The Ancient Slavs: Settlement and Society

By Martin Gojda | Go to book overview

3
Early medieval castles -- hillforts -- and their role in the state-forming process of Bohemia

As suggested in previous lectures a fortified site was the characteristic form of settlement activity in the early Middle Ages in almost the whole territory of the west and east Slavs. Within that vast space several regions with hillforts of specific forms and layouts occur. One of them is Bohemia. It was Czech early medieval (Slavic) archaeologists who have always had a prime interest in this sort of site; even now the strategy of this branch of archaeology in Bohemia is based on the excavation and study of fortified settlements -- hillforts. This has recently been challenged by some scholars who point to the fact that the investigation of rural sites, which had direct economic relation to fortified centres, has been neglected. There are several reasons why hillforts have been excavated in preference to rural sites: 1. Many of them are mentioned in various documents, mostly in connection with the rise of a tribal aristocracy and especially with the expansion of the Přemysl (Premyslid) family that later became the ruling dynasty of the early medieval Czech state; 2. They were the political, clerical, economic and cultural centres of those times; 3. In many cases their setting in the landscape is dominant and so they understandably attract attention; 4. The excavations carried out on these sites are effective because they usually uncover a long period of settlement activity, the remains of which are relatively well preserved.

As regards terminology, the Czech denomination of this sort of site is hradiště (etymologically this means a deserted castle area). This was derived from the word hrad (castle) -- grad or gorod in Old-Slavic language -- which at present is used for the typical

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