Saturday, April 16, 2011

Interesting Horse Burials Uncovered in Hungary

Excerpted from, this article explains some of the ritual involved in Magyar horse burials.

Rich Old Hungarian grave could have belonged to prince
April 15, 2011
By Christopher Szabo.

Budapest - Rich grave finds from the Conquest Era of the Magyars or Hungarians have been uncovered by archaeologists in Pest Country, including ninth Century horse furniture and a belt, with a particularly rich sabretache, or pouch.

The “Gravediggers’ Journal” blog (in Hungarian, with good photos) says the initial dig took place April 5 to 8 after agricultural work overturned one of the graves. The “rescue dig”, followed when citizens called in the archaeologists of the Pest County Museums Management. Analysis of the finds and publication in archaeological journals will follow in due course.

The find is also covered by the English-language Medieval Hungary blog. This is the first significant archaeological find in Hungary since Old Magyar (700 A.D. – 1,000 A.D.) or Conquest Era graves, and a large number of Roman, Sarmatian and Bronze Age graves were found in February.

The Sarmatians were a semi-nomadic people who ruled the Ukrainian steppes and the Great Hungarian Plain from around the Fifth Century B.C. to A.D. 460. They were formidable enemies of the Romans and some formed part of the empire of Attila the Hun. They have also been linked to the Arthurian Legends because they invented heavy cavalry, using a lance called kontus.
(The “Conquest Era” refers to the time the Seven Magyar tribes entered and took the Carpathian Basin from 895-900 A.D. (some systems date it differently, including the first century of settlement, up to 1,000 A.D.)

Of the three newly-discovered graves, one had nothing with the remains; one was a “horse burial” of the type where only horse tack was buried with the body. In this case, the bit and stirrups were easily made out as well as other elements of horse furniture. The occupant of the grave was likely a warrior or hunter, as a quiver was found with the body.

The third grave contained typical materials of a mounted archer, including horse bones, the remains of horse tack and remains of archery equipment. These are typical of Magyar so-called “partial horse burials” which include the head and hooves of the horse. The reason for this is the meat of the horse was consumed during a wake or “tor”; the skin (including the head and hooves) would be placed over the grave mounted on a pole for a while and then buried, usually on a shelf or “padmaly”.

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