Research Paper: Grave Goods of the Avars in Medieval Carpathian Basin

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[. . .] " (Bardos, n.d., p. 2)

Excavations also located iron furnaces but state that 100% of the excavated graves in the Avar cemetery had been robbed but that what was left "shows a miraculous richness and variability." (Bardos, nd, p. 2) It is reported that the "constitution and quality of the find material designate a community of high social level. The finds mirror the material culture of Europe in the 7th century. The rich Byzantine ornaments, the folding iron stools of Italy, western type belt mounts, glass wares, bronze dish and bronze jug, pieces of costume from the land of the Merovings." (Bardos, nd, p.3)

V. Preparation of the Dead By Avars

The early parts of the cemetery are reported to contain German type objects including Bone combs, German type clasps, inlaid iron belt mounts, sometimes forked fishing harpoons, shield knob and finally objects decorated with the Avarized variety of the 2nd German animal style." (Bardos, n.d., p. 3) In addition reported are a "… great variety of belt mounts with Byzantine ornamentation: belt mounts with dot and line or drop motives, depiction of a human face on the mounts, Byzantine type buckles and various Christian motives. It is a question if the variety of the find material reflects also an ethnic variety." (Bardos, nd, p. 3) It is reported that the Avars were great believers in "life after death. They prepared their dead to the long journey in an appropriate manner, that is according to the position, the rank they held in the community. They adorned the dead with a decorative belt and laid the weapons and tools beside the body. The decorative belt is a symbol of rank among the equestrian people of the steppes. Several belt types were used in the early Avar period. In the graves of the Avar cemetery at Zamardi, we could find Byzantine type belts, those with Merovingian construction and the griffon and tendril belts of the Late Avar period. Besides, there are representatives of the silver inlaid iron belt sets used in West Europe, the Italo-Langobard bronze belt mounts with large spheres and belt decorations with analogues also in Italy." (Bardos, nd, p. 4) The dead were often supplied by the Avars with drink and food for their journey to the other world and clay vessels are reported to have been placed at the head and feet of the dead. However, it is reported that about only one in 10 graves contained vessels and that this is probably due to the spreading of Christianity which affected this custom which was pagan in nature. The wooden bucket was used during this period and some of them were decorated with bronze bands that were "embossed rim or bronze sheets decorated with griffon and tendril figures." (Bardos, nd, p. 5)

VI. Burial of Warriors with Their Horses

It is very interesting that approximately 100 warriors were buried with their horses and this is held to be a testimony to the community wealth at Zamardi. It is explained that the warrior "was lain in a W-E directed pit. His harnessed horse was placed to the feet of the dead in the same direction but into another pit. The skeleton of the horse is found as it fell, with the harness in its place. We can often find the bit in its mouth, the decoration of the bridle and the breaching over the skeleton and the spear, which caused its death, beside the skull. The important equipments of the Avar attack, the stirrups are found on the two sides of the skeleton. The saddle was also put into the grave but we can only find it if it was covered with bone or metal plaiting. The early harness decoration was made of thin silver sheet filled with lead in the inside." (Bardos, nd, p. 4) It is reported that found in the graves with horse burial from the 7th century were "richly gilded bronze harness decoration." (Bardos, nd, p. 4) The stirrups are reported to have had "a vaulted footing with pulled up long or looped ears. In the 8th century, the stirrups with straight footing become accepted together with cast bronze, often gilded bridle rose and the caparison that decorated the head of the horse." (Bardos, nd, p. 4)

VII. Primary Important Weapon

Reported as the primary weapon of importance was the bow and it is stated that in the graves found was "its bone plating. The iron arrowheads were kept in a quiver which was often decorated with carved bone plates. The quiver belt was decorated with silver-sheet rosette shaped mounts with cast lead in them. Their equipment also contained the bone disentagler which was used to bend the bow. Beside the bow they also used spears and swords." (, p. 5) The report states that according to contemporary sources "the equipment and war tactic of the Avar warriors also served as an example for the Byzantine Empire: "...their equestrian spear should be furnished with a leather strap in its middle and with a flag similarly to that of the Avars; they should have swords and their neck protector will be worn outside similarly to the Avars and with series of wool bands in the inside... It is necessary that the horses, first of all the horses of the leaders and the elite warriors... should be furnished with breast shields made of iron or felt or their breasts and necks should be covered similarly to the Avars' especially of those who stand in the fighting line of the battle field... Two iron stirrups must be attached to the saddle..." (Mauricius, cited in: Bardos, nd, p. 5)

VIII. Gold Derived from Byzantine Empire

It is reported that annual tax was paid to the Avars by the Byzantine Empire "which by time mounted to 100,000 gold coins, for keeping the peace." (Bardos, nd, p. 6) The Avar Empire melted these gold coins and this is evident in the graves of the Avars which are reported to have been "relished in pomp and splendor" by the Avars. It is specifically reported that some of the gold jewels of the Avars were "Byzantine make. Several graves contained Byzantine gold coins placed into the grave as dead obulus but since grave robbers did a good job, only one grave held a gold solidus and another one could be located (we could observe the negative print of the coin in the corrosion of the ironing of the coffin). Grave 1392. contained the gold coin of 20 siliquis of Heraclius and Heraclius Constantinus (minted between 620 and 625)." (Bardos, nd, p. 6) In addition the splendor of the Avars is shown in the women's costume in that the gold jewels of the women "mirror the fashion of the period -- gold earrings with big spheres and uplifted sphere pendant with granulated decoration are frequent in the female graves from the 7th century.

IX. Male Burials

Gold jewels can also be found in male burials as some segment shaped gold lockring and small gold rings decorated with granulation." (Bardos, nd, p. 7) The strings of colored beads were important elements of the female costume. The variegated strings of beads testify a highly developed aesthetic taste. The bulbous, eyed beads of the early period are masterpieces of applied art. Later, the strings of beads change in shape, in colors, and also in raw material. Following the biconical beads of the 7th century, the sliced paste beads, the melon seed shaped paste beads and those with flowing decoration become dominant. A frequently occurring element of costume is the torques made of bronze wire, often with a small cylindrical holder on it, the so-called 'bulla'. Various objects were often worn round the neck as amulets e.g. A pierced Roman coin hanging from a necklace or a brass dolphin attached to a leather strip or a Roman bronze fibula worn on the left side hanging from a leather strap.

X. Armrings: Early and Later Periods

Armrings are not as frequent in the Early Avar graves but become more frequent later in the Avar period. Closed sheet armrings with articulated structure are reported to be found and the finest of the armrings to be found in graves 517-518 and those are reported to be decorated "with the 2nd German serrated animal style. The same shape is later decorated with pounced ornament. With the population of griffon and tendril ornament the cast bronze armrings with pounced decoration and open terminals were mass products. The characteristic requisites of the female burials were the iron keys, the bone needle-cases (sometimes also made of iron or bronze), spindle whorls and two-handled iron cutting instruments." (Bardos, nd, p. 7) In addition it is reported that in the graves of women and girls that there are cast bronze rattlers reported as "often displaying the depiction of a human face. The earrings in female burials became larger and larger, the gold… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Grave Goods of the Avars in Medieval Carpathian Basin.  (2014, April 4).  Retrieved May 23, 2019, from

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"Grave Goods of the Avars in Medieval Carpathian Basin."  April 4, 2014.  Accessed May 23, 2019.