Eger, Hungary

Eger, Hungary

In July I and fellow Neomilker Jess went on another data collection trip to Hungary. This time we were based in beautiful, historic Eger, which looked completely different from out visit in wet and windy February! The temperatures in Hungary soared to 34 degrees each day of our first week. Whilst I felt a bit of a holiday vibe to begin with, the reality of public transport and lots of walking in such temperatures soon began to hit home. Most of our spare time was spent eating icecream or pottyos (cylinders of ewe’s cheese covered in chocolate, a bit like a cheesecake bar) and lying starfished around our accommodation. 

Winter Summer

The main square in Eger in Winter and Summer… Note in particular the fountain that is there in the summer for children to play in!

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I did end up going for a few runs too! With stunning views.

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Ice cream and pottyos mcflurries… overkill? Nah.

Jess was in Hungary to sample pottery from many Hungarian sites, but I was only (originally) focussing on one, Apc-Berekalja I. The site is a Neolithic settlement site, one of the largest and easternmost settlements of the Transdanubian Linear Pottery Culture (TLCP). My analysis revealed a lower than usual level of fresh fracture on bone shafts, suggesting that bone marrow might not have made a significant contribution to diet. Analysis of the site for fragmentation (i.e. bone grease processing) was unfortunately impossible, as not all indeterminate bones were retained in the assemblage. This resulted in data that looked like all bones were really very large or whole, and a very high proportion of identifiable bones to indeterminate compared to other sites that I have studied. It could also be the case that freshly fractured bones were fractured to a very small size, perhaps for bone grease processing, and are thus not represented in the assemblage. However, as the surviving bones were so dry and following the general trend of the sites I’ve studied so far, it is unlikely that bone grease processing was practiced in any great detail, yet marrow was surely extracted, even if only occasionally.

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Working hard in the bone store!

Despite the heat, we did manage to explore some of Eger’s great sites and food places after work hours were finished, thanks to our guide Kristóf. Poor Kristóf was forced to use his schooldays English by our appalling lack of Hungarian, but our experiences were greatly improved by the wonderful (and sometimes hilarious) google translate app. My favourite thing that Jess, Kristóf and I did in Eger was when we got takeaway pizza and went to the famous castle at dusk. A lot of silent munching and contemplating accompanied the falling of the night across the city; it was very beautiful and the pizza was LUSH!

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Pizza at dusk!

I managed to finish the Apc assemblage by Friday (having started on Monday), and we were unable to work in the bone store on the weekend. Jess had returned to Budapest to sample pottery stored in the city and, feeling a little lonely in Eger, it seemed beneficial to return to Budapest by bus and stay with Jess to do some non-bone work over the weekend. A sweaty stuffy Saturday gave way to a phenomenal thunderstorm in the evening, with lighting strikes seemingly hitting the church next to our apartment. I admit I was mildly terrified when we went out to get takeaway Pad Thai* – the rain (and hail!) had stopped but lighting still flashed throught the sky every few seconds. My excuse was that as the taller of the two archaeologists the lighting would definitely hit me first!

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We also went to a fantastic museum of folk culture. This was my favourite piece – a child’s toy. A cart pulled by two horse first phalanges (toe bones), painted red.

Survive the thunder I did, however, and headed back to Eger on a much cooler Sunday evening. The temperature would remain bareable until we left the country, which made working a lot easier. I started work on Füzesabony-Gubakút, another Hungarian site that was luckily in the same archaeological store, and managed to complete analysis on about two thirds of the assemblage by doing some really intense days of work! On our last day, Jess was working on pottery from the same site but in a different store – when we met up, we both slightly ashen-faced and disheartened – we both hadn’t quite managed to finish Fuzesabony! Although this was a frustrating note to end on, we may return to finish these sites – and personally, if I don’t, I have easily enough of a sample to give me good results from.

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And more indeterminate bone fragments – yay!

Back to Budapest we travelled. Our flight in the afternoon meant a morning spent shopping in a fantastic Hungarian folk-craft shop, in which I got rid of every forint I had left! Many hours travelling by planes, trains, buses and taxis later we arrived in Bristol and collapsed into our beds. A really good, but very challenging data collection trip!

*we didn’t just eat takeaway the whole time!

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