SECTION V – Other domains of research


            SECTION V is preparing the final conclusions by confronting the pottery research results with information provided by other historical and archaeological fields of research, and it is structured in two chapters.

            Chapter 17 summarises the literary historical sources. Without the intention and illusion of challenging specialist researchers in the field, I have tried an “archaeological” reading of the sources, with limited and strictly defined targets: the identification of the migrating peoples and the location of their attack bases on the Lower Danube, throughout the sixth century. The goal was to establish an “archaeological expectation”, and to confront it with the facts from the field. The detailed text commentaries are to be found in the second volume, section VI (Romanian only). The chapter summarised here creates only the general historical frame and draws the conclusions of the enterprise. We will concentrate here on the last part.

            For the military balance in the Balkans, throughout the sixth century, the Lower Danube represents a secondary front (that doesn’t mean “unimportant”). The main front – the “key-point” – is Sirmium and the Lower Sava river, due to the vulnerability of the position (the limes could be attacked from the right bank of Danube) with access to both the major strategic areas, in western or eastern Peninsula. By contrast, the Lower Danube limes was a strongly fortified position, the last that would be abandoned. The belief that the most part of barbarian attacks had as a starting point the crossings over the Lower Danube is only the result of a superficial reading. For example, one invasion ascribed systematically to the sclaveni from the Lower Danube, in the year 517, is now understood as a Gepid raid started in the Middle Danube area (p. 235, 238).

            More than that, the sclaveni invasion of 527 never took place. For the Roman authorities on the Lower Danube some troubles began in 528, and in the next seven years they had to respond to limited plunder expeditions, probably commanded by the Cutrigours tribes. Massive attacks, in both the strategic areas (Middle and Lower Danube), occurred in 539-540 and 544 (see the synoptic table), the first to debilitate the Roman possession. The first appearance of the Slavs in the Balkans as an independent military force occurred in 546 (limited raiding), but again in 550 (the first major military strike). This could be the historical moment in which we may presume a massive Slavic presence in the Lower Danube area, and a long-term settlement of the sclaveni warriors in the proximity of the Roman limes. From the same time (548-552) we may presume a Slavic colonization in Tisza and Middle Danube Plain, under the authority of the Gepids or Longobards (p. 236, 238).

            The great invasion of the Cutrigours from 559, on the Lower Danube, is the first strategic blow that weakens the Roman defensive system in an unrecoverable manner; a lot of fortresses are abandoned, and the later rebuilding never brought back as high a degree of urbanism or security. The Avars flood in the Danube basin (562) is another key episode, which changes the balance of force for a long time and will produce the collapse of the limes. The main stages are 567 (the Avars became masters in the Middle Danube Plain), 582 (the Avars take Sirmium, the gateway to the Balkans), the long campaigns of 584-587 (planning to systematically ruin the defensive points of the limes, from west to east), the unceasing wars after 592, pathetically ended with the 602 rebellion (that is not due to the military situation which was, strangely enough, good - but to a collapse of the finance system. Opposed to the general opinion, I think that the Sclaveni tribes of the Romanian Plain were politically independent of the Avar Kaghan, in spite of the punishment campaigns from 579, until the last years of sixth century (p. 237).

            If there is no “nomadic problem” for the archaeological research of the Romanian Plain of the sixth century, there is a “Slavic problem”, because the Slavs are responsible for a lot of archaeological remains (for some authors – all of them). The “archaeological expectation”, established reading the sources, refers to the fifth decade as the moment of an important Slavic settlement in the area. The Slavic migration has nothing to do with the genesis and development of the Ipoteºti-Cândeºti culture, but with its collapse. Archaeologically can be attested only the group (tribe? confederation?) from Buzãu county. The historical sources indicate at least four distinctive groups, but only for the last decades of the sixth century The numeric development of Slavs occurred, probably, after 562 (pushed by Avars; lately MADGEARU 1997, but the theory is older), but the stages of this increase cannot yet be followed archaeologically. There were probably other migration waves. The greatest part of this population crossed the Danube later than 613-614, therefore the maximum density of Slavs in the Romanian Plain occurred for about a quarter century (c. 590 – c. 613). The archaeological evidence of this fact is rather disappointing (p. 238-239).

            Chapter 18 continues to comparison of the pottery study conclusions with other fields of research. The first subchapter is dedicated to numismatic studies, based on a brand new synthesis (OBERLÄNDER 2000). The main conclusion is the qualitative distinction between Oltenia and Muntenia. From the point of view of monetary flow, Oltenia has a very similar situation to Dacia diocese (south of the Danube), especially beginning with the second decade of the sixth century; Oltenia – or at least the southern part – is therefore an integrated part of the Roman Empire. The situation is less due to economical exchange, but to the presence of garrisons (the emissions of Constantinople are more frequently here than in Balkan provinces; p. 242). By contrary, Muntenia is a “barbarian” territory, because the monetary flows (see the synoptic table for monetary flow, after OBERLÄNDER 2000) weaker and incidental, and the fluctuations are unconnected to the trends known from the Empire and Oltenia (p. 244). This difference can be illustrated by the study of the pottery, but not in the same way. The status of Oltenia as a part of the Empire is shown by the numismatic evidence. The pottery study demonstrates more the recourse to old-fashioned (Early Roman) shapes. But both lead to the conclusion about the Roman character of sixth century Oltenia.

            The peak of gold coins discoveries in Oltenia dates from 527-537, which is reflecting the effort of rebuilding the limes. Around this decade we should link the peak of the handicraft activities, including that of potters. Decreasing monetary levels are recorded in connection with invasions of 544, 559, 578, 581-584, 586-587; other military events, less known from literary sources, seem to have taken place in 589/590, 593/594 and 597/598. These decreases usually anticipate the invasions in the Empire, therefore we understand that, although Oltenia was never the main target, it never escaped the attention of the invaders, which wanted to prevent side-actions (p. 243). The numismatic evidence from Oltenia shed light also on the situation in Muntenia, which was a passage territory for all these events. The year 544 seems to be the beginning of the involution of the Ipoteºti-Cândeºti culture. The multiplying attacks after 578 explains, clearly enough, the process of abandonment of settlements (at least in the archaeologically attested “classic” form), and the disintegration of the handicraft pottery framework. There is a relative parallelism between monetary fluxes and settlement density, only relative because we can’t imagine a demographical progress similar to the fast monetary fluxes blooming, for the beginning of the century, neither such a brutal decline – for the end (p. 243).

            The hoards buried in Oltenia around 680 proved that the deposit processes started around 650, in the so-called populus sclavenii, federated with the Byzantine Empire (and paid by them, p. 244). The history of most of the seventh century can’t be represented with archaeological facts, and we should give more considerations for the reasons of this…

            Briefly reviewing the situation in Muntenia, the peak of the bronze coins circulation is dated to between 532-537, supposing more than military raids (thus an economic relationship). Very soon, however, the long interruption between 545-553 warning about the brutal end of the process. Ernest Oberländer thinks that this is the historical moment of Slavs colonization of the territory (p. 245). The outstanding coincidence of conclusions of three independent studies (Madgearu for inventory analyses of Sãrata Monteoru, Oberländer on coin distributions and myself for historical sources investigation) makes me hope that we are nearby the truth. After 553, the penetration of coins in Muntenia is incidental. The rarity of gold and silver discoveries proves that the strategic role of Muntenia was inferior to Moldavia or Transylvania, and the presumption of a significant mass of Slavs does not correspond to the facts (p. 244). The monetary hoards are composed by bronze coins. Except the Troianul (Teleorman county) hoard, the other three hoards have been found near the Danube bank, on the edges of the Bãrãgan Plain, in a region completely deserted of settlements (see Map 2). These hoards are “imports” (south-Danube accumulations), brought to the left bank by robbery and buried on retorting actions. The absolute value of those hoards is much less important than the evidence of the literary sources (p. 245).

            The second – and the last – subchapter looks at the “collateral archaeological evidence”, giving short commentaries about houses and habitation types, metal inventories, physical anthropology and funerary rituals.

            The habitation patterns are far from a simple issue. I have already pointed out that I am not denying the presence of Slavic people on the Romanian Plain, especially eastward and from the fifth decade of the sixth century, but I deny the presumption that this population lived, at the time of migration, in an identical way of life as in the fatherland villages (against: STANCIU 1999). This conclusion is the result of the failure to identify a single settlement (or settlement horizon) in Muntenia that could be ascribed to the Slavs through the ceramic inventory. The debate about house fitting and the cultural determination is not ready to bring persuasive arguments (p. 247-248).

            The inventory of metal work is huge, but very few things could lead to credible historic progress. The continuity of metallurgical practice in the ªirna settlement is an interesting subject, but since it has not been fully published, there is nothing else to add. ªtefan OLTEANU’s studies (1997) on plough irons should be developed with a comparison with the similar tools from early Slav areas (p. 249). About the armament, it is enough to say that there is very little of this in Muntenia, for the fifth to seventh centuries. The long period of usage of several types of arrows, over wide regions, gives no chronological or cultural hint for Ipoteºti-Cândeºti settlements.

            The clothes ornaments and accessories seem, instead, to be able to bring new information. This sort of material is far from having that level of chronological accuracy as has been pretended (and even less for cultural ascription), but the domain itself is interesting, representing the counterpart of pottery studies, for an historical sociology. The conclusions from the two fields of research seem opposed, but I think that they can shed new light one each other. I used as an example a short debate about Pietroasele type fibulae (CURTA & 1995). The equal distribution of this type (originated in the middle Dniepr region) all over the Romanian Plain, in spite the lack of pottery with affinities on the Dniepr, suggesting the symbolic character of such accessories and shows the institutional relationship between migratory people and local inhabitants (p. 250).

            The last field of comparison is the anthropology. The field is “frozen” in Romanian archaeology (at least for early middle age), but some studies in neighbouring countries could provide interesting suggestions. The anthropological research on Avar period cemeteries (LIPTÀK 1983) confirms, on the one hand, the mosaic-like ethnical structure of nomad empires, very close to what the literary sources tell us, and brings, on the other hand, the missing elements, like the existence of a perhaps Romanized population (not Asiatic, not German and not Slavic…), either as a “pannonian inheritance”, or due to Roman captives from later times. The second interesting conclusion is the anthropological non-identity of male and female series, that suggesting that military agreements were sealed by matrimonial exchanges, that is crucial for the understanding of acculturation processes (p. 252). Similar realities emerge from the anthropological studies made for northeastern Bulgaria (BOEV & 1987). The funerary rituals for the same area (STANILOV 1987) confirms the cultural diversity in proto-Bulgarian society. The ethnic identity of the persons buried by the incineration rite with the cremated remains left directly in the pit remains an unresolved issue, Bulgarian scholars couldn’t make their minds up between Bulgarians and Slavs. In my opinion these graves (almost half of the cremations) can’t be assigned to either Bulgarians or Slavs, but to a Romanized population (some of them originated north of the Danube; but where are the Christian tombs in the seventh and eighth centuries?) or to a Baltic population eventually brought by Slavs in migration. The Baltic presence is difficult to illustrate (the Budureasca pot is not enough), so I think the most part of these archaeological monuments are to be assigned to local elements, more or less Romanized, in a submitted position (they are associated in both Bulgarian and Slavs necropolis). This is the single hypothesis that explains the quick metamorphosis of the Slavic pottery into the Roman shapes. It is difficult to decide whether this population came from the north or south of the Danube. I guess that most of them should be of an origin north of the Danube, representing the Slav warriors’ families (“gained” near the Danube, not brought from faraway), or other submitted elements; the direct analogies between Capidava pottery (most of it not Slavic) and the Garvãn-Popina shapes make me think also that some Roman people survived (but only to serve the new power!). It is possible to suppose that after the collapse of Roman authority the former Roman citizens abandoned the Christian beliefs, or at least the burial practices recommended by the Church (p. 253).

            This ethnic “symbiosis” aspects (KRANDŽALOV 1965, in other terms) does not concern the history of the Romanians, but that of the Bulgarians. The historical episodes that determined the ethnical syntheses of the Romanian people seem to happen later (p. 254).


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