Gothic Settlements and Cemeteries in Transylvania

The fragment of a burial site discovered along the former Mikszáth Kálmán Street in Marosvásárhely bears archaeological importance because it allowed archaeologists for the first time to distinguish within one cemetery 4th century Gothic finds and 6th-century Gepidic finds. Most of the graves are contemporary with the middle period (first half of the 4th century) of the burial site of Marosszentanna; a set of six vessels was found only in one grave, while the rest contained one or two. The analysis of the graves is complicated by the fact that they were despoiled by Gepids(?), who subsequently also used the site for burials. A tomb made of bricks indicates local(?) Roman cultural influences. More recently, similar graveyards of varying size have been discovered at Újős-Rét (16 graves, including one of a woman wearing fibulae with a half-moon shaped end); Mező(Szász)erked (15 graves); Medgyes (9 graves on either east-west or north-south axes, and therefore belonging to different periods); Mezőakna-Faluvég (3 graves, including one, that of a wealthy woman, that held a fibula with a half-moon shaped plate, diverse Gothic vessels, and a Roman jug of Moesian origin with a pinched spout).

Objects that evoke the Marosszentanna culture — fibulae distinguished by the downward curve of the pin, bone combs with rounded backs, oval bronze and iron buckles, distinctive beads, plates and pots — have been discovered in graveyards at Kolozsvár (December 30 Street), Erdőszentgyörgy, Csombord, Mezőakna-Farkasvölgy, Vermes, Marosújvár, Betlenszentmiklós, and (Magyar)szovát. Various typical ornaments belonging to women are found in other Germanic graves from the Gothic period: silver {1-154.} or bronze fibulae with half-moon shaped plates, worn in pairs (at Kolozsvár [1870], around Marosvásárhely, between Baráthely and Ecel, and at Vajdakamarás, where the finds included a bronze clasp and earrings); ordinary fibulae from the 4th century (Apahida, Nagyernye, Szászsebes); an ornamented bone comb (Medgyes); beads and a comb with rounded back (Vajdaszentivány); and intact vessels and combs (Sövényfalva, Kissolymos, Bátos, Szászsebes). A superb set of late-Roman ornamental military belts (from the second half or the end of the 4th century), unique in the Gothic world, was discovered on the banks of the Szamos at Szamosújvár (Németi); presumably it came as booty, or was a rare souvenir brought back by a Germanic mercenary discharged from the Roman army. At the heart of the Transylvanian Basin, in the 'central' settlement area of the Goths, archaeological finds — mainly fragments of pottery, identifiable by period, and bone combs with a rounded back — testify to Gothic settlements (Marosszentanna- Cherniakhov) at Cege, Csákó, Bálványosváralja, Mezőerked, Dedrádszéplak, Szászfenes-Tarisznyapart, Vajdaszentivány (where graves were found as well), the castle at Marosvásárhely, Marosnagylak, Gernyeszeg, and Vermes. The westernmost site of the Marosszentanna type in the Maros valley, at Déva, indicates the approximate boundary of Gothic settlement. As early as 1911, a settlement was partially excavated at Kolozsmonostor — István Kovács dug up a pottery kiln — but its dating is problematical, partly because Germanic people settled there in later times as well.

In the Gyergyó Basin, near the headwaters of the Maros River, the only relevant find is of a thinly-populated settlement of the Marosszentanna type, on the grounds of the Lázár castle at Gyergyószárhegy; however, an important Gothic silver hoard (to be assessed more fully below) was found not too far away, at Gyergyó-Tekerőpatak.

There must have been significant Gothic settlements in the valley of the Küküllő rivers, west of the Gyergyó and Hargita mountains. Huts, partly sunken, and equipped with stone fireplaces, have {1-155.} been discovered at Bözöd-Lóc, in the Kis-Küküllő valley. They yielded ornamented bone combs with rounded backs, spindle whorls, plates, pots, and Roman amphoras; it appears that the residents had left in a hurry. This settlement is contemporary with that at Székelyszállás. Huts similar to those at Bözöd were uncovered in the valley of the Nagy-Küküllő at Segesvár-Szőlők (where the finds included bone combs, buckles, and vessels), not far from site of graves, holding skeletons, at Fehéregyháza; at Kisekemező; and at Székelykeresztúr-Lok. Traces of dwellings and settlements were also found at Székelyudvarhely (Szabadság Square) and at Kisgalambfalva-Galath-tető. At Rugonfalva, in the valley of the Nyikó, two elaborate graves were found, indicating the proximity of a Gothic homestead or village. Oriented on a north-south axis, these graves were originally covered with stone slabs, but they were subsequently despoiled; they yielded bone combs with rounded backs, numerous vessels, spindle whorls, fibulae, and beads. Their former richness is reflected in what the grave robbers left behind: fragments of late-Roman glasses and a metallic mirror. Another Gothic site along the Nagy-Küküllő, at Bögöz-Vízlok, yielded a pottery kiln and fragments of fine, smooth pottery with channelled decoration; huts dating from the Marosszentanna culture have also been found at Baráthely (site 1) and at Siménfalva, in the Nyikó valley.

The Háromszék Basin and the Barcaság/Burzenland comprise the third, and perhaps the richest and most important area of settlement of the Tervingi Goths in Transylvania. The largest Visigothic site to date was unearthed at Sepsiszentgyörgy-Eprestető; it includes semi-sunken dwellings that measure 2.5 by 3 metres at the base, as well as a pottery kiln. The houses and kiln yielded not only the usual pottery and bone combs with rounded backs of the Marosszentanna type, but also rich late-Roman imports: an ornamental, amphora-like vessel resembling an amphora as well as pinched-spout Moesian jugs and their replicas. The settlement's burial ground was also discovered: among the burial objects found {1-156.} in the east-west oriented graves were fibulae with half-moon plates. A cremation grave remains from an earlier period. A dwelling from the same period was discovered at Réty-Telek, along with a grave holding a skeleton; the house had a fireplace and contained a bone comb with curved back as well as coins minted in 345, under Constantine II. The sixteen skeletons unearthed more recently at Réty are probably connected with the settlement. Houses of the Marosszentanna culture, found at Gidófalva and Brassó, have yielded bone combs with rounded backs as well as other objects. Traces of Gothic settlements have been found westward along the Olt valley, at Alsókomána and as far as Sárkány; the 4th-century Roman cruciform fibula with bulb-shaped end found at Halmágy may indicate a settlement there as well.

A semi-sunken floor dwelling was discovered at Szászhermány-Pénzesgödör. At its narrower ends, the roof was supported by pairs of posts. This site yielded ornamented fibulae with half-moon shaped plates and bone pendants, as well as bone combs with curved backs, ordinary fibulae, and fragments of vessels; since such objects were normally found in graves, their presence confirmed the organic links between settlements and burial sites. At Felsőcsernáton, traces of a settlement were found by the Kereszt, and 4th-century graves with skeletons in the Mihács park. The six intact vessels — including a splendid earthenware jug with channelled decoration that resembles a Roman bronze jug — discovered near Kézdivásárhely probably came from graves. Other finds in the settlement zone of southeastern Transylvania include vessels at Dálnok-Kisvölgy, Kézdiszentlélek, and Hévízugra, and turned plates of the Marosszentanna type at Sepsiszentgyörgy-Bedeháza and Köpec.

One of the few settlements of the Marosszentanna culture that were located on the site of an abandoned or destroyed Roman castellum is found at Komolló. The finest Visigothic vessel known, an ornamented plate, was found near the castellum of Bereck, {1-157.} which once defended the Ojtoz Pass; plates of a similar type have been unearthed near Kiev, the area of this culture's Cherniakhov branch.

Outside Transylvania, the largest number — around 30 — of Gothic burial sites are found in Muntenia, where over half of them lie within a 20–30 kilometre-wide strip of land on the left bank of the Danube. It is evident that some of the Gothic settlements were purposely located close to river crossing-points and Roman trading posts.