Narratives for Lengyel funerary practice



Regenye J, Bánffy E, Demján P, Ebert J, Osztás A, Bronk Ramsey C, Dunbar E, Friedrich R, Bayliss A, Beavan N, Gaydarska B & Whittle A (2020) Narratives for Lengyel funerary practice. Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission, 97 2016 (2020), pp. 5-80.

This paper, dedicated to the memory of István Zalai-Gaál, presents formally modelled date estimates for the sequence of Lengyel funerary pottery in western Hungary, eastern Austria and south-west Slovakia. It is an extension of the dating and modelling already carried out by the project, The Times of Their Lives (ToTL), on the major Lengyel aggregation, including burials, at Alsónyék-Bátaszék in south-east Transdanubia. Key aspects of the Lengyel culture and its research history are discussed, including the challenges of establishing its sequence with greater precision and of affirming its significance in wider Neolithic narratives. The many contributions of István Zalai-Gaál are noted. Results from Alsónyék are summarised. The present study concentrates on furnished Lengyel graves, using the analysis of Lengyel funerary pottery from western Hungary, eastern Austria and south-west Slovakia. A full catalogue of the 121 pot types identified by István Zalai-Gaál is presented, and correspondence analysis of the occurrence of 113 of these types in 247 graves suggests a seriation for these grave-assemblages. The new radiocarbon dating programme for the sequence of Lengyel funerary pottery was designed within the framework of Bayesian chronological modelling. We aimed to provide formal date estimates for the use of different pot types and for their combinations in different phases of the seriation. We also aimed to estimate the period during which furnished Lengyel burial occurred, the pace of its introduction and demise, the date and duration of use of individual cemeteries, and the intensity of Lengyel funerary practice through time. In addition to the 159 radiocarbon measurements from 141 graves at Alsónyék (29 of which appear in the correspondence analyses presented here), 91 radiocarbon measurements are reported from 57 graves across the Lengyel distribution under discussion, all but 16 achieved by the ToTL project. These provide three chronological models for the sequence of Lengyel furnished burials: one based on the chronology of individual cemeteries and other contexts; another combining the seriation based on István Zalai-Gaál’s typology with the radiocarbon dates; and the third combining the seriation previously suggested by Diaconescu (2014a) with the radiocarbon dates. Details of the models, and of dietary analysis to investigate the possibility of offsets, are described. Lengyel furnished burial appears to have emerged rapidly, probably during the course of the 49th century cal BC, across the whole area in question (although the bulk of the earliest burials may have been in the north). Furnished burial increased in popularity in south-east Transdanubia during the 48th century cal BC, although there was a decline in the practice further north at this time. Furnished Lengyel burial appears to have become less frequent after c. 4600 cal BC, although the practice finally ended in the second half of the 46th century cal BC. Implications for the character of Lengyel communities and wider narratives of Lengyel development as a whole are discussed.

Neolithic; Lengyel culture; funerary practice; funerary pottery chronology; István Zalai-Gaál; correspondence analysis; seriation; Bayesian chronological modelling; radiocarbon dating

Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission: Volume 97 2016, Issue 2020

Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online05/11/2020
Date accepted by journal31/01/2019

People (1)


Professor Alexandra Bayliss

Professor Alexandra Bayliss

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Research programmes

Research themes