The Ancient Slavs: Settlement and Society

By Martin Gojda | Go to book overview
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The ancient Slavs' habitation sites: from simple communities to sophisticated castles and urbanised centres

In the process of searching for the social structure of the early Middle Ages (the period in which Central and Eastern Europe was populated by the Slavs) the investigation of settlement forms and the mutual relations between their single components stand to the fore in current Slavic archaeological studies. With regard to the fact that relevant written sources are small in number (this is true especially for the first stage of the early medieval period) it is clear that a decisive role in such process must be played by archaeology, although it co-operates with a number of other disciplines.

Settlement forms and material culture were spread by sixth- century expansion throughout vast territories of Europe. In this context let me mention the so-called 'Slavic cultural unity', a term introduced and used by some Czech and Polish post-war scholars. The idea is that similarities in material culture of territories newly colonised by the Slavs are considered as relics of a previous cultural unity and consequently of a unified ethnogenetical evolution. Apart from similar forms and decorative components of pottery (for example the multiple and single wavy-lines), rites (cremation), and some kinds of jewels (especially the S-shaped earrings) it is, most of all, rural residential buildings that, having been widely scattered in Eastern and Central Europe, may indicate the original cultural unity of ethnic groups that had completed their ethnogenesis and started to expand. In the course of subsequent centuries cultural unity disintegrates step-by-step because of the internal development of Slavic tribal society and influence from outside. There are, of course, local differences in


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The Ancient Slavs: Settlement and Society


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