The archer of Forrás-hegy

Conquerors of the Hernád Valley, part 2

Several outstanding finds came to light from the small Hungarian Conquest Period cemetery located near Szalaszend, on a hillside with a fine view, despite the fact that most burials were robbed soon after the funeral. It was evident that the grave robbers were after specific objects and knew where to dig: primarily at the head and waist of the deceased. Only a silver bracelet remained at the location of the skull, and it is likely that the belt was also stolen when the burial was disturbed at the waist.

However, the sabretache suspended on the belt was not removed. In addition to the bone plate meant to keep the sabretache closed, five pieces of flint also came to light, which belonged to the tinder stored in the sabretache.

The archery equipment was presumably placed on the left side of the deceased during the funeral. Both limbs of the bow and the bones meant to stiffen the hilt came to light, as well as one half of the bone cover plate of the bow case. The other half was presumably lost when the grave was disturbed by looters.

The quiver, placed next to the left shoulder of the archer from Forrás-hegy, could not be excavated on site without risking damage. In order to properly measure and examine the reinforcements used on the quiver, the entire block of clay incorporating the quiver’s remains was removed from the soil. This was done so that the quiver could be transported to the conservators’ workshop, where conditions were far more favourable, and allowed for a more detailed examination of the object’s structure.

Tamás Pusztai (PhD)

Szalaszend–Nagy- és Kis-hegy (excavation leads: Tamás Pusztai (PhD), Csilla Líbor)

Archaeologist’s Diary

Special arrowheads

The most outstanding find out of the seven Hungarian Conquest Period graves from the cemetery excavated near Szalaszend came from grave no. 1. The quiver deposited next to the warrior contained seven arrowheads, as well as an extra-large, broad iron arrowhead with several holes, unique among Hungarian Conquest Period finds up to this day. It is still debated whether it is a broadhead or an incendiary arrowhead.

The quivers buried with Hungarian Conquest Period warriors were never fully filled with arrows. Usually, seven or less arrows came to light from individual graves during excavations. Some researchers believe that the number of arrows referred to the social status of the deceased, others hypothesize that it was connected to contemporary beliefs. Based on excavated Hungarian Conquest Period burials, while the grave goods did reflect the possible social status of the deceased, no such connection could be made based on the number of arrowheads deposited. Although a contemporary quiver could hold up to 20-25 arrows, much less were buried in all known instances. Therefore, it is more likely that the number of arrows to be added to the deceased’s quiver was determined by contemporary beliefs and were assumed to be used by the dead person to overcome various challenges in order to pass through different stages of the afterlife. Based on the above, the warrior of grave no. 1 at Szalaszend had to pass through seven different otherworldly layers with the aid of the weapons he was buried with, including this special arrowhead.

Tamás Pusztai (PhD)

The archer of Forrás-hegy

In 2018, the Hungarian National Museum excavated seven Hungarian Conquest Period burials near Szalaszend. The richest grave was disturbed by looters soon after the funeral. Only the head and waist areas of the grave were disturbed with smaller pits, which means that the robbers knew what to search for and where to dig. The looters were not interested in the quiver placed next to the left shoulder of the deceased. Based on the arrowheads which came to light, the quiver originally contained six arrows including rhomboid-shaped arrowheads, one forked arrowhead as well as a large, unique piece with six pierced holes. This could have been an incendiary arrowhead, with flammable material being woven through or affixed to the holes. No paralells to this special object are currently known from Hungarian Conquest Period assemblages.

Tamás Pusztai (PhD)


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