by those of the Lengyel culture, which is spread across Transdanubia in the Carpathian Basin, in south Slovakia, in east Austria and south Moravia (Figure 1). Their principal features are the single or multiple circular ditches, broken by two or more openings (causeways), which provide entrances to the inner space (Petrasch 1990: Abb. 26; Daim & Neubauer 2005). The arrangement of the causeways is often symmetrical or nearly so. Generally there are no traces of structures within the enclosure, or if there are, the buildings avoid the centrepoint.
The earliest examples were excavated in Transdanubia, Hungary, at Se (Karolyi 1983-84: 294-307; Kalicz 1998: 57-62, Abb. 21) and Sormas (Barna 2007). They are assumed to be multi-purpose (Kovarnik et al. 2006), with a preference for a ritual interpretation since in most cases the ditches and causeways show few defensive properties. The case for a ritual function is also strengthened by small figurines unearthed close to or in the ditches (Podborsky 1985: 210; Kalicz 1998: 65; Barna 2007) although the nature of the rite is uncertain (Hansen 2007). In some cases (such as Bucany, Schletz, Tesetice-Kyjovice, Svodin or Se) the special finds lie in or near one of the entrances (all bur one are eastern or southern), strengthening the significant role of the causeways (Petrasch 2004; Podborsky 2004; Ruttkay 2004; 2005; Kalicz 2007). Archaeological investigations have also suggested that each enclosure might have belonged to a larger social community serving several settlements (Kazdova &Weber 1990: 167).
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The Lengyel rondels and astronomy
Research into the possible astronomical significance of features found in the enclosures was inspired by work done on the British henges, although these are some 1800 years later. The study was also prompted by the fact that the axes of the four-causeway rondels are nearly perpendicular to each other, suggesting the idea of orientation towards four cardinal points. Although exact measurements of the sites did not correlate with the cardinal points, interest in the possible astronomical significance of their design has not diminished. The growing popularity of archaeoastronomy has given further impetus to the continuation of such lines of research (Pavuk & Karlovsky 2004; Daim & Neubauer 2005: Teil 3). Most of these investigations, however, are characterised by the very small number of monuments studied.
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The natural candidates for the rationale of orientation were the sun, moon and stars. The first investigations of some Lengyel enclosures along with a few LBK earthworks concluded that these were solar orientations with a preference for the equinoxes and the solstices (Iwaniszewski 1996: 18-9). At the Austrian Glaubendorf 2 rondel the equinoctial sun settings could have been seen along the western causeway (Neubauer 2005: 56; Figure 2). Investigations of virtual reconstructions of these enclosures have drawn attention to the fact that other construction elements such as openings or holes cut into the palisades as well as poles could also have played a role in the observation of celestial phenomena. In the case of the Austrian Steinabrunn rondel, a pole has been argued to have been placed on the left side of the south-east causeway in order that the Pleiades' rising could be seen above it. It has also been alleged that there are monuments aligned with bright stars, such as Antares or Deneb, or star constellations instead of the sun (Gervautz & Neubauer 2005: 73). …