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4952.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE KRS CULTURE


IN THE SOUTHERN SECTION OF THE GREAT
HUNGARIAN PLAIN
Tibor Paluch
Mra Ferenc Museum, 6720 Szeged, Roosevelt tr 13, Hungary; paluch.tibor@mfm.u-szeged.hu
the southern section of the Great Hungarian Plain stands out
even more in comparison with other corners of the Krs
culture distribution area (see Map 1). Clearly, over 50% of
the known early neolithic settlements in the region are concentrated within a core area of approximately 10,000 km2.
This unusually high settlement density becomes even more
conspicuous when compared to southern Transdanubia in
the west (south of Lake Balaton) where only 26 sites were
reported (Kalicz, Molnr & Rzss 2007, 24) or the Srem
district of Voivodina in Serbia with 66 known early neolithic Starevo culture sites (Minichreiter 2001, 200). What
is the explanation for the difference?
In all probability, the dense network of settlements
emerged in response to desirable water supplies that had
shaped this diverse landscape. This hypothesis is related to
the fact that a rich variety of soil types evolved in the southern section of the Great Hungarian Plain. West of the Tisza
River, low productivity sand dunes of the DanubeTisza
Interfluve may have looked less attractive. Further downstream, the lower Tisza valley offers mediocre agricultural
land. On the other hand, the eastern section of Csongrd
County belongs to the so-called Bks-Csand loess plateau
known today for its excellent soils. Early neolithic settlements were established on dry elevations that had formed islands and peninsulas in the floodplain although settlement
remains were also detected on dry pleistocene residual surfaces beyond the flood zone. These two types of settlements, located within and without the floodplain, have long
been known as basic forms of settlement in the Krs culture (Smegi et al. 2003, 237). Permanently dry surfaces offer better pedological quality for tillage than clay rich,
hydromorphic soils that had been deposited under water
cover during most of the year (Bcsmegi & Fogas 2009,
57). In light of soil properties the territorial distribution of
Krs culture sites allows two conclusions to be drawn:

Natural geography, including hydrology, forms a remarkably uniform system in the southern section of the Great
Hungarian Plain bordered by the Tisza, Maros and Krs
Rivers (Pcsi & Srfalvi 1960, 105). In spite of its relative
homogeneity, however, this landscape is very diverse as the
area largely occupied by Csongrd and Bks counties is
sub-divided by major rivers (the Tisza and its tributaries) as
well as a web of small water courses. Rich water supplies1 in
combination with the diversity of local habitats offered good
opportunities for the settlement of early neolithic human populations. The first ever communities practicing sedentary agriculture in the area of present-day Hungary were represented
by the Starevo culture in Southern Transdanubia in the west
and the Krs culture that occupied a significant portion of
the Great Hungarian Plain beginning with the end of the 7th
millennium BC. The latter inhabited the valley of the Tisza
River and of its left bank tributaries for almost a millennium
(Paluch & Tth 2005, 1415).
Catchment areas of the Tisza, Krs, Maros and Berety Rivers seem to have defined the first strategic boundaries of early neolithic sedentism. Within the region outlined by these rivers a previously unseen density of settlements began appearing. Considering Csongrd county
alone, field surveys covering an area of over 4000 km2 as
well as archival and literary data have revealed the existence
of 232 early neolithic sites. Numbers have recently increased spectacularly thanks to field walks carried out
within the framework of the national archaeological survey
in Csongrd county.2 Previously, such a dazzling number of
sites would have been unimaginable, not only within a single county but over the entire area of Hungary (Makkay
1982, 113). A similarly high density of early neolithic settlements may be observed in the adjacent area of Bks
county (MRT 8; MRT 10).
Plotting these early neolithic settlements over the map,

1
2

Prior to extensive river regulation projects the open floodplain area of the Tisza River exceeded 1,940,000 hectares of which only 158,000 hectares
remain today (Bulla & Mendl 1999, 149).
These local surveys were carried out mostly in cooperation between the Department of Archaeology of Szeged University and archaeologists of the
Ferenc Mra Museum within the framework of the project titled Archaeological Topographic Works in Csongrd County. To date, most of the
results have remained unpublished.

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The Krs Culture in Eastern Hungary

1. Soil quality had no demonstrable effect on decision-making during the time of early neolithic settlement,
2. Early neolithic lifeways may have somewhat differed
depending on settlement in areas characterized by the two
different soil types.
Agriculture may have been practiced on pleistocene residual surfaces, while fishing, hunting and gathering may
have been subsistence practices pursued in floodplain areas.
Other resources of the floodplain must have included wood
and water itself as a means of transport and communication.
Early neolithic settlements are aligned along river
banks, especially those of the Tisza. Of the aforementioned
232 Krs culture settlements known in Csongrd County
16 are represented only in the form of archival records or literary references. Studies of settlement structure can be carried out concerning the remaining 216 sites. During the
course of field walks carried out in the Krs culture settlement area indicate that the size of individual sites fell on average between 2 to 3 hectares, although some large settlements (covering as much as 8 to 12 hectares) were also
identified along high embankments. In some cases archival
records indicated extreme extents of 5060 hectares3, such
settlements, however, turned out to have represented multiperiod occupation where precise distinction between phases
was often impossible. At such settlements it is usually a minor component of the find material that could be safely assigned to the Early Neolithic.
Calculations using Thiessen polygons were carried out
to define individual areas around each site. The results show
that on average the occurrence of a new settlement may be
expected every 16 km2 within the territory of Csongrd
County (Map 1). In order to interpret this number, however,
the definition of archaeological sites should be revised,
since more than 60 of the aforementioned 216 sites
yielded only sporadic scatters of early neolithic finds of
fewer than five shards each! Moreover these not only mean
chance finds of pottery collected during field walks, but also
include stray finds atmajor sites, where early neolithic
artefacts of potential diagnostic value could not be associated with features or other stratigraphic phenomena (Krti
1980; Balogh 2007). This problem evidently dilutes the
practical meaning of Thiessen-polygons. Surface finds provide a very poor basis for reconstructing settlement structures.
Archaeological excavations were carried out at 51 of
the 232 known early neolithic settlements. This may be considered a fairly high proportion as it represents almost one
quarter of the entire list. However, field work revealed the
root of another weakness in using Thiessen-polygons in
reconstructing settlement structure in archaeology. This
challenge is posed by the uncertain internal chronology of
the Krs culture, a problem that remains to be solved even
today. It is only the early period characterized by painted

3
4
5

ware decorated with white dots or geometric patterns on a


red base (Makkay & Trogmayer 1966; Makkay 1974;
1996Pavlu 1989; Horvth 1994, 5) and the late, so-called
Protovina phase (Makkay 1982; 1990; 1992; 1996; Raczky
1983; Goldman 1991) whose chronological interpretations
seem to be reliable during the long development of Krs
culture pottery types.
On the basis of these criteria only a single settlement of
the Krs culture may be dated to the early phase in Csongrd county today: Nagytke-Jaksor, Cscsfldek = Cs127
(previously known as Szentes-Jaksorrpart). During field
walks this settlement yielded Krs painted ware decorated
with white dots (Bcsmegi 2001). The site itself was already
known as Gbor Csallny had found three early neolithic
houses here during the 1932 excavations of a Sarmatian cemetery (Csallny 1936, 7172). Based on purely typochronological criteria only nine late Krs culture sites could be
identified: Deszk-I. sz. olajkt (Cs13), HdmezvsrhelyLaktanya (Cs68), Maroslele-Pana (Cs105), MindszentSzlpart (Cs123), Nagymgocs--Tompa-ht (Cs125),
Nagytke-Kalinin Tsz, Pter-tanya (Cs128), NagytkeKarcsonytelke (Cs130), Szentes-Szentlszl, Fekete Jnos
fldje (Cs209) and Szentes-Veresegyhz I. HoltvekerRnyai-tanya (Cs214). It may be said therefore that 220 of
the 232 existing sites can be dated to the classical phase of
the Krs culture. Evidently, this is a statement that needs to
be further substantiated or rejected. It is most probable that
our current typological systems are ill-equipped for finetuning the phasing of stylistic sequences. Unfortunately, establishing absolute chronologies is likewise difficult. To
date we possess only six 14C dates from four sites4 in the entire county (Ammerman & Cavalli-Sforza 1971; Glser
1991; Whittle et al. 2002; Oross & Siklsi in this volume).
In order to solve problems of relative chronology attempts
were made to more precisely distinguish between various
motifs used in decorating the ceramic material (Trogmayer
1968; Raczky 1976; 1983; Goldmann 1991).5 Statistical
analyses were carried out to improve the resolution of phasing based on style. Although these efforts were eventually
abandoned, in my opinion it is only the evaluation of statistically viable samples that could help the chronological
classification of individual sites by the characteristically homogeneous set of motifs showing only subtle stylistic variation. Large scale analyses are also of help in re-evaluating
previously dated sites. Three examples are definitely worth
mentioning here. The settlement of Mindszent-Szlpart
(Cs123) was unambiguously dated to the so-called Protovina phase during field walks (Szalontai 1994, 5354). It is
for this reason that a square measuring 5 by 5 m was opened
at the site. During the analysis of the find material, however,
it became clear that the two shards collected during the survey would have misrepresented the thus recovered assemblage of 5000 ceramics (Anders & Paluch 2011). According

E.g., Hdmezvsrhely-Gorzsa-Vermeshalom (Cs47) (Trogmayer 1969), Mak-Jrand (Cs91).


Deszk-I. sz. olajkt (Cs13) (BP 703050; BP 6605100), Hdmezvsrhely-Kotacpart (Cs65) (BP 6450100), Pitvaros-Vztroz (Cs141) (BP
694050; 688550), Szeged-Gylart, Szilgyi-major (Cs161) (BP 7090100).
Among the decorative motifs, two varieties of barbotine (applied and sprayed barbotine) were singled out for study. On the basis of these two forms of
decoration a gradual diachronic increase was noted in the proportion of barbotine covered shards (Trogmayer 1968, 8).

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Tibor Paluch: Characteristics of the Krs Culture...

Anders A. & Paluch T. 2011. A Krs-kultra fiatalabb idszaknak teleplse Mindszent hatrban Siedlung aus der jngeren Periode der Krs-Kultur in der Gemarkung von
Mindszent. MFMStudia Archaeologica 12, 1529.
Bcsmegi G. 2001. Nagytke, Bels-Ecser, Jaksor, Kajn s Kistke rgszeti topogrfija I. MA dissertation, Jzsef Attila
University, Szeged. Manuscript.
Bcsmegi G. & Fogas O. 2009. A Krs-kultra lelhelyei Nagytkn Sites of the Krs culture at Nagytke. In Bende L. &
Lrinczy G. (eds), Medintl Etig. Tisztelg rsok Csalog
Jzsef szletsnek 100. vforduljn. Szentes 2009, 5559.
Balogh Cs. 2007. Hdmezvsrhely, Batida. Rgszeti Kutatsok
Magyarorszgon 2006 Archaeological Investigations in
Hungary 2006, 212.
Banner J. 1937. A hdmezvsrhelyi reformtus gimnzium rgisggyjtemnye 1. Dolgozatok a Szegedi Tudomnyegyetem
Rgisgtudomnyi Intzetbl 13, 105120.
Bulla B. & Mendl T. 1999. A Krpt-medence fldrajza. Budapest.
Csallny G. 1936. jabb jazig temetk Szentes hatrban
Jazygen Grberfelder bei Szentes. Dolgozatok a Szegedi
Tudomnyegyetem Rgisgtudomnyi Intzetbl 12, 7189.
Glser R. 1991. Bemerkungen zur Absoluten Datierung des
Beginns der Westlichen Linienbandkeramik. Banatica 11,
5364.
Goldman Gy. 1991. A Krs kultra ksi szakasznak idrendjrl Dvavnya-Rhely leletei alapjn Chronology in the
Late phase of the Krs culture on the basis of finds from
Dvavnya-Rhely. Archaeologiai rtest 118, 3344.
Horvth F. 1994. A Dl-alfldi jkkorkutats j szempontjai,
mdszerei s eredmnyei. PhD Thesis. Szeged.
Kalicz N., Molnr S. & Rzss M. 2007. Az lelemtermels
kezdetei Somogy megyben a Kr.e. 76. vezred forduljn.
Az jkkor (neolitikum) legidsebb szakasza Beginnings of
food production in Somogy county at the turn of the 7th-6th
Millennia B. C. The earliest phase of the Neolithic Period.
Communicationes Archaeologicae Hungariae 2007, 1964.
Krti B. 1980. Honfoglals kori magyar temet Szeged-Algyn
Ein ungarisches Grberfeld aus der Landnahmezeit in
Szeged-Algy. Mra Ferenc Mzeum vknyve 197819791,
323345.
Makkay J. 1974. Das Frhe Neolithikum auf der Otzaki Magula
und die KrsStarevo-Kultur. Acta Archaeologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 26, 131154.
Makkay J. 1982. A magyarorszgi neolitikum kutatsnak j
eredmnyei. Az idrend s a npi azonosts krdsei. Budapest.
Makkay J. 1990. The Protovina problem as seen from the northernmost frontier. In Srejovi D. & Tasi N. (eds), Vina and its
world. International Symposium The Danubian Region from
6000 to 3000 B. C.. Beograd, 113122.
Makkay J. 1992. Excavations at the Krs culture settlement of
Endrd-regszlk 119 in 1986-1989. In Bknyi S. (ed.),
Cultural and landscape changes in south-east Hungary I. reports on the Gyomaendrd Project (= Archaeolingua Main Series 1). Budapest, 121193.
Makkay J. 1996. Theories about the origin, the distribution and the
end of the Krs culture. In Tlas L. (ed.), At the fringes of
three worlds: hunter-gatherers and farmers in the middle
Tisza valley. Szolnok, 3553.

to the re-evaluation, the settlement belongs to the latest


phase of the Krs Culture.6 One may wonder whether similar discrepancies may threaten other sites. For example, the
site of Szentes-Szentlszl yielded a single fragment of a
biconical bowl with an acute profile line (Makkay 1990,
117, Pl. 3.1). In the absence of excavations or even additional survey finds it remains a question whether dating this
site to late Krs culture phase remains acceptable? The site
of Hdmezvsrhely-Laktanya has likewise been dated to
the late phase. However, that time period is represented by a
single shard as well (Paluch 2005, 35). Single occurrences
of stray finds should not override dating that ought to be
based on statistically reliable sets of shards, regardless of
the fact that the term Protovina Phase 1 was originally introduced to denote sporadic occurrences of Vina type pottery within the stylistic context of the Krs culture (Makkay 1990, 113).
Since no stratified tell settlements are known within the
Krs culture distribution area,7 no distinction between
superposed layers can be used in fine-tuning the chronological resolution of the 220 sites in Csongrd County currently
discussed under the umbrella term classical Krs period.
Naturally, large-scale analyses must rely on excavated artefactual assemblages as statistically significant results may
only be expected from large, representative series of data.
Find materials collected during field walks can be used in
reconstructing settlement networks only after the rigorous
critical evaluation of find circumstances.
During the past decade excavations were carried out at
several early neolithic sites in Csongrd County. Of these,
the small early neolithic settlement completely excavated by
Katalin Tth at the sand quarry site of HdmezvsrhelyGorzsa V. homokbnya is of special significance (Tth
2010). Standardized methods followed in the analysis of
material recovered from the 7080 features at this site and
several smaller Krs culture excavations8 may be of help
in developing a more precise internal typochronology. In
addition to materials from new excavations, a novel analysis
of already known assemblages from old excavations is also
necessary. The latter work is even more important, because ,
with a few notable exceptions most archaeologists indulged in the evaluation of selected pieces or subsets, while
the complete analysis of major find materials could not be
carried out in the absence of resources, material and human
alike. It will be, however, only after the completion of those
studies that new typochronological aspects of the homogeneous-looking classical Krs culture ceramic inventory
will be available for the reconstruction of early neolithic settlement patterns in the southern section of the Great Hungarian Plain

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6
7
8

Deszk-Olajkt (Cs13) 8. gdr, Endrd 119 (B13), Ktelek-Huszrsarok (J) Pit 1, Maroslele-Pana (Cs105) Pit 4, csd-Kirit (Cs105) Pit 2.
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Notable examples include Mindszent-Szlpart (1992), Szentes-Boros Smuel utca (2004) and Szentes-Munks utca (2005).

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The Krs Culture in Eastern Hungary

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