I often (don’t) get asked, “So Emily, you know that blog that you were doing, what happened to it?”, to which I invariably reply, “If I told you, I would have to kill you, bury you, dig you up later and study you”. That normally stops the questions to be honest, and thus my blog has fallen into disuse and disrepair. But thanks to motivation by my archaeological compadre Matt Knight (whose own blog is much more interesting than mine) I have taken up the sword/bone/pen once again!
Quite a lot has happened since I last posted. In October last year I went back to Strasbourg (France) and onwards to the lovely city of Speyer (Germany) to analyse animal bones from Herxheim. In February I made my first foray into Hungary to analyse sites in the Polgar region, which of course involved stopping off in Budapest! And then in March I jetted off on a family holiday to Disneyland, which was unrelated to my PhD…
Anyway, for this post I’d like to focus on my trip to Hungary, as it was the most recent!
Hungary Feb-March 2015
We were late arriving in Budapest as we had to make an unscheduled stop in Frankfurt so a drunk passenger could be cheerfully escorted off the plane by German police. Slightly shaken by this bad start, the next morning we met with colleagues at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences up in the castle compound of Budapest to discuss the sites we were to sample an analyse. The castle is situated atop a massive hill, so the next day we caught the funicular (hill-train) to the top. After some more meetings and some sightseeing around Budapest we caught the train to Eger.
Eger is very significant for Hungarians as its castle is a key location in Eclipse of the Crescent Moon, a Hungarian historical novel by Géza Gárdonyi, which features the successful and brave defence of the fortress against the Ottomans. The ruins of the castle are being partly restored and are very impressive, and the tunnel system beneath the castle is extensive and remarkable. Eger is also famous for its Minaret, which was erected when the Ottomans did eventually gain control of Eger. I will probably be going back to Eger in July this year for more analysis.
Onwards we went to Polgar, which was a two hour bus journey from Eger across the Great Hungarian Plain. Polgar itself is a nondescript small town (large village?) in the middle of nowhere, but it has incredible archaeological significance. A rescue excavation ahead of a planned motorway revealed many archaeological sites of varying periods. In the lab of the archaeological depot I analysed Polgar-Piocas and Polgar-Ferenci hat, and then sampled Polgar-Csőszhalom, a later site with loads of wild animals. These were lovely sites with great preservation; I am hoping they yield some interesting results! One cool thing about Polgar was the stork nests that sit on telegraph poles. They were unoccupied when we were there but still impressive!
On the way back through Budapest I visited the fantastic and vast national museum. I went through the archaeology section, where they have some amazingly well-conceived museum displays. Prehistoric human burials were reconstructed under glass panels in the floor. I have worked with human bones many times but looking at these skeletons gave me chills. To see them beneath me in their burial positions emphasised the fact that they were ‘people’, not just ‘human bones’. The rest of the museum was also stunning; so huge and empty that it was rather overwhelming. I admit I felt quite lightheaded, and started to worry that if I passed out would anyone ever find me?!
I survived, however, and after an uneventful plane journey I was back in the UK, with 11,169 more bones in my database than I had when I left! SUCCESS.