The orientation of rondels of the Neolithic Lengyel culture in Central Europe

Em´lia P´sztor1 , Judit P. Barna2 & Curt Roslund 3 ı a
The rondels – circular earthworks of late Neolithic Europe – have a repeated form highly suggestive of deliberate design and symbolism. The concentric ditches are cut by two, three or most often four causeways at right angles. Here the authors investigate the orientation of the causeways in 51 rondels belonging to the Lengyel culture and conclude that they correlate well with the sunrise. The idea of a solar cult receives some corroboration from patterns on contemporary pottery. Keywords: Central Europe, Carpathian Basin, late Neolithic, Lengyel culture, rondels, orientation, sun

With minor differences, the late Neolithic earthworks called rondels (Petrasch 1990: 418-9; Trnka 2005), are contemporary and share a common plan: circular with entrance causeways (Trnka 1991). They appear in several archaeological cultures of the early fifth millennium BC, cultures which developed from the Linearbandkeramik (LBK) culture (Kalicz 198384: 281-2; Neugebauer & Maresch 1995). The highest uniformity in the architectural design of these earthworks is shown by those of the Lengyel culture, which is spread across Transdanubia in the Carpathian Basin, in south Slovakia, in east Austria and south Moravia (Figure 1). Their principal features are the single or multiple circular ditches, broken by two or more openings (causeways), which provide entrances to the inner space (Petrasch 1990: Abb. 26; Daim & Neubauer 2005). The arrangement of the causeways is often symmetrical or nearly so. Generally there are no traces of structures within the enclosure, or if there are, the buildings avoid the centrepoint. The earliest examples were excavated in Transdanubia, Hungary, at S´ (K´rolyi 1983e a 84: 294-307; Kalicz 1998: 57-62, Abb. 21) and Sorm´s (Barna 2007). They are assumed a to be multi-purpose (Kov´rn´k et al. 2006), with a preference for a ritual interpretation a ı since in most cases the ditches and causeways show few defensive properties. The case for a ritual function is also strengthened by small figurines unearthed close to or in the
1 2 3

Matrica Museum, HU-2440 Szazhalombatta, Hungary (Email: Balatoni Museum, HU – 8360 Keszthely, Hungary (Email: Department of Astronomy, Gothenburg University, SE-41296 Gothenburg, Sweden

Received: 17 December 2007; Accepted: 20 March 2008; Revised: 1 May 2008

82 (2008): 910–924


Map of the sites listed in Table 1. Podborsk´ y 2004. 2005. T˘ˇetice-Kyjovice. Kalicz 2007). Judit P. a 911 Research . Kalicz 1998: 65. strengthening the significant role of the causeways (Petrasch 2004. Barna 2007) although the nature of the y rite is uncertain (Hansen 2007). Schletz. c es Svod´n or S´) the special finds lie in or near one of the entrances (all but one are eastern ı e or southern).Em´lia P´ sztor. Ruttkay 2004. Archaeological investigations have also suggested that each enclosure might have belonged to a larger social community serving several settlements (Kazdov´ &Weber 1990: 167). In some cases (such as Buˇany. ditches (Podborsk´ 1985: 210. Barna & Curt Roslund ı a Figure 1.

Svodin 1 (Sl) 40. Buˇany (Sl) c ˇ 34. Data of the investigated Lengyel enclosures. Nˇmejcov´-Pav´ kov´ 1995. Raˇovice (M) s 28. Pranhartsberg (Au) 12. Nˇmejcov´-Pav´ kov´ 1995. Zlkovce (Sl) 35. two and several causeways. Stiefern (Au) 4. Gauderndorf (Au) 6. Ruˇindol-Borov´ (Sl) z a 33. W¨ rnitz-Hornsburg (Au) u 2. Cifer-P´c (Sl) a 32. Velm (Au) 5. Nˇmˇiˇky (M) e cc 27. Kleinr¨ tz (Au) o 11. Pav´ k & Karlovsk˘ 2004 u y Nˇmejcov´-Pav´ kov´ 1997 e a u a Petrasch 1990 Pav´ k & Karlovsk˘ 2004 u y Pav´ k & Karlovsk˘ 2004 u y Pav´ k & Karlovsk˘ 2004 u y Kuzma & Tirp´k 2003 a Toˇik 1987 c Petrasch 1990. Immendorf (Au) 7. with four. three. Gnadendorf (Au) 9. See Figure 1 for site locations where numbered. Four causeways 1. Bˇhaˇovice (M) e r 31. Rosenburg (Au) 26. Steinabrunn (Au) 13. Pav´ k & Karlovsk˘ 2004 e a u a u y The orientation of rondels of the Neolithic Lengyel culture in Central Europe 912 . M¨ hlbach am Manhartsberg (Au) u 10. Daim & Neubauer 2005 Pav´ k & Karlovsk˘ 2004 u y Pav´ k & Karlovsk˘ 2004 u y Pav´ k & Karlovsk˘ 2004 u y Petrasch 1990 Pav´ k & Karlovsk˘ 2004 u y Kuzma & Tirpak 2002. Teˇetice-Kyjovice (M) sˇ 30. Horn´ Otrokovce (Sl) e 36. Pav´ k & Karlovsk˘ 2004 e a u a u y Petrasch 1990. Friebritz 1 (Au) 3. Zitavce (Sl) ˇ 38. Svodin 2 (Sl) ˚N 353 10 352 341 14 7 – 13 25 32 34 8 359 350 354 355 12 57 25 20 343 45 10 352 5 55 45 ˚E 86 91 65 70 101 101 105 106 115 120 120 118 147 85 70 80 82 102 143 115 75 120 114 82 95(?) (151) (135) ˚S 179 191 138 169 206 187 190 197 209 214 198 179 160 174 178 192 239 199 163 (218) 193 ? 185 231 225 ˚W 262 – 250 281 276 289 300 295 296 284 277 327 265 250 260 262 282 338 – 295 255 314 294 262 280 335 313 Reference Daim & Neubauer 2005 Trnka 1991.Table 1. Surany (Sl) 39. Podhorany-Mechenice (Sl) ˇ 37. Kamegg (Au) 8. Plank am Kamp (Au) 14. Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Trnka 1991. Vedrovice (M) 29.

Palin (Hu) Bylany (Cz) Lochenice (Cz) Polg´r-Cs´ a oszhalom (Hu) ´ Mean Three causeways 15. Simonsfeld (Au) 22. Kalicz 1998 a Barna & P´sztor. 142˚ IV. Barna & Curt Roslund ı a Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 Daim & Neubauer 2005 913 Research . Nagykanizsa. Glaubendorf 2 (Au) 27. V. (Hu) a oo o 350 347 41 75 75 108 80 77 124 180 170 167 203 260 257 295 K´rolyi 1983–84. 329˚ 318˚ 340˚ II.41. Sorm´s-T¨ r¨ kf¨ ldek II.6˚ 179. 198˚ 268˚ Daim & Neubauer 2005 225˚ Daim & Neubauer 2005 255˚ 284˚ Barna & P´sztor. 218˚ 187˚ Em´lia P´ sztor. Pranhartsberg (Au) 17. in press a II. Karnabrunn (Au) ¨ 25. Olkam Mean Several causeways 26. 2005 NE angle ES angle EW angle 89. 82˚ 7˚ III. 113˚ 100˚ ˚W 310 239 278 259 240 245 256 278 271 295 294 III. Sorm´s–T¨ r¨ kf¨ ldek-I. Oberthern (Au) Two causeways 11. S´ (Hu) e 42. Moosbierbaum (Au) 24.7˚ I. (Hu) a oo o 44. 1997.2˚ 89.9˚ I. in press a Tokai unpublished Trnka 1991 Trnka 1991 Raczky et al. Schletz (Au) 21. Str¨ gen (Au) o 23. Judit P. 347˚ 323˚ ˚E 121 63 108 71 70 75 78 103 102 105 118 EW angle 177. Michelstetten (Au) 20. Puch (Au) 18. Altruppersdorf (Au) 43. Hornsburg (2) (Au) Hornsburg (3) (Au) 19. Porrau (Au) 16.

It is alleged that this phenomenon y u was observed by looking from the south-eastern causeway and along the south-western one (Pav´ k & Karlovsk´ 2004: Obr. Daim & Neubauer 2005: Teil 3). Ground plan of Glaubendorf 2 (after Daim & Neubauer 2005). which is regarded as a ruling and/or sacred centre (Pav´ k 1998: 186). moon and stars. At the Austrian Glaubendorf 2 rondel the equinoctial sun settings could have been seen along the western causeway (Neubauer 2005: 56. Most u y of these investigations. Scale = 100m. In the case of the Austrian Steinabrunn rondel. suggesting the idea of orientation towards four cardinal points. however. the moon also has been listed as a possible target for ˇ alignment. Beside the sun and the stars. on the basis of the orientational values. The ground plan of the Slovakian site of Zlkovce. interest in the possible astronomical significance of their design has not diminished. is said to be oriented to the southern minor u turning-point of the moon (Karlovsk´ & Pav´ k 2002). as we shall see (Figure 3. Although exact measurements of the sites did not correlate with the cardinal points. this u y palisade enclosure belongs to the set of sun-oriented monuments. However. The study was also prompted by the fact that the axes of the four-causeway rondels are nearly perpendicular to each other. It has also been alleged that there are monuments aligned with bright stars. played a role in the observation of celestial phenomena. or star constellations instead of the sun (Gervautz & Neubauer 2005: 73). 914 . a pole has been argued to have been placed on the left side of the south-east causeway in order that the Pleiades’ rising could be seen above it. such as Antares or Deneb.The orientation of rondels of the Neolithic Lengyel culture in Central Europe The Lengyel rondels and astronomy Research into the possible astronomical significance of features found in the enclosures was inspired by work done on the British henges. although these are some 1800 years later. The natural candidates for the rationale of orientation were the sun. are characterised by the very small number of monuments studied. 29). Figure 2). The first investigations of some Lengyel enclosures along with a few LBK earthworks concluded that these were solar orientations with a preference for the equinoxes and the solstices (Iwaniszewski 1996: 18-9). Investigations of virtual reconstructions of these enclosures have drawn attention to the fact that other construction elements such as openings or holes cut into the palisades as well as poles could also have Figure 2. Table 1). The growing popularity of archaeoastronomy has given further impetus to the continuation of such lines of research (Pav´ k & Karlovsk˘ 2004.

with structures aligned to the southern causeway (after Pav´ k & Karlovsky 2004: u Obr. The 915 Research . listed in Table 1 and the orientations summarised in Figure 4. The ground plan of Zlkovce. 4). was found to be accurate to within 1◦ . The investigated rondels The present paper focuses exclusively on the rondels of the Lengyel culture. The orientation is measured in a clockwise direction from the north. shortest = 67m. where checked on the ground. Judit P. Barna & Curt Roslund ı a ˇ Figure 3.Em´lia P´ sztor. The orientation of the published plans. Largest diameter = 82m. which are mapped on Figure 1.

This effort of the builders to produce a symmetrical ground plan has allowed the authors to develop another premise. namely that the direction of a single causeway had a significant meaning for the community when they set out the monument. If the rondel has only two causeways. The possible targets for orientation The deviation in orientation between rondels is relatively small. − such as a celestial body. on the assumption that it was its alignment (rather than the alignment of the line linking the causeway to a hypothetical centrepoint of the enclosure) that was significant. Distribution of the orientations of the eastern causeways listed in Table 1. Deviations from exact symmetry may be attributed to measuring or staking methods. If the builders used the rising sun as a reference point for the eastern causeway on the day they began construction. it is +19◦ . Other causeways were then added to give a symmetrical design. This hypothesis is supported by the two-causeway enclosures which are aligned in an east-west direction. In the case of the eastern causeways. If a rondel has four openings the axes are roughly perpendicular to each other. We argue here that the location of the sun at sunrise played an essential role in setting out the directions for the causeways. The regularity of the sun’s daily and yearly motions is easily appreciated and orientating monuments or even graves to its position would not have presented major difficulties. causeways have been ranked according to the main cardinal point to which their orientation was the nearest. The primary candidate is always the sun. natural obstacles or in some cases the vast dimensions of the rondels. as well as the maintenance of the causeway axis where it crosses multiple ditch systems. The orientation for each causeway was assessed separately. So the question arises as to which celestial objects could have been used. their orientation would 916 . they mark a diameter of the enclosure. The lack of any archaeological feature at the centre supports this premise. If the target had been local.The orientation of rondels of the Neolithic Lengyel culture in Central Europe Figure 4. for example. The builders of the rondels seem to have striven for symmetry in their ground plans. which suggests alignment with a very distant object. which as an essential element of life must have played an important role in the life of a sedentary. the variation would have been higher. agriculturally-based Neolithic community. such as a sacred mountain.

the more uncertain the exact values of turning points are. such as the homeland in the case of the south-east orientation of LBK longhouses (Bradley 2001). If the event is not observed on the very date. This seems to be a also true for the eastern surveyed (but still unexcavated) causeway of Svodin 2 on the base of symmetry. It has rather been argued that these three openings are aligned with the moon’s turning (standstill) points (Pav´ k & Karlovsk´ 2004). the above mentioned value is approximately a +36◦ . With respect to the Lengyel rondels.6 years loses its purpose and meaning. the directions of the south causeways of the rondels should cluster closely around the south. Assuming that a celestial phenomenon had so much influence on the life of a prehistoric social group. but so far no monument has been found in Europe aligned with stars. The moon cannot always be seen rising at the turning points (Roslund et al. The motion of the moon raises further problems for orientation. for the Hungarian southernmost site of − Sorm´s with geographical latitude of 46.5◦ . Although the rising points change between two limits (the midwinter and midsummer ones) the south direction is always the same during the year. the moon is more uncertain and the stars are even more elusive. which is not the case. The orientations of only two. Judit P. orientation to its rising or setting points at the horizon is much more difficult than that of the sun because of its rapid and complex motion. 1999: 109-10). such a celestially motivated impact should be reflected somehow in other archaeological features as well. Five of the remaining seven have yet to have their eastern causeways excavated. While the sun can be recognised clearly (see below). do not conform. Barna & Curt Roslund ı a fall between the summer and winter solstice sunrises. − The orientations of 44 eastern causeways from the 51 enclosures investigated meet this criterion. Thus the expected event that has been awaited over a period of 18. the orientations of the eastern causeways should fall within about +38◦ from due east. that the community was motivated to integrate some aspect of its appearance in the sky into their cult/communal structures.5◦ for the Slovakian and Austrian enclosures. The further back in the past we go. These calculations are quite reliable as far back as 2000 BC but values for the time of the enclosures (4800-4500 BC) can only be conjectured. This means that the Neolithic observers had to know the exact day of the turning point in order to orientate a monument to it. a constellation or their attached myths have been so important for a social group that they orientated their monument to its rising or setting? The historical and ethnographical written sources tells us what role the stars played in bearing or time reckoning. Alternatively. If it was. 917 Research . the orientation might depend on a remembered direction. A possibility for these sites is that they were still oriented with the sun. which is quite implausible. Alternatively the sun might be used at its zenith rather than its rising. Cifer-P´c and Rosenburg. u y Although the moon has always played a significant role in human cultures according to the historical and ethnographical sources. Might a star. but sightings were taken a few hours after it rose. Taking an average geographical latitude of 48. It has also been proposed that some orientations focus on stars (Gervautz & Neubauer 2005). 3 days later the difference is already 8◦ . data from one or two monuments selected from a large group of sites are rarely enough to verify such an astronomical orientation in Neolithic Central Europe.Em´lia P´ sztor.

Ethnographic and linguistic studies show that basic colours can express certain universal human experiences of the surrounding world. r There is corroborating evidence from images on contemporary pottery. r If the orientations of the eastern causeways are plotted on a chart. This might be the case especially with the fine painted pottery. The rising or setting of celestial objects observed through the causeways might have marked important days in their calendar (Gervautz & Neubauer 2005). which may be associated with solar symbols. It has been argued that in the Bulgarian Neolithic the a principal sources for such symbolism were partly the colours of the natural environment (Chapman 2003: 41). can be summarised as a follows: r The direction of the rising sun offers a good interpretation for the orientation of the regular ground plans with the symmetrically arranged causeways. In many languages the words for yellow often denote warmth coming from the sun (Wierzbicka 1990: 115-25). Abb 3. which is not the case later. If they used the sun. the red and yellow – the possible sun colours – are particularly evident. Prominent solar symbolism is also represented in the assemblage of miniature vessels and sun discs with figurines which were discovered inside a central house of the unique rondel at Polg´r-Cs´´ a oszhalom. such as the winter or summer solstice which might have signalled the middle of the seasons but not their beginning as is the case today (Zotti 2005: 76-7. The metaphoric meaning assigned to the colour of the objects by the local ideologies might have played an initial role in producing the artefacts. Discussion Arguments for the investigated Lengyel rondels. the earth along with the additional features of fire and/or blood (Chapman 2003: 43). some groupings can be defined. The major colours might have been based on the sky with a yellow and/or gold sun and a blue background. which are the most regular ones among the Neolithic earthworks in Central Europe (Zalai-G´l 1990: 20).The orientation of rondels of the Neolithic Lengyel culture in Central Europe Additional evidence for a solar cult The important role of the sun in the religious life of the Lengyel culture can also be supported by other archaeological evidence. These take the form of colourful eye-catching circles assumed to be solar symbols (K´rolyi 2004). c where depictions of the sun can be found painted onto small altars (Todorova 1982. Most researchers suggest that the orientations of these circular earthworks might have had a calendrical function as well. here Figure 6). Hungary (Raczky et al. but no midsummer/midwinter or true east preference can be demonstrated.6). r The orientations of just three of the 48 investigated enclosures cannot be correlated with the actual daily sunrise. here Figure 5) The closest parallel to these decorative objects comes from Ovˇarovo (Bulgaria). the sea. 1996. Although early medieval Irish literature might support the existence of an ancient pan-Celtic calendar. The significance of colour symbolism in Lengyel culture is also strengthened by the fact that during the early rondel building period. the setting out of these monuments must have been performed one or two hours later. notably the motifs on pottery of the rondelbuilding period (Figures 5-9). 918 . which were created for special use.

2. Therefore the apparent mid-quarter-day-orientation for some rondels (Zotti 2005) is most likely nothing more than a coincidence. The old Estonian and Finnish computation of time had also four turning points during the year. Judit P. The facades ¸ ˇ of several structures inside the rondel of Zlkovce must have faced the southern causeway as the extended long axes or walls meet at this gate (Figure 3. but they might have had connections with the weather not the sun’s motion (Vilkuna 1961: 80). 7) The representation of the sun on a sherd c ´ from S´ (after K´ rolyi 2004: 90. Barna & Curt Roslund ı a Figures 5–7. u y 4). e a which divided the year with the mid-quarter days the earliest evidence for such a calendrical division comes from the medieval period (Hutton 1996: 408-11).Em´lia P´ sztor. Numerous ethnographical investigations report how many peoples favour the southern direction as well. 5) The sacral assemblage of Polg´ r-Cs´ a oszhalom (after the museum guide of the Hungarian National Museum). ´ 6) Finds from the assemblage of Ovˇarovo (after Todorova 1982: Figure 33). The southern entrance was also emphasised at the circular enclosure of Svodin 2 by a deposition of fragments of clay figurines (Ruttkay 2004). Pav´ k & Karlovsk˘ 2004: Obr. 919 Research . when the life-giving power of the sun reaches its highest point. abra).

Bowls with red radial line paintings (after Daim & Neubauer 2005: Abb 1. 920 .The orientation of rondels of the Neolithic Lengyel culture in Central Europe Figure 8a–b. Reconstruction of painted wares. Sorm´ s-T¨r¨k-F¨ldek: a) Barna 2007.20). b) unpublished. a oo o Figure 9.

A similar house arrangement was found outside the smaller rondel at Svodin as well. assemble to sing. Thus the architectural design of the rondel and the houses make up an architectural unit (Nˇmejcov´-Pav´ kov´ 1995). The tell settlement at Polg´r-Cs´´ a oszhalom surrounded by five ditches is considered to be a sacred complex representing the relation of the Lengyel and the Herp´ly cula tures. Veszpr´m (Regenye 2006: 14) and M´ r´gyov´ o e oa T´´ oves (Zalai-Ga´l 2002: 42). No one is allowed to celebrate the midsummer. Asz´ d (Kalicz 1985: 35-6).525). to practise magic and to sing diabolic songs at St.Em´lia P´ sztor. 2005: Figure 3) might also strengthen the solar symbolism as the sun rises in this direction at winter solstice. when we see an entire ideology reconstructed from the style of a carving. Indirect corroboration may be derived from solar symbolism on pottery. its continuous use can be detected on archaeological finds as late as the early medieval period when they had a magic protective role (S´gi 1967). John’s or any other saints’ festivities’ (D¨ m¨ t¨ r o oo 1983 after Liungman 1938: II. like the rays of the sun (Raczky et al. with certain relation to the sun (Green 1993). The argument here is based on the high recurrence of similar orientation among the rondel group. In the Carpathian Basin for example. The results of this study support the argument that the sun. and when we see ancient religion reconstructed from a handful of figurines. The multiple concentric circular ditches may have been intended to signify the Upper World with several levels of a multi-tiered heaven described in later historical and ethnographical sources (Krupp 1997: 55). The houses inside the rondel with their radial-arranged long axis faced the central buildings. Ujv´ry 1991). The ground plan of the four-causeway rondels also became a significant symbol itself. or perhaps 921 Research . It cannot be clarified what exactly ‘build earthwork’ means here as there is no more detailed description. Judit P. and its correlation with the sunrise. Eligius (Eloi). A e a u a possible correlation between the south-eastern causeway of the Polg´r-Cs´´ a oszhalom rondel and the mean direction of the houses of its outside one level settlement (Raczky et al. to dance a dance. but there is an implication that the creation of (circular) earthworks for ritual/festive purposes had long tradition in prehistoric Europe. Folk traditions and ethnographic records report a probable association between circular enclosures solar cults and agrarian festivals (D¨ m¨ t¨ r 1983. uzk¨ a Solar symbolism might also have been integrated into the design of some settlements with rondels. AD 588-90 to 659/660) commented on the midsummer festival: ‘Not a single Christian should believe in pyres. we have a right to be sceptical’ (Flannery & Marcus 1998: 46). That was the case at Zeng´´ arkony. 1997). a Conclusion ‘When we see cosmology derived solely from the alleged orientation of a building to a particular star. In the cemeteries the deceased were often buried with their faces to the south or east. as these are the devil’s machinations. to build earthwork(s). The arrangement of the whole structure might symbolise a sun-orientated belief system. This is a useful caveat when trying to read signs of ancient practice from material culture. Barna & Curt Roslund ı a There are indications that the sun was also acknowledged in burial rite. and it has some interesting echos in folklore. This so-called cross-circle design was widely spread across prehistoric Europe. o oo a bishop of Noyon (c .

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