A Horn Worth Blowing? A Stray Find of Aurochs from Hungary

By Bartosiewicz, Laszlo | Antiquity, December 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A Horn Worth Blowing? A Stray Find of Aurochs from Hungary


Bartosiewicz, Laszlo, Antiquity


Three aurochs horn cores, unearthed during the construction of the city baths in Vac (Hungary), were purchased from a private collector in 1951. One of these stray finds deserves attention in light of new archaeozoological research, and the relation between mundane horn manufacturing and high-status medieval craft industries.

The find and its context

For 45 years, three subfossil horn cores of aurochs without exact provenance have lain forgotten in the Vac municipal museum. Two are unworked. The third - 1568 g, slightly twisted, left horn core [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED] - is thought-provoking: it may represent rare debris from sophisticated decorative horn manufacturing whose end-products are known from treasuries throughout Europe. In the absence of funds for radiocarbon dating, this research hypothesis was tested by reviewing the find's morphometric traits within a broad multidisciplinary context.

The find undoubtedly originates from a mature aurochs (Bos primigenius Bojanus 1827) bull. Of the 11,733 identifiable medieval animal bones from 11 recent excavations in Vac (Bartosiewicz 1995a), wild animal remains (excluding antler) comprised only 1.5 %. No aurochs was identified. Hunting was limited to small game for townsfolk, but aurochs was also apparently extinct in Hungary by the 13th century (Szalay 1917: 57). Although its bones were found in 9th-10th century Zalavar and 11th-13th century Csongrad (Bokonyi 1974: 355, 432), aurochs had become rare here already by the Roman period (Bartosiewicz 1996: [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]).

Vac lies 30 km north of Budapest on an alluvial terrace (105-115 m above the Adriatic Sea level) on the left bank of the Danube. In Roman times, no urban tradition developed in the Barbaricum east of the Danubian limes of Pannonia province. After an episcopate was established here during the 11th century, a settlement grew on a 6-9-m sand elevation along the Danube. After the 1241 Mongol incursion, this 'Hungarian Town' was distinguished from the 'German town', a newly added nothern extension inhabited by hospes from the German Empire (Knauz 1882: 768). Ottoman Turks occupied Vac in 1544; this may be the terminus ante quem date for the horn core, since the clerical staff and the bishop's lay employees then fled (Torma 1993: 406).

The horn core was found where the Hungarian and German towns overlap [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED], at the early medieval periphery of the settlement and its near-centre during the late Middle Ages.

The newly established episcopate received a royal donation of 'great wealth and estates' (Thuroczy 1980: 150). After 1241, when the city was granted royal privileges, urbanization north of the monastic centre accelerated. For centuries Vac profited from the transit traffic of massive livestock exports (Bartosiewicz 1995b).

By the late 15th century, glass and metal industries prospered. Mines in the hilly region of present-day Slovakia provided gold and silver as early as the 13th century. Although artisans were direct subordinates of the bishop operating on the level of serfs, goldsmiths who supplied the episcopal centre established the first recorded guild in the city in 1423 (Dunay 1912: 12). Medieval records from London (quoted by MacGregor 1989: 114) show - where demand existed - horn manufacturing was combined with metal-working including gold-smithery.

Horn manufacturing

Typically, horn cores represent the first stage in production, procurement of raw material, These bones, often with cutmarks, form typical concentrations of manufacturing debris also known in Hungary (e.g. Valter 1984: 1395; Bartosiewicz 1995a: 72). The specialized mass production of various horn blanks and pre-forms was a typical sedentary/urban craft activity (MacGregor 1989: 117). Large, intact sheaths were needed, however, to make individual, high-status treasures such as blast- and drinking-horns. The Vac horn was cut off above the base using a metal saw [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 3 OMITTED] that would not have been available before the Roman Period.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

A Horn Worth Blowing? A Stray Find of Aurochs from Hungary
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?