The Settlement of Transylvania in the 10th and 11th Centuries

Two Transylvanian cemeteries, discovered and excavated in 1910–12, proved to be of immeasurable value to archaeologists interested in that region and, more particularly, in the life of ordinary people at the time of the Conquest and in the early Árpádian period. The two cemeteries were closely related, and they also displayed links with the graves — some of which included harnesses or the remains of horses — of the 'middle class' from the Conquest period. Both could be dated from funeral obuli. Thanks to these two cemeteries, contemporary archaeologists who studied Transylvania could remain free of the 'Bjelo Brdo' bias: an ill-founded notion that 'row graveyards' had belonged, not to Hungarian commoners from the time of the settlement and of the Árpáds, but to the 'conquered' Slavs. Moreover, the same two Transylvanian cemeteries {1-304.} provided an excellent base for understanding — without ethnic bias — the composition of the lower strata who lived in Hungary at the time. In fact, the ethnic outlook that characterized the 19th and 20th centuries would have seemed almost incomprehensible back in the 10th and 11th centuries.

The first of these important sites was the section of a cemetery at Várfalva-Váralja, overlooking the valley of the Aranyos River. This was, in fact, an early burial ground of the first castle at Tordavár. The early objects found at the south end of the cemetery, which had a north-south alignment, were typical of 10th-century Hungarian attire: double-pendant collar ornaments, cast costume jewelry and buttons, silver and bronze buttons from short fur jackets, torques made of twisted wire, and bracelets, some flat, others decorated in the shape of animal heads. A rhombus-shaped arrowhead, placed in a grave as a talisman or as a token of rank, evoked the 'Magyars' arrows' that had terrorized Europe in the 10th century. On the other hand, in the northern part of the cemetery, the distinguishing feature is the funeral obuli that had been placed in the mouth or hand of the deceased: a central group of graves, which yielded coins from the time of Stephen I (five graves, of which four were of the obulus type), Peter, and Samuel, were surrounded by a set of seven graves containing coins (nine in all) from the age of Andrew I. The coins from Ladislas I, found at the graveyard's edge, indicate the latest burials on the site. Clasped hands testify to Christian burials in the age of the monarchy, as do the simple jewels of the early Árpádian period: bronze hair-rings with tips bent into an S-shape, rings, plain or twisted wire bracelets, and torques fashioned from smooth and thick bronze wire. There is no trace of pagan food offerings, nor of pots or weapons.

The other cemetery, in the vineyard at Vajdahunyad-Kincses, belonged to the first castle — yet to be researched — at Hunyadvár. The excavated section, consisting of 78 graves (of which 21 were found despoiled), yielded only faint traces of the 10th century: a {1-305.} rhombus-shaped arrowhead, a metal button, a ring, a jacket button, a flattened, Byzantine bronze coin that had been pierced to hang on a necklace, and a man's skull that, in pagan fashion, had been trepanned. At the centre of the excavated section, four graves yielded funeral obuli from the time of Saint Stephen (Stephen I); graves situated southward held coins dating from Andrew I, while others, farther north, contained coins from Béla and Solomon, along with simple, 11th-century jewels.

Two social strata, partly overlapping in time, materialized in the Transylvanian Basin. The earlier one, the 'middle class' of the 10th century (identified with the 'pagan' graves, complete with horses and weapons) was eliminated by the central power no later than the beginning of the 11th century. The other stratum, which left its traces in graves such as the one at Várfalva-Váralja, lived on undisturbed in its villages and continued to use the cemeteries after the advent of the Christian monarchy; they were valued as taxpayers, manpower, and devout Christians.

There are cemeteries all over Transylvania that are linked to this popular culture, which evolved in two phases. Its 10th century, 'Várfalva' phase is marked by a number of finds: the later graves at Magyarlapád; the older finds at Maroscsapó (twisted torques, bridle, pot, bracelet) and at Maroskarna, which came from other cemeteries; a bracelet with animal head from the Torda region; a cemetery section of 45 graves, situated on a hill southwest of Torda- Tündérhegy; a carved bronze ring ornamented with a bird figure, twisted torques, an earring, and a bracelet, found in graves at Alvinc-Borberek; the 15–20 graves, of 10th-century origin, uncovered so far at Marosnagylak; and, at Zeykfalva, the graves dated by coinage from Stephen I. The chance find at Vecel of a 10th-century, lyre-shaped clip that must have come from a grave, also belongs to this category, as do some of the rhombus-shaped arrowheads that were uncovered in commoners' cemeteries. The distinctive, and often masterfully wrought arrowheads have turned up at several {1-306.} certified sites of Hungarian settlements, dating from the 10th–11th centuries, in Transylvania: Angyalos, Sepsiszentgyörgy-Bedeháza, Sespsiszentgyörgy-Eprestető, Csernáton, Doboka, Malomfalva, and Marosgombás. Thus the more sporadic finds of this object (at Csáklya, Hari, Magyardécse, Nyírmező, Torda, as well as at Vajasd, where a 10th-11th century pot was also found) are presumably traces of nearby settlements or cemeteries.

A number of other cemeteries have been dated — mostly by 11th-century coins — as being contemporary with the one at Vajdahunyad: Bágyon, Betlenszentmiklós, Borosbenedek (a bracelet, and a set of six hair clasps, bearing a ribbed pattern, and with S-shaped tips); Dés; Déva (traces up to Ladislas I); Kelnek, Kozárvár, Marosvásárhely; Marosszentgyörgy (hair ring, pot); Máramarossziget (two hair rings); Radnót, [Sajó]sárvár, and Szék. The roots of the cemeteries at Zabola and Petőfalva can also be traced back to this period and type of graveyard. These cemeteries are distributed relatively evenly over the territory of Transylvania.

The survival of the centres associated with princes, clan chiefs, and clans in the 10th century deserves careful consideration. In this respect, medieval Kolozsvár is a poor example, for the commoners' cemetery that it must have had in the 10th-11th centuries remains undiscovered, and only the miserable hovels uncovered in Libucgát Street offer some evidence of continuous settlement.

On the other hand, at Gyulafehérvár, archaeological finds accurately reflect the castle's importance in the late 10th century and thereafter. The military power of the gyula is evoked by the bronze tip of a scabbard that once held a 'Viking', or rather a Byzantine sword. In the 10th and 11th centuries, at least four or five cemeteries were established on either side of the ancient Roman walls. Although none of them has been fully excavated, the graves and objects so far discovered attest to the importance of the site. The castle's earliest grave with horse held 10th-century bridle fixtures. The site of a Roman necropolis, located southwest of the castle, {1-307.} holds the burials of succeeding cultures, notably Slav funeral urns and skeleton-graves dating from the Bulgar period. Finds indicate that the site was used by Hungarians from around 1000 (an iron-bound quiver holding flat, rhombus-shaped arrowheads, as well as twisted-wire torques, bracelets — some of cast metal and bearing animal-head decoration, rings, and earrings) until the middle of the 12th century (funeral obuli dating from the time of Béla II and Béla III). A third cemetery was located northwest of the Roman walls, in Zalatnai Street. The few graves initially discovered held stirrups, torques, hair rings, rings, pots, and a trepanned skull. More recently, an additional 180 were excavated, dating from the 11th–12th centuries, and holding earrings, hair rings, buckles, arrowheads, and obuli from the age of Andrew I, Béla I, Solomon, and Ladislas I. Hair rings and other rings were found in a fourth cemetery situated near Mamut Hill. The fifth cemetery to be reported is a commoners' graveyard, dating from the 11th century, and situated south of the castle, although it may be the same as the one superimposed on the Roman necropolis; it is said to hold some 10th-century graves as well, with braid ornaments in the form of filigreed bronze disks, silver earrings with grape-bunch pendants, and even horse bones.

All the signs point to continuity. The pottery in the sunken hovels that were excavated, mostly around the cathedral, on the citadel's land, evokes the pottery found at, say, Fehérvár, in Transdanubia; the jugs, pots, and earthenware cauldrons were similar in shape and decoration to those, dating from the Árpádian period, found in other parts of Hungary. Christian burials were conducted from the 10th to the 12th centuries around the rotunda that stood on the site of the present cathedral, and later around the first episcopal church. Some graves were discovered around the latter church a long time ago, and dated by coins from the time of Coloman to that of Béla III and Andrew II; more recently, many additional graves were found, and they yielded 12th century jewels (round-headed metal hairpins, rings, and late-period hair rings).

{1-308.} The 19-metre long section of a church was recently excavated at a distance of some 32 metres from the present cathedral's western facade, but the details have yet to be published. The alignment of the uncovered apse and nave corresponds to that of the cathedral that stood there at the time of Saint Ladislas, but the church could not have been standing when construction began on the cathedral, for the latter's cemetery cuts across the foundations walls of the church. The earliest grave in the cemetery is dated by a coin from Coloman's time, the others by hair rings with S-shaped tips and by an obulus from the time of Géza II (1141–1161). A Hungarian grave with horse, containing a heart-shaped harness ornament, was discovered under the little church, signifying that the latter had been founded no later than 1000.

Substantial memorials testify to the existence of other centres of power in the 10th–11th centuries. Dobokavár castle, which overlooks the valley of the Lóna, a tributary of the Kis-Szamos River, was evidently named after its first master, who had also owned an estate in Fejér county (Doboka-puszta). Doboka's son, Csanád, defeated Ajtony while serving as one of Stephen I's generals. The gigantic fortress was probably the centre of the defensive network built in Transylvania during the Árpádian period; it was eventually reconstructed in stone. The excavated finds on the site (apart from prehistoric and 8th-century Slavic items) date from around 1000: rhombus-shaped arrowheads, plain torques with a square cross-section, torques and bracelets made of twisted wire, a fragment of a foal's bridle, and iron fire-starters. These objects, which had belonged to ordinary people, are dated by a half- moon shaped pendant similar to those, dating from the end of the 10th century, that were found in cemeteries at Szolnok airfield and Szob-Koliba. The pottery found in the lower level of the site (level I) is also from this period; it includes such distinctively Hungarian objects as a 'Saltovo' jug with ribbed neck and earthenware cauldrons. The castle had been rebuilt and enlarged through at least three or four historical {1-309.} periods. The ornamental silver pendants of the 'Darufalva type', which were crafted in Byzantium or in a Russian workshop in Kiev, date from the end of the first period. Coins and other precious objects of Polish, Russian, and Bulgar provenance (from 26 treasure troves) — including silver beads from a similar workshop — clearly date this excavation level to the last decade of the 10th, or the first decade of the 11th century. The later levels (II–IV) and periods are marked by pottery that reflects the development of this craft in Hungary through the Árpádian era, as well as by 11th and 12th century spurs, a feathered arrowhead, and the fragment of a 'Majs type' pectoral cross. The excavations thus confirm what other historical sources indicate: the original Dobokavár had been built as a count's (ispán's) castle at the time when Stephen I developed the county structure of administration. Its extensive cemeteries and churchyards — details of which have yet to be published — indicate that its golden age was in 11th and 12th centuries.

The feudal castle, surrounded by earthworks, at Malomfalva was probably also built around 1000. The arrival of the Hungarians, and the castle's antecedents at the end of the 10th century, are indicated by a double-edged sword (with a sabre-type hilt), a 10th-century, heart-shaped bronze button (Hula), and rhombus-shaped arrowheads.

Historiography and archaeology have followed separate paths in investigating Transylvania's political-military centres in the period of the Conquest and foundation of the Hungarian state. Since relatively few early records survived, historians have had to draw inferences from later sources. The pitfalls of this method are best illustrated by the case of the 'two Kolozsvárs'.

Excavations in the main square (Szabadság tér/Piaţa Libertăţii) of modern Kolozsvár — conducted by János Herepei (1927), István Méri (1943), I. Mitrofan and István Ferenczi (1948, 1958, 1961) — revealed no trace of the 11th–12th century settlement; V. Vătăşianu's search in the óvár (old castle), in 1956, proved {1-310.} equally fruitless. A few relics of the Middle Ages were discovered in the course of construction work in the main square in 1871, and during the canalization work in the inner city in 1895, but most of the finds were of Roman origin: coins (up to Philippus Arabs) as well graves and remnants of buildings. The earliest archaeological traces of urban life around 1200 were found in the layer of humus covering the ruins of the ancient Roman town (a fallen column, Roman debris with 2nd and 3rd century coins); the humus held only insignificant signs of settlement dating from the early Middle Ages. The cemetery of a 12th-13th century church — which, buried under the foundations of St. Michael Cathedral, is the oldest church known to have existed in Kolozsvár — was found installed in the upper level of the Roman layer. The graves yielded a few objects dating from the late 12th and early 13th centuries: late-type hair-rings, hairpins with silver, disc-shaped heads, silver buttons from short fur jackets, a silver-gilt disk pendant with loop, and a worn obulus. There are no archaeological traces of continuous settlement between the destruction of Napoca and the turn of the 13th century.

The count's castle that gave the county its name is situated one-and-a-half kilometres west of the city's centre, in present-day Kolozsmonostor. It is mentioned in a document dating from 1341: 'quod quia monasterium Beate virgins de Kluswar fundacio sancti regis Ladislai exstitit'. Thus the name Kolozsvár was originally given to the hill on which the monastery was built. This is the site that is referred to in 12th century documents as castrum Clus, the seat of the comes Clusiensis.

The castle, though much diminished by the ravages of time, remains imposing, measuring some 220 by 98 metres at its base. Only part of its earthen ramparts, 12–13 metres high, remain. The cuts through the ramparts and the excavations inside the castle, carried out it 1970–82, brought results that were both surprising and reassuring. The ramparts, which had two layers, concealed the remnants {1-311.} of an earlier fort constructed of earth and wood beams. Inside the castle walls, the foundations were found of sunken dwellings. Fragments of broken pottery in the earthworks and the houses clearly date from the 10th and 11th centuries; three items, a cast-metal pendant from the time of the original Hungarian settlers, an early earthenware cauldron, and a denarius (found in the late 1900s) dating from St. Stephen indicate with some precision that the first fort was erected around the year 1000.

The three Solomon coins that were unearthed in the ruins of a burned house point to the likelihood that the first fort and settlement had been destroyed by fire during the Pechenegs' incursion in 1068. When the fort was reconstructed, its earth-and-beam wall was raised by three metres; the dwellings within the walls were not rebuilt. Burials ceased — or were forbidden — in the semi-pagan cemetery that dates from the 10th–11th centuries and lies to the south of the fort.

The new ramparts sheltered the counts' residence and served exclusively military purposes, but Ladislas I settled Benedictine monks on the premises. By the end of 11th century, the monks had raised the three naves of the Church of the Blessed Virgin (contemporary with St. Aegidius [St. Egyed]'s monastery in Somogyvár) and probably a monastery building as well. The castle's people, who lived outside the ramparts, were served by the new church and a Christian cemetery. The numerous obuli, found in the more than 150 graves that have been excavated so far, date from the time of Andrew I, Ladislas I, Béla II, Géza II, and Béla III. The graves yielded objects — hair-rings with S-shaped tips, rings, beads, pressed costume jewelry, and a round buckle fibula — that were similar to those found in Hungary's other churchyards dating from the 11th and 12th centuries. The richness of the graves is striking: over a third of them contained jewelry or money. However, this 'richness', found also in other Transylvanian churchyards, belies the relatively backward, archaic economic, social, and religious conditions that prevailed in the region.

{1-312.} The first Kolozsvár fort was destroyed during the Mongol invasion, by which time the first monastery might have been replaced. There are indications in the cemetery that, by the end of the 12th century, construction had begun on a new building, although it cannot be ascertained whether it was finished by 1241.

Art history was greatly enriched by the discovery of a hexagonal 'round chapel' of the Karcsa-Kiszombor-Gerény-type; it had been raised on the foundations of the late 11th-century monastery. Since the foundations included capitals and carved double plinths dating from around 1100, the round chapel could not have been built before the very end of the 12th century. This find therefore also serves to correct the previous, earlier dating of similar round chapels.

The phenomenon of the 'two Kolozsvárs' recurs in the case of Tordavár. The founding document of Garamszentbenedek, in 1075, mentions a castrum, quod vocatur turda on the banks of the Aranas (Aranyos) River, between present-day Torda and Torockó. The previously-noted graveyard at Várfalva was the first burial place of this fort's inhabitants, a fact confirmed by the reference to Turdawar alias Varfalwa vocata in a document dated 1394. The well-preserved earthwork measured 100 by 190 metres at the base; archaeologists have excavated several cross-sections of its ramparts, but their finds and conclusions have yet to be published. In the fort's later period, the walls had been rebuilt in stone.

The situation is similar in the case of another previously-noted cemetery, at Vajdahunyad, which bears no relation to the later castle of the Hunyadi family. Instead, it was linked to the original Hunyadvár — an earthwork, surrounded by ramparts, that has not been excavated, but which is similar to the forts of Kolozsvár and Tordavár. The fort of Küküllővár (castrum cuculiense, 1197) is situated on a promontory overlooking the marshy floodplain along the south bank of the Kis-Küküllő River. The original, oval ramparts were largely obliterated, first by the construction of a castle in the {1-313.} late Middle Ages, and then by recent building projects. There is no sign, either on the site or in written works, that excavations were ever conducted on the site. As far as is known, the only finds on the site of the fort are a few silver rings dating from the late Middle Ages.

The fort of Sárvár, on the Sajó River, is considerably smaller than the counts' forts; it was probably owned by clan chieftains, and in the early Middle Ages by feudal lords. Sárvár, like Dobokavár and Kolozsmonostor, is encircled by two lines of ramparts which at one point had been rebuilt and raised. In both periods, the early Árpádian technique had been used in raising a cross-structured beam wall on the earth ramparts. Since the ground below the earlier earthworks, which may date back to the 10th century, yielded no potsherds, it may be concluded that there was no former settlement on the site. The foundations of partly-sunken dwellings were uncovered inside the fort, similar to those at Kolozsmonostor, Biharvár, and Gyulafehérvár; the pots, vessels, and earthenware cauldrons found there date from the late 10th and 11th centuries. The second period of the fortification and settlement is indicated by easily-identifiable 11th-century fragments as well as by the 11th and 12th century objects (hair-rings, both small and quite large, with S-shaped tips, as well as beads and rings) found in the adjoining graveyards.

The presence of costly foreign swords and sword-fragments, dating from the 10th century, identify a number of forts as belonging to rulers, counts, or feudal lords, and their military retinues. This is the case at Dés, Nagyernye (two swords?), Malomfalva- Szentjános, Gyulafehérvár, Déva, Biharvár, and Arad-Csálya. Such finds are particularly common in the Temes region: at Kübekháza and Keglevichháza, both near Marosvár, at Zsombolya (near Temesvár), at Szászkabánya-Téglavető, near Krassóvár (from a grave), at Versec, Kevevár, and, last but not least, at Orsova. Another ('W-Z-X') type of Western sword,also from the 10th century, {1-314.} has been found in the Temes region, at Törökbecse and Nagybecskerek. In fact, more swords have been found in the Temes region than in the entire region between the Danube and Tisza rivers, including the old Bács region.

Research based on archaeological finds points to the conclusion that the warriors who bore late Western swords had been part of the new army (militia) raised by Prince Géza or of the miles-stratum (iobagiones, i.e. serfs); and that they had been buried, as late as the beginning of the 11th century, with ancient pagan rites. However, the same scholars ignored the unpublished finds of swords, or graves holding swords, in the region stretching from Kübekháza to Orsova. They concluded that this 'blank area' had revolted against Prince Géza (the country of black Magyars, the home of Ajtony's rebellion) and had been sealed off by sword-wielding knights who were settled by Géza along the right bank of the Maros and Tisza Rivers.

In fact, Géza's miles-stratum was as strongly in place in this dangerous, southern border zone as at the gates and gyepűs around the Felső-Tisza, Bodrog, Rába, and Danube rivers. Only after Géza's death did the rebellious Ajtony, 'backed by his many soldiers and nobles', turn against King St. Stephen ('Confidens in multitudine militum et nobilium').[23]23. Legenda S. Gerhardi episcopi, p. 8. If, as is claimed in the Gellért Legend, Ajtony's authority extended to the Körös River (a fluvio Keres), then the onetime domain of this prince of Marosvár holds more graves of soldiers with double-edged swords than any other region of Hungary, except for the Esztergom-Székesfehérvár-Óbuda triangle. And that would support the contention of the legend's author, that Ajtony 'surpassed the others with his multitude of warriors'.